If you’re in B2B sales, you’ve undoubtedly been to your fair share of trade shows and conferences. And more likely than not, working the booth or roaming the floor have never really returned much of anything. Sure, you’ve probably landed a deal here or there, but it’s typically not the norm. You return to the office with a bunch of business cards, feed them into your CRM, make some follow-up outreach to little avail and that’s about it.
So how can you get more value out of your B2B trade show and conference efforts? Here are a few ideas…
Meet with Local Customers
Say you’re headed to a conference in Dallas. And say your company has customers in Dallas. A few weeks before the show, reach out to those customers and mention to them you’re in town. Don’t make it anything salesy. Just give them the heads up and offer to buy them a cup of coffee, meet for breakfast, grab lunch… whatever you think they’d be game for. And if you want to take things a step further, put together a happy hour or something for all of your local customers. First drink’s on you! (Be intelligent about getting all your local customers together. They might be in competition and less than eager to all be in the same room.)
Take Your Efforts Off the Show Floor
In advance of the conference, see if you can wrangle attendee and/or exhibitor lists. Comb through them. And then instead of blasting a form email requesting them to come meet you at your booth, select folks on the list that you’d really love to meet. Craft a personal email for each with an ask that would break up their conference schedule in a good way. “Meeting up at the booth” is not only tired, but it also foreshadows that a pitch is coming. So ask something else. Maybe there’s a great indie coffee shop a block from the conference center. Maybe you know of a great lunch spot that’s not too far. The point is, make your ask interesting.
Pro Tip: Once you know who you want to connect with, do some light social research. If one of your targets regularly tweets about craft brews, toss out the idea of getting together at a local craft beer spot. (Of course you don’t want to come across as too knowledgeable (read: creepy), so use your judgement and do what feels right.)
Traveling to a conference takes resources: airfare, lodging, meals, etc. And more often than not, you have a some downtime, whether it’s before or after show hours or during the day. Maximize the value of your trip by teeing up meetings independent of the conference. Schedule meetings with prospects in the region. As previously mentioned, line up meetings with existing customers to probe for cross-sell and upsell opportunities. You can even get less conventional and see if there are any local Meetups happening that have memberships comprised of your target customer.
Bottom line: your conference efforts don’t have to be limited to roaming the show floor or staffing the booth. Think creatively and make stuff happen that can squeeze more value out of your trips.
(Image Source: Creative Commons)