No matter the industry, events are a meaningful way to engage with peers, prospects and potential partners. From networking events to multi-day conferences, at some point, every business will engage with events as an attendee, a sponsor, or organizer.

Most often events are used as a business development tactic, a way to populate and progress a sales pipeline. And while events can prove an impactful strategy for achieving a sales objective, tightly packed schedules and numerous attendees can make it difficult to cut through the clutter. Maximizing both the time and money invested in an event is a skill that when mastered, can become a business’ strongest source for lead generation and pipeline acceleration. .

We spoke with several marketing managers at leading startups to discuss best practices and how their teams tackle events as part of their business development strategy. These philosophies and tactics can be easily replicated to drive any company’s sales objectives for events:

Involve sales early on in the process.
Valerie Leary, LivePerson, Marketing Manager

“Marketers are always searching for new and creative methods to engage professionals at large conferences. But what happens once you’ve engaged them? You put your sales team face-to-face with qualified leads, but I’ve often seen marketers neglect the sales team in the planning process. Marketers spend months planning their company’s exhibit, and thousands of dollars purchasing event marketing content, yet send their sales team in blind to exhibit the booth.

I strongly believe that involving sales early makes the sales team more invested in the event and ensures that they will be active participants on-site. I have found that without my sales team’s support, an event can quickly turn into a large effort with minimal results. To avoid this, make sure you familiarize your sales team with the details of the event, your past success exhibiting at this event, and the personas of the attendees in order to optimize their on-site conversations and post-event follow up.”

Conversations are content to be captured.
Gary DeAsi, SmartBear, Senior Manager, Corporate and Digital Marketing

“My team looks at on-site conversations as valuable content for our sales and marketing efforts. One way we have captured this content is by creating premeditated forms to use at our booth, guide our reps’ conversations, filter only qualified leads through the pipeline, and capture critical information from each conversation. Using an internally-built form, SmartBear reps can refer to persona breakdowns and qualifying questions, as well as rate each lead, record important follow up data, and start a free trial for a SmartBear product from the booth.

Capturing this information streamlines our post-event follow-up, and allows the sales team to expedite their prospect engagement efforts, making the most of their efforts to engage qualified leads. The critical qualification data captured at each event is later pushed to our marketing automation system and CRM, arming the sales and marketing teams with important data to successfully target leads with the right follow-ups at the right time, which has been key for increasing ROI from each event for SmartBear.”

Maximize sponsorships with your own mini-events.
Todd Stewart, HourlyNerd, Marketing Manager

“HourlyNerd regularly sponsors sporting events and conferences as part of our marketing strategy. While the events themselves are a great way to get in front of prospects, we’ve also found that hosting our own mini-events around a conference’s schedule to be an effective way to get longer one-on-one time with key prospects and customers.

Private dinners and cocktail receptions have been an effective way for HourlyNerd to ensure that our sales reps are making the right connections to seed and accelerate pipeline opportunities at the conferences their team sponsors. HourlyNerd is able to capitalize on the main reason why their prospects are gathered in one central location and make every sponsorship work harder for them by incorporating their own mini-events around the big show.”

Turn on your person, turn off your scanner.
Vanessa Porter, SnapApp, Senior Marketing Manager

“I find that conference exhibitors often focus too heavily on whether or not they’re speaking to the ‘right person’ at an event. Sales and marketing representatives rush to scan name badges, rather than entering every conversation as an opportunity to create advocacy, promote brand awareness, and educate regardless of the person’s title or organization.

People change jobs, make referrals or get promoted – today’s ‘Marketing Ops. Manager’ is tomorrow’s ‘VP of Martech.’ Be present and attentive. Treating every booth visitor as a genuine prospect means you will start to foster professional relationships regardless of their current career stage.”

For more tips and advice on events, check out Attend’s #EventHacker series.