Inbound-only marketing is like waiting for the phone to ring

wilecoyoteI’ve built my business on inbound marketing.  It works.  But it also has its limits.

By focusing on inbound marketing alone, you have little control over the growth rate and consistency of that growth over time.  You have less control over the quality of inbound requests and prospects.  The phone will ring often, but you’re still basically waiting for it to ring, and hoping there’s a good prospect on the other end.

This doesn’t mean you can’t grow a successful business with inbound marketing alone.  You certainly can.  But if you want to change the mix of customers you attract, if you want more predictability and accuracy in hitting a particular revenue number, inbound alone likely won’t get you there.

I’ve seen this limit both with clients and with our own business.  Thanks to almost 2,000 blog posts and counting on our site, we see significant daily traffic and leads.  But if we map those inbound leads against our “target profile” for new customers, the overlap is small.

That organic growth has turned a one-person consultancy into a fast-growing agency, so I have nothing to complain about and am not going to stop focusing on content marketing and inbound.  But to consistently hit our revenue targets and particularly focus on the companies we think are the best fits for our services, we’re increasingly balancing inbound with strategic outbound marketing and new sales development activities as well.

Of course, if you’re doing this right, you’re still investing heavily in precise, targeted inbound marketing to mitigate the overall cost of building the pipeline you need.  If you’re doing it right, outbound is a supplement to that value with far more precision and efficiency.

Finding that balance for your business is a simple math problem.  Know the basic mechanics of your pipeline – how many qualified opportunities do you need to get a sale, how many qualified leads do you need to get a short-term opportunity.  Then be realistic and precise about how much of that pipeline (quantity and quality) your inbound efforts are currently providing.  The rest needs to be filled with outbound.

Cash for demos – good idea or tacky?

cashmoneyAt a conference last week, one particular vendor’s booth was covered in cash.  Curious, I stepped up and asked why.

I expected it to tie into an analogous pitch for their services.  I expected the cash to be primarily a prop.

Nope.  The company founder excitedly told me I would get one dollar if I immediately tweeted about their service, and five dollars if I sat through a five-minute demo.

I was authentically interested in their service anyway, so I asked for the demo.  After five minutes, they handed me five dollars.  I tried not to take it.  It honestly felt a little dirty.

They claimed that giving away cash like this was more “efficient” and “effective” than spending the same money on the same old booth giveaways.

But is handing out cash this way at a booth a good idea?  Is it tacky?  Does it really drive the right prospect behavior or lead qualification?

I’m leaning towards “tacky” but am curious what you think.  Would you do this at your booth?  Have you done it?

Let me know your opinions and experience.

5 Things Marketing Automation Administrators Should Know

joshhillThis is a guest post from Josh Hill, author of the Marketing Rockstar Guides blog on demand generation. He is currently Marketo Practice Lead at Perkuto, a marketing automation agency.

When I first joined the marketing automation world in 2010, I was excited about bringing in a more regular process for managing leads as well as more automation to handle that process. But what I was not ready for was the tidal wave of changes required to make the lead lifecycle work across Salesforce and Marketo.

Since then, I have enjoyed being a part of dozens of marketing automation implementations.

The single biggest lesson? Think through the implications of everything marketing automation can touch. If you can successfully do this by following these five tips, you will be a great marketing automation administrator.

1. Put Data First

Data is the foundation upon which your CRM and marketing automation systems are built, so it is logical that you pay attention to the data that is in these systems as well as the processes and workflows that you’re building around them. Creating a data quality report each month is a good way to highlight gaps – and success – in your house list. To that end, have a set of data rules for your team. I developed the Six Principles of Marketing Automation Data. Know them and practice them.

2. Collaborate with Other Teams

In spite of its name, marketing automation touches multiple departments, especially Sales.  Getting input and buy-in from Sales and other departments is an absolute must. As you begin to map out your implementation or change plan, make sure that you’re scheduling time with an experienced person from each department. There’s no need to try to compensate for their experience when you can download their knowledge and incorporate their feedback into your planned system.

3. Create Process Visualizations

Outside of your cubicle, could anyone else understand what you have done? If you decide to leave on vacation or move to another firm, your current firm will be terribly confused. But what is worse is if you can’t remember your own work and reasons for building the system a certain way.

