As much as we marketers would hate to admit it, not all marketing is digital (here’s a great example of such offline marketing strategy: https://owntrepreneurship.com/2016/12/21/for-real-marketing-impact-go-offline-and-old-school/).
Conferences, trade shows and expos still bring in large crowds, and as marketers we simply cannot ignore the possibility to engage with our target audience. However, conference have become so commercialized that it is impossible to make an impact without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lavish booth, VR experiences and raffles.
But there is still one tool in your toolbox that most underutilize. This is the online B2B platform. Using this in an intelligent way can lead to scheduling multiple meetings with relevant people regardless of your ability to spend (sometimes without even having to have a booth at all!). Let’s start.
1. Set your profile
Just like on any other social platform, you need to have a decent profile which includes a headshot, short description and contact details. Don’t be lazy and add links to your website, social media accounts and phone number.
2. Choose areas of interest
Make sure you list your areas of interest and make them visible to others. It ensures people can check if you have any relevancy to them and that if they do agree to meet you it would be a productive meeting.
3. Search for relevant people
This is the real deal. You must take the time to search various combinations of key words to identify relevant people you might like to engage with. Copy all the names to a spreadsheet and start to go one by one and contact them.
This is the tricky part- some B2B platform do not allow for direct contact without the approval of the other person. Some are only used to set meetings at a designated area at specific times. Whenever possible, complement any meeting request with a short written note, explaining who you are and why you would like to meet them.
5. Connect using other channels
Don’t rely Solley on the B2B platforms inmail. Connect with the person on LinkedIn as well. Sometimes these platforms include a link to the person’s profile, but even it it’s not listed, it should be fairly easy to find on LinkedIn. Once found you can use the same approach note for the request to connect. Once connected you can send an inmail with a request to meet at the conference.
6. Try their personal email or phone.
If a person connects with you on LinkedIn but does not answer the inmail meeting request you still have two more options- you can extract their email from their LinkedIn profile and email them, or, if they have a phone number listed on their profile- you can even try the odd cold call.
7. Hack the app- nowadays every event has its own mobile app. And while I wouldn’t suggest to conduct all these activities using the mobile app, but you can certainly use it for certain tasks. For instance, Some desktop B2B platforms do not allow messaging / inmail option, while the same B2B mobile does allow it. Mobile app also shows you people around you at any given event or talk- which makes for even more focused targeting (e.g. you can see everyone who’s attended a session about a specific area and target all of them as qualified leads).
8. The gift that keeps on giving:
The conference has ended? There are still people you need to connect with? Fear not! Oftentimes the B2B platform will stay online for many days after the conference has ended, allowing you the same access to information as before.
In summary- Using B2B platforms requires very little skill, and a lot of diligence. Done right it can increase the effectiveness of participating in a conference tenfold.
Bonus- all B2B platform require registration but most don’t actually check you are registered to the conference itself. This means you can try to set meetings and only after you’ve verified enough interest you can actually register to the event. It also means you can get real marketing value without presenting.
Bonus II- always complement your B2B activities with notifications on social media before, during and after the event. It might remind people who are not listed on the B2B platform of your existence an push them to set a meeting with you.