avoiding event disaster


Gratitude is one of your biggest sales tools

Most of the sales people who I know have lots of confidence. With some, it might even border on arrogance. Confidence is a critical attribute for successful sales, as believing you can get a result is vital to making it happen. But another attribute is almost as important: the often-underappreciated trait of gratitude.

Ridiculous, you might think. Why would someone in sales need to be grateful? How is humility helpful?

Consider this. How many of you find overconfidence to be a turnoff, particularly when the offender is trying to sell you something? The feeling conveyed is that the seller is smarter, knows more, and overall is just better than you are. Of course, nobody likes that feeling. But so many in sales behave that way and never change.

What about gratitude makes it a great quality in a salesperson?

A grateful sales person is grounded in reality and can see things for what they are.

A grateful sales person does the necessary homework on an opportunity, doesn’t try to wing it in a presentation, and doesn’t assume that personality will overcome objections.

A grateful sales person can walk in the shoes of others, recognizing that while they may represent a different perspective, they are a peer with respect to any transaction or relationship.

A grateful sales person doesn’t push ideas too hard, recognizing that a sale should come more naturally, and the case made that it’s obvious that the prospect should buy, rather than be forced.

Who wants to feel that they are being forced to buy something? Don’t get me wrong, gratitude without confidence is a non-starter. But having the right balance can be the difference in a well-rounded sales approach.

In sales, as with many things, being grateful for what you have is the right foundation for getting what you want and perhaps what your prospect needs.


Take Responsibility for Your Actions

Recently I have started to notice a trend where people will blame others for situations that are truly their own responsibility. You probably know what – or who – I’m talking about.

 

Can you sell or what?

Typically, as a sales manager, I am fairly cautious when setting sales goals. Some would say that I am too conservative. If I were managing someone like me, I’d certainly want a larger commitment. But, as a sales person, I’d also want to be known as someone who always exceeds my goals and who will agree to a ‘stretch’ goal where the push for higher results makes sense.

Regardless of whether the target is aggressive or conservative, accountability is the important thing. I remember a time when I fell short of selling the desired number of sponsors for an online event. In a conversation with my boss, I started to roll out all the reasons why I had missed the number – until I stopped myself. Not hitting the goal was my fault, despite all the factors that I could name. My responsibility! Fortunately, it was a small piece of the $1 million that I was due to produce and I had already made up the deficit by overachieving in other areas.

 

Yet the episode was instructive in several ways:

Taking responsibility, now a rare act, can be a competitive advantage if you do it consistently.

It’s liberating to know that, because an outcome is within your control (regardless of circumstances), you can and will make it happen.

Acknowledging a “failure” is almost never as painful as you fear it will be.

 

Do you have the character?

A willingness to take responsibility is a character trait that I seek out in those with whom I work or considering to hire. It signifies power, leadership and independent thinking. Of course, when you are the CEO, the buck should naturally stop with you but most of us typically report to someone, so indications of accountability at any level are positive signals necessary to be a star, no matter what role you perform.

I’m not going to descend into the messy pool of today’s politics for less affirming examples of the trend to blame others.  Make sure however that you frequently conduct your own objective self-review and acceptance of your responsibilities if you plan to succeed in the long run.

 

See you soon?

On a separate note, I’ll be in New Orleans for Expo! Expo! in December. If you’d like to discuss this or other newsletters that I’ve written, I’d be thrilled to get your perspective. And I love to meet event people as passionate as I am about our business.

 

Until the next time, consider how you can make ‘the buck stop’ at your own desk….

 


Am I Important to You?

While on a recent a business trip, I continued reading a book, The Magic of Thinking Big, that I had first started reading a number of years ago. The book has many great insights, but one that particularly struck me was the recommendation to “treat everyone you deal with as if they are important.” The idea is that if your interactions with others assume that each person is important, you will most likely notice major improvements in your attitude, positive impact on your success, as well as gaining insights regarding how you come across to others.

