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It depends.
A conference, summit, trade show (whatever you want to call it) offers many direct and indirect benefits for the companies that attend them. It allows your team to find industry experts to learn from, a place to share experiences with peers, and the opportunity to build relationships, prospects, and customers. 
But is the investment always worth the outcome? Is this exchange of business cards and handshakes really worth the time and money required? 
Some will argue these events are worth every penny. Others will vehemently disagree. The rest simply do not know. This is a fact.

Conference Costs Versus Conference Results

Many of the prospects we engage with at Brand Buddha spend a great deal of money in conference marketing. It’s what they do. It’s what they’ve been doing and how they operate business. They take their marketing dollars and throw it at these events like it’s supposed to turn coal into gold. Sometimes it works. Other times it does not. When asked what the ROI from these events is, the majority do not have a solid answer.
“Not sure about the dollar amount but it seems to be working”
“We get leads from events all the time but I have no idea what the actual cost per lead boils down to”
When asked how leads from these events are recorded, managed, and nurtured, the answers become more nebulous.
“Our sales team will add them manually to a spreadsheet.”
“Sales will follow up with the prospect, just not sure the process.”
These types of answers leave much to the imagination. There’s no definable information or data to prove these events are worth the time, manpower, or price tag. 
And attending a conference is not cheap. The many associated costs include:

  • Conference entry fees 
  • Flying: airfare, Uber to/from airport or airport parking fees
  • Driving: mileage/gas, tolls, and hotel parking fees
  • Lodging
  • Meals & entertainment
  • Company booth
  • Marketing materials

So how can companies ensure they’re recouping their investment? This is a question our clients have asked us — many times. 

Conference Marketing is Worth the Cost—If You Have a CRM System

To really know if conference participation is worth it, a company needs to first answer the following questions:

  • Do I have defined goals for the conference, and if so, how will I measure success?
  • Do I have a pre, onsite, and post-event strategy to generate and follow up with leads, prospects, and connections?
  • Do I have the right sales lead management tools to effectively track, qualify, and nurture these leads?

The last question is especially important. This is because many of the companies that participate in conferences do not have effective lead management tools in place—and generally speaking, that’s a CRM system
CRM stands for customer relationship management. It’s a software solution that manages customer relationships and the data and information associated with them. It provides a centralized location to not only create, deploy, and analyze all of your pre-and-post event activities, but obtain valuable and actionable data for your sales team. In fact, a CRM can increase revenue by 41% per salesperson, according to Trackvia. 
A CRM system is advantageous in several ways for event prospecting, sales, and lead nurturing, such as:

  • Sales enablement – A sales team is able to perform better when it is more cohesive and pulling in one direction. A CRM helps to align your sales and marketing processes pre-and-post to be more effective and successful with your efforts.
  • Historical data collection – A CRM saves all activities, projects, sales, live chat messages, email exchanges, and deal stages that a contact has ever been involved in. It provides interaction history through the entire sales funnel of a prospect. This business intelligence improves visibility in the selling process and provides better insights for sales reps.
  • Hyper-targeting Rather than “spray and pray” with lead-gen, a CRM allows you to run highly personalized campaigns based on segments. You can consciously tailor your offer, your tactics, and even your sales pitch when you know whom you’re addressing.
  • Sales cycle duration – A CRM enables you to better understand how long it takes to find, connect with, and close a new customer. It helps you streamline your sales pipeline saving you major time and helping you shorten the sales cycle.
  • ROI Snapshot – A CRM system doesn’t just track data, it analyzes and reports on it. It provides real-time data, outcomes, and associated revenue from event participation. A CRM provides an assortment of reporting tools, such as:
    • Sales reporting (revenue, pipelines, goals, etc.)
    • Campaign reporting (email, landing pages, lead sources)
    • Customer reporting (buying patterns, demographics/firmographics, profitability)

The true value of conference marketing cannot be answered until you have the tools to track, manage, and analyze the outcomes from these events. A CRM is the core component of marketing and sales success, but none more important than with conference marketing.
Do you agree? Is your company utilizing a CRM software system?

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