Best Practices for Making Money, Not Wasting It, with Professional Events
Watch Sales Boom from 800% More Leads
A 2-Year International Study Reveals How to Win More Business Through Professional Business Events. C-Level Global conducted a survey and researched how to get the most bang for your buck with professional business events; whether this entails sponsoring events solo, with others, or just attending events as a visitor. The 3-phase study was far-reaching, covering a period from June, 2014 through June, 2016 and started with 3,500 business people across a spectrum of industries. It focused on their customer and sales experiences while both attending and running events.
The two-year survey was conducted in North America and throughout 9 European countries. The survey results revealed multiple best practices for promoting events and maximizing return on investment (ROI). More importantly, it proved it’s possible to get 800% more leads and close substantially more business. Follow the lead of those who get it right at events, and stop wasting money; make money instead!
When it comes to attending events, shockingly, less than 10% of business professionals execute more than 3 of the 11 best practices revealed in the study. Think about that for a moment. Less than one in ten used more than a paltry 30% of best practices. Stop wasting time and money with events and pretending you have all the resources aligned effectively. Also stop avoiding events thinking you will get nothing out of them or that the process is too daunting. Likely, it’s time for your company to build the right strategies and tactics, with the right people and processes, and begin to boom sales via events.
The study ran in three phases with Phase I taking place between June, 2014 and December, 2014. More than 3,500 Business professionals were surveyed and were divided between:
- business developers who attend and sponsor events
- decision makers who attend
- key influencers who also attend events.
Survey results indicated a lot of disappointment from all three groups, based on their expectations and ROI. Conversely, the study distinguished powerful best practices that make massive differences in sales results. When sculpted into a synchronized sales plan, these best practices create Sales Effectiveness that is capable of turning professional events into moneymakers.
Phase II ran from January 2015 through May 2015. In this phase of the study, C-Level Global tracked the results of about 20% of the original survey group and flushed out problems and concerns of both event sponsors and attendees. This analysis revealed a “roadmap to successfully participating in events” so one does not waste scarce time and money, but instead turns them into profit sources!
Phase III ran for twelve months from June, 2015 through June, 2016. In this phase a few dozen operational procedures for conducting and attending events were tracked and tested, along with multiple marketing and sales tactics pre- and post-event. C-Level Global studied 10% of the survey group’s sales results in-depth and identified striking best practices for making money with events. When these 11 strategic and tactical actions are implemented in conjunction with events the improvement in results can be astounding!
Basic business logic tells us that a carefully thought out, well-organized and executed communication plan with multiple Modes-To-Market will not only increase the attendance of the event, it also helps grow new clients substantially. Who would deny, however, that accomplishing these steps requires lots of effort and time? C-Level Global helps companies customize and implement results-driven events. Our approach evolves your people and processes and helps add greater capacity along with people to perform the best practices necessary to make money and not waste money with events.
These 11 Best Practices for Events Will Rock Your Sales World–If You Can Properly Manage Them:
- Be selective in choosing events and know your annual budget upfront because you do not want to approach events in a “sporadic” manner. Since you cannot attend or sponsor every event because time, money and resources all have finite limits, you must become selective. Choose carefully and look closely at the people who sponsor, present and attend all events under consideration. Look in detail at the revenues and employee counts of the companies attending, and scope the people attending in equal detail. Look at titles, roles and responsibilities and determine if attendees are decision-makers versus key-influencers versus people who will likely waste your time and resources. The number of people of interest and the value of each desired target individual at the event needs to be weighed against the time, money, resources and opportunity cost invested.
- Create an event fact sheet also known as a Q&A sheet to get yourself organized and insure the event is well thought out while simultaneously providing the best customer experience for your target audience. This sheet should include all of the relevant facts such as agenda, props, social media connection links, email reminder schedule, calls to action, food & beverages (if any), date, time and location, as well as who should attend (target demographics), where to park and how to handle phone inquiries and email queries. This list can be used to develop a press release and other forms of marketing communications as well as be shared with people and sponsors you are recruiting. Please visit the C-Level Global website to find the checklist. It is no wonder that the study found satisfaction ratings from participants were on average 65% higher for those companies who distributed event fact sheets than for those who skipped this step. Also, there were an average of 24% more event complaints made against those who did not prepare fact sheets.