 

I thought to myself “Don’t I do that already?” But, upon some reflection the answer was “no” when you talk about everybody.. The volume of communications that I receive means that I often screen phone calls, mail, and emails. And that screening means that I am prioritizing the communications of some over that of others. In addition, face to face I may judge someone poorly if they ‘don’t look right’ or approach me in the right way. The result might be that I disregard them and lose an unknown opportunity. They could very well be important and someone I need to treat better.

 

I want to test the book’s recommendation. For one day in the future (in the next month) I will treat everyone encountered as though they were of equal importance – and I will report on what happens as a result.

 

Here’s a challenge to you. I want you to do the same and email me with what you get for results. I’ll compile the responses in a future newsletter and see if we have any breakthrough ideas…..

 

Will you join me?


How to Get Your Freebies to Pay

Many of my publisher clients offering events have found that one of the main hurdles they face when launching an event is the challenge of converting customers – often accustomed to free content – into paying conference attendees. You may have also have this problem as a non-publisher if you are trying to upgrade expo visitors to conference delegates.

How is it possible to get freebies to pay?

Getting people to pay for something that once was free is always a challenge. But it’s possible if you follow the right plan. My prescription for making it happen is:

 

Get to know them

When connected digitally with clients, it’s usually a one-way conversation. To earn your revenue- growing chops requires getting to know the prospective spenders. That means picking up the phone or getting on the plane and visiting. What do you have in your event that offers value for which it is worth paying? It might be an event where they can mingle with like-minded people is enough to get them to come, or it might be specific information they need to know delivered by experts. But be clear as to what problem your content is targeted to solve and focus on those for whom that is an issue.

 

Know Your Target Personas and Personalize Your Messaging

Do you know your prospective customers and what they want? How are you going to start the awareness stream that shows your event has value and motivates those people to register? Make sure that you’ve built customer archetypes (known as “target personas”) and that you are segmenting and personalizing your messaging in ways that communicate like you are having a one-to-one conversation every time consistently with an expert ‘voice’, not an intern who doesn’t know what they are talking about…

 

Have a one-page value sheet

If you’ve done all the above work, it should be easy to build a one-page value sheet, specific to each target persona, and ensure that it’s easily available to those targets. That tool is what will help them convince their bosses to attend. Make sure it’s easily found and communicated.

 

Build exclusivity

Everyone wants to feel special and believe that they are getting something that their peers cannot get. Build this into your offer and reward people for the behavior you want to encourage (e.g. registering early.) That means offering discounts, private meetings with key speakers, tchotchkes, etc. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know the likely targets and what these offers should be.

 

Getting freebies to pay requires both thought and a commitment to a make it happen. But it’s very doable. So, get it done!

 


The secret to success is……

The secret to success is the ability to stand in another person’s shoes. That’s particularly true if you are trying to do business with that person.

 

An Old Tale Still Rings True

Remember the story of the two brothers who had to share a piece of cake? The elder brother managed the situation in a way that ensured his younger sibling got the smaller piece. When the situation repeated itself with the same result, the younger brother complained to their mother. In her wisdom, she advised the elder brother that he could continue to divide their treats into portions, but “from now on, your little brother gets to pick the piece he wants.” From that point on, you can imagine they got equal pieces.

 

Transaction or Relationship?

It’s the same in business. If you are going to try to take advantage of every situation, then you’ll always be doing individual transactions where you try to maximize your advantage. But those transactions will rarely lead to long-lasting relationships that are mutually beneficial. Building relationships requires both sides to let down their guard and trust the other party in the long term, and to go into a transaction not expecting the other to take advantage.

 

Business is not a zero sum game where the gains of one participant must be achieved at the expense of another. If you take the long view where each transaction is part of a relationship to be developed and nurtured, then a concession is not a concession, but rather an investment in the relationship. Conversely, it’s usually a struggle if you are always engaged in transactional business.

 

Which would prefer? Are you willing to stand in the other person’s shoes?

 

For extra reading on this kind of thinking, I’d encourage you to check this out.

 


Six things that you must do between shows

The show is over, and you can breathe a sigh of relief. If you are smart, you’ll also do these things before taking too long of a pause.