Top administrators create detailed diagrams, which help relay the big picture to your entire organization quickly and efficiently.  Remember that a picture is worth a thousand words, and a process chart is worth a two hour meeting. Charts help you discuss suggested improvements and receive faster approval.

Take time to map out existing processes, workflows, teams, and your desired end state. Marketing automation can be a catalyst for change, but successful change requires careful planning.

From a simple whiteboard exercise to Visio to LucidChart, I use them all.

4. Know Your Systems

You might assume an Administrator knows his or her system. Go beyond simply knowing Marketo or Eloqua. Know your instance inside and out. And know how it works with your CRM, your website, and your product. People look to you for solutions and you should be able to articulate one, even if you cannot implement all of it alone.

5. Administrators are Guardians and Teachers

Much like a server system administrator or a Salesforce Administrator, you have three key responsibilities. First, you are the steward and guardian of a working and living system that must be monitored constantly. You authorize users as a gatekeeper. Second, when you allow in other marketers, you are their teacher. You must nurture their skills and teach them how to do their job well and without causing harm to the system. Third, you are responsible for the data and workflows. Changes to the system must be well considered, communicated, and executed without causing disruption to staff, business, and customers.

Are you a marketing automation administrator? Share your thoughts here.

Matt’s App of the Week: MobileDay

appoftheweek-300x284This is the latest in a series of weekend posts highlighting a wide variety of applications we think are pretty cool. Most have to do with sales, marketing and productivity. Check out past featured apps here.

Giving everyone who needs to be on a phone call the same conference call line and passcode can save a lot of time and hassle….UNLESS you’re trying to dial in from your cell phone.  Because if you’re remote, somehow you need to dial the phone number and the passcode separately, do some kind of jujitsu cut and paste while driving in a car, or some other unnatural means of actually connecting with everyone else.

If you’ve ever tried to join a conference call from a smartphone or especially while driving, you know exactly what I mean.

MobileDay solves that problem.  It looks at your calendar, pulls the dial-in and passcode information, and gives you one, green button to press to start the call.  It then automates dialing the right line, waiting for the passcode prompt, and dialing that for you as well.

One button and you’re in.  Worth checking out.

B2B Reads: Content – Long Form? Contagious? Hummingbird Friendly?

best-blogsIn addition to our Sunday App of the Week feature, we also summarize some of our favorite B2B sales & marketing posts from around the Web each week.

We’ll miss a ton of great stuff, so if you found something you think is worth sharing please add it to the comments below.

In the meantime, here’s some of what we’re reading:

Why I Teach Sales People to Read
Check out this quick read byJill Rowley about how she teaches sales people how to read what their buyers read. “This is absolutely essential if you want to connect with – and engage – your buyers.”  She also says, “It’s not enough just to read. You also need to share this content across your social networks.”  What are you reading?  Do you know what your buyers are reading?

How to Please Google in a Post-Hummingbird World
Adam de Jong does a good job of not only explaining Hummingbird, but how to create Hummingbird-friendly content.  He says “you need a content-centric SEO strategy that is optimized around customer interest and based on their behavior, rather than their keywords alone.” If you haven’t already learned about these changes, here’s a great place to start.

Content Marketing Optimization: Focus on ‘Critical Few’ Metrics
One of Jake Dimare’s goals in this article is for you to gain the knowledge you need to help you find your own “critical few” metrics and grow incrementally better at measuring and communicating success.  This forces us to think about business outcomes instead of obsessing over the full complement of raw data typically available and it also allows us to communicate more successfully with leadership.  It can also get your content team excited about the work they do as individuals and as a team.

3 Content Marketing Planning and Productivity Tips
Jeff Korhan offers some tips to help cross the annual midpoint, an ideal time to assess marketing effectiveness to make the necessary adjustments for finishing the year strong. Even though the lazy summer can thwart these efforts, check out Jeff’s tips.  Now is the time for ramping up to still accomplish annual objectives, or even raise targets if everything is working out well.

