Conferences can be a goldmine for businesses. In just a couple of days, a professional can make connections that lead to sales. In addition to the networking potential, conferences also give salespeople the opportunity to generate a stack of leads, especially if a business collects contact information at an exhibit booth.
But conference attendance is only the beginning. It’s important that businesses have processes in place to make the most of any information that comes in from those events. That process starts before the conference, by preparing a plan for capturing names and email addresses, whether through a business card drawing or a type of sign-up sheet. But once your employees have returned home, the real work begins. Here are a few things you can do to follow up after a conference.
It may take time, but as soon as you return, have all of the information you collected input into your CRM. If your collection includes a stack of business cards, apps are available that can scan your cards and even automatically import them into certain CRMs. This will speed up your input so that you can act swiftly in the critical days following your conference.
Even if you’ve collected thousands of names, you’ll need to be able to personalize each interaction for better results. The right marketing automation software can help you segment your lists so that different messages are crafted to fit each group. Those who attended your session, for instance, might get one email, while those who simply signed up at your booth would get another.
Before you blast messages to every conference attendee, consider any personal connections your business might have made. Those leads should receive a customized email mentioning specifics from your conversations. For your email blast, be sure you mention the conference in the subject line to make sure it stands out. Picture your recipients scrolling through an inbox filled with spam and find a way to stand out.
Before you start making phone calls to schedule pitches, take the time to carefully research each one. Note any information that might indicate a need for what your business offers. Also note personal interests and other aspects of each contact person that might give you a common ground. Even something as small as a shared love of a certain type of coffee can start the conversation on the right note.
The conference creates the perfect intro for your follow-up call. Let prospects know you enjoyed meeting them at the recent event and offer to schedule a time to show what you can do for them. For best results, plan an audit that you offer to everyone who attended your session or visited your booth. They see this as primarily a benefit, but you get the chance to demonstrate how you can improve things for them.
While you don’t want to be a pest, don’t give up if you don’t get an immediate “no.” Make a note to check in every couple of weeks to request a meeting or go over budget figures. It’s important to learn to recognize the difference between a cold, warm, and hot lead and continue to follow up with those who might eventually become customers.
Even if your leads don’t choose to convert today, remaining in contact can benefit you in the long run. Follow them on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter and continue to look for chances to occasionally interact with them. Share and comment on their posts in a natural, professional manner. This will help keep you in the back of their minds, which could come in handy if someday they decide they need services like yours.
Conferences provide a great opportunity to connect with people across the country. By making the most of those connections after the conference, your business will put itself ahead of the competition, giving you a better chance of getting value out of your attendance. After spending money on registration fees and travel, it’s important to get a ROI each year to avoid conferences becoming a liability rather than an asset.
Dan Steiner is an entrepreneur, Internet-marketing expert and author from San Luis Obispo, Calif. He currently serves as CEO of Avila Web Firm, an award-winning web-design and Internet-marketing firm. His work has been featured in a number of publications, including Entrepreneur, HuffingtonPost, and Inc.