 

1. Clean your database

You’d be shocked how many event companies don’t ‘sanitize’ their contact lists on a regular basis. Cleaning out the bounced emails and returned mail (if you do direct mail) is critical, particularly if you want to improve the open and click-through rates in your next campaign. If GDPR is a concern(and you should have a plan here), you also should consider removing the contacts in your database from whom you’ve had no activity in the last five years. You also may be considering plans to add new contacts that can be implemented later.

 

 2. Finish your rebook for the following event

If you know in advance that you are going to repeat an event, you should have prepared and implemented a rebook or resign process for the following year’s event. At the very least, try to get feedback on how you are doing, as well as information on your client’s budget cycles, any changes of decision makers, etc. Successful rebooks can save you hundreds of sales hours since you will have already taken care of the low-hanging fruit and can focus on newer companies.

 

 3. Survey your attendees, including making outbound calls for feedback

Most companies conduct on-site and/or post-show surveys. What I am suggesting   is that you make a shortlist of the changes/improvements you already are committed to make for the next event. That list can be part of your marketing effort to this year’s attendees   and it also signals your continuing effort to improve your program.

 

 4. Check in with your suppliers for event feedback

We event organizers tend to treat suppliers like ‘red-headed stepchildren’, failing to pay as much attention to their opinions. That’s a big mistake. Many have worked on hundreds of events and can offer valuable feedback on an event, both independently, as well as in comparison with others. Thanks to Nicole Peck for this one.


5.  Find 10 more influencers and figure out what to do now

Though buzzing from a recent show, you may know a number of key people who didn’t attend. They might be influencers who could have helped attract more exhibitors or attendees. Make a list of these people and start working on getting them involved – sooner rather than later.

 

 6. Write up and implement strategic and tactical changes to make for the next show

In addition to the above-referenced feedback from attendees and exhibitors, you likely have also compiled structured feedback from your on-site team regarding what went well, what didn’t, and what you can change for the next one. Make a list of these ideas, with a deadline regarding when you will decide on the actions to take.

 

 

Although what I suggest might be wearying to contemplate so soon after the conclusion to a [hopefully] successful event, all the above recommendations will save you hours and money when you begin planning the next one. Wouldn’t it be great to start things off and find that you are way in front of the starting line?


Is There an Attendee Acquisition Disaster in Your Future?

Having just read an article on GDPR that suggests a silver lining for the events business can be found in that new EU regulation, I’ve concluded that the author is right for the most part, if you have a solid data strategy. But if you don’t, welcome to the nightmare.

Why?  If you follow good marketing practices, then everyone to whom you are actively marketing is either a past customer or those who’ve opted in to receive your messages. That means, presuming that if you have multiple events and/or multiple modes of communication, you are only sending outreaches to your prospects in ways to which they’ve explicitly agreed and about matters for which they’ve agreed to be contacted. For example, you would not be sending emails promoting an event to those who have only opted in for a newsletter.

 

Bad Practices Will Cost You

This means there should be no unauthorized adding of names to a database, nor the harvesting or scraping of names from different web sources to populate lists. It also means there’s no sharing of names between partners (without explicit permission of the prospect) nor the adding of names obtained via business cards or LinkedIn profiles, etc. More proactively, how diligent are you about cleaning your database (at least twice a year?) to remove those who have changed companies, retired, or otherwise are no longer where they once were? What about the practice of ensuring that you have full contact data for each person in your database, rather than just the email address?

 

Being Smart About Following Best Practices

Who actually follows such guidelines? My guess is very few since it is quite hard, time-consuming, and expensive to do so. But if that’s true, your marketing department might well be in trouble. Many people are sick of the onslaught of emails and other modes of harassment they must endure without having provided permission to be contacted. If you have European prospects, GDPR now means they can react to such activities with complaints to the authorities that might result in the levy of huge fines that can total as 4% of your annual revenues or $24M, whichever is larger. And though the US is less rigorous in its protections, the State of California has recently passed legislation that mimics GDPR in significant ways.