21 of the best B2B growth tactics to test
David Arnoux agrees growth hacking is not simply a series of tricks or tactics, but a mindset to do what it takes to grow a company. It is data-driven and dovetails quite a bit with online marketing.  Each of the 21 B2B growth hacks he lists could be articles in themselves, but he keeps it brief.  Worth a read.

How to Find Your Social Media Marketing Voice: The Best Examples, Questions and Guides
Kevin Lee’s article (posted back in April)  is so good.  He says “Developing a voice for your social media marketing can lead to a better overall experience for your customers and also for you.  A voice helps you connect with your audience in an endearing way. The payoffs can be big.”  He gives both methods and examples as well as tips.  Love it.

Market Your Marketing:  Make Sales Content Champions
Taylor Radey says “In addition to a content distribution strategy of your own, your content marketing’s ROI can be amplified by tapping into some of your organization’s most active players: the sales team.”  Here are some tips on creating closer alignment between marketing and sales, by encouraging sales to become content champions.

Why Long Form Content Marketing Works, And Why It Doesn’t
Joshua Steimle tells us what Long Form Content Marketing is, why (when done right) it works, and when it doesn’t.  If you’re looking for a bulleted list of tips for creating your next long form content marketing piece, here you go!

3 Foolproof Ways to Create Contagious Content
Marcus Ho asks, “Do you have a conscious thought process or framework to follow for producing content?”  Even if you do, read more about his three great tips:  1. Practical Value, 2. Surprise, and 3. Trending Triggers.  Make your audience want to share your content.

Don’t be the taco truck

tacotruckTo win, you need to either be better or cheaper.  Being cheaper is a tough game.  Most businesses try to be better.

But demonstrating and earning the premium for being better can be tough.  The buyer’s expectation is often based on those in your market who are fine being cheaper.

Think about it this way.  You can pay a wide variety of prices for a taco.  Less than a buck at Taco Bell, for example, if price is your thing.  But quality comes into question.

You might pay more at a taco truck, but not much more.  Maybe better ingredients, certainly more authenticity and a more valuable experience.

Head to a fancy Mexican restaurant and you might end up paying $15 bucks for two tacos.  Seven dollars for a taco!

That’s crazy…until you factor in why that experience is better.  More comfortable.  More satisfying.  Yes, hopefully quite tasty as well but you’re clearly paying for far more than a tortilla, some meat and fixings.

Nobody walks into a table linen restaurant and expects to pay taco truck prices.  If they don’t like the prices on your menu, they’ll go to the taco truck.  Those aren’t your customers anyway.

You can’t sell to everybody.  Know your niche, know how your value is differentiated, and stand up for it.  Be proud that you’re turning people away or losing deals on price!  You’re unique and valuable and worth it.  Focus on finding the customers that share that value translation with you.

I love eating at taco trucks.  But I don’t want to be one.

“How I Work”: David Niu, Founder of TINYhr

David-Niu“How I Work” is one of my favorite recurring features in Inc Magazine as well as via Lifehacker’s This Is How I Work Series, and recently several sales experts (including  Anthony IannarinoDave Brock and Trish Bertuzzi) participated as well.

Periodically moving forward we will feature a new B2B sales, marketing or business leader here answering what have become the standard “How I Work” questions.  You can catch up on everyone we’ve featured thus far in the “How I Work” series here.

This week I’m excited to feature David Niu, a serial entrepreneur who is currently running and growing TinyPulse, an amazing tool for gathering regular employee and team feedback.  He’s a high energy guy that quickly gains trust & loyalty from those around him.  And as an early stage company founder, he’s wearing many hats all at once.

David, suffice it to say, gets stuff done.  Here, in his own words, is how he works.

Location: Seattle, WA

Current computers:  I currently have a MacBook Air but I’ve been thinking of getting the new lighter MacBook Pro. I’ve also been playing around with a Toshiba Google Chromebook and have been impressed with its performance, especially given its price.

