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At one time or another, most of us have invested time and money attending trade shows and conferences for either an employer, or for our own organizations. Yet, a lot of potential business and momentum is often lost following these events. Here’s how to maximize your return from this important business development activity:

Plan Before You Go.

(At the beginning of the year)

  • Register for the conference early to ensure you have an optimal location (i.e., near beverage/snack/food areas, at the end of an aisle, at the corners of the trade show, or near competitors that are attracting those in your target market).
  • Determine your level of sponsorship/visibility at the conference (i.e., table/booth, hospitality suite, speaker at a workshop, etc.)
  • Determine who should represent the organization at the conference. (This may change, but it’s good to have a game plan about resource/staff allocation ahead of time).
  • Review table/booth and collateral materials, etc., needed for the conference and be sure that there are enough ordered in advance and in stock.
  • Plan any ‘give aways’ that will attract people to the table/booth or workshop. Popular items that participants tend to keep and use are: More expensive: USB drives, portable battery chargers, Bluetooth speakers, phone cases, screen cleaners, headphones, activity trackers. We would choose something that is relevant to RMC’s brand. Less expensive: Reusable bags, T-shirts, baseball caps, sunglasses, mugs, cups, water bottles, stress balls. (with a discreet logo)

(One to two months before)

  • Find out who is attending the conference/event. This registrant list is often available ahead of time.
  • Review the list of attenders and note whom you want to engage, and how (i.e., invitation to hospitality suite hosted by your organization, one-on-one breakfast, lunch, dinner, introduction to a partner, etc. Be as specific as possible in your strategy re: what you hope to get out of the meeting.). Prioritize the list to be sure your organization makes contact with top priority clients, prospects, referral sources, etc.
  • Review the list of competitors who will be attending, and note those booths that you want to visit. (This will be useful for your organization’s marketing/PR team.)
  • Promote your organization’s participation/attendance at the conference/event on LinkedIn, the company’s website, regular e-blasts, etc.
  • Choose a raffle item(s) at your organization’s table/booth and use this to collect email addresses that can be added to the database after the event.
  • Follow any hash tags for the event on social media to do some pre-show networking.

(One-two weeks before)

  • Discuss at your staff meeting who will be assigned to each client, prospect, and referral source attending the conference/event, and come up with a general strategy for what your organization plans to accomplish through each staff member at the conference/event.

Use Your Time Well While There.

  • Set up a charging station at your organization’s table/booth where visitors can charge their phones and other devices while talking to your team.
  • Collect business cards and note key topics discussed, and any anecdotal personal information shared on the back of the business card. Have a system to note highest priority contacts, i.e., ***=Top priority, **=Mid-Level Priority, *=Low Priority. Cards work well, because you can discreetly jot down notes as you’re talking or immediately following the conversation.
  • Host prospects, referral sources at breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings, and/or hospitality suite(s), and make detailed notes immediately following the get together about next steps with each contact. Be as specific as possible in your notes at the time as this will help enormously during follow up. It’s all in the details.
  • Collect any competitor literature, or other industry intel that you think will be helpful in understanding market trends, and how top competitors are positioning themselves.
  • Collect and comment on any ideas about give aways, booth displays, materials or approaches that you think are noteworthy. Share these with your marketing/PR team.
  • Attend competitors’ hospitality suites, workshops and other events if possible to ‘respectfully’ gather intel, and mingle with their clients and prospective clients.

Maintain Event Momentum Back at the Office.

  • Begin outreach by email to highest priority targets, first, then work your way down the list in order of priority. Do this within a few days of the conference/event.
  • Follow up any emails sent with a phone call to those who haven’t responded within a week of the email to move the contact along to a next step. In some cases, you might want to send a hardcopy mailing to someone who is difficult to reach as another touch point following the conference/event, or who wants more detailed information or a proposal.
  • Have an upcoming event your organization will be hosting or attending in mind so you can mention this to contacts/prospects and invite them to the event.
  • Add prospect emails in order of priority (noting the Tier level, and priority, i.e., high, medium, low) to the sales database, and enter in any information about each gathered at the conference/event. Note any next steps to be taken with a due date.
  • Enter in any intel about competitors of the marketplace gathered at the conference/event. Have a separate place in the sales database for this.
  • Discuss how effective you thought the conference/event was at your next  staff meeting and determine if it’s worthwhile going in the future. Share any ideas, intel learned at the conference/event that would be helpful to your organization’s conference strategy in the future. Share this info with the marketing/PR team to keep track of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cape Cod Young Professionals (CCYP)–a nonprofit that recently celebrated its tenth year–was founded to help young professionals live, work and thrive year round on Cape Cod. Through the organization’s Shape the Cape initiative, CCYP offers a variety of programs including mentoring, networking, career and professional development, civic engagement, access to housing that’s affordable–and even scholarships—in response to young professionals’ requests for resources and support so they can build lives here on Cape Cod. Taking on such a groundbreaking mission requires revenue to fund the Shape the Cape initiative’s many programs. To to do this, CCYP launched a Giving Circle.

