B2B Event Lead Generation: How to Make Conferences Work for You

In 2018, at least 68% of B2B marketers used in-person events for lead generation initiatives. Event lead generation created new sales opportunities, strengthened brand awareness, and helped with meeting potential clients in the flesh.

The value of event lead generation didn’t disappear; however, the circumstances around it changed dramatically since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The world of event marketing had to stop, pivot, and reinvent itself. There were no offline events, and online events weren’t even on the map for a while. Now, we have marketers adopting a hybrid of the two.

To keep you up to speed, this article will guide you step-by-step through the event lead generation process with best practices so you can be on top of your game.  

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What Is Event Lead Generation?

Event lead generation is a business process that involves identifying and cultivating potential customers for its services through a specific event (conference, summit, online webinar, etc.).

Depending on the type of event, event lead generation usually works like this: Researchers create a list of leads and sales development representatives (SDRs) to conduct an outreach that will highlight your presence at the event where you can discuss business opportunities and offer appointments with potential prospects.

Event lead generation serves as a common ground for nurturing your leads, generating brand awareness, and creating a sense of community. 

Event Lead Generation in 2021

Just like any other business process, mastering conference networking is impossible without understanding current industry trends. Are events even a thing in 2021? Yes, they are. However, nowadays, they can be both offline and online.

According to Bizzabo, the majority (93%) of event marketers plan to invest in virtual events moving forward. Nonetheless, almost all (96%) event professionals do not believe virtual events will fully replace in-person events. It seems the challenge for the modern marketer is choosing what type of event lead generation is best for their business.

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So, do we have a conflict here? Not really.

68% of event marketers reported that a hybrid solution that manages virtual and in-person events would play a key role in modern event strategies. To sum up, no matter what happens in the business world, event lead generation should be part of your strategy. 

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Event Lead Generation Process

Lead generation of any sort requires thorough preparation: defining and finding the leads that fit you the most, crafting the content that delivers your value, and putting together a team that will conduct the outreach and land those qualified appointments. During each phase of the process, follow these key steps to execute your event successfully: 

Phase 1: Planning

We suggest planning your outreach campaign at least two months before any virtual, in-person, or hybrid event. This will give you enough time to go through every step carefully and find the right direction for your campaign. 

  1. Create an ICP. A new ideal customer profile (ICP) created specifically for a particular event will help your researcher or SDR find the most relevant contact data for the event attendees.

    Tip: Make a separate list of your existing and former clients. Online and in-person conferences can be an excellent opportunity to upsell, expand accounts, or mend relationships that have gone sour.
  2. Assign a team. Create a team that will be in charge of the event’s success. It should include event attendees, a copywriter, researcher, and people in charge of the outreach (SDRs).

    Tip: Make sure that event attendees are the people who can pitch so every one-on-one conversation can quickly become a qualifying appointment.
  3. Choose outreach channels. Pick the channels you want to use in outreach (email, phone, social, web, or offline) and define waves and sequences.

    Tip: Multichannel is the most effective approach in lead generation, but avoid overwhelming your prospects by choosing a couple of key channels instead.
  4. Outline outreach strategy. Develop the content strategy for your outreach. Use your marketing team, buyer persona, and conference topic to create unique and consistent content that will help you stand out.

    Tip: Think about creating a branded outfit or giveaways for the event. The ability to reward time spent with your organization pays dividends that make you memorable.
  5. Set goals. KPIs and goals help your sales team to look at this event with a clear-headed focus on ROI. There’s no hoping to find the right person; luck is nice, but it’s inferior to having a calculated strategy.
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  1. Create an action plan. You should plan your activities prior, during, and after the event. Be sure to specify the details of the outreach in the plan, including an SDR’s daily routine. Here’s an example you can use for your event:

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Phase 2: Content Preparation

Content is a crucial part of event planning that makes lead generation outreach easier for your teams. It can be presented in a form of emails, calling scripts, pamphlets, landing pages, handouts, blogs, and social media posts. Every part of it should be carefully crafted to make just the right impression to your potential buyer. 

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  1. Pick a theme. Every event has a theme, but besides that, you can pick a theme that your company will present and apply it where appropriate. Think of something that will resonate with both your prospects and the conference.

    For example, when our team went to INBOUND 2018, they chose “OUTBOUND at INBOUND18” as a theme. We put our slogan on the T-shirts, which drew needed attention and interest because of its fun juxtaposition.

    The conference was a marketing event, with marketers often using “outbound is dead” or pitting “outbound vs. inbound” in familiar mantras. The way CIENCE was able to imply that the two can work together efficiently was something new to attendees.
  2. Choose what info materials to present. As explained above, most of your meetings will match the discovery stage of your funnel, so make sure you prepare the respective materials and arrange them in a separate folder on your computer or mobile device.
  3. Craft email templates and scripts. An important part of the process, Eventbrite shared some interesting statistics about emails: 

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For creating strategic emails, sales experts suggest using the name of an event in the subject line and ask for an appointment in the body of the text. 

Template A:

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Template B: 

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Template C: 

Check out the latest email we wrote for our campaign for INBOUND 2019. This super-basic subject line had a 55.13% open rate.

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  1. Create content for other outreach channels. Landing pages are a great way to enhance your outreach efforts and provide all the information your prospect needs to decide on the appointment. To make the most of it, you should include some valuable gated content (e.g., industry insights), add a Google form to set an appointment right on the page, and provide the link to the landing page in the emails you send to your prospects.

    Social media is one of the best channels to nurture prospects and support your lead generation campaign. Create blogs that correspond with the event’s theme and use hashtags to draw attention and get the word out about your participation.

    You can also “slide into” the direct mail with some proper merchandise, from reusable water bottles to cupcakes. 

