It’s the start of 2020 and the conference and event industry is poised for another year of record growth, according to the AMEX Global Meetings & Events Annual Forecast. With more companies exhibiting at conferences than ever and increasing digital distractions, marketers face major challenges ahead in cutting through the clutter. To stand out in the crowd, marketers in 2020 need new conference engagement strategies — ones that go beyond their tried and true booth.
We’ve highlighted five “beyond the booth” strategies below, all of which are relatively easy to implement, even on a limited budget, and have track records of delivering ROI for events marketers in a wide range of industries. By going beyond the booth, marketers will improve their brand’s visibility at conferences, cut through the clutter and engage customers at new and novel touchpoints.
1) Bring your best customers to the event & share their experience.
Bringing your customers to a great conference and picking up their travel tab enables you to deepen those relationships, while providing your sales team with a living testimonial—a current customer, on-site and in-person, that loves your product and shares her experience at the event.
Customers can spend some time at your booth talking to prospects or you could invite them to speak on a panel with you if your company is being featured at the event. It can be incredibly powerful for prospects to hear from companies who are directly using your product or service in real-time. In fact, 73% of marketers believe case studies are the most effective tactic to accelerate leads.
2) Create personalized collateral for target attendee prospects.
Don’t go to conferences with generic collateral that will get left behind. Instead, consider creating a set of templated, personalized collateral for your high value prospects who are likely to attend the event.
For example, if you’re a SaaS company, have a custom report generated that showcases the value that your product can deliver, specifically to a named prospect or niche segment that fits high-value attendee profiles. Include testimonials (see #1 above), real data and applicable use cases for your prospect or niche segment to help them visualize your product’s value proposition right before your eyes.
Prospects will be wow’d when they walk up to your booth and you hand them collateral with their name or company on the cover. While it may sound like a lot of work, taking a templated approach can work wonders for efficiency. With a personalized proposal, you can prove to prospects “just passing by” that you understand their point-of-view and deeply respect their time.
3) Sweepstakes to attend similar in-demand events.
Perhaps the easiest way to engage prospects is to simply offer something they already want - for free.
In an ideal world, this would be your product, but many attendees at conferences are often intrigued by can’t-miss prizes that fulfill short-term wants like flights, tablets and travel vouchers. One novel idea is to offer a voucher for the registration or a premium travel experience to a similar event that you know your target prospects want to attend.
4) Promo items attendees can use right away, at the event.
Laptop camera covers. Moleskin notebooks. Even socks… gasp! The novelty swag of the season wears quickly when every conference exhibitor offers the same items. Worse, many marketers offer the same old-school swag, like pens and t-shirts, that they’ve been giving away for years. 1 in 5 people will trash an unwanted promo item, maybe even moments after leaving your booth.
But what about promo items that attendees can use at the event? If attendees see each other using your promo items at the event, your brand will get an added boost of visibility. Giveaways like phone battery packs, travel chargers, energy drinks and snack packs offer the potential for immediate, visible use by attendees.
5) Host an invite-only dinner or cocktail hour.
Let’s face it. Not everyone attends conferences to learn about the latest industry trends. According to a recent experiential event report, “More than half of B2B survey respondents stated networking events and initiatives are the most engaging on-site experiences for attendees.”
Whether you invite all the attendees or host a smaller, intimate event with targeted outreach, a low-key social event that happens at night can be a perfect complement to the day’s programming while actively distinguishing your brand from others at the event.
Go Beyond The Conference Booth & Win
No matter how you look at it, the “conference booth” as a standalone activation strategy is a thing of the past. Marketers need to get savvier in their conference activation strategy and find nontraditional, out-of-the-box ways to engage their prospects.
By bringing reference customers to events and offering personalized collateral, truly appealing sweepstakes, useful giveaways and private side events, marketers can cut through the clutter at conferences and engage their target accounts in ways they’ll remember, long after the event is over.