We recently wrote about what you might call the human side of networking and contact-building at events – how to be the kind of person that people want to network with, when to put self-interest and raw marketing aside and focus on relationship building and how your reputation is a lot more important than the length of your contact list. So OK, you’re focused on being a great relationship partner, your credibility and reputation in your industry are both first-rate and you’ve become so focused on helping the people on your contact list that you have to write little Post-It reminders of what it is that you actually sell.
Now what? It’s all well and good to create all these opportunities for the relationship – how do you get some names into the hopper so that you have somebody to build a relationship with? Luckily, the convergence of major events and communications and data technology are making it easier than ever to build that huge list of semi-random strangers for you to convert into partners, clients and customers. (Just keep your eye on the ball. Is it better to find two new prospects and convert them both into long-term clients, or to annoy a thousand people and convert one?)
Here are three ways you can leverage your technological tools and people skills to turn events into list-builders.
Be An Ultralocal Tweeter – Most people use Twitter to talk to their global network. Turn the model on its head for a day – promote your Twitter feed to people you see at the event and then post high-value information about the event itself. “Hey everybody, free donuts at booth 103!” may not be the ultimate in credibility building, but it’s going to win friends and followers. They came for the donut update, they’ll stay for the long-term information you provide.
You Can’t Buy Love, But You Can Rent Attention – It’s not always easy to accumulate “Likes” for your company or product Facebook page. The main reason? There’s not all that much in it for them. Change the dynamic with a giveaway. It doesn’t have to be pricey to get some momentum going; “very week, I do a random drawing of the people who have liked our restaurant, and that person gets a free lunch with me.” Pry a few hundred dollars loose from the marketing budget, give away an iPad to a random new friend, and watch word of mouth explode. Interestingly, unless you get really crazy with prizes, you will get very few people liking your page who don’t actually like and use your product. Instead, you’ll be drawing down the vast crowd who already liked you but had no particular motivation to make it official.
Shorten That URL, and Put It On a Card – Sending out or publishing white papers, special reports and similar documents is a tried-and-true channel for Internet marketers. Everybody loves a useful free report. They’re a hassle at a face-to-face event. Sure, you can print out a bunch of copies (expensive) but you either end up short and leaving people unhappy, or you print too many and everyone stares at the Tree Murderer as they walk past your booth. But leaving the document online and telling people the link is clumsy and highly error-prone; even if your report is called “a.pdf” and you work at IBM.com, you’re likely to have a full document URL that nobody will remember, let alone remember correctly . There’s an easy fix: use a free URL shortening service like bitly.com or tinyurl.com, and then print up business cards with that URL and a description of what the document is. (Sure, you could print the cards with the full URL, but nobody wants to type all that.) You can low ball this with free cards from services like VistaPrint.com, or spend a little money and go for a glossier presentation. Many business card printers can also handle QR codes, so your prospects can just scan your card with their smartphone and automatically load the document.
Why should you invest in face to face events when you can save time and money with virtual events and on-line seminars.? Here’s why!
1. Learning occurs through a variety of options: lectures, panel presentations, hands-on workshops, inspirational keynotes, and other unique opportunities, such as tweet-ups. You can pick a session in whatever style suits your learning needs. And don’t forget about the informal learning that happens in the in-between moments of an in-person event, during meals or waiting for a presentation to begin.
2. There are fewer distractions at face to face events. Have you ever attended an online event only to be interrupted by people stopping in your office, phone calls, emails or meetings? Even though almost everything is on demand these days, carving out time at your office to watch an hour presentation is difficult. When you book yourself a ticket out of town and turn on your “out of office” reply, you attend the event and focus on learning and networking.
3. You share in the energy and excitement of other fellow attendees. Nothing replaces a face-to-face conversation, not even Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Having the time to talk to your peers, both in your industry and in other industries, gives you insight into what other people are doing and lets you benchmark best practices. You find that you aren’t the only one facing a particular challenge, and you just might find a way to apply what someone else is doing to your own situation.
4. You get to connect with the presenters. At in-person events, you get access to speakers and experts. You often have opportunities to sit down with industry experts at lunch, round table discussions, or one-on-one consulting sessions. The input received from asking specific questions in person gives you an edge you can’t get from a virtual event or online seminar
Though online technologies and social networks are critical to the way we work and have opened up countless new opportunities, we’re still human. Whether we’re working out problems with a colleague, closing a sale, or networking, better rapport is established in person.