 Tips from a copywriter: 

  1. Make your content more about the meeting and less about the sales pitch.
  2. Keep it short and straightforward. The value of direct communication is more than anything. Keep your emails compact as well. 
  3. Focus on the prospect: their challenges, goals, and KPIs. Show you care and can help. Referencing their competitors can trigger them positively toward the purchase. 
  4. Be human first, salesperson second.
  5. Don’t overwhelm your copy with bold type or links. Use one or two that are relevant to your services or to the event you are attending. 

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Phase 3: Outreach

Outreach should start at least two weeks prior to the event. However, the more significant the event is, the earlier you need to start.

  1. Conduct sales research. Most conferences provide the list of attendees (name, title, and company) but not their contact data. The contact list of conference attendees isn’t something you can easily purchase from a platform. That’s why you’ll often need to generate it from scratch.

    In many sales organizations, SDRs are responsible for this part of the research. However, that’s an additional workload for sales reps. At CIENCE, we use specialized sales researchers for these tasks.

    To ensure that all leads are up-to-date, the research process should start in the later phases leading up to the event. 

    Tip: Do some additional research on the attendees that perfectly match your ICP. That can be your advantage that may tip the scales in your favor. 
  2. Conduct the outreach. On average, an SDR reaches out to between thirty-five to fifty leads per day via email and phone. They also manage the CRM, write replies, and follow-ups to renew the conversation.

    Tip: Focus on the event itself and making that human connection.

    Timely follow-ups are also huge. Conference attendees change their schedules on the fly and missed meetings are common. However, any missed appointment is an even bigger opportunity to leverage the reciprocity (okay, guilt) of someone standing you up. Rescheduling is viewed favorably and often greatly appreciated. 
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SDR tips for event lead generation 

Ivan Vakulenko, a top-performing SDR at CIENCE, shared his tips and tricks on how to make phone calls for B2B event lead generation:

  1. Schedule it out. Before making a call, compile a reference sheet of all the free slots your sales managers have for the duration of the whole event. If you get a “yes,” you won’t waste effort looking for a convenient time.
  2. Do sales intel. Find out what the company is doing, and write down a reference sheet of their services and how your company can help them.
  3. Know how the prospect will benefit from your service. To test that, try putting yourself in their shoes and ask yourself: “What do I get from this solution?”
  4. Have a plan B. Say your prospect decided to skip the event. Don’t hesitate to set up a video call for them during the week following the conference. Say that your experts have studied their company and have some valuable insights to share with the prospect and that you’re calling to discuss it.
  5. Ask questions and be persistent. Take the time to listen but be persistent in your intent by asking questions.
  6. Follow up after conversations. After the phone call, send a warm email with a summary of your conversation over the phone. Bring value, and if you feel that the prospect may be ready to meet up, suggest a few time slots for an appointment. 

Bonus tip: Don’t make sequences too long: no more than five touches for the first outreach week and three touches for the last week if you are limited to the last two weeks before the event. A longer head start gives more breathing room and a slower, more deliberate tempo. 

If you send the first wave of emails to the remaining prospects on your list on the eve of the conference, make sure that it’s also the last one. There’s no point in trying to secure meetings during the event itself. 

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Phase 4: The Event

The schedule and agenda are crucial for the event lead generation. However, events are free-flowing. It’s common that your well-organized schedule will shift quickly.   

  1. Continue the outreach. The outreach team should be working and on-call during the event: They can, and should, be ready to adjust meeting schedules—for both attendees and prospects. 
  2. Send reminders. Ensure that your SDR sends meeting reminders on the evening before and the morning of an appointment.
  3. Plan the future. Negotiate and agree on further steps after the event is finished.

Phase 5: Follow-up

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Follow-ups are a must for any outreach. If you want to successfully convert your event leads to sales, you shouldn’t rely on their memory of your conversations during the meeting. Remember that conference attendees are (over)loaded with information. Be sure to follow up with everyone, including:

  • Prospects with whom you had appointments
  • Attendees you met at the conference
  • People who never showed up
  • Leads who never agreed to meet you
  • People who never replied to a single letter or phone call

Follow-up is usually made via email, but you can also call. As a rule of thumb, your salespeople should be the ones to follow up with prospects they met at the event. Your SDR can write or call everyone else.

Tip: Prepare messaging playbooks for follow-ups to all the above-mentioned categories before the conference, especially for people you've met. Make them sweet, friendly, and filled with shared experiences you enjoyed at the event.pic 8

General Tips for Successful Event Lead Generation

It’s a struggle to get any business process right from the first try. Some marketers don’t excel at event lead generation because of the wrong leads or lack of time. Use these tips to make your B2B conference experience easier: 

  1. Identify the attendees that match your ICP. Use last year’s lists and look for guests even when there are no lists available.
  2. Design a messaging strategy based on time, location, and shared commonalities at the upcoming event.
  3. Conduct a multichannel outreach campaign before the event offering to meet (e.g., for a cup of coffee, in Zoom, or at the event booth). 
  4. Send your most prominent figures to the events (C-level executives or sales teams representatives).
  5. Coordinate day-of meeting details, including reminders, locations, and meeting windows.
  6. Enable salespeople to conduct valuable discovery meetings at the event.
  7. Plan follow-ups and next steps for the participants of your event lead generation campaign.

Event Lead Generation Today

Despite being one of the most affected by Covid-19 pandemics, the event industry today has rehabilitated quickly: It jumped to online without undermining the importance of in-person events, an impressive accomplishment with a hopeful future.

Whatever type of event you choose, events provide fantastic opportunities for networking and lead generation. Maximizing time and ROI at any event is a nearly foolproof strategy for increasing business. With proper execution, you can use these strategies to take your event lead generation campaigns to the next level.

Need help with event lead gen? Contact CIENCE!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in Nov. 2019 and has been completely updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.