- Develop a marketing communication plan to build attendance at least 90-to-120 days out from the event. Arguably, this is the most focused on piece of the event plan. Getting people to want to attend your event or meet you at your booth at multi-sponsored events takes time and money. Map out the Modes-To-Market to solicit your audience that matches the budget planned for the event and your target demographic. Time is not your friend unless you plan ahead, way ahead. Your event may require more or less time, but 90 days is a practical rule of thumb since this allows time for event publication by relevant resources and printed materials. For best results, once you have confirmed the venue, develop your marketing communication plan. It is easier to deal with plenty of time than not enough time. One key found in the event study is that those who have the best list of decision-makers and detailed contact information have the best chance to market. Events that utilized C-Level Global to research the audience, call ahead of time and email key buyers, led to a double-digit increase in leads developed during the event and three times as many leads produced after the event.
- Send out a “save the date” notice in plenty of time. If you want people to attend then you’ve “got to cat-herd ’em”! The bigger the event, the more notice people will need. Touching the audience in different ways is effective in increasing attendance. Use email, social media and live calls as great ways to get people to save the date and when appropriate (without over-kill) you can use more than one of these ways. For a major fund raiser or “annual event” publish the date on your website 12-24 months in advance and send out “save the date” notices several months in advance. As an example, an annual charity event may announce the date 12 months out but not release the theme, entertainment and other details until just the right moment to generate excitement. When you both call and email people for confirmations, the no-show percentage drops by 77%. Protect your investment in events and remind the people to attend. After all, it is a very busy business world, and reminders are appreciated when done professionally.
- Use “reasonable” frequency and multiple Modes-to-Market to get people’s attention. Also, tell a story with your messaging versus random messaging whenever possible. Many event participants reported organizations sending them 6 to 7 or more emails about the same event during the 30 days leading up to it, and they were typically the same email… Overkill! First, once a week is sometimes too often, and second, the message needs to be different in every email. I often wonder why I do not receive an invitation on Facebook or other mediums like LinkedIn, which has an expressed business purpose. Over-communication often leads people to tune out and unsubscribe. By using multiple communication channels you can stay in front of people without driving them crazy. Use your website, email, social media, print and mail for really big events. Various attendees will respond to different messaging. Make sure you reach as many of your intended targets as possible.
- ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. Be both unique and visually stimulating so people will give you some consideration. Think how so many companies and people try to get your time with massive amounts of “blah blah blah…words”, so, you’ve become conditioned to delete this from your mind and inner screen. What about stunning imagery? Do you give it more consideration? Make sure to use images that complement the story of the written content. This combination will create great impact. For an even more substantial impact, use a short video, less than 60 seconds, to promote the event. People will share your pictures and videos if they are done well and have relevance. PDF formats are often used to share event information, but remember PDFs are static images. The details in the image are not searchable, and a potential attendee or co-sponsor cannot cut and paste the details into their calendar.
- Use a professional online registration tool so people feel the ease and a mainstream vibe from your event. It is common practice to offer registrations on your website or through an event registration tool. These tools will increase your revenue and help manage the details in a timely manner with registrants and tire-kickers, too. If your attendees prefer the hands-on approach, you can still take their information over the phone or in person, and then enter it into the online tool. Many survey participants reported of using cvent , Eventbrite and Capterra. Eventbrite has expanded into Europe and had good user experience ratings.
- Assign the proper amount of resources to handling the events. There are a surprisingly vast array of tasks requiring unique skill sets to successfully plan for an event. Do not try to do it all by yourself or put all the workload on your assistant or your marketing coordinator, because these tasks are often too much for 1 or 2 people to handle, presuming these people also have their normal daily business routines to maintain as well. Assigning teams to different task sets is a best practice. This way the responsibility can be divided up, and certain tasks can be matched to the people and the team best suited to handle them. Have each team set milestones and deadlines while meeting and communicating on a regimented basis. Be certain there is a team leader who has good “cat herding” skills to keep every team member focused and on track.