Current mobile devices:  Google Nexus 4. I never buy locked phones.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?  I wish I could say I had some great shiny new app to share.  But I pretty much follow the TINYhr motto of keeping things light and simple.  Some of my go-to favorite tools are probably some of your favorites too:

  • TripIt: Genius app for consolidating all my travel plans in one place. So smart and lightweight.
  • Google Apps: We live and die by Google Apps at work and even in my personal life.
  • WhatsApp: Great app to send pictures of my newborn son to my entire family at once. Best $0.99 I ever spent :)

What’s your workspace like?  We just moved in to our second office space here in Seattle that I love because it lets everyone on the team sit together.  We have an open workspace and my desk is just another desk among many. I have a standing desk that isn’t too messy, and my monitor is propped up by some of my favorite entrepreneur-related books.  I was also very intentional in creating a physical layout for our new office space that reflects the type of company we are building. We have a wall with a flat screen that displays real-tie our Cheers for Peers, an employee recognition program. In addition, we have another wall that highlights with pictures our 1% pledge. We showcase how we donate 1% of our time to the community, 1% of our product to non-profits, and 1% of our profits to a non-profit.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or lifehack?  Take a careercation (career + vacation). I used to think that I could recharge with a bad sunburn from Hawaii. That truly was not the case. In fact, I bought one way tickets to travel around the world with my wife and 10-month old daugher. You can learn more about why, how, and what I learned here:  tinypulse.com/book.

Whateveryday thing are you better at than anybody else?  Investing in our culture. TINYhr is all about promoting positive company culture, and we have a pretty awesome culture since we live and breath what we promote. When I get to meet with prospective employees all I need to do is tell them about what we do, tell them how we bring it to life and they are quickly hooked. We also put our values right in the job req since we hire and fire by them.  In addition, we role play how we should act in certain situations based on what our values dictate. Finally, yes, we also religiously review our TINYpulse responses as a company every two weeks.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?  I like old-fashioned paper and pen. Nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you cross an item off of your to-do list.

What do you listen to while at work?  We generally have Pandora playing at the office, and let employees choose the station they want.  Sometimes we get 80’s rap, sometimes we get Simon & Garfunkel.  It’s an eclectic mix that keeps things interesting.

What are you currently reading?  With two little ones at home, I’m really becoming a Dr. Seuss expert. I also just finished Richard Branson’s autobiography.

What’s your sleep routine like?  With a three-year old daughter and a newborn baby, sleep is an erratic thing these days.  Add to that clients across international time zones and I’ll have to admit that I’m not on my best sleep behavior.  Ideally, I’m in bed by midnight and up by 6AM to help out with the kids and get in to work while it’s still quiet.  I’d say I have a 25% success rate of making this happen.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?  So many to choose one. But one of my favorites is, “If you won the lottery, would you still be doing what you’re doing?” If not, then it may be an opportunity to reflect and focus your energies on your passions. At the end of the day, the #1 regret in life is not having the courage to live your own life because you always led the life that others expected of you.

Fill in the Blank: I’d love to see BLANK answer these questions.  Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO.  I really admire the incredible company culture he’s created.

Seven LinkedIn sales enablement best practices

sales-enablementDriving consistency, quality and habits across an enterprise sales team (or even a smaller inside sales squad) is often easier said than done.  Even though, for example, it’s easy to justify a dedicated focus on LinkedIn best practices to help each rep increase their size, quality and conversion of prospects, putting that in practice is often much more difficult.

Still, there are several best practices you can easily put into practice to help immediately increase the quality and performance of LinkedIn-based social selling practices across your sales team – whether it’s four people or four thousand people.  Here are a few places to get started.

Professional photos (get photographer into the office)
Hire a photographer and get everybody’s headshots taken at once.  Do it on sales kick-off day or sometime when otherwise the highest % of your reps are in one place at the same time.  Consistency and quality of those photos will make a great first impression.

Headline writing consistency
That line under your name?  It’s not for your title.  LinkedIn calls that space your “headline” for a reason.  Help your reps create a value-based, customer-centric message that doesn’t describe their job, but rather describes the benefit you create or enable for your customers.  Another great impression builder that speaks to outcomes vs means and roles.

