The last month of my life has made me feel far more important then I should feel. Airplanes, fancy hotels, San Diego, New York, VCs and CEOs…the usual. Not exactly, but with a bit more practice maybe someday soon it will be more “usual” then not. I have attended both the DMA Conference in San Diego and the Ad Tech Conference in New York. To my dismay I noticed something alarming at each conference…everything was the SAME. There was so much duplication I thought I was watching reruns of “Sister Sister” (ok bad joke). But serious, they were both marketing conferences. Marketers are meant to constantly find creative solutions with their right brain heavy mindset. What I saw was a bunch of companies that I could not tell apart to save my life and people spitting out the same pitch over and over. Maybe it was my lack of industry knowledge but I wasn’t intrigued by much.
Not to toot my own horn but on a bright note, my company and I were able to create some buzz, leads and solid relationships in a short amount of time (I thought by now being a social media company at a marketing conference wouldn’t be that novel). On a more personal note I tested a few assumptions out at these conferences trying to find some unique ways to meet the right people, create some new business and make a name for myself. Here are a few tips that work:
1. Hang with a Big Timer- It’s amazing how far chatting it up in a lunch line can get you. I an intriguing fellow who had a professional relationship with both the Google and Yahoo founders, has a PHD in Robotics, worked as a CTO of a major tech startup and was a key component to a recent presidential election. Needless to say, I didn’t know what to say. However, I was able to ask him engaging questions and build enough credibility for myself by sharing my insights on certain topics. By just spending 30 minutes with him, I was able to meet the man behind democrats.com and a CSO of a large marketing company. It pays to go BIG (inadvertently).
2. Throw out Something Unique and Memorable- At big conventions your handshake numbers will go through the roof, so bring some hand sanitizer and a note pad because it’s hard to keep up. It is nearly impossible to remember every single person you meet; many are giving the same pitch, introduction and representing the same type of companies. The people I remembered were the people that did something unique and memorable. From wearing a bow tie and snap on bracelets to telling exciting stories, there are many ways one can grasp your attention…because with all the duplication, you will be begging for something different. So try “different” out: introduce yourself as the “social media guru extraordinaire” (don’t forget to laugh after), wear some flamboyant get-up, or tell a compelling story as a pitch rather than the usually dry stuff.
3. Go Beyond Your Company…Personalize- When you prowl the exhibition hall you will naturally lock eyes with a representative at one of the booths; once that happens it’s over, you have to go and chat. The convo typically goes like this:
- You: So, what do you guys do?
- Rep: We provide top of the line solutions to help your company find and manage your customers…blah blah.
This approach is beyond boring since you have heard it many times over. I worked the booth day in and day out and tested a few things. What I found worked the best was personalizing your pitch. Personalize it based on who you are talking to…where they are from, what industry they are in, what company they work for and so on. Here is what I found to be an effective pitch:
- Business Person: What do you guys do?
- You: To be honest it depends on what you do. So tell me ____ what does ____ do? (while looking at their badge).
- Business Person: Well, we are an interactive media agency out of LA looking for marketing companies to help us with our social media campaigns for some large health food brands we represent. (ideal)
- You: Oh fantastic, it sounds like you guys have some great clients in a progressive industry! We have worked with some integrative agencies out of LA in the past and have helped them launch some very viral social media campaigns. Interestingly enough we have worked on a project with a health food company that we helped strengthen their presence on Facebook. What are you doing in terms of social media for your clients at this point?
You win right here because you are: 1) Asking them the initial questions, thereby guiding the conversation. 2) Appealing to their ego by sincerely stating they are special in some way. 3) Customizing your offering to fit exactly what they need.
4. Have Fun! - I don’t know about you but I am naturally attracted to happy people. Smiles and laughs go a long way when it comes to business…contrary to what some may think.
5. Follow Up- This is the most important point of all! Far too many opportunities are lost because of poor follow-ups (note: I have not yet followed-up with the people I spoke to at Ad Tech, eeek). Set aside the majority of your time the following week to organize your contacts and begin the follow-up process. During the conference, make sure that you write down notes on each business card you receive, you will thank yourself later. Second, when you get back to the office, organize your cards based on the most urgent to just basic contacts. Third, call the urgent ones right away and continue the conversation you had at the conference. Make sure to take notes about personal items you went over; it comes in handy to spark up the conversation again. Fourth, email those who are less urgent. You can use a template that you create but make sure to use some level of customization. Lastly, Follow-up on your follow-ups…don’t let anything slip.
Conferences can be the best opportunity to make a name for yourself. Leave nothing up to chance, be proactive and unique and your name should begin to spread! If you have some interesting conference stories or insights let us know!