Whether you’re attending a niche event or preparing to appear at a large marketing event, representing your marketing agency at an event is exciting, challenging, and rewarding. Generally, it makes the most sense to attend events that will connect you with prospects, existing customers, and potential content partners. In the marketing world, a big part of getting your name out there means being present—and that means showing your face, live and in person, at prestigious events.

Being present also means having an established location at niche-specific events. Let’s say you’re a content marketing agency specializing in pet-related content. While it’s helpful to be at those marketing expos, you should definitely check out pet expos. You could land a blogging gig for a local pet groomer or a major contract with a national retailer—you never know.

1. Which Events Should You Attend?

Deciding on which events to attend is a process requiring serious evaluation. When looking at the event and pricing it out, you should consider the following costs:

  • Size of the show: How many people walk through the doors of this marketing or niche event? Knowing attendance numbers is crucial to determine whether it’s worth your time to go. Most events are not in their first year and should have a good estimation of attendance. New events should be prepared to take a loss and offer discounts if they can’t provide specifics on estimated attendance.
  • The number of people required to attend: How many people will you need to send? For large conferences, you might need to send a chunk of your sales and marketing teams. For small events, consider sending two. Don’t forget to take in mind the amount of foot traffic your booth may receive.
  • Distance and cost of travel: Is the event near to you or far away? Since most digital marketing can be done from anywhere around the world, you shouldn’t necessarily limit yourself to local events (though they are great places to start). Factor in rides to and from airports, as well as car rental, rideshare, and air or train travel. You’ll also have hotel fees, food expenses, and more for each day of the event.
  • Specifically confirmed attendees: Who else is attending the convention? If it could put you in the vicinity of a big decision-maker and potential client, going could be worth the risk simply to make sure you get a seat at the table with that person. Additionally, never underestimate the value of shaking hands in person.
  • Cost of the booth: How much is the fee for having a booth set up there? Most events charge a handsome fee for being at the booth, and they also have specifications about when and where you have to be there as well as what types of signage you can use.
  • Cost of booth supplies and shipping: If you need more signage or booth supplies, that’s another cost. These costs include printed marketing collateral, signage, platforms, and any other materials you need to make sure your marketing agency looks its best. Additionally, you may have to ship some materials to and from the event.
  • Union fees: Some venues require their unions to set up and tear down event spaces. This means you must hire them and are not permitted to do certain things, such as wire electronics or set up large, physical components of your booth.

In addition to these costs, always add room in the budget for additional, unforeseen expenses. If you’re expecting your employees to travel internationally, you should be prepared to cover their passport fees, as well.

2. Staffing Your Company’s Booth

When it comes to staffing your marketing agency’s booth, there are several things to consider. Most importantly, you need to think about whom you’ll bring. Having a content strategist, PPC (pay per click) ad copywriter, and a content manager might not be a bad idea, but you’ll also want a strong salesperson able to talk the talk and sell your services. Choose reliable, personable employees to accompany you.

3. Schedule Your Team Appropriately

Now that you have a team and a booth at the event, you should work out a schedule. Most events expect their booths to be staffed at all times, and your employees will need time to themselves to use the restroom, take lunch, and handle other business obligations such as one-on-one meetings or checking their work email. Figure out an appropriate schedule for them (or delegate this task to someone else). Don’t forget to consider your employees’ needs: have water available, and do not expect them to stand too long, especially if they have medical conditions.

If you’re given the option, always invest in the padded carpet for your marketing booth. Your employees will love you for it, and your prospects will enjoy standing there that much longer.

4. Know Your Pitch

Before you head to the event, have a meeting with the event attendees and go over how you want to represent the brand. What type of language would you like to use? Knowing your pitch (and practicing it) is crucial to success. Encourage team members to take notes and make sure everyone understands the expectations you have for their activities at the marketing event.

Ensure your team knows your offerings or at least has a brochure to reference. The pitch notes should be attached to their itineraries.

5. Ask Questions

When you speak with prospects at your booth, make sure to do more than just talk to them. Ask them questions about their business, their needs, and pain points. Whom do they need to reach? After you’ve done a fair amount of listening, then come at them with your pitch. Craft your pitch to their needs to show them how you can solve their problems or make their processes easier.

6. Demo Your Successes

You hopefully have a portfolio and some metrics to show off. Load those up, especially if they’re on your website, and tout those testimonials. Prospects love to see what you’ve done—live and in real-time. Show them websites you’ve written and invite them to read your blog. The best way for them to determine whether you’re a good fit after speaking with you is for them to evaluate the work itself, and since you’re amazing, it’s a win-win for you.