Summary template copy
Many people don’t even both to fill out the Executive Summary section, but in many cases it’s the next thing people will read when “checking out” the sales rep that’s been calling them.  And guess what?  Your prospects don’t care that you’ve won President’s Club four times!  They care about how you’ve helped their peers achieve success.  Describe that success and outcome, and otherwise demonstrate (in more words than you’d use in the headline) how you can do it.  Marketers – please write those summaries for your sales team.  Work in plenty of bullet points to increase engagement from the “scanners” among your prospects too.

Narrow down “Skill & Endorsement” choices
Choose categories that speak to the industries and services your prospects are engaged in and care about.  Temporarily “hide” categories that don’t immediately related to that customer value.  That way your growing network will endorse you for sales-centric attributes first and foremost.  Marketers, help your sales team choose these attributes wisely to increase targeted endorsement value.

Incorporate the Wheel of Destiny (or something close to it)
We recently featured a scrappy but highly effective tool from a client that drive daily social selling engagement.  You can read more about it here, but suffice to say the objective was all about developing regular, consistent habits to engage, add to and feed your growing network.  The more you engage, the more you get out of it in the way of new referrals, warm leads and repeat purchases.

Share a new “feature of the week” in sales meetings
It could be just five minutes once a week or 1-2 times a month.  Help your reps “discover” a new feature or tool (there are tons in LinkedIn they can utilize better) so that you’re not training them on everything all at once.  Incorporating one new feature or tool or habit at a time will increase the depth and sustainability of how your reps engage with social selling tools.

Develop a specific pre-call research checklist
I would near guarantee that your reps will enjoy greater conversion of new calls and warm introductions by using the first few minutes to connect on something they have in common with the prospect.  And marketers, you can improve consistency and execution by helping reps understand exactly where to look – including educational experience, hobbies and personal interests, links to Facebook and other social channels, etc.  Literally think about it as 1-2 minutes to identify 1-2 things you may have in common to break the ice.

Curious what else you may have tried to improve across-the-board sales enablement on LinkedIn and other social channels.

Work the funnel, but sell to the buyer’s journey

Poppycock-HeroIt’s become trendy in B2B circles to say that the funnel is irrelevant.  That it isn’t valuable as a tool to track buyer behavior and the sales process.

Poppycock!

The sales funnel hasn’t just now become irrelevant.  It has always been a poor indicator of how buyer’s work.  But that’s not the point worth considering.

The funnel is still valuable, but primarily as a way of organizing our sales process and helping to direct what we do next, based generally on where the buyer is in their decision-making process.

But it’s asking too much of that funnel to hope it reflects both how we sell and how the buyer actually engages and buys.

I’d argue that you need two tools to manage sales.

First, you need a sales funnel that organizes your sales process, broken up into stages, that can help you consistently track progress across the team.  This is done based on common definitions, and drives accurate forecasts of future closed business.

Two, you need a deep, consistent understanding of the buyer’s journey – how they go through the stages of observing or experiencing pain, clarifying desired outcomes, eventually identifying and engaging with potential solutions, etc.  That journey has general stages, but the specifics are truly unique to each individual buyer.

Let’s not pretend that the sales funnel approach means every buyer is engaging in exactly the same way.  But if we tried to build a sales process that mirrored each individual buyer’s behavior, there’s no way we could ever create a consistent, accurate and useful sales strategy.

I believe we need sales funnels as selling tools, but the way we actually sell – the way we engage with, observe and respond to buyer’s – is based on an understanding of and adjustment to each individual buyer’s journey.

The trick is making those two work together.  Your sales process needs to be based on the most common buyer’s journey for your target market, but allow for interpretations based on the uniqueness of each buyer’s plight.

Work the funnel, but sell to the journey.

The ultimate guide to event-based content marketing

eventcontentmarketingSimply put, if you’re not actively leveraging content to accelerate the ROI of your events, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

Too often, when people think about events, they simply consider & plan for the event itself-  The booth, the room, on-site factors.  But great content, leveraged before, during and after the event can exponentially increase the reach, influence and conversion opportunity at every event you produce or attend moving forward.

In this extended blog post, we’ll cover a comprehensive look at why a content strategy for your events is so important, then walk through in detail exactly how you can leverage content before, during and after.

Event Content Objectives

One of the biggest challenges for content marketers in attempting to gain greater credibility for their craft inside organizations is that they too often measure the wrong things.