Consider one company I heard of which has a prospect database that numbers 40-50K names, 80% of which have only an email address as the mode of contact. Their marketing strategy is to send everyone in their database an email about the latest webinar, event, or white paper – doing so as many as five-to-seven times a week. With an annual opt-out rate of 30% per year, what’s their future likely to be?

How can a smart event organizer launch a new event if the pool of existing clients, together with opt-ins, is not substantial enough to support the new venture? You’ll have to ‘cheat’ to get started.

 

The Future Could Be Bright

it’s imperative to start thinking about how to navigate the challenges that are ahead. The future of the event business will depend on those who invest in sound marketing strategies vs. isolated marketing tactics.  Who wants to react to this week’s poor attendee numbers in panic and cross into the ‘gray’ area? Without a long term and market endorsed strategy you are heading for trouble as year after year it’s only going to get tougher.

If GDPR helps event organizers at all, it will force you to come up with long term data acquisition strategies, with smart enabled staff to implement them. You’ll use your tools and the available content in ways that attract attendees based on what they want to experience at an event and how it will contribute to their business success. This approach is the antithesis of trying to extract money through the bombardment of unknowing prospects with a frequency more determined by weekly registration goals than customer needs.

 

Welcome To The Winners Circle

Who will be the winners? They will:

 

  • Have a current opt-in database that is segmented by product line.
  • Have a staff responsible for devising and executing the marketing strategy and who can change and pivot as needed, using the tools that are available.
  • Have content that is worth the investment of time and money of the paying attendees.
  • Be able to crystallize the right message to send to the right person by the right means at the right time.
  • Have a frequent, two-way dialogue with the audience so that client needs are identified and addressed on an ongoing basis.
  • Have the ability to monetize all of the above by attracting the right audiences, which in turn attracts the right sponsors (doing so without foolishly spending.)
  • Use analytics to identify opportunities and exploit market gaps.
  • Have a passion to serve a market that will get you through the tough bits.

 

 

The companies that do this are few and far between, particularly in terms of doing it at scale. But given the iceberg that is approaching, it’s time to get your house in order or face the disaster….

 


Are You Running a Reactive Event?

Unfortunately, the answer is likely to be ‘yes.’ If so, it’s likely that your event will be entirely forgettable for your attendees as soon as they leave. They’ll have learned nothing new and will be dreading the meeting with their boss when they must explain why they’ve spent $2 – 3K of the company’s money to attend.

 

Consider an attendee’s perspective:

You’ve committed both the time and money to attend. The event might be part of a circuit in which one show is fairly indistinguishable from others or it might be a top industry show. Or perhaps it’s a new show with some potential, but also a risk that it will disappoint. Experience suggests that these kinds of events fail to meet expectations and you wish you’d never left the office. After all, it will take two weeks to catch up on the work that you’ve missed. And that does not consider the hotel’s terrible mattress, the delayed flight, the lost bag, etc. As everyone knows, business travel has lost much of its luster.

But you begin, perhaps with a bad night’s sleep that precedes the 8:30 AM keynote, followed by a walk to a first session – at which you learn nothing new. Then there’s a trek down the hallway and up the stairs to another session at which you again are told nothing you have not heard previously. Next, you stand in line to grab a bun and some coffee. And the day continues: rinse and repeat.

When the exhibit floor opens, you walk the floor with hundreds of others. Untrained vendor staff either try to cajole you into their booth or exhibit a posture of disdain that makes clear their disinterest. It’s not clear who has the products and services you want. And, despite the lanyard that displays your name and company, nobody seems to know anything about you.

The late afternoon/evening reception is full of cliques. People from the same company or who have history from past events seem content to speak with each other. If you are not part of one of the cliques you grab a beer and end up speaking with someone trying quite hard to sell you something. The beer is free, but is your time?

Then you leave for the evening, but with an expectation that the same sequence of events will be repeated the following day.