7. Provide Offer

Once you’re coming to the close of your conversation, provide a special offer to the prospect. Perhaps you write bulk guest blogs and are willing to provide a 10 percent discount for a large order. Maybe you’ll write a sample for free. Whatever it is, make the prospect an offer they can’t refuse before they leave the booth, hand it to them in writing, and make sure they have your business card for follow-up (and vice versa).

8. Encourage Team Self-Care

Standing for a full workday is a bit brutal, especially when you’re used to sitting in the office all day. Similarly, talking all day can really wear your voice out, particularly when you’re used to working alone. Routines are different at events, so make sure you encourage your team to take breaks, eat meals, talk to their families, and check-in with the office.

They shouldn’t have to stand in a booth all day with no break. Make sure to supply them with bottled water and chairs, as well.

9. Give Out Swag

Everyone loves freebies. There’s nothing like the feeling of walking out of a marketing event with a swag bag full of goodies. You can lure prospects to your booth with swag, which should have your logo, business name, and website address on them. When possible, don’t forget to include a business card with the swag. Think of ways to cleverly tuck or tape those cards in. Here are some types of swag to consider:

  • Frisbees: People love tossing these things, and they make great gifts for people who have kids or dogs. Plus, frisbees fit flat in a suitcase, so it’s easy for plane travelers to take them home.
  • Lanyards: Everyone needs a way to organize their keys, and the lanyards most events and conventions provide are sub-standard. Give them something flashier. They might even start using it at the event.
  • Toys and stuffed animals: Parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents really miss the kids when they’re away. That’s why it’s nearly impossible for them to resist branded toys and stuffed animals. Sure, that kid might not ever need your marketing services, but the attendee will appreciate the thoughtfulness. Again, consider something (like a small stuffed toy) that will pack well.
  • USB drives: USB drives are among the most useful devices on the planet. What better way to store and backup information? No one can ever have enough of them. USB drives are ideal giveaways, and they don’t take up much space.
  • Pens and notepads: Pens and notepads are classic, timeless giveaways. Most people don’t remember to bring pens to events, and now they’ll remember that you had their back when they were in need.
  • Collapsible cups: These fancy water bottles collapse for easy travel. They’re eco-friendly, pack well, and a novelty.
  • Tee shirts: Even if they only sleep in it, people love a comfy tee shirt. This popular giveaway item is always a success.
  • Coffee and chocolate: Marketers, in particular, always need three things: coffee, chocolate, and alcohol. It’s not appropriate to give out alcohol at most events, so why not give out the other two staples? You can get chocolate bars with branded wrappers and sample-size coffee packages with your logo on them.
  • Niche-specific items: If you’re at a niche-specific event, don’t forget to consider your swag accordingly. If you’re at that pet expo, give out dog food samples, dog treats, leashes, and collapsible pet bowls.
  • Seasonal items: Changing seasons are always rough on people, especially when they travel a lot. Consider seasonal giveaways like a fall-themed Starbucks card, an ice scraper in winter, a beach ball in the summer, and flower seeds in the spring.

10. Score Some Keynote Speaking Engagements

Are you a well-known personality in the marketing industry? If so, consider having your marketing department pursue keynote speaking gigs for you. Your team should actively pitch you to upcoming events. This strategy works! To secure such a gig, you should have a complete biography online and available for your event contacts to read. You should be known in the industry with at least one verified social media account, and you should be an active participant in innovative online conversations about the marketing world.

Additionally, this will save on badge costs (keynote speakers may even get a fee to speak) and will do wonders for your brand.

If permitted, record the keynote speech so you can post the material on social media along with all event-relevant hashtags.

11. Panel Participation

Marketing events also typically have panels. On these panels, experts provide advice from their specific area of expertise. Panels are often like discussions with other marketers, but on stage, for all to see and hear. Aside from panel participation, panels often need moderators to keep the discussion moving and to take questions for the audience. These roles are excellent for junior and mid-level marketing team members.

Marketing events are major investments, with some selling tickets that cost over a thousand dollars each. Careful planning is necessary to ensure you get the most out of each event. Some marketing agencies contract event planners to help them with this process or even hire an event planner full-time. Choose your events wisely, fully engage, and always collect those business cards for follow-up.

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