Using conferences and events for lead generation

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The Future Factory provide a guide on how to excel at industry events, even if you can't make them.

Events are a solid staple in every leading marketeer’s diary; from one day-er’s at the Excel, to week-long blow-out's in the south of France, discussing the future of the creative landscape. However, other than schmoozing, boozing and learning, how can agencies use events and conferences for lead generation?

Whether your focus is on converting your existing new business pipeline or you’re hoping to get some new contacts into your sales funnel, there are three key ways you can use events to feed into your agency business development strategy:

  • Attending
  • Speaking
  • Researching from afar

Attending

Great, you’ve registered to attend an event. The money has left your business account and you’re excited to learn more about said industry or specialism. But there’s still more to be gained...

Beforehand

We’ve all heard that the early bird catches the worm (and often in the case of events, early bird means cheaper tickets) but when it comes to using it for lead generation, the early bird really does catch the worm.

You don’t have to wait until the event to start networking. Events will often post their speaker's list and agenda months in advance. Use this to your advantage. Research the key talks and those who are leading them. Then simply drop them a call or an email in the run-up to the event and suggest introducing yourself and grabbing a coffee after their talk.

When arranging to meet people, make sure you agree on a concrete time and place – preferably pick somewhere outside of the venue to meet. Not only will the vibe be calmer, but it helps establish a proper time set aside to both meet and talk.

If you just can’t wait until the event to potentially meet, then feel free to get in touch early and propose a meet up before the event date. Reference their published talk topic and that this is an area of interest you’d like to discuss ahead of time. You can almost make a joke out of how organised and keen you are!

One word of caution – speakers can change last minute so don’t be alarmed if your dream contact is no longer down to talk. This, in itself, is its own unique reason to get in touch with said person. Mention that you will be attending (or already attended) the event and that you are excited to hear their talk as you’ve helped solve or have experience solving similar issues. Would they be open to chatting on a more convenient date?

During

Lead generation-wise, other than any impromptu conversations that might spark up, during the event is actually the hardest time to make highly relevant advances.

Afterwards

Whether you spent the event listening to interesting talks or grabbing coffee with new contacts, the event has been and gone, but you can continue to use it to your advantage.

You can contact speakers who you didn’t get the opportunity to meet. Congratulate them on the talk they gave, mention points you personally found interesting or useful, and if you’re hoping to open up a new business conversation, highlight your agency’s relevance to the topic.

Likewise, if it was an industry specific event and you found yourself noting a trend in the sector that could lead to more conversations, reach out to brands in the sector who might not have been there. Offer to share the insight you gained from the event.

Speaking at an event or conference

If you’re speaking at an event or conference, a few actions can help you to reap measurable returns from your time on stage.

If you’d like to use your speaking opportunity to build relationships with potential new clients, then check out your fellow speakers ahead of time and get in touch suggesting an introductory chat after your talks. Build on the fact that you’re both speaking at the event and focus on any commonalities in your talks – from challenges to achievements or areas of future focus.

Your talk can also be a great reason to re-connect with your extended network of contacts. Let them know you’re talking at the event and either invite key prospects as your guest, or, if they’re already planning on attending suggest a catch-up coffee whilst you’re both there.

Following the event, as a speaker you may be given access to the registered attendee list. You can use this to propose delivering a more bespoke version of your talk to the wider audience in attendance.

Researching from afar

Have you ever come across the agenda and speaking list for an event that fits perfectly with your business development strategy, but it’s already happened and the next one isn’t expected for another 11 months?

Fear not! There’s an art to utilising events you’ve not even attended.

The reasons for not being there can be endless (and, if you play your cards right, can help showcase what an incredibly busy, in demand agency you are).

When reaching out to an event speaker, mention that you wished you’d been able to attend as you had wanted to see their talk about x challenge or x topic. Then let them know who you are, your relevant experience and how you don’t want to let a potential opportunity to chat pass you by because of diary conflicts.

Sometimes you needn’t even be there to reap the rewards!

Event analysis

Attending an event can be great for proactively connecting with new contacts. Speaking at an event can be a valuable opportunity for meeting fellow speakers and a solid reason to touch base with your existing pipeline and reignite lapsed conversations.

And if you can’t attend the event, they can still act as useful assets for understanding what people in the industry are thinking, saying and achieving, offering you greater insights when reaching out to new people in future.

Alison Ralph is group account manager at The Future Factory.

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