Are Events Worth It? 3 Keys to Making Events Work for You
As Seen in WealthManagement.com
Three years ago, I wasn’t sure people would ever attend events in person again.
Now look at us.
Today the industry hosts some 300 to 400 events—more than ever before. Everyone I know is overscheduled and oversubscribed.
The good news is, there are now options for advisors of all types, locations, and interests. They can attend a local event without getting on a plane, or find a conference hyper-focused on a single topic like M&As.
Options are good. However, infinite options are not. Frankly, there are too many industry events today. Quality has suffered.
So has objectivity. The calendar is crammed with events organized by product and service providers. Most started as client conferences, but have since ballooned into huge industry extravaganzas. If an event is underwritten by a product or service provider, it’s designed to advance an agenda. That’s a problem for advisors looking for objective information, as well as for actual clients who just want product education.
With so many companies competing for attention, are events really worth the money?
I believe they are—as long as you’re acting with intentionality. I had a long, terrific conversation with Mark Bruno, one of the masterminds behind Wealth Management EDGE and someone who understands successful events better than anyone. To make events work for you, it’s important to think carefully about why you’re going, which events you want to attend, and what you can do to get the most out of them. Mark and I talked about three issues companies should discuss before they decide to attend an event:
1. What do you want to achieve at the event?Naturally, everyone likes to see immediate ROI from every conference—deals closed, meetings booked, LinkedIn profiles connected. But those might not be the right metrics for every situation. If you’re a new market entrant, wouldn’t you value an opportunity to introduce yourself to your target audience, regardless of whether you close any deals at your booth? If you’re looking for leads, wouldn’t you prefer meeting key influencers and decision makers to making a hundred unqualified LinkedIn connections?
At FiComm, we look at events from a wide angle. We start with a client’s overarching marketing, communications, and business strategies, and then try to match each goal with a specific event outcome. Is your goal to build your brand? Educate the market? Create advisor communities? Or simply have a voice in the conversation? It’s easy to attach a measurable result to each of those objectives.
One goal that’s best accomplished at an event is to personalize your business. It’s great if you’re successful at filling the top of your tunnel using social media, TV interviews, news articles and maybe a podcast. But events let you go further, deepening consideration with focused one-to-one conversations lasting anywhere from 3 to 30 minutes long. You can cut through the social media noise and stack a month’s worth of face-to-face meetings into a single 3-day event—a target you can’t hit any other way.
2. Which events are worth going to?You go to events to be where the action is—to meet people you can’t meet anywhere else, especially decision makers and influencers. But you can’t find decision makers just anywhere. They’re very picky. They don’t leave their families for three days unless they are planning to make something happen.
Advisors are picky, too. Out of hundreds of events a year, the average advisor maxes out at attending three or four. Their first choice is probably their custodian’s client conference, and their favorite asset manager with the big bucks for event experience comes in second. That leaves just two discretionary events each year.
Where will you find the specific audience you’re looking for? Which events are right for you? There are a few rules of thumb that might help you decide.
- The agenda is the North Star of any event. The agenda determines the audience any event will attract. It leads advisors to say, “This event is for me. It’s aimed at my business model, my clients, and the types of problems I solve.” That’s why it’s important to make sure content is a good fit.
- Editorial content beats sponsored content. People know when they’re being marketed to. It’s easy for an event organizer to say, “Come see our products!” It’s more compelling when an independent third-party group or editorial team spotlights products, topics, and speakers they find objectively interesting. The more credible a conference is, the more credibility you gain from participating in it.
- There’s value in scarcity. Nobody wants to be that one guy who butts into every party conversation. If you swarm every conference, people might tire of you. Instead, just send a person or two to most of the events you attend. Then, if you have amazing speakers like your founder or CEO, save them for just the top one or two events each year. By making their appearances feel rare and exclusive, you’ll create greater demand and buzz.
3. How can you get the most out of the events you attend?
Mark Bruno points out that Wealth Management EDGE has become less about a three-day event, and more about the omnichannel world we live in today. Events create a pool of content you can use to maximize awareness starting long before registration and continuing for months afterward. Having a strategy is the key:
- Before you go, create an “onboarding plan.” You can get the attendee list in advance, look people up on LinkedIn, and identify your top-priority prospects to meet. What works best is to invite people not only to connect with you at the event, but to connect with intent. Not just, “Let’s get together,” but “Let’s get together and…,” where you suggest something compelling to learn or do. You can invite select people to private meetings, or issue a broader invitation to visit your booth. In both cases, you’ll probably get a better response with a more compelling offer.
- While you’re there, maximize your impact. Real talk: if you want a speaking opportunity at most conferences, you have to become a sponsor. It helps a lot if you’re on the organizer’s list of indispensable speakers—people who have something to say that sounds authentic, new and different instead of the usual scripted talking points. (I have a post on this topic coming up next.) Audiences want content that has business intent—actionable ideas for how to increase the value of a business.
Offstage, you can try to attract attention in ways that feel new and relevant. Sure, you can raffle off a motorcycle. But what if instead you repurpose your booth as a multimedia platform? You can interview top influencers and advisors for your podcast right there, and attract a well-qualified crowd that’s genuinely interested in what you have to say.
- Afterwards, follow up. You can create a follow-up plan to reach every segment of your target audience. If you met with a prospect during the event, you can continue the conversations with calls, emails and messages. If an attendee only heard you speak on a panel, you can still reach out to them with social media, newsletters, blog posts and videos.
Every prospect is on a journey, and every interaction with you is a step along the way. Some are just starting out, and barely know who you are. Others are further along, learning more about you every time you blog, post a video, or appear in the news. A handful are right on your doorstep, ready to sign.
An industry event is the only place you can meet all these potential customers face to face, no matter where they are on their journeys. From the stage, you can come to the attention of new leads. From your booth, you can walk prospects through deeper conversations. And from a conference room, you can close deals.
That’s something you can’t do anywhere else in the industry. And it’s why I think attending events is worth it—as long as you go about it with purpose.