I’ve always been a bit skeptical of marketing at tradeshows. It seems to me like most attendees come for the corporate boondoggle, not to seriously evaluate vendors. But over the last two years at Domo, I’ve learned the value of face-to-face interaction often outweighs the expense. In fact—in-person interaction is the single most effective way to close big business.
When evaluating the return-on-investment of attending certain events, consider the following types of categories:
- One-on-one meetings. “Speed dating” events might be my favorite event format. A vendor is guaranteed private conversations with their target audience, and both parties know it’s a sales pitch so there’s no need to dance around the obvious. The secret to success at such events is to get the most qualified meetings in advance. Pre-show research of attendees is crucial.
- Small, targeted summits. If treated like a one-on-one conference, these types of events can offer you a high ROI. But again, it’s imperative to contact attendees in advance in order to set up a significant number of meetings. A private meeting space and hungry sales team are key to success as well.
- Giant tradeshows. This is the toughest venue for chasing down an acceptable ROI. While never a good investment for immediate demand generation, tradeshows can be worth every penny from a brand-building perspective. You may not have a bazillion dollars (that’s a technical term) for a premier spot on the floor, but you can deploy a few wildly creative guerilla-marketing tactics that can be just as good, if not better. One of my favorite examples of this was Domo’s “street team” at Dreamforce. Decked out in Domo blue, we handed out branded Starbucks coffee in the morning and Red Bull in the afternoon, just outside the conference venue. Our brand was everywhere – even the traffic cop imbibed (see picture). We tripled the number of leads we brought home, and all for the price of a cup of joe.
Not all events are created equally, so keep these nuances in mind as you decide which to attend and participate in. Regardless of the type of event, your ROI will ride on three key factors:
- Creativity. If you want to be noticed—and then remembered—you’ll need to stand out from everyone else in the crowd. This means taking a little creative risk, so start breaking out the ingenious booth designs, edgy messaging, and unique swag. By breaking the mold, you’ll become the talk of the town.
- Pre- and post-show interaction. I can’t emphasize this enough—pre-show conversations with attendees are essential to ensuring that the best interactions occur at the actual event. Post-show follow up is also vital. No matter how great the event is executed, your ROI will fall flat if you never close any deals.
- Measurement and tracking. The single best way to ensure marketing success at events is to measure everything. Which event formats work best? Which sales rep is the most successful at which functions? What type of follow-up content has the best results? Everything about the event has to be measured in order to maximize ROI.
The personal touch is the best way to do business, and luckily, events allow marketers to do both. Start pushing the boundaries and follow through with these efforts. Sure, I enjoy the occasional trip to Vegas for gambling and Orlando for Disney World—but I prefer to leverage these “corporate boondoggles” for a solid marketing ROI.