Content isn’t about impressions.  It’s not about traffic.  It’s about conversions.  I realize not every marketing channel or tactic can be directly measured to sales opportunities and the bottom line, but that doesn’t mean you can’t assign revenue-related objectives and align your strategy and execution accordingly.

Thus, event content objectives should include elements of the following:

  • Direct, qualified prospect engagement and interaction
  • Lead capture
  • Sales opportunity creation

It’s still fine to measure awareness and interest, especially related to exactly who is engaging (with or in?) your event content, but keep in mind that metrics like impressions, retweets and similar are means to an end.

Tracking ROI From Events

To more completely and accurately measure the business value and sales impact of your next trade show, define and measure success at three critical post-event milestones.

1. Immediately after the show
When you walk back into the office, what can you measure? How will you immediately know if the show was a success? Your likely measures for this include leads (or names) captured, meetings held, briefings or demos completed, etc..  Define these measures up front and drive your strategy and execution accordingly.

2. 30 days after the show
A month after the event you should have, at minimum, qualified all of the leads you captured and placed them in the appropriate stage in your pipeline. Many of the leads may go right into a nurture track. Some will require further qualification, and others may be actively engaged on a short path to purchase. But ideally, after a few weeks of working the immediate product of the event, you should have a sense for what pipeline expectations should be in the next few months.

3. Six months after the show
Depending on your average sales cycle length, this is the milestone at which you should start to expect closed business, booked sales and revenue recognition directly from the event. There will still be leads you’re nurturing, but six months should be enough time to see closed business and a solid pipeline of expected new sales in the subsequent six-month period.

Ideally, you establish goals for these three milestones not only before the event, but before you commit the resources in the first place. Because if the goals don’t add up to enough business to justify the event, save your time and money for something else.

Five reasons to prioritize content marketing at events

Some of these reasons may feel “basic” to advanced or experienced content marketers, but I’ve found them to be highly useful when explaining or justifying additional content investments with senior executives.

1. Low cost and high leverage way of expanding at-event reach

Think about the cost of doing taxi cab advertisements.  Banners hung outside of the convention hall.  All events still offer these kind of opportunities (some formal, some guerilla) but many of them are still prohibitively expensive.

All too often, you can garner the same impact with your target audience with some smartly-created content at a fraction of the cost.  Plus, it has a shelf life and value well beyond when the banners are taken down and (most likely) just thrown away.

2. Extended lifetime and value well beyond the event itself

Just because the event is over, doesn’t mean people will stop engaging with your event-related content.  I guarantee you’ll be able to recycle and repurpose much of your event content in the weeks and months ahead to expand its reach, influence, and conversion potential.  And next year, when the event happens again, much of that content can be dusted off and used in almost the exact same way with next to zero incremental work or cost.

3. Participate even if you’re not there, and make your presence look significantly larger than it actually is

We’ll cover “remote” event content participation and strategy later in this chapter, but I’ve lost count of the times we’ve “participated” in events from afar, only to have people assume we were not only on site, but also a major sponsor given our presence in content, Twitter and elsewhere.

But even if you are in fact at the event, significant content coverage can make your presence look that much more impressive.  Many events, after all, are in part about perception.  It might be your once-a-year opportunity to make a solid impression with the majority of decision makers in your industry all at one time.  Why not take advantage and use content to heighten that impression and opportunity?

4. Tap into the budgets, tactics and audiences of your fellow exhibitors more effectively

Every event that includes other sponsors, exhibitors and presenters means you have a significant opportunity to cross-promote and cross-market your services with each other.  And when you actively use content, you can work with content marketers at peer organizations to exponentially increase coverage with the overall audience, and conversion metrics with the targets you care about most.

5. Impact and convert everyone who wishes they could attend but didn’t make it

For every one person to who attends almost any event, there are at least 4-5 who wanted to be there but couldn’t make it.  They didn’t have the budget for travel, had a schedule conflict, whatever.  But in the age of social media, hashtags and on-demand video, our ability to follow conferences from afar has been significantly enhanced.

When you create and execute great content before, during and after an event, you’re reaching many times more people that matter than who attend the event directly.

