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Ask GH: What is one thing a startup should focus on at a conference?
My startup will be showcased with a booth at an upcoming industry conference. What advice do you have for marketing related tactics to take during the conference?
The one thing you should focus on is getting in front of the right people and generating the right leads.
Some of this stuff is growth hack-y, some is just plain hustle, so here they are in no particular order.
1) Before the show starts figure out who you want to meet. If you have a booth you can likely get a copy of the attendee list and/or press list. Get and work both. Look for people you want to meet and talk to. Make a hit list, look them up on LinkedIn, figure out your pitch to them, etc.
2) Don't spend a ton of time in sessions. Spend time networking, working the hallways, exhibit hall floor, snack and meal breaks and after parties. Get out from behind your booth. You want to talk to as many people as possible. It's a contact sport.
3) Collect business cards from everyone you talk to and score them while you're at the conference. It can be a simple system like (Hot, Warm, Cold) or something more elaborate, but just write it on the back of the card so you know who to follow up with first.
4) Giveaways are good, but are pretty untargeted. You mostly get low level folks and people who like to win stuff, not necessarily the right people. The way to use giveaways is to draw people to your booth. Don't let them drop a card and run. Figure out who they are and if they're a valuable contact/lead.
5) Buy ads on the Twitter hashtag. It's a great, low cost way to get in front of all the attendees for cheap. You can also use this hack from @jordanskole to drive high-converting engagements. http://blog.getambassador.com/high-quality-sales-leads-with-twitter/ Start buying position early and up your spend during the show. Optimize on the fly to get the best CPL.
6) Tag and put all of your leads into Salesforce immediately so you can see what converts and what doesn't. That way you won't have to guess at whether/how you invest in the show next year/time. This sounds easy but there's always a gap here.
7) Have a communication plan for after the show ends to follow up with your leads. What are you going to do with hot, warm and cold leads respectively?
8) Make sure everyone has their elevator pitch down cold and identify who's going to speak to what particular details of your product or service. Especially important with technical products. You should rehearse and critique this with one another ahead of time.
9) Make sure you have some collateral for people to take with them. Most people are in information gathering mode. Let them gather information on your product.
10) Make it fun. You're in for long days (12+ hours) so come up with some games along the way. Like who can get X amount of leads in the next three hours, etc. Keep it light at your booth.
11) Save your money on premium items—most get thrown out. Save it for other marketing or if you're going to spend it, do so instead on something that will be appealing to a large number of people—like beer. Seriously. If you want people to come hang out at your booth, give them beer. See same caveats as other giveaways above.
12) Stack your odds ahead of the conference by joining relevant linkedin groups (most conferences have them) and view the profiles of people in the group. If you have your privacy settings set to show people if you've viewed their profile, you've just created a very lightweight way to get on their radar ahead of the show.
13) Create value. If you can have someone live blog all the sessions, or do sketch notes that you share online, or video interviews of speakers, or analysis of the talks and tweets around the conference, etc. this will all get attention. If you can come up with some way to enhance the conference experience for the attendees you'll get their attention.
There's lots more, but hopefully this gives you some things to think about!
Great comment @morgan. Following up on point 12. Is there already a linkedin group for the attendees of the growthhacking conference in London?
Thanks @morgan for the comprehensive list, all of these are extremely valuable tips that are ubiquitous to anyone in my same position.
In terms of using salesforce, is there any other cost-effective (or free) CRM platform or system you've used that you would recommend for a startup?
Great question @loganstoneman!
Here's a cool example of using a conference hashtag to drive signups.
The principal feature though was that after you signed up, you would be redirected to a page that told you it would take two weeks to get your badges. The good news, the page said, was that you could tweet “checking out my wall at Coderwall” with the hashtag #railsconf and have your badges within the next 2 hours.
Full article here: The first 10,000 users.
Taking full advantage of conference hashtags is a biggie like @dylan said.
Also interacting with and following those people who are tweeting the hashtag is important as well. You know those people may have a higher chance of signing up for your product especially if the people there are in your core audience.
Collect emails: Best way to do this is by having a giveaway with something really cool. Unlike a raffle where you use a dollar to enter, ask them only for an email address. This could be a really easy way to get emails pretty fast. I would give my email for a chance to win a new iPhone 6 or something. If you're short on funds, still have some way to collect emails while at the conference.
People like free stuff. Invest in some "swag" to giveaway but come up with something creative. If you can't come up with something creative, free t-shirts never hurt anyone.
If possible, always have a way for people to interact with your product at your booth. Trying to tell someone how cool your product is one thing but showing them is another.
Network like crazy! A lot of these companies will be in the same space with you. Some of their products may compliment your own. Seek our partnership opportunities and mutual beneficial situations between you and other companies.
Hope this helps, good luck!
Awesome idea to collect emails with a giveaway! Maybe give an extra entry into the drawing if they tweet it out with the conference hashtag...
Yeah another cool idea with the hashtags are creating Twitter Cards for email acquisition for a contest/giveaway using the conference hashtag in the tweet. Could be another way to collect emails for people at the conference as well as those who aren't.
We are planning on doing quick demos of our platform during slow times in the exhibitor hall, so hopefully that'll be a nice way for people to interact with the the team and product.
In terms of giveaways, have you or @everette seen any non-tangible giveaways that actually incentivize people to drop an email.
See this by @joshledgard for inspiration: http://growthhackers.com/how-do-you-growth-hack-at-a-conference/
One of things we did was to create a dedicated landing page with something free but valuable to the audience (didn't ask for email addresses though)
Wrote about that (and other preparation) here: http://blog.planitwide.com/attending-office-optional-conference-part-1-applying-speak-getting-accepted-preparation/
@morgan 's comment was awesome... so everything he said!
In addition, something I wish we focused on more at conferences I have gone to is consistent messaging.
For startups, it's important to bring back not just leads/signups but also takeaways about how people perceive you and whether or not they understand what you are doing based on how you describe yourselves.
This is really important as it can help drive site copy, ad copy, sales pitches, and even investor pitches later on.
Before you go, sit down and create a Gdoc with your elevator pitch ("We are ____ and we do/sell/make ____ for/to _____.") and the answers to why it matters, why it's different, and why it's better.
Also think of responses to FAQs about the company and product. Limit to 5 or so as there is only so much that people can remember.
This is probably all in your head, and you have probably talked about these things before, but I can't overstate the importance reinforcing it with team members. They will be more confident and enthusiastic when representing you at the conference.
Generating or closing leads, if possible!
on top of what has been said already if you expect some specific prospect to come to your booth make sure that you have all the pictures of top prospects downloaded on your smartphone (from LI for example) so you can easily recognize them and start the discussion.
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