I always find it entertaining to watch the interaction between vendor and attendee play out at tradeshows. It’s like a 6th grade school dance with vendors on the left and attendees on the right—and in the middle are fancy giveaways, fish bowls and interactive demos trying to bridge the gap.
As a former event coordinator, I know sponsors are rarely ever happy with trade show booth traffic and conference engagement. Companies spend hundreds of thousands—sometimes millions—of dollars investing in events each year.
For some, the goal is brand awareness. For others, it’s about lead generation. Regardless, attendee engagement and networking time were almost always the main complaints from sales and marketing members post-show. (And wasting time on people with the “wrong titles.”)
Even when I increased traffic with creative floor plans, agendas and marketing materials, engagement almost always fell short of expectations.
However, there is a way for companies to maximize their event marketing investments—and stand out among competing sponsors: by leveraging customer advocates.
How to involve customers at events
You’ve worked hard to build up tremendous loyalty with your customers. Because of that, you’d be amazed at what customers are willing to do at events—if you give them the chance.
Here are a few ways you can leverage customer advocates before, during and after your next event to maximize your ROI:
- Call for speakers: Ask your advocates to speak on a panel or at their own session. Use this as an opportunity to highlight their successes with your product or service, and showcase their thought leadership. You should help them come up with topic ideas, but the content should mostly come from them.
- Event promotion: Mobilize your advocates and attendees to promote the event’s sessions, speakers, sponsors and topics on their social networks, blogs, etc.
- Boost registration outreach: Provide your advocates with registration links to share with their networks and colleagues to help drive event sign-ups.
- Customer award nominations: If the event has an awards component, ask your advocates to submit nominations and votes to support your brand and/or other successful customers.
- Consistently promote: Mobilize your advocates to live tweet and share event updates on their LinkedIn accounts. This will build buzz for your brand, and for your sponsors.
- Booth staffing: If you want to really blow your competitors out of the water, ask your advocates to staff your booth for 15-20 minutes and talk with prospects. Every sales rep understands the importance a customer reference call can have on an opportunity. Now imagine the impact of an in-person reference!
- Source testimonials: Strike while the iron is hot. While on-site and full of event excitement, invite your advocates to provide a written or video testimonial about why they love your brand.
- Gain feedback: Survey attendees for their thoughts and opinions on sessions, speakers, location, etc. Post-event feedback is crucial to enhancing the event experience for prospects, customers and the company—translating to a higher ROI for you in the future.
- Generate new referrals: Ask your advocates about new connections they made during the event that could benefit from using your product or service. Buyers are 4X more likely to purchase a product when it’s referred to them by someone they know—so these referral leads are very valuable!
- Build buzz for next year: Encourage your advocates to write recaps of your company’s sessions, or share blog posts you wrote about the event. The more hype they create around the event, the more attendees you’ll have in the future.
Building customer advocacy at events
You may be wondering if your customers would be willing to do this much at events. However, if you frame your requests as a chance for your advocates to expand their connections, be in the spotlight and share their thought leadership, they’ll be happy to help out.
When properly mobilized, advocates can contribute an enormous amount of value to your event marketing strategy—for very little cost.
The evaluation and buying landscape has shifted. Buyers now value the opinion of their peers and professionals’ networks more than ever when evaluating software solutions. Has your event strategy evolved to meet their needs?