There are a lot of ways for a company to use marketing. The activities range from email campaigns and direct mail to networking and more. One common effort employed by IT vendors is events because they can provide solid leads. By setting up a booth and working a showroom floor, vendors can discuss needs and wants with prospects in person—sometimes over a beer—and have a meaningful conversation about how a product or service can benefit the prospect’s business.
But do events hold the same value for IT providers?
The answer is an emphatic “maybe”—and here’s why. Exhibiting at the wrong event can be a total bust for an IT provider, resulting in lost time and budget. But it can also result in very meaningful relationships that can lead to new contracts and service sales. Success is about planning and strategy, which means you should answer a few questions before you exhibit at an event.
What Are Your Goals?
To measure ROI, you must set your goals first. Every IT provider is different, but your end goal will probably be to earn more profit or expand your business. The challenge is that events don’t necessarily get you there in one fell swoop—they’re just a step toward that goal. As you consider events, here are a few things you might want to achieve:
- Solid leads. Today’s solid lead is tomorrow’s new client.
- Brand recognition. Get your name in front of people, show them what you have available.
- Opportunities to educate. Demonstrate your expertise by participating in panels, speaking engagements, and discussions on the show floor. This can unlock loads of future opportunities.
- New relationships. You’ll get to meet community and business leaders who may well become your new partners or clients down the road.
Your goal at an event will determine the type of event you attend, which leads us to …
What Kind of Event?
There are right events and wrong events for an IT provider. It wouldn’t make sense for an MSP to exhibit at an event for MSPs and try to sell MSP services to them, though it would make sense to participate in a local chamber of commerce event, or an event hosted by local trade and technology groups. Events like these tend to be much more intimate and less costly, and they give you more of an opportunity to rub shoulders with local business owners who might need IT help. Remember that you might not have people signing up for services the day you’re at the event, but you can use your efforts to build a solid prospect list. As you’re looking at event types, consider these questions:
- Who are the event attendees and will they likely be interested in your products or services?
- Are there opportunities outside of just new business (e.g., partnerships, speaking opportunities)?
- What’s the cost for exhibiting and what does that cost include? (e.g., just a booth? A speaking slot? An ad in the event brochure?)
- Does it make sense to purchase an opportunity to speak (if available)?
- Could you volunteer to participate on a panel?
- Is it local, or would there be additional cost, effort, and time required for traveling out of state?
What’s Your Post-Event Strategy?
What you do after an event is just as important as your participation in the event itself. If you don’t follow up on the opportunities you uncovered at the event, then what was the point? Depending on your goals and whom you talked to, following up might be a simple phone call just to chat with someone you met. In some cases, it might be a matter of adding email addresses to a marketing list and developing marketing campaigns tied to those lists. Whatever the case, the biggest mistake you can make is not following up afterward, so be sure you take advantage of the leads you worked to gather.
With strategy aside, you’re probably wondering where to find local events to attend. Check your local chamber of commerce for an events calendar and browse online to see what local trade groups are up to. You can also check online event-makers like Meet Up to see if anyone is hosting an event relevant to you. To find larger IT events, check this great calendar, which has a huge list of events you might consider.
As with any type of marketing, events can take time to get right. While you might find the right event to attend, you’ll discover there are nuances to how you present yourself and your company at an event, what types of things you discuss with prospects, and how you ultimately bend the ear of prospects around you. In any case, the best way to discover how valuable events are for you is to find a few that seem like a match and just go. Start small, and if you see success, continue and expand your strategy—and within no time you’ll start seeing the many benefits events can offer.
Have you attended an event and been super successful? Share in the comments!