I recently went on a twelve day, three city, three event tour of California. My purpose in going was to meet potential clients in different settings, get to know them and let them know about me. It was interesting to observe and learn from each who the attendees were and how they fit into my ideal client profile. Each event had 40 – 50 attendees. I sponsored and spoke at two of the events — one at a very significant investment level. The third event was put on by a colleague and friend who I contacted to see she could use some support and assistance. I introduced myself to that group with a 30 second ‘elevator’ pitch. The event organizer spent another minute or so reinforcing my elevator intro.
What have I learned so far? A lot. The biggest lesson of all is that finding events with the right audience for what you do is far more valuable than buying visibility at one that only ‘kinda sorta’ has your ideal clients attending.
The results are still happening and the great news is that already new business equal to about eight times the total trip cost (including all sponsorship costs) has been closed. Clearly the trip was worth it and the return on investment terrific. What is super interesting to me is that the event I attended to support my friend and colleague is the one that has sourced all of the new clients to date! Yes, there are still prospects to have strategy sessions with – from all three events so these results can still get even better.
That said, here some other anecdotal data…….three times as many prospects asked for a follow up conversation at the event I attended as a support person (without sponsoring) as at either of the other two. Specifically, it was six (13% of the room), two (5% of the room) and two (5% of the room).
So what’s the point of all this? What lessons can be learned that have anything to do with making sure your business is as profit leak free as possible? Well, here’s what I’ve learned.
- Finding a room full of your ideal client population is a super cool experience. With as little as an elevator pitch and an endorsement, you can make perfect connections with prospects.
- Just because someone else went to a certain event, closed a significant amount of business and said it would be ‘perfect for you’, doesn’t mean it would. You know your business better than anyone, anywhere, anytime. If you have a feeling in the back of your mind that the audience doesn’t quite fall in line with your ideal client profile, it probably doesn’t. Even if you give the greatest talk possible, if it’s to the wrong audience it won’t land.
- If you decide to sponsor an event at a high level, try to get concessions if promised numbers aren’t met. For instance, if there are only 60 people at an event when you were told there were 300 expected, understand in advance what price break or other concessions will be made. Yes, sponsorship can be super valuable in both getting your business and name known more widely and also in closing sales to your ideal prospects. And it is a decision that should not be entered into lightly. For me, I had hoped the event I sponsored at a high level would have yielded better results already. That said, I also very consciously decided to be an early sponsor at a new event because I believe strongly that the organizer’s business and mine are very compatible, with overlapping ideal client profiles. Her reach is greater than mine right now, so investing early makes sense to me to broaden my audience.
- Having events that are logistically close is really helpful, and after twelve days on the road it’s nice to be able to put on different clothes.
- Serendipity is really helpful. The two events I was sponsoring were on my calendar when I realized the third was happening just two days earlier. So I picked up the phone, called my colleague and friend and said, ‘hey, would you like some support and assistance at your event?’ I had no expectations of anything but learning and assisting at the event. I was pretty sure there would be likely ideal prospects attending, which could bode well, but no expectations. The results were just terrific and I know what event will be first on my calendar next time it happens.
- Also, just because the ‘room block rate’ at an event is better than the posted rate doesn’t mean there isn’t an even better rate available somewhere in the bowels of the hotel’s computer system. One hotel I stayed at had a rack rate of $259, the room block rate was $109 (available for only 3 nights) and an intrepid hotel reservationist found me a $99 rate for all five nights I stayed.
By any and all measures this three city, three event tour was a success. The return on investment is already 800% and still potentially growing. From a marketing perspective, my brand was burnished. Great new connections were made and long standing ones deepened.
In the end I took a calculated risk that paid off handsomely. And I also learned what not to attend — and that lesson learned is invaluable.