Conferences are a huge opportunity to generate business, but figuring out which conferences to attend or sponsor is often times challenging. By taking a data-driven approach to your conference strategy, you'll know exactly which events have a high concentration of your target accounts in attendance, allowing you to engage and connect with your target audience.
During our Data-Driven Conference Strategy Webinar, we had expert marketing panelists take a deep dive into their conference strategy, discussing how they collect participant data, then efficiently plan and execute on their initiatives.
Deciding Which Conferences To Attend / Sponsor
Preceding any other planning, the crucial first step is capturing registrant data to know who is attending the conference. If you aren't positive your target audience is in attendance, don't invest.
If you're looking to sponsor a conference (requiring a large upfront investment), call and ask for a list of attending companies. While conferences are known for keeping this type of information private, sponsorship is a two-way street with most conferences looking to build their sponsor relations. Find a compromise beneficial to both parties - if you're unable to request any attendee information, then it's probably not a relationship worth pursuing.
Get creative! Amy Holtzman, VP of Marketing at Splash, runs pre-conference campaigns to figure out who is attending. Compile a variety of relevant and fun collateral centered around the conference (run a raffle for nearby concert tickets, list the hottest parties in the area, etc.) and gate the content before promoting it to your audience. Then, as people fill out your form, quickly gather data ahead of time on who's coming.
Don't forget about the data you already have! If you've attended conferences in the past, pull the metrics from last year to evaluate if it's worth investing. How many of your target accounts attended? How many prospects converted to customers? Sarah Bolt, Customer Marketing & Events Manager at InsightSquared, measures by pipeline contribution. You can see below that the top two conferences contributed significantly more pipeline than all other events combined. The result is redirecting resources to where it matters most, Dreamforce and SaaStr Annual.
Deciding on whether or not to attend/sponsor a conference is heavily weighted by how many of your target accounts will be in attendance. Holtzman needs at least 30% of total registrants to be target accounts in order to make conference investment worthwhile. Figuring out precisely what percent of registrants make up your target accounts shouldn't be a difficult, time-intensive process.
With DataFox Conference Intelligence you can search conference lists and see exactly what percent of conference attendees are target accounts. By prioritizing conferences with the most targets, easily drive better pre-show outreach and post-show productivity. You can also sort conference participation lists by criteria like tech stack, headcount, and industry to find new target accounts to prospect at events.
You've Figured Out Which Conference To Attend / Sponsor, Now What?
Deciding on a conference is an excellent first step. It's also only that: a first step. To make your presence generate valuable business, it's important to be tactical about your conference strategy. That all starts with pre-event planning.
Having picked a conference and identified target accounts, it's time to go big or go home. Now that you know you're targeting the right audience, it's important to set a budget and make some noise. "I generally budget around 25% to 35% extra to make sure that I will have the impact needed to make a conference successful," said Holtzman.
Engage Your Audience
It's never too soon to begin promoting! Even if you don't have a booth number, let people know you'll be at the conference. Send out emails, direct mail, and engage your social networks to begin connecting with your target audience. Plan mini account-based campaigns centered around a CTA that brings people to your booth, and start running this a few weeks before the conference.
Align With Sales
Begin coordinating with sales by sharing target account lists, identifying which job roles you need to influence, and inviting customers/prospects to your booth. Focus on catering meaningful interactions and book a meeting room for your superstar sales team to host one on one demos. Even if you aren't sponsoring a conference or won't have a booth, plan exclusive ancillary events around the conference and have your sales team begin sending out invitations.
At The Conference
With proper pre-conference planning and having engaged the right companies, it should be easy to maximize in-person meetings. Thinking beyond the badge scanner and instead aiming for meaningful conversation, a prepared sales team can freely focus on running successful demos and prospecting the right target accounts.
After The Conference
This is your opportunity to follow up with everyone your sales team met at the conference and begin sending email and call cadences. Similar to pre-conference planning, this could also be sending direct mail thank yous. Timely and contextual follow up is key. With DataFox, you can build personalized event follow-up campaigns that are triggered when your new prospect reaches a key milestone in their company's growth.
Earlier we discussed a focus on measuring conference success by pipeline generated and a subsequent shift to quality over quantity. Nikki Nixon, Director of FlipMyFunnel, takes this idea even further and says, "measuring success is not just about pipeline generated but pipeline generated in your target accounts - that's the pipeline that is most likely to close and actually turn to revenue." Nixon also adds two more pieces to the puzzle (1) advocacy, if an account renewed or didn't churn because they attended a conference and engaged at your booth and (2) accelerated pipeline, influencing decision makers and closing deals sooner.
A simpler measure of success would be following the industry standard of generating 3x ROI. Either way, success is amplified by targeting your time and resources toward the right accounts.
Want to learn more? Check out our ebook, The Complete Guide to Conference Intelligence, to learn more about building a data-driven conference strategy.
See how BrightTalk uses DataFox Conference Intelligence to gather participant data and engage with target accounts.