One of the key ways to maximize the value of conferences is by thinking strategically about both the tactical elements and marketing opportunities of attendance. Today’s article marks part two in a three-part series on the topic. You can read part I here.
Note: The following is a post by Axial’s Event Marketing Manager, Kristen Steagall, who manages all Axial events, including the marketing and tactical strategies at industry conferences.
Conferences provide the perfect opportunity for broadcasting a current message or new positioning strategy for your firm. They provide multiple mediums for engagement– marketing emails, printed collateral, original content distribution, face-to-face meetings, small, private events– and create a scenario in which hundreds of people are congregated in one location, making it easier to get your message across.
As M&A activity enters the August lull, now is a good time to think carefully about messaging strategies for the calendar of conferences and events that ushers us out of summer and into fall. The first step is to think carefully about each event and your purpose for attending. The most important factor in preparing for a conference is deciding on your messaging at the event. Are you focused on establishing authority in a certain sector? Or are you establishing a position as a great partner for a co-investment? Maybe you simply wish to generate brand buzz. While the overall brand messaging of your firm should always be consistent, objectives may (and should) vary by conference depending on its attendee makeup, size, location, and content.
To determine a conference-specific goal, start by looking at your brand strategy as a whole, and then narrow down the focus. At a recent Axial event, David Hellier, Managing Partner at Bertram Capital, discussed how Bertram arrived at their brand strategy:
“We are doing [a few] specific things at Bertram. They’re tangibly different, we can hang our hat on it, and that became the basis for how we built our brand book, our brand statement, our positioning statements, and all of our talking points. And that really became the roadmap for how we built out the Bertram brand.”
Focusing on just one or two specific items helps maximize the time and resources spent on a conference. Emphasizing the core strengths offered by your firm also makes them more immediately apparent– helping convince potential clients or partners that they need your firm to meet their needs. Trying to accomplish too much at one conference will certainly dilute the effectiveness of your efforts.
Introducing the Message
Think strategically about how to get your message across pre-event. When the conference provides an attendee list, curate a list of people you want to engage. If creating general brand awareness is the primary goal of the conference, look for network connectors who can quickly amplify the message. If the goal is more refined, you can be much more targeted. For example, if you’re looking for a buyer for a very specific company, your pre-filtered attendee list can be narrowed to include smaller players that make sense for the deal. Another option for pre-event outreach is to upload the attendee list to Axial Contacts. Use it to pre-share the investment mandates or deals you plan to market at the conference.
Curated outreach is already widely utilized by many conference attendees, but thinking of ways to make the message sharper or delivering it through a novel medium can help you stand out at the event. Beyond simply targeting emails, consider creating a LinkedIn group or providing original content. Creating a short article, white paper, or video can lead to further engagement by actively engaging your target audience in the messaging. By introducing your message pre-conference, it allows for more in-depth conversations at the conference.
Executing the Message
Every element brought to the conference should help convey your message, from marketing collateral, to the talking points used by firm attendees. Beyond the ways we discussed in how to maximize value at an industry conference, consistency in messaging is a key element to increasing in-person effectiveness.
Look for non-traditional ways to assert the message or positioning as well: host an industry roundtable breakfast the morning after the conference, or show the results of a recent study conducted by your firm on television screens at the booth. Marketing a brand message is no longer a passive sport. It requires providing value to potential clients even before they engage directly with a firm’s services.
Finally, never underestimate the power of the finer details. If the brand narrative for a tech M&A advisory firm is that you are the new, hip player representing the fast-paced world of technology innovation, use technologies like iPads to show dealbooks and then email a .pdf to interested parties, choose modern fonts and layouts for business cards, or emphasize the fact that every employee comes from a tech-sector background.
Concluding the Message
The follow-up to a conference is arguably the most important part. In the same way that abandoning leads collected at the conference negates the value of networking, not closing the loop on the conference message- or following up incorrectly- wastes the time and resources you spent at the event. If you just spent three days at a conference convincing attendees that your firm is the preeminent firm for healthcare services, do not send a follow-up email discussing an industrial deal. Follow-up can be as simple as an email to attendees highlighting the connections facilitated, learnings had, and possibly even successful activity that happened back at headquarters during the conference– just make sure it represents the message portrayed while at the conference.
Continuing to address the list of attendees, even months after the conference, keeps a message top of mind, reminding potential clients and partners of the unique solutions offered by your firm. As more events are attended, and the same message is told, it becomes stronger and more firmly entrenched, ensuring your firm pops in mind when the need arises.