Making the Most of Event Attendance – 6 Tips for Sales and Marketing

Events ‌• January 8, 2013

I don’t know about you, but all I can think about is summer–and not just because the temperatures are in the twenties here in Minneapolis. The real reason I’m thinking about summer (and autumn for that matter) is due to the number of speaker applications I’m writing and event emails I’m receiving. This week alone I’ve gotten two personal calls from representatives who want me to sponsor an event and I’m wrapping up a prospectus for a September speaking opportunity–’tis the season for event planning!

As I take a break from writing about why Mark should speak at a fall marketing event (trust me, he should), my mind is drifting to the many events I’ve been a part of…from organizing to attending to following-up, I’ve seen the entire events funnel from a front row seat. And sometimes it isn’t pretty–like the time I had to call 25 CEOs’ assistants to get cell phone numbers in order to personally call each CEO and alert them to a room change–to a venue two miles from where the event was originally scheduled.

Like many marketers, I’ve usually been on the administrative side of events, in charge of dealing with booths, hand-outs, and the information and contacts amassed on-site. As most event attendees seem to come from a sales or leadership function, they’re largely focused on making connections and getting leads. Which is all well and good–if the loop is closed post event. In the spirit of starting a new year as harmoniously as possible, here are a few tips for making the most of event attendance–and maybe even inspiring some smarketing love:

For Sales/Event Attendees

  1. Time is not on your side. I not-so-fondly remember many (many) instances of hounding returning sales reps for the business cards they amassed at tradeshows so that I could turn them over to the IT department to be loaded in a CRM or automation system. The sooner you can hand these over, the timelier communication will be. Plus, it’ll inspire some goodwill with your marketing counterparts.
  2. Don’t rely on memory.Now that we’re talking about business cards, take a moment to scribble something memorable on the back of every card you get (ok, most of the cards you get). Even if it’s the person’s dog’s name, you never know what will be of use to someone else. Anything that marketing can use to segment and tailor communications is useful. Example: Met Steve at session on the future of banking being paperless. Steve might be awfully interested in your software solution that dramatically lowered direct mail costs for your customers.
  3. Pay attention. What were the big themes? Which booths/vendors got the most foot traffic? Which sessions were popular? Why were other attendees there? Even the seemingly insignificant details will help your marketing team make the most of following-up. Pro tip from yours truly: draft an email or note on your iPad/laptop and add a bullet here and there as the mood strikes. Send to your marketing team as you’re about to fly home.

For Marketers/Those Following-up

  1. Get ahead of the curve. Any decent event probably has a dedicated webpage (or 10) and a published agenda and/or speaker list. You don’t need your sales rep to tell you what the big themes of the event are to get started drafting follow-up communication. Hopefully they’ll help you fill in specific details to make your follow-up even better, but time waits for no marketer–be ready to dispatch messages, calls, blog posts, and even a thematic microsite.
  2. Have lunch with your sales reps. Or at least a phone call. Whatever works best, have a specific conversation about the event, who was there, what got people excited, etc. You never know what tidbits you’ll uncover that could give you a great hook for your follow-up. Pro trip from yours truly: use this opportunity to suggest pertinent content (like a great blog post) that the sales rep can send a contact who had a specific gripe/question. I’ve even been known to draft the email for the sales rep to personalize and send…taking ‘sales enablement’ to a whole new level!
  3. Have more than one process. Occasionally, sales reps have been known to hoard contact information of the most compelling people they meet because they want to ensure a 1:1 conversation. Which is fine–but you still want it in the system for ongoing communication efforts. The best way to make this happen is to have a good relationship with your sales counterparts (see #2). The other best way to make this happen is to have the right processes and routing rules in your system so that high-potential contacts don’t get inundated with messaging from all sides the second they are uploaded into your system.

As event season unfolds, there are many ways to ensure you’re getting the most for your money (and time). The most important thing to do is be armed with a plan.

Sam McCue
Inbound Marketing guru, avid fisherman, and all-around backcountry enthusiast.

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