If you have the right perspective, almost any event you attend could turn into a networking opportunity. However, it’s not enough to just be professional and poised. You also need to skillfully collect important details from the people you meet, and employ lead generation strategies.
Here’s how you can collect data and generate leads – whether you go to a local Bay Area event or one on another continent.
Create Genuine Connections With People
Giving a stranger a broad, inviting smile is a good first step, but you need to do more to make meaningful contact. Start by asking a person why he or she chose to attend this event.
That simple question can act as the gateway to a much longer and information-packed conversation that tells you things such as where the person is from, what his or her interests are and whether the services you provide may fill an existing need the individual has. Creating meaningful connections at conferences often requires stepping out of your comfort zone. Usually that’ll entail interacting with venue managers and fellow vendors, not just people who are most likely to become your next customers.
Only Request the Most Relevant Data
Filing out a contact form usually isn’t the most exciting activity, but you can make the task more pleasant for the people you meet by only asking questions related to your line of work. For example, if you run an event-planning company, you’d probably want to know someone’s address and the average size of the gatherings he or she typically hosts. However, asking for a date of birth, gender or household income information may be seen as intrusive, and could make individuals unwilling to complete the contact form.
Come to the Event Well Prepared
It’s hard to make people feel enthused about the products and services you offer if you’re not able to clearly articulate why those things are worthwhile. If you’re at a conference, realize there may be dozens of other merchants selling things that are very similar to your offerings. In that case, how do you stand out and generate leads? By presenting yourself as able to best meet a potential client’s needs.
That means doing more than perfecting your sales pitch, although that is important. Spend time thinking about the types of people who will most likely be attending this event and decide how what you’re selling could be positioned as helpful and necessary. Also, if you’ll be bringing representatives to the event who are new and not as adept at selling your products, make sure those team members are paired up with seasoned salespeople.
Offer at Least One Quick Data Collection Method
In the best-case scenario, you’d only meet people who are ready to give you their full attention and wouldn’t mind spending several minutes providing details about themselves. However, that expectation is far from realistic. The individuals who cross your path may be very interested in what you could give them, but still only have a minute of spare time before they have to dash off to panel discussions, meetings and lunch dates.
With that in mind, try to have at least one way to collect data in seconds. Perhaps you could ask for an email address, or request that a person send a text message to a certain number and then receive a link that allows them to sign up on a mailing list. There are even some apps that allow you to scan a person’s business card and quickly import the details. Remember, the fact that people have other places to be doesn’t necessarily mean they are not interested in learning more about you. However, if you don’t cater to their time-sensitive lifestyles, you might miss out on valuable leads.
Give Free Items or Hold Contests
Some people need a little encouragement before giving private details to individuals they don’t know. That gentle prodding could come in the form of a contest that gives the winner an enviable prize.
Ideally, the giveaway should relate to your business. If you specialize in planning events, the prize could be a $500 gift certificate for your services. You could also give a smaller prize such as a dinner at a notable Bay Area restaurant, plus the pleasure of your company. That dinner meeting could offer the perfect chance to explain more about your services or products and make someone want to buy them.
On the other hand, you may want to give freebies that urge people to get acquainted with what it’s like to be a client. If you run a marketing firm that charges $30 for one-hour consultations, consider giving them for free to event attendees who agree to provide contact details. When creating the contest forms, be sure to call attention to the fact that the consultations are a $30 value.
Hopefully these strategies will make you feel ready to thrive at your next event, whether it’s in the Bay Area or beyond. The key to making the most of your interactions at these gatherings lies in preparation, and the tips above should equip you to make great impressions.