Ten pre-event content marketing best practices

I could easily argue that the greatest content marketing opportunity for events is before and after the event itself.  This is the time when most other sponsors and exhibitors aren’t doing much if anything, and your attendees are actually back at work paying more attention to content channels (vs. walking the halls and breakout sessions of the event in person).

Great event content marketing starts weeks if not months before the event actually begins.  Here are ten pre-event best practices to get your brain rolling.  This is far from comprehensive, but should give you a solid flavor of what’s possible.

1. Develop an editorial calendar

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail – right?  So if you do your homework in advance for the event itself –Who’s going to be there, what they care about, why they’re attending, etc. – you should be able to convert those insights into a solid editorial calendar that lays out the content before, during and after the event.

2. Find the influencers

Figure out who has attended these events in the past that have the most influence over other attendees.  Run a report through Little Bird (www.getlittlebird.com) based on the conference name and/or hashtag to see who shows up first.  Look for “most influential” lists within your industry and start there.

Then, create a plan to engage the influencers in advance of the event.  Make sure they know who you are and what you’re presenting.  Get their help to crowd-source or at least share to their audiences your pre-event content.  Ask them to grab a quick coffee with you during the show.

3. Engage past attendees

Use last year’s hashtag as a means of collecting those who either attended or at least watched/participated from afar.  Make sure you’re following those folks to engage with this year.  Ask them what they’re looking forward to this year and create a crowd-sourced blog post featuring their feedback.

4. Engage the presenters

Anyone presenting at an event likely also wants to make sure their room is full of attendees.  Why not reach out to those presenters and ask if you can interview them for some pre-show “teaser” content?  I bet most of them say “yes”.

5. Help first-time attendees know what to expect

Could you create new-attendee orientation content?  How to “survive” the crowds, where to find the best outlets to recharge cell phones, which parties are mandatory attendance, etc.

This can be in the form of blog posts, interviews, videos, etc.  Newbies will love it.

6. Make session recommendations

The bigger the event, the more breakout session choices there are.  Even veteran event attendees can get confused or intimidated by the choices.  Why not create content recommending the sessions and speakers you most recommend attending?

With content like this, you encourage participation.  Get people adding their own content to the comments section wherever your content is published.

7. Write a “what to do around town” guide

Even if you don’t know the city the event is hosted in very well, work with others who live or used to live there to get recommendations on where to eat, drink, hang out, get a good breakfast, etc.

The more eclectic and “off the beaten path” recommendations, the better.  Where do the locals hang out?  Where’s the best “take a picture of the city” location that nobody knows about?

This is another great opportunity to crowd-source content, and when you feature the opinions of others, they’re far more likely to spread the word with/for you as well. 

8. Crowd-source more event recommendations from past attendees

Capture and publish the “wisdom of the crowds” in a variety of contexts, featuring survival tips from those that have been there before.  This can be about anything – hotels, transportation, bathroom breaks, etc..

9. Start using the hashtag early and often

Literally, as soon as you see one published, start posting pre-event content.  That way, at minimum, those reading the feed early are going to see you.  Add value, of course.  Solicit feedback and input for your crowd-sourced content.  Share other people’s pre-event content via your Twitter and social channels as well.

In essence, treat the event hashtag as one of your primary publications.  It’s a direct feed to a significant portion of the attendees and followers you want to leverage well before and well after the event to maximize coverage, reach and impact.

10. Develop your at-show plan

The next section will dig into at-event tactics & best practices more specifically, but make sure you create that plan well in advance.  What’s your at-show editorial calendar likely to look like?  What resources will you need to create in-the-moment, live content?  In what formats will they be produced ?

Answer these questions well in advance so you’re ready to capitalize on the event in real-time, make adjustments on the fly based on immediately identified opportunities, and have the resources to get it all done.

Five at-event content marketing best practices

This is by far the hardest section to nail.  Once you’re at an event, chaos reigns.  Things go wrong.  You’re pulled into 12 different directions at once.

But if you created your at-show plan in advance and have both secured the resources required to execute, and allowed some buffer for opportunistic content on-the-fly, all that’s required is focus and discipline to get it all done.

