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Guest post by Kasper Souren of B2B Pay.

MICE –  is the industry acronym for huge conferences and trade fairs. Travel, Auto, IT conferences attract hundreds of thousands of participants and industry leaders. But are you ready to get the most out of them?

There is nothing like getting out of the building to get a buzz going: get the team excited about the fantastic life of a startup, build on that sales strategy and getting out there and talking to potential customers and partners. MICE (Meeting, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) events are a must for a startup as you will get a lot more customer feedback and partners in 1-2 days that would have normally taken you months. People are there to do business, and you need a strategy to make it happen for you.

We recently attended the ITB conference in Berlin. The ITB conference is the largest and most important Travel conference in the world. Our aim was simple: We believe travel agencies are a good customer segment for us, so let’s get out there and sign up as many as possible. We will be closing deals with about 10 with another 20-30 potentials. This is a great outcome as that’s 5 times more that what we had previously, but if we knew what we know now we would have been able to close more deals and with 1/10th the effort.

Now it is time to plan your approach. In this blog, I assume you are going as a foot soldier with your army tagging along instead of having a booth. I also assume you and your team will be splitting its time between pre-booked meetings and freestyle meet & greets.

 

1) Plan meetings in advance:

The pros at these events organize meeting months in advance. We definitely noticed a huge difference in the response between people we just chatted up on the spot compared to the people we had contacted before the event.

  1. Talk to partners and friends that will also be attending and try to build a referral book. With it, network your value proposition and see if you find any synergy.
  2. Identify – from the attendee list – your core customers and book meetings with each with the correct team members assigned
  3. Add everyone that you have a meeting booked with on LinkedIn.
  4. Have a list of names ready and of course, arrive early.
  5. Try to set up meetings with the best-ranked decision maker in the firm.
  6. Book meeting with 30-minute slots: 15 minutes for the actual meeting and 15 for moving around the conference.

 

2) When walking around and talking to owners:

You are going to spend a lot of time walking around and approaching people who don’t know you at their booths. We did a lot of this as we didn’t do enough of step 1 :) Here is what you need to remember.

  1. Always go in twos. I don’t know why but they tend to listen to you more and spend more time with you. It’s easy to dismiss one person.
  2. Be polite and ask if they have time. If they don’t ask for an appointment or walk away. There are hundreds of people out there, don’t waste time on one.
  3. Understand what “mental mode” they are in. if they just want to sell they won’t be interested in you and it’s better if you walk away rather than pushing them. You need them to be responsive.
  4. Change your story. Some of the best results I got was when I asked them about their product, build a rapport, then after 5-10 minutes, they asked me what I did. And when I told them about our startup and they went “ahh, that sounds awesome, can I have a card as I am interested in this service”. 
  5. Collect cards. If they are busy, tell them you will drop them an email, and remind them in the email that you met them in person.
  6. Always ask to talk to a supervisor, 4 out of 5 times they will go get them.

 

3) During the face to face:

  1. Do not waste people’s time: pitch in a few minutes and gauge the level of interest. Ideally, let them talk more than yourself.
  2. Do not waste your time. When the time comes, make sure you are on your way with a sincere request to your lead.
  3. Take notes; what every client said and your reactions as well. If you don’t have the time, use the voice recorder on your phone.
  4. Brochures are a waste of time, people get a 100 and most of them end in the bin.

 

4) Keep yourself fit, healthy and motivated during the event:

It’s exhausting. Make sure you are mentally and physically up for it.

  1. Take a break every 2 hours to meet the team and exchange notes and get some general feedback.
  2. Try tackling a series of booths as a team: each person taking sequential booths of similar business types and do some instant note comparison.
  3. Get food. There could be long lines. If you’d like a beer, have it and relax.
  4. Have snacks ready.
  5. Keep the team motivated: a bottle of good wine for whoever gets the most cards.
  6. Try to get the most important meeting in the morning. Everyone is exhausted by late afternoon.

 

5) Plan:

  1. Assign somebody with the task of organizing this whole thing. It is much harder to make this happen without someone taking the lead on proper preparation.
  2. Conferences are big. Allocate time to a section. Most important in the morning as you will get tired and less convincing as the day goes on.
  3. Clear message and questions: make sure you have a clear message and 2-3 key questions to get the information you are looking for.
  4. Ideally, you will do some practice within the team to get your questions and pitch correctly.
  5. Use some of the not so important chats in the conferences as testing for your pitch and questions strategy.

 

Other tips:

  1. Your phone will ring. So, put it on silent, please.
  2. Have business cards! Ideally a card with your own name for each of your team members.
  3. Folders are good, for sure. The more the better.
  4. Know who not to talk to. We have experienced for example, that certain cultures do not like impromptu meetings at all, or at least require a person with a certain level of cultural familiarity.
  5. It is best to avoid more than 2 people per meeting.
  6. Dress up. Especially if you’re at a conference with a mixed business/consumer audience, it’ll be much easier to get people’s attention if you dress properly.
  7. Remember where you parked your car. It is a silly exercise to realize that because of the excitement of entering a conference for the first time, you run around like a crazy monkey for 30 minutes looking for a black car in a sea of black cars. Fortunately, since then Google has added a feature for this in Maps

 

Afterwards:

After the event, you need to follow up. Ideally, you have a CRM ready to handle the many emails you are going to send and receive.

 

Finally:

Whatever business you’re building, there are always great events to go to and test your assumptions. The above should give you a good head start with this. And if you manage to build up your business thanks to the above and you’re in need for a good international payment solution we’ll be happy to help with that!

 

Other posts you might be interested in: Should you be afraid to talk about your idea?

 

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