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Building Your Business Development Game Plan for your next Conference

There is a conference just around the corner and everyone is starting to turn their attention to where it’s being held.  Conferences and conventions in general are an effective and exhilarating way to network with people who share your goals, or are willing to pay you to make their goals a reality.  

We have put together a guide that you can follow for these conferences.  It is broken up into 3 main parts, with elements below each part to give it clarity.


one

Set aside time to prepare for the conference.

  • Research the conference. Understand the size, layout, activities and who will be attending.
  • KE3 is just around the corner and everyone is starting to turn there attention to the LA Convention Center.  Conferences and conventions in general are an effective and exhilarating way to network with people who share your goals, or are willing to pay you to make their goals a reality.  E3 is fantastic for this as all of the industry’s major players will be in town that week.
  • now where you are going and what you are doing. Establish these goals early and consider creating back-up plans in case something goes awry (such as an event is cancelled, or a talk you wanted to see is full).
  • Maximize each trip by seeking secondary opportunities. For example, use EventBrite to look for parties and events that could be good for networking.
  • Research the companies and individuals you are meeting. Know their names and try to find a picture of what they look like, if possible (LinkedIn is a good resource). Get an idea of how their company makes money, then try to anticipate what their needs or pain points will be. Brainstorm ideas for how you could solve their problems.
  • Send confirmation emails for all meetings. Include the location, the time, pictures of the meeting spot if possible, and the best way to get in touch with you (typically a cell phone number). Specify if texting is okay because the convention floor can often be noisy and make voice calls difficult or awkward (“hold on, hold on, okay, I’m outside and can hear you now” is neither a fun nor a professional way to greet a potential customer).
  • Include contact information on your calendar and print out a hard copy. It’s always a great idea to have backup in case your digital devices fail or run out of battery.
  • Test your cell phone reception. Go to the convention site beforehand to test voice calls and connectivity in the areas where you’ll be spending the most time.
  • Consider how much data you will be using on your smartphone. It’s better to pay for extra bandwidth ahead of time rather than racking up a whole day’s worth of overage fees.

two

While at the conference, your main goal is to acquire information!

  • Network! Don’t be afraid to say hello and introduce yourself. You never know when a casual conversation about that morning’s keynote could turn into a business lead.
  • Hand out your business cards. You’re almost sure to get them in return.
  • Pay attention to where the good parties are. Remember that good does not necessarily mean open bar. Consider what sort of crowd will offer you the most leads. A loud DJ could kill your opportunities for networking if no one can hear you.
  • Pick up conference guides, magazines, and flyers. You can peruse them during down time at the end of the day, or on your flight home.
  • Prioritize forming new contacts and relationships over education. Larger conferences often videotape talks and put them online for viewing after the conference has ended. However, the opportunity to make connections with business partners or new clients has to be done during the conference. The exception to this rule is the conference keynote. Make time to attend or at least find a summary of what was said. Since so many people attend these presentations, it’s easy to strike up a conversation about it later while networking.
  • Reach out for meetings on the ground. You could tweet a general blast that you’re looking for certain types of opportunities, or text a personalized message to a high-priority business lead.
  • Maximize your time but know your limits. You will make a sour impression during a meeting if you’re stumbling over words and bleary eyed from lack of sleep, or constantly checking the time because you overbooked yourself and are already late for your next meeting.
  • Be agile. Have a plan of action if someone cancels or doesn’t show up to a meeting. Use your cloud calendar to move and arrange meetings on the fly.

three

After the conference, complete these seven steps to bring your business development strategy full circle.

Week One:

  1. Input all your business cards into LinkedIn and your CRM.
  2. Extend invitations to all parties on LinkedIn.
  3. Update your CRM with any new information, such as interests, upcoming RFPs, meeting notes, and information about client objectives and needs.
  4. Immediately follow up on all hot prospects.

Week Two:

  1. Follow up with all remaining contacts from the show.
  2. Move forward on any action items from meetings.
  3. Input all data or knowledge gleaned from the show into your CRM for future reference.

Conferences are some of the few times a year you get to spend face time with your clients and potential partners.  Make sure you dedicate the time to do it right and it will pay big dividends down the road.

January 30th, 2017
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Six Simple Steps to Nailing Your Post-Show Follow Ups

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The show is over and you’ve caught up on some of your sleep.  Like many others leaving the conference, you probably feel as if the show went wonderfully and you are on top of the world.  Today we’re going to walk you through how you deal with putting yourself in the best position to do just that.


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Step One

Collect your cards and notes from the show.  Go through all of them and sort them into three piles.  You want a set that needs to be followed up on immediately and a stack that can wait a few days.  The first stack should only consist of meetings where you had an immediate next step defined and the partner is waiting on you.  The second stack are the companies that you met with or ran into at the show and the immediate next step hasn’t been defined.  The third pile are all the show guides, company directories, etc that you picked up at the show.  You didn’t meet with these companies (or they would be in the first or second stack) but you now know they exist and you need to enter them into your system.

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Step Two

Enter all of your cards and notes, from the first two stacks, into your CRM.  If you don’t have a CRM, you need to get one.  ASAP.  In the worst case you can work from a spreadsheet, but I would highly recommend a true CRM solution.  They aren’t even that expensive anymore.  I’m partial to Contactually and Nutshell, but Sugar, Capsule, and Insightly are also popular options.  Using Evernote’s premium level has a great card scanner you can use to make this go a bit smoother.  They let you pay month to month so I frequently subscribe for months I have conferences to attend to take advantage of the feature.

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Step Three

Define the next steps from each card or meeting.  What did you tell the other person you would do when you returned to the office?  Were you going to send them more information, introduce them to someone, send a proposal perhaps?  This is where you need to outline that and the meeting notes in general from the show.

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Step Four

Set your follow up reminders.  This is where you’ll need to refer to your earlier stacks.  Your immediately follow ups (the first stack), should be set up for no later than the week after the show.  Schedule your second stack of cards for the second week.  You don’t want to follow up too quickly.  The first day or two back from a show everyone is going to be catching up and their inbox is going to be overflowing.  You don’t want your email to get lost in that shuffle.  Rarely are you going to have a situation where you absolutely HAVE to follow up that next day.  For example, if the show ends on Friday, you should start your follow ups starting on Wednesday, with the urgent ones first.

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Step Five

Catch up on the news you missed.  Shows are crazy, you’re seeing a lot and running all over the place. You miss things, it’s just a reality.  I for one didn’t know there was going to be a 4th Rock Band game until I was on the flight home.  Take some time to review the news from the show and add any new companies you may see to your third stack of information.  If a company announced something that you are interested in or that presents an opportunity for you, go ahead and schedule a call or email in your CRM at this point.

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Step Six

Enter your third stack.  Now take all those random connections and information you found and put them in your CRM.  If there is something worth checking in on, schedule it now.  Otherwise it could very well fall through the cracks.

Finally… EXECUTE!  I’m a stickler for lists and scheduling.  I make sure all of these points are in my system because frankly it makes things easier and you don’t get overwhelmed.  Take each day post-show one day at a time.  Do what you said you would do and nurture those relationships.

January 27th, 2017