 

Why is it like this? Because event organizer profits are good. And events can’t possibly cater to every attendee and their unique needs. The job of an event organizer is to create the same comprehensive experience for everyone. So, you copy what has worked for you previously or you mimic someone else.
What do I mean by “reactive”? It means your event copies the formula of thousands of others. All the principals – advisory board, speakers, sponsors, media partners – have an agenda and want what’s best for themselves. Given that mindset, are you strong enough (or smart enough) to do what’s best for everyone given all these others trying to drive your event?

 

It’s easy to do what has been done before and/or copy what’s been done by a major player. But ultimately, you must decide: are you a market leader or a market follower?

 

Some questions to ask yourself:

What are the takeaways you expect for your attendees? Do you know why they are of value? Who is in charge of assuring that they are delivered and is there alignment amongst all parties? And I really hope that you are not marketing deliverables without actually having any.

Can you incorporate industry events within your conference agenda, even if the conference program was established many months earlier? Have you allocated open spots, so you have the flexibility to plug in last-minute things?

Is there something unique that you are doing with your event that you HAVEN’T copied from another?

Are you courageous enough to change major elements of your event the week before it happens – if the situation warrants doing so?

 

It’s easy to do what has been done before and/or copy what’s been done by a major player. But ultimately, you must decide: are you a market leader or a market follower?


Case Studies Don’t Work as Conference Programming – Unless….

When I started in the conference business it was a common recommendation that when putting together a program, get as many user stories or case studies as possible. The presumption was that attendees want to listen and learn from peers and high-profile companies in their industry. And so, I followed that advice and sought out those types of presenters. As a marketing tool, this approach often worked as a way to get people to come to an event. But almost as often, the attendees were disappointed in the sessions themselves.

 

Why was this the case, given that these presentations usually included:

  • The problems encountered by the attendee’s peers;
  • How the problems were solved;
  • And how the attendees could do it.

 

Though that sounds like the right formula, here’s why it does not necessarily work:

  • Frequently these sessions are funded by vendors and the presentations imply – or overtly state – that the primary reason for success is attributable to use of a particular product.
  • Or the presentations rely on YOU, the audience member, to distill the material in ways that can be applied to your specific situation. After all, the presentations were not customized for each attendee.

 

If attendees were paying attention, their best bet is to ask questions at the end of a session or try to meet with the presenter afterward. But all the attendees of a particular session can’t do this. For those that cannot, the session might be interesting, but offer no real payoff.

 

What can you do as the event’s manager to succeed with these sessions? Make sure the presenters:

  • Will not discuss a particular product and service in the presentation;
  • Are not funded by vendors or  have vendor speakers on stage ;
  • Have allocated enough time for a good Q&A period as part of the session;
  • Review the session in advance to ensure that the takeaways are clear and relevant.

 

Managed the right way, case studies can become a marketing tool while also delivering real value to attendees. So manage them properly!

 


Do You Live by Your Word?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been bombarded with lots of marketing offers, many of which make the wildest of claims. Possibly it’s something to help you lose 20 lbs in just two weeks or a promise to brighten your teeth in only two days. Or maybe there’s someone promoting a system that can magically solve your marketing problems, generate lots of leads, and fix your website’s SEO performance. And so on.
 
Riffing off a recent LinkedIn post by Michael Hart, it seems clear that keeping one’s word can now be a competitive advantage. Too many organizations will say anything they think is needed to drive sales, without any expectation of following through on their promises. Given that environment, my suggestion is to take a contrarian approach and ensure that you follow through and do whatever you’ve said you will – no matter how small that obligation might be.
 
This effort will build trust in your commitment, although getting to that trust may take time. In the prevailing environment, people are wary about what they’re told – and there’s often good reason to be skeptical. There’s ample evidence that many people feel no need to follow through on what they promise, whether it’s an outright effort to cheat or just the lack of sense of obligation to deliver. Perhaps it’s always been that way, but now there’s just more visibility to the gap between words and deeds.
 

My suggestion is to start small and be consistent. And deliver! It will be the best decision you’ve ever made.

In the end, your word and your reputation are the only things you’ve really got.

Given that situation, it’s best to use them wisely.