Any salesperson worth his or her salt will tell you – face-to-face interaction builds relationships. But how much of your face is there to go around? Your face doesn’t scale, so how can you continue to nurture relationships beyond the face-to-face?
I’m on my way home from SEMICON West 2017, stuck in the Detroit airport on a combined 11-hour layover, delay and cancelled flight. Trapped here with nowhere to go, this seems like a pretty good time to reflect on the events of the past week and what I’ve learned.
I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of attending SEMICON West six times over the last decade or so. Each time I attend, it never fails to entertain, inform and – most importantly – help me to start new relationships and deepen existing ones. It may sound funny but some of the people I see at this conference I ONLY see at this conference. Many are from across our great state of New York, but we have to go clear across the country to spend time together. In this instance, as we convene under the umbrella of New York Loves Nanotech (sponsored by Empire State Development), there’s good reason for our meeting.
Our missions at the conference are varied, but similar—we are there to make connections, to have conversations, to learn about new opportunities, and to solidify our position on what we’re trying to promote. For many of my fellow New York attendees, representing and selling specific properties (large land sites) for economic development is the prime directive. This is accomplished a few different ways—through congregating and welcoming interested parties to the New York booth, unique enough to the show as most exhibitors are businesses showing off their technology. But in addition, there are many scheduled and highly-anticipated hospitality events—some are famous for their high-quality outside of the conference, such as the TEL reception, always held on the Tuesday night of the exposition. The days are long, and the conversations are often quick, but new leads are generated and old friends are brought up to speed on new developments—this time is well spent.
The concentration of activity over a short window of time creates many opportunities to develop relationships beyond the handshake and elevator pitch at a networking event.
But, of course, as what happens with every conference, it comes to an end. People go back to their regular jobs and lives. It’s easy to lose momentum, but there’s a window of opportunity that exists for a short period of time after the event, giving the seller the opportunity to maintain the relationship “until we meet again.” Any sales coach or manager will tell you—the success is in the follow up.
How should you follow up? We have so many tools at our hands today, it’s awesome and scary at the same time. Awesome in the power of diverse options at our fingertips; scary in that there are so many ways for communication that it’s often difficult to determine which methods are best to use.
As marketing experts, we know the ways to keep the connection alive beyond the face-to-face, What are the tactics at our disposal? Here’s where I’d start.
I think the first newsletter appears in the period just following the first cave drawings. They’ve been around for some time, in some shape or form. Although most printed newsletters are gone, digital newsletters are a great way to share a number of stories with your audience. Unfortunately, so many of them are poorly laid out and clunky.
An example of a well-done digital newsletter is 8 @ 8 by the Saratoga Prosperity Partnership. It’s very clean and gets right to the point—there aren’t even any images. And it doesn’t blow up your email like a Canadian pharmaceuticals spam attack (they purposefully only send it twice a month). They formula is 8 stories sent at 8 am on the second and fourth Monday of each month. It works because it’s quick, eclectic and informative, and sticks to a schedule so that people know when to expect it.
You want to stay in touch with contacts and nurture relationships? Content marketing is a powerful way to help you do that. Ask yourself – what types of content are you putting out to keep others interested and engaged with your brand? If it’s only your newsletter, how effective is it? What are the calls-to-action? What do the analytics say about whether the content is working?
For economic developers, progress can be slow moving and big news items may be few and far between. Touting prospective uses for the site, developments in the region around, targeted industry info and trends are all fair game when you’re looking for material to share. If you have existing tenants or customers, you have their story to champion as examples of successful entities who chose your site for their chance to succeed. Content is also king for promoting programs for existing businesses and incentives for growing or new businesses.
Video is a great way to keep your personality alive and your face in front of your prospects and clients. In the case of economic developers, this is a great way to show off your product to an audience who isn’t physically close to your location (many targets are international). Using virtual reality or 3D renderings to show how the site can come to life is a great way to present the image of possibilities. Animation and motion graphics can help illustrate important and impressive statistics as well as traffic flow, infrastructure, and other key information about the region, bringing it alive to the viewer while keeping them engaged and entertained as they learn what you have to offer.
There’s no need to blanket the world with expensive ad buys when you know your target and can reach them via their online activity. In the case of economic developers, look to online and social advertising (such as on LinkedIn and Twitter) to target specific companies and job titles with your unique message, creating different messages for different audiences. Site selectors, CTOs and CEOs can be targeted with different messages based on their job function and priority. The parties aren’t necessarily using the internet to search for locations, but using digital advertising to remind them that you exist is a good way to stay top of mind in this extremely long sales cycle.
Implemented properly, automated marketing can really revolutionize the way you handle lead generation and sales processes. It gives economic developers (and others) the opportunity to map out their lead or customer touchpoints, and then automatically present people the right message, at the right time in the cycle, to not only keep your brand top of mind, but relevant to what they’re thinking about. Automated marketing can be used for lead nurturing, progressing profiling (getting more data about existing contacts), automated list building, and more.
If you’ve heard of automated marketing, but aren’t sure how to make it work for your business, The Beginner’s Guide to Automated Marketing can help.
Events are a great way to bring people together—either in your home territory or at a major expo such as SEMICON West. They solidify your support base, inform your community on important issues and position your organization as a thought leader.
- What is your region known for?
- What is a specific challenge (such as workforce development) that you’ve identified that could use a forum for smart minds to come together in one place?
- What important topic or issue do you want to own?
An example of such an event was the recent 87/90 Semiconductor Symposium held by the Center for Economic Growth. The semiconductor industry is strong in the Capital Region, and there is a lot of activity and smart people working at making the Capital Region a hub for the global industry. CEG created this event to bring like minds together and to share ideas on continuing the success of the initiative, but also to OWN it and to be known for it not only regionally but nationally and internationally. Creating a major event around the specific topic, industry or expertise you want to be known for creates buzz and gets people talking, with the added benefit of a number of touch points to promote the event itself—both before and after it takes place.
While the above presents a number of ways to continue existing conversations, I don’t mean to suggest that marketing should start only AFTER a personal interaction. Marketing is especially effective in making that first meeting more smooth and natural—the more your prospect knows about you, the better pre-qualified they are for you and the more natural the conversation flows (how much easier is it to “put a face to a name” and continue the conversation that to start your story from scratch?). Pre-show marketing—using all the same tactics outlined above—can help set the table for a more educated discussion, and one that can hit the ground running.
Oh, and to answer the burning question you may be asking—why is a guy from a marketing firm attending a technology conference? Because my clients are there but my competition is not. This gives me a tremendous chance to strengthen my existing relationships while identifying new and potential opportunities. I’ve always had better luck building relationships in person, as people get to see how you are and how you operate first hand. But the same advice needs to apply to me—follow up, continue the conversation, hopefully not wait a year before I see them again but use the many methods above to keep in touch (and in my case, show off how to do it right by example).
In the end, don’t be a stranger. Time and budget (and the occasional restraining order) may prohibit you from seeing your prospects in person all the time, but wrap that face-time with pre- and post-marketing efforts. Stay in their minds, but try and save some stories for the next conference.
Excuse me, I gotta go see a guy about a flight back to Albany.