I’ll admit, I’m not used to not having a booth at a trade show. At my last company, we’d typically have at least a 10’x10’ booth where we’d give away t-shirts and scan badges for leads.
We just launched Ideal Candidate live to the world about 5 months ago. Although I’d love to have a booth at Dreamforce, it’s just not cost effective (i.e., it’s the most expensive trade show I’ve seen for booth space) at our current stage.
We have a simple mission right now. We’re looking for tech companies that have a growing sales team. They’re our ideal customers. And Dreamforce is essentially a huge congregation of progressive tech companies.
Here’s how we generated leads at Dreamforce ’14.
Tip 1: Identify a target profile within a company
Companies send troops of people to Dreamforce. You might have a company send 20+ people to hang out by the booth including VPs, sales reps, engineers and maybe even the CEO. There are way too many people to attack.
I had a very defined person I wanted to meet: the VP of Sales. Here’s how a conversation would go:
Company Rep: “Hey there, are you interested in a demo?”
Me: “You know what, to be honest, we just launched a new service that helps find you the best sales talent and I’m dying to meet your VP of Sales. We’re looking for fast growing companies like yourself. Can you point me to her or tell me her name?”
At that point, I’d either meet the VP of Sales or get their name. I would follow up by referencing who I met at the trade show when I went to contact the VP.
I found being totally transparent and not wasting anyone’s time was the best way to go.
Tip 2: Walk the trade show floor
It’s pretty simple. They place all the companies on a huge floor. It’s like a big lead gen circus. Companies are lined up trying to talk to you. I must have walked up and down the trade show floor a thousand times.
Companies buy different sized booths, so you have some that are tiny and some that are huge. I typically avoided the small kiosk booths because those companies were, in general, too small to fall into our ideal target customer profile.
Although the keynotes are fun, you aren’t going to find leads listening to Hillary Clinton or will.i.am. And if you are dying to see Hillary, you can watch her live from screens placed on the trade show floor.
Tip 3: Drink…I mean, go out to the parties!
Dreamforce is a great time during the night. Every large company throws parties and there are a million events going on all over the city. I believe that a lot of deals are done at the bar (or informal settings) where you can build a relationship with someone. There’s no better way to make a personal connection with someone than to share a few drinks and socialize at one of these events!
Dreamforce ’14 was an amazing event. It was a lot of fun and we meet a lot of great people and potential customers. On a side note, Dreamforce runs a valuable side stream for startups. They had guys like Jason Lemkin give presentations and panels with VCs that were intimate and focused.
Do we plan to have a booth for Ideal Candidate at Dreamforce one day? Absolutely. But we were successful drumming up leads without one and we’ll definitely be back with or without a booth.
What are your strategies for conferences like Dreamforce? Share them in the comments.
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