When you can connect with anyone in the world from your laptop, what’s the value of conference networking over online engagement?
There must something to it; according to a 2012 study by PwC, there are over 270,000 conferences and conventions in the U.S. with nearly 70 million participants annually.
With face-to-face interactions dwindling in our tech-centered world, it makes sense people desire those valuable connections. In-person interactions also prove to be powerful when closing a deal.
So the question is: how do you choose which conferences will give you the most bang for your buck? And how do you quantify your return on investment?
We spoke with Al Torres, Chief Commercial Officer at SummitSync, to find out best practices for choosing conferences and measuring their ROI.
Assessing ROI Potential
With a plethora of conferences available, it can be difficult to choose where your dollars and time will be best spent.
Most people know the signature “must-attend” event in their respective industries, but what about the countless other events to choose from? Even a narrowed-down list of five or six can be more than your budget can handle.
In order to choose, you have to get detailed on which goals you want to accomplish and what conditions make for a prime event.
Important factors include things such as the number of potential leads in attendance, educational opportunities, and industry prominence.
And easily the largest determining factor for which and how many conferences you attend is your budget, so here are two specific ways to narrow down your decision and get the maximum ROI from networking at these events.
Curate and Research
Know this: when researching conferences Twitter is your best friend.
Most conferences have custom hashtags, and attendees will begin to use them leading up to the event. Follow these hashtags to curate a list of attendees (a.k.a. potential prospects) for further research.
This is a manual process, but it gives you a better idea of which conferences have the most promise of high ROI.
Another way to research lead attendance is through sponsoring an event you’ve attended and enjoyed before. This grants you access to a list of confirmed participants, which you can then contact before the conference.
This research also helps you determine who and how many from your company should go to that particular conference.
Analyze the results from last year: How many people did you send? What ROI did you see from that number of attendees? Would it be beneficial to send more employees?
With a new event, analyze the probable number of leads in attendance and determine how many people one salesperson can realistically connect with over the course of the event.
The whole purpose of conference networking is to connect with potential customers, so talk to the people most like them — your current clients. .
Talk to Current Clients
In order to get the most out of your conference networking, it’s vital to understand the goals of your potential clients.
Talk to your current clients and understand their hopes, thought processes, and top motivators for attending an event. To get the most out of conference networking, you need to understand the buyers’ goals.
If a large number of clients are going to a particular event, that’s a good indicator of the worthiness of the event for your target audience.
Listen, we all know buyers talk. If an event interests your current clients, it’s a safe bet other potential customers are interested too.
If your client has previously attended an event, ask questions like:
- What is your honest opinion about the event?
- Did you find that there were valuable networking opportunities?
- What element of the conference did you get the most value from?
Not only does this approach garner valuable information, but it also serves as a good touchpoint with your current client base. You’re not trying to sell them something new or console them over a complaint issue; instead, you’re getting their opinion so you can better serve them.
It shows that you value their opinion, you are seeking opportunities to stay current in the industry, and you hope to provide greater customer satisfaction as a result.
Discovering an event has potential for sales and is valuable to your current client base, gives you the green light to move the event from the “maybe” to the “let’s do this” pile.
Also, this inside scoop from past attendees can help you decide who to send from your organization – marketing, sales, product development, etc.
Quantifying Actual ROI
Determining whether an event you’ve already attended is worth going again can be decided by looking at your ROI from the last go around.
When you attend an event specifically to generate new leads and future opportunities, tracking is key. This is where things usually fall apart for companies due to the amount of time required to log information and the gap between conference introduction and tracking software.
It’s important to have a clear process in place in order to measure the resulting value of the conference.
Tracking ROI begins before the event with the sales team generating clean data on leads attending the conference and entering it into the CRM.
This information should include organized meeting times with the leads you plan to connect with. These appointments can be made through traditional means like emails, cold calls, or through an app like SummitSync.
SummitSync allows you to connect with people attending an event through an anonymous double opt-in feature, so that you only connect with people who are interested in connecting with you. It’s similar to Tinder, but for conference networking.
Once you have connected with someone, you can chat with the person and add them directly to your CRM.
SummitSync alleviates some of the daunting effort it takes to track down new leads. It also saves you from losing contact information in the shuffle of day-to-day operations when the conference is over.
After (or during) the conference, you want to update the data of new potential leads in your CRM. Designating them to a specific campaign can help keep things organized. This is important for separating the conference networking leads from people that you encountered elsewhere. Designating leads to a specific campaign helps to keep conference networking data organized.
One best practice is to flag these leads as a conference networking contacts so that you can easily track the generated revenue down the road.
It’s easier to justify spending $10,000 attending an event if you can show that it led to $3 million in revenue.
With the amount of chatter on the internet, it’s easy for people to ignore your cold calls and emails. Meeting and engaging people at conferences make for warmer, more authentic connections.
To know which conferences have the most potential for a high return on investment, curate and research lists of attendees and talk to your current client base.
You also need to have a solid plan in place to measure that return, even if it’s just tracking the potential leads through your CRM platform of choice. If you and your salespeople input this data regularly, you can easily see the true benefit of your conference networking efforts.
This article is based on an interview with Al Torres, CCO of SummitSync. You can find this interview, and many more, by subscribing to the B2B Growth Show on iTunes. If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode by clicking here.