Your inbox is probably filled up with invitations to industry events, conferences, trade shows and other exciting-sounding networking and educational events.
The sessions look fascinating. Big-time speakers have been invited (do you think Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff will really show?) and the venues are hard to resist: San Francisco, Miami, Montreal, London, or The Bahamas. Each event promises a good time and it will be great to catch up with industry friends.
But before you commit scarce marketing dollars and hop on the plane, all in the name of “networking,” think hard about those you will be networking with and whether you can really count on uncovering some new business development opportunities. Was the last industry event you attended worth the time and money?
I’d suggest looking at all of the events you are considering attending, whether nearby or far from home. Do the events fit into a well-defined marketing and business development strategy? Will you be meeting with customers or prospects? Or, is the event in question just a chance to schmooze with industry friends and tell war stories (a bit of that is certainly OK). The answers you come up with will tell you if you’re simply going to show the family album or to take strategic steps to build your business.
What organizations do your clients and prospects belong to? What types of events do they attend? For example, if you focus on the healthcare industry, or even serving a particular medical specialty, buy a ticket to a golf outing or a meeting of the group’s local or regional association.
You might even ask to get on the program. (“Content marketing strategies for pediatric endodontists”…we bet it would be standing room only.) A speaking opportunity will go a long way toward establishing yourself as an expert in an area that matters to your business. If you plan and prepare appropriately, attendees will be interested in what you say and will look to you for more useful content, post event.
A Final Word on those Big Industry Events
If you do decide to go, plan to take full advantage of the content marketing potential. Plow the ground in advance. Use a blog post and/or your email newsletter to talk about the conference and what you expect to learn. At the conference, consider using the event’s Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook properties to extend your event participation. An earlier Marketing Trenches post discusses these tactics in detail.
If you do some of these things, you’ll have a far better chance of leveraging the marketing dollars you’ve spent, and you’ll probably have a lot more fun in Miami or San Francisco, too.