Saturday, November 10, 2012

Attending Conventions - Maximizing ROI

Every year, companies spend a lot of money attending Conventions.   And, while it is always fun seeing industry colleagues,  there must be a return on investment to make Convention attendance worth while.   Let's face it, while learning can come from the sessions at Conventions and that is a good thing especially for younger employees,  companies send Senior Management, Sales people and Account Managers to Conventions, either to protect current client relationships, or to foster new ones. 

The old rule that if you are not talking to your client, the odds are pretty good that a competitor is talking to them is valid.  As a result, the job of Account Managers attending Conferences is to further relationship building with existing clients.  And, since some amount of entertaining is always involved, that is not too hard to do. 

In some ways, the more important goal is for Sales people to meet as many prospects as possible during a Convention.   That can happen formally while doing booth duty, or informally during sessions, at the bar, or just about anywhere in the Conference facility.   The purpose is never a hard sell; but rather name recognition and relationship building to make sure that when the client goes out to bid that the company being represented is included in the process. 

All companies attempt to identify leads during Conferences.  That usually involves some sort of gimmick, or prize given away at the booth.   Ideally, leads should later be turned into face to face appointments.   And, while thousands of dollars are usually spent attending a Conference, it really only takes one signed client to provide a good return on investment. 

More and more, Conventions are also used to connect with partners in a company's supply chain.   Since everyone is in town at the same time, it is very common and cost effective to have partner meetings before, or after the Convention.   This usually requires that those in charge of a company's Business Alliance function also attend the Convention.   This becomes an important aspect of booth duty, since generally company's want their Sales people talking to prospects, rather than suppliers.   This then leaves the Manager, Business Alliances with the job of dealing with suppliers that come up to the booth. 

Attending Conventions is becoming increasingly expensive.  Companies should be careful not to send too many people because there can be a diminishing return.  Anyone who is sent to a Convention must recognize that it is work; not fun and games.  As such, prior to the Convention a well organized plan should be discussed with all staff members attending the Convention.   And, then it is important that those attending a Convention work the plan.  The goal must be to maximize return on investment, which by definition should be signed new business that was the result of the Convention attendance.   

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