Some startups seem to be everywhere – offering keynote speeches at conferences, sitting on panels with VCs and their peers, commandeering large exhibit booths – but there are many others who have to be satisfied as mere attendees.
For these startups, the need to market themselves and get closer to customers is no less than those who get the spotlight or the stage. In fact, it’s arguably harder to justify the travel expense, the time out of office and the attention key staff need to put on events when there’s no guarantee you’ll be noticed by the right people. One solution is for startups to host their own events, which can be highly worthwhile, but comes with its own price tag.
If you’re a startup making the trek to one of your industry’s most popular gatherings, do some strategizing up front to ensure you’ll get the best value possible – real leads and intelligence that will inform your marketing strategy.
It’s now become commonplace for major events and industry conferences to offer a hashtag where attendees can identify themselves and provide context to their comments about sessions on Twitter or Facebook. In many cases, some audience members will be busily “live Tweeting” key phrases and quotes from speakers in real time as the event unfolds. For those not able to come in person or even for those who are in another session, live tweeting is a form of “news coverage” that helps them identify the points worth remembering.
Of course, like a dinner party where some people tend to dominate the conversation, there are always people whose Tweets tend to rise above the noise. These are the Tweets that get reshared over and over rather than coming up with Tweets of their own.
Here’s your challenge: Instead of using social media as most startups do – chronicling their product releases, funding wins and so on – live-Tweet a worthwhile session at the next conference you attend with nothing but your audience’s interests in mind. Look for the kind of advice that, if you were one of your customers, you would find most useful. This is a very nimble form of content marketing that will not only be appreciated by those on social media, but will draw favourable attention to your firm as a “thought leader” by helping filter out event takeaways.
Those customers who never return your calls? They may wind up being a part of conference programs, even if it’s merely a case study-style session where they’re offering a glimpse into how they’ve solved a particular business challenge.
At the end of most sessions there is at least a little time for Q&A, but think about saving your best questions for immediately after the session wraps, when speakers are often willing (and expecting) to be approached individually. This isn’t the time for a blunt sales pitch; it’s an opportunity to show genuine interest in what a potential customer had to say and, more importantly, to learn even more about their long-term needs.
Do your homework beforehand by drawing data from CRM and marketing automation – even if it’s data that reflects the market or a customer segment as a whole, vs. that particular firm – and build that knowledge into the questions you ask. It could be one of the most natural ways to begin a relationship, where prospects will ask about your startup’s focus out of courtesy. If you don’t get to have that kind of one-on-one Q&A, you can still use the highlights from the session as a way to personalize your next outreach, even if it’s something in an email subject line that references their appearance at an event.
For a lot of organizations, getting to go to a conference for a day or more comes with one very long string attached: the requirement to come back and share what they learned with other members of their team who weren’t so lucky. This opens a major window for startups who want to get noticed if they can make that task of preparing a lunch n’ learn a lot easier by providing material that not only captures the best of the event, but helps identify the next steps they should take.
Here’s a quick list of just a few ways you could turn a conference into something that feeds your marketing automation across multiple channels:
Even if none of these tactics gets your startup a sale, it will provide a way to approach attending and participating in events that will increase your odds over time. Startups can’t afford to miss any chance to grow their business.
Discover more ways to maximize event ROI with our blog post How to Successfully Network at an Industry Event.