How SaaS Marketers Can Increase ROI at an Industry Event

Joshua Robitaille on SaaS Marketing

Event marketing is on the rise. In fact, 80% of marketers believe that live events are critical to their company’s success.

Unfortunately, merely 4% are “completely satisfied” with their ability to measure ROI on participation. Yet, if the goal of your event participation is to acquire new clients, measuring ROI should be as simple as tracking the number of leads, referrals, and paying users you’ve generated as a direct result.

So let’s discuss how you can get your money’s worth at an industry event and the mistakes we see many SaaS marketing and sales teams make when participating as a sponsor or exhibitor.

What to Do Before the Event

When you sign up for an event, map out a customer journey the same way you would as part of your digital strategy. Think of how you want to engage attendees before, during, and after the event, make sure their online-to-offline experience is uninterrupted, and identify which steps you want them to take before asking them to buy from you.

Prepare an Action Plan

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Designing an exhibition stand, preparing presentation slides, and arranging travel and accommodation for your team is not event prep. It’s just the logistics of part of it. Event preparation is a vigorously-executed endeavor, which must include the following:

  • A marketing plan – this includes promotional materials, targets, sales briefing, product preparation, marketing funnels, demos, and talking points.
  • Selection of freebies – delegates are not interested in branded pens and USBs. It’s unimaginative and anyone who attends more than one conference a year has a stockpile of those. Here are some ideas for giveaways: phone chargers and other accessories, baby onesies, credit card holders, magnetic stress balls, etc.
  • Audience analysis – presumably, you signed up for an event because the attendees’ profiles match your target audience. However, you need to dig deeper and design a personalized engagement approach for each segment of the audience: senior-level vs mid-level executives, telco vs automotive brands, and so on.

Keep in mind that event organizers want you to succeed. They are highly invested in making sure you make the most out of their event as that means you are more likely to come back next year. Working closely with the organizers is crucial. No one knows the audience, the venue, the program, or the speakers better than they do.

Promote Your Participation

Many marketers assume that it is 100% event organizer’s job to promote their company’s participation at an event.

That’s what you paid the money for, right? Wrong!

You are paying for the opportunity to promote your SaaS solutions in a targeted environment. How you do it is up to you. Sure, an organizer may share a few social media posts announcing your participation, perhaps even include your banner in their newsletter; that’s not enough. Some of the things you can do to promote your team’s participation at the event are:

  • A landing page – create a dedicated page that tells the audience what they can expect from you at the event: the freebies you will distribute and the contests you will run, a ‘request a free demo’ sign-up form, meeting scheduler, and a section on ‘meet the team.’
  • Special discounts – any organizer will be happy to give you a discount code that your network can use to register for the event. Use the opportunity as a way to add value to your network.
  • Content marketing – don’t limit yourself to self-promotional blog posts that talk about the features of your product. Showcase your expertise and deep understanding of the challenges the event’s audience faces by putting together thought leadership pieces. Use the program agenda to identify the topics the audience is interested in. Work with the organizers on promoting this content.
  • Social media and newsletters – announce to your network your company’s participation at the event. Show that you enjoy getting out there and meeting clients and prospects face-to-face. Invite them to meet you at the event.
  • Raffles and contests – encourage your network to engage with your team before the event by running special contests and raffles, capturing leads, and scheduling meetings ahead of time.

What to Do During the Event

The day of the event arrives. It’s showtime. If you followed our advice on event prep, then you should have a clear vision of how to engage and convert the participants into paying clients. Team members have a clear action plan and are ready to network.

Network Till You Drop

Go to any industry event – be it a conference or a trade show – and you will see the same depressing picture – exhibitors looking bored as they sit by their booths waiting for people to approach them or, better yet, working on their laptops.

We get it, you have emails to address and work to do. However, none of it should matter during the days of the event. Networking and generating leads should be your number one priority.

Don’t assume it’s the attendees’ responsibility to meet you and learn about your product. Most of them won’t. Break free from the 7x7-ft space allocated for you to exhibit, go out, and meet people. Approach groups of people and engage in a conversation.

Get to know their challenges and show how your solution can help address them. Strike a conversation with a delegate awkwardly standing by himself in a corner.

Once you generate initial interest in your product, bring this person back to your stand, do a quick demo, and exchange contact information.

Gamify the Experience

As discussed earlier, generic freebies like USBs and pens will not have the audience fighting for your attention. In addition to getting creative with your giveaways, for a long-lasting impression, strive to create an enjoyable experience for the attendees.

For example, run them a smoothie bar at your stand and create customized blends based on their answers to a quick survey.

Instead of a regular stand with pop-up banners and printed materials, order a photo booth, where participants can take instant pictures with fun props. Put your contact information on the back of the photo strips.

What to Do After the Event

The event is over and, hopefully, you’ve collected leads, be it in the form of business cards, scheduled meetings and phone calls, or an event app. What now?

Follow-ups

Most SaaS exhibitors that we’ve met would do one of the two things:

  1. Send an email to prospects scheduling a demo
  2. Mass mail the attendees with a generic email. Sometimes a few people respond. Most of the time, the follow-ups go unnoticed, exhibitors put them in the never-going-to-happen pile, and, ultimately, feel disappointed with the entire experience.

Dare to be different. Some of the things you can do include:

  • Send a handwritten note, expressing how much you enjoyed meeting them.
  • With their permission, make introductions. Connect attendees to each other based on conversations you had with them and similar interests.
  • Add value by forwarding relevant reports and tips.
  • If you are a start-up, offer a few attendees to use your software at no-charge for the next 6 months in exchange for feedback.

Here’s a template email:

Hi Jessica,

It was great meeting you at Conference X.

I remember you mentioning that your marketing team is looking for a UX designer. I have someone we’ve been working with for years, who, I’m sure, could give you a special discount on his services. I’m happy to make the introduction.

Also, here’s a report that I thought you may enjoy, outlining trends among Fortune 500 companies and their use of AR tech in their marketing activities.

I’d love to stay in touch. Shoot me a message if there’s anything I can assist you with. If, at one point, you’d like to schedule a quick demo of our software, that, too, would be fantastic.

Cheers,

Ben

A personal, value-driven approach makes you more memorable and trustworthy. Don’t make the attendees feel like the only thing you’re after is their budget for your product. Develop long-term relationship and gradually move your leads along the marketing and sales funnels.

Content

Event participation should, in theory, give you a deeper understanding of the challenges the audience is facing. Make a note of that and actively create content that addresses those challenges.

  • Add the attendees to your network on LinkedIn, write thoughtful pieces, and promote them on the platform. Tag people who you think may be interested in the article or send it to them directly via email.
  • Segment your audience into smaller groups based on job titles, industries, or the level of interest in your product. Send them personalized offers and content.
  • Reach out to individual attendees and ask for an interview, which you will then publish on your channel.
  • Run podcasts with event speakers and distribute them among the attendees.

Digital marketing offers vast opportunities to SaaS companies. You can use targeted advertising to generate leads, set up drip campaigns, publish white papers and reports, connect with prospects via social media channels, etc. However, event marketing is not going anywhere, because there’s no digital alternative to the value it presents.

You can’t share a good laugh with a prospect as you grab beers at an end-of-the-day networking reception. You can’t gain the same level of understanding of what they need and how they make purchasing decisions. You can’t convey your level of expertise as convincingly as you can do it in person. So make the most of it!