And remember, if it’s hard for you with a plan, it’s next to impossible for your competitors without one.  Nail the at-show content and you’re highly likely to stand out even greater, and take advantage of opportunities to make your presence far larger (and look far more expensive) than it actually is.

1. Live-tweet the key sessions

Tweet the big keynotes and special speakers in particular and make sure someone on your team is live-tweeting the highlights using the hashtag.  Keep watch on similar live-tweets from the conference’s influencers and retweet their content frequently.  This makes it more likely they’ll do the same for you and expand your reach beyond your own direct network.

2. Retweet the most influential other attendees

Sometimes it’s more than just the “known” influencers.  At every event, new influencers pop up.  Unknown attendees get highly-active on the hashtag feeds and make a name for themselves.  Keep an eye out for these opportunities you might not have known about beforehand, and take advantage in real-time.

3. Assign “summary” content from key sessions and keynotes to get published ASAP

This is where an editorial calendar and resource plan comes in really handy.  Know exactly which sessions you’ll want to “summarize” in a blog post afterward, ensure someone attends and takes notes, and carve out time right afterward to draft and publish the piece.

This is important for at least a couple reasons.  One, you’ll have some incredibly valuable content to share with the exponentially-larger group of people who couldn’t attend live but are trying to follow from afar.  And two,at the end of the show, you’ll have a collection of fully-written summaries of key content you can aggregate into “key takeaways” content summaries, or even an e-book behind a registration wall.

4. Shoot “on scene” video

Doesn’t have to be fancy.  Carry around a basic camera to shoot video and get “man on the street” reaction of the event from attendees.  Schedule time with influencers and get them on camera as well.

Get good at publishing these snippets in real-time into the hashtag feed, and reserve time at the end of each day to stitch good quotes together into slightly longer, curated videos that can go up and get viewership traction right away.

5. Work with content producers from the event itself

Most events have their own content team now.  Get to know them before the show, volunteer to be part of their coverage team, and make sure they’re following and sharing the content you create for the show as well.

In most cases, they’ll be thrilled that you’re expanding the reach of their event through your own content, and will be happy to share that with their audience as well.

Five post-event content marketing best practices

It is incredibly easy to get back from an event and simply move onto the next one.  Or the next fire drill.  Or the massive pile of work and emails and emergencies you need to deal with.

But after the event is when attendees are back in their own offices and likely paying more attention to content like yours.  It’s your opportunity to continue building upon the awareness, interest and momentum you generated at the event itself.

It’s also perhaps your best opportunity to use content to not just engage but convert event participants into qualified leads and opportunities.

Here are five specific best practices after an event to leverage content to increase pipeline-building metrics.

1. Publish a great “key takeaways” post

This may sound basic and fundamental, but I’ve found it can also be the single-most important piece of the entire event content marketing strategy.  Summarize the session highlights coverage you created during the event, highlight some of the themes that came across overall, and link to some of the other takeaways blog posts being created.

Once it’s published, send it with those who are covered or mentioned in your takeaways.  Send a copy to the influencers.  Help it start spreading, use the hashtag, and watch what happens.  It can be magical.

2. Crowd-source other takeaways from other attendees

It’s actually a great away to engage leads immediately after the event.  If you want your sales team to increase qualification conversations from booth attendees, have them start with a simple question to capture a key takeaway for your blog post.

Great way to break the ice, then transition into more of a needs-qualification discussion overall.

3. Keep engaging the hashtag

Just because the event is over doesn’t mean people stop watching the hashtag feed.  In fact, those who create a custom column in Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to follow a hashtag tend to leave it there for days if not weeks after the event is over.  This is mostly due to laziness, but it still means your content will be in front of them for much longer.

4. Do an internal postmortem, and make adjustments for your next event

Take a quick look at what worked (especially related to the immediate post-show key metrics you’re tracking) and figure out what you might do differently next time.

5. Create a templated process for content marketing at future events

No matter how you just executed your event content, take what worked and make it a precedent for future events.  Much easier than recreating the wheel each time.  I recommend literally writing down the whole process so that, in case you’re not directly in charge of execution next time, someone can pick up where you left off and continue successful execution.