- Conduct a “Pre-Event Meeting” to go over checklists and all the fine event details. Leave no stone unturned because as our study found, “when it comes to event planning and execution, it’s the details you overlook that create a domino-effect of chaos”. Assemble the event team face-to-face or on phone conferences to get everyone accountable for results in the pre-meeting. Assign homework in the meeting with deadlines if things are left undone. This may be the last chance to flight control the event at a high-level before it happens. I know it’s coincidental, but I find it a bit ironic that my software attempted to spell correct ‘pre-event’ to ‘prevent’, since the pre-event meeting will likely help you prevent a disaster. Events with pre-event meetings were a striking 84% more likely to receive outstanding remarks from participants, which correlated directly into a lot more leads. Since sales grow out of leads, the pre-event meeting is vital.
- Conduct a “Post-Event Debriefing Meeting” to go over the good, great, bad and ugly that spawned from the event. Use the same team that organized and attended the event. Do not rely upon just these people for feedback, though. Reach out to participants and especially those who engaged with you at the event and get their pros and cons. This is a time for brutal honesty. Base future involvement with the event on the results and feedback you get here. Maybe you will continue to run or participate in the event and maybe you won’t, but the answer lies in the ROSI, return on sales investment. There are several tools that can help gather feedback from attendees, and data can be confidentially collected or publically gathered. The study revealed that salespeople involved in post-event debriefing meetings shortened sales cycles by 50% on average with prospects met at the events and follow-up taking place within 2 business days.
- Capturing ‘next steps’ with specific people in your target audience is what it is all about, because according to the National Sales Executive Association, sales are made the majority of the time, somewhere between the 5th and 12th contact with decision-makers. Take detailed notes and capture as many business cards and quality conversations with your target audience as possible. Use time wisely, because shockingly, “97% of event participants report there is not enough time to accomplish everything important at events”. Time flies by rapidly, so keep moving and do not spend too much time in one place. Move and mingle and learn to “spot the juice in the room”, meaning find the decision-makers that are important to why you are at the event. Schedule next steps with important people while you’re with them, and avoid the wasted time of attempting to track them down later. Focus on next steps at every opportunity with your audience because that is where true opportunity and benefit are to be found.
No doubt the success of these 11 tactics resides in the synergies they create when executed in a harmonious fashion. C-Level Global has seen a substantial spike in lead generation from events using these best practices from May 2015 through June 2016, particularly in companies using external expertise to manage and run events. Outside help is so important because capacity and expertise are, of course, the inhibitors to pulling off amazing events triggering more amazing sales results! So, stop trying to do it all with internal resources lacking in both time and expertise. Sure, it’s easy to say that following these 11 best practices will make you more money, but actually implementing them can be wildly challenging without proper, experienced help. Even when you have an abundance of internal staff, resources and allotted budget to do events, you might want to consider outside help to conduct the event and build your best practices. It is not always wise to have your already busy marketing and sales people overwhelmed with more work, and that’s what these events tend to represent in the minds of your people. Plus, having experienced business professionals specializing in many of these best practices can be more cost effective and ‘sales’ effective. At the end of the day, events are an amazing forum to get quality time with quality buyers, but they can be daunting and a nightmare for the uninitiated and under-prepared.
Be neither scared nor overconfident in your event skills. It takes a lot of work and planning to get value back. Building C-R-P (Consistent Repeatable Processes) into your event operations will allow this Mode-To-Market to substantially empower your other Modes resulting in more leads and the closing of more business. Events allow face-to-face time with the right people, so take advantage and slow down long enough to get your best practices working with events. Your target audience is worth it, and you want them to know who you are and spend some quality time with you… right?!
Bonus discovery unlocked in the study was that you need not always attend events to get sales results from them, if you use a special protocol. It is recommended to attend as many events as time, money and resources logically allow for your go-to-market strategy, but be selective. Define your tactics to produce more leads and sales from the events you do not attend as well. Build an event calendar/diary that is your knowledge center for all the events that could be productive, and use this as your strategic guiding light to prospect and sell. To learn more about how to get sales through events not attended, request a copy of the special protocol revealed in the study HERE.