According to Matt Cronin, CCYP Board Chair and President of Boardwalk Business Group, a Giving Circle is a group of philanthropic individuals who donate money regularly throughout the year into a pool and decide where this money will be invested. The CCYP Giving Circle was launched so that CCYP members and sponsors could pool their donations and fund selected programs throughout the Cape that aid young professionals as they find good jobs, housing that’s affordable, become engaged in their communities, and build lives on Cape Cod. “The Giving Circle is a way to introduce young professionals to philanthropy in a way that’s impactful, but not too difficult on the budget,” offers CCYP Executive Director, Anne Van Vleck.

Per Cronin, the organization’s Giving Circle gave back $10,000 in 2016 during its first year to a host of area nonprofits to fund specific Shape the Cape initiatives. These included:

Career and Professional Development

  • $2,000 to the Cape Cod YMCA for their Teen Achievers Program
  • $2,000 to We Can to fund their GROW (Get Results From Others Wisdom)

Access to Housing That’s Affordable

  • $2,500 to the Housing Assistance Corporation to fund free courses in their Housing Assistance Corporation
  • $2,500 to Community Development Partnership to fund online First Time Homebuyer Education courses

Civic Engagement

  • $1,000 to Cape Cod Community College’s Support Community Engagement Speaker Series.

Cronin and Van Vleck are both members of CCYP’s Giving Circle, with a current initiative underway to add 90 new Giving Circle members in 90 days this fall. “Being part of a Giving Circle is a rewarding, fun, social group of philanthropic individuals that share the process of learning and investing together,” says Cronin enthusiastically. “People that become part of CCYP’s Giving Circle learn about many other nonprofits and their programs that may not have heard about these through each organization’s annual fundraising process. Also, the pooled donations make a much larger impact on the nonprofits receiving the grants than the typical individual donation could ($10-$20 per month). Finally, being part of a Giving Circle is a positive experience that tends to help members feel more empowered and engaged in community issues where they can actually enact change within their communities.” “Many hands make light the work,” adds Van Vleck. “As we grow and recruit friends, neighbors, co-workers and friends of friends to join CCYP’s Giving Circle, we have an even greater impact on our community…We’re on the ground floor of something truly exciting!”

As former Director of Membership for a large nonprofit membership organization, here are a few ‘golden rules’ I learned for turning members into sponsors:

  • Have Membership Ambassadors Make New Members Feel Welcome: Many times I’ve thought about becoming more involved in a nonprofit organization, but there was no one assigned to greet me as a newcomer and make me feel welcome. Breaking the ice for prospective members and new members will be worth its weight in gold (literally) as doing so quickly engages these people in the organization so they’re more approachable as sponsors.
  • Check in With New Members: Every nonprofit knows it takes time to cultivate and engage new members and turn them into potential sponsors. Having a Membership Ambassador check in with new members to get their feedback within a couple of months of joining is a great way to learn what’s working and what’s not. Let members know how much you appreciate their feedback, and stay in touch–especially as you implement their suggestions. This will go a long way toward engaging them as members and cultivating them as future sponsors.
  • Make Profitable Connections for Members: If a nonprofit organization can broker profitable connections for their members during monthly events, they’ll develop more engaged members–and potential sponsors–throughout the life of the organization. Let members know that your nonprofit is proactive about helping them make meaningful connections. Assign Membership Committee volunteers to each event, and let members know before the event that the committee is available to help them connect with others in the organization.
  • Reach Out to Business Owner Members: Small business owners especially appreciate when nonprofits are proactive about helping them market and promote their businesses through the organization. Many nonprofit organizations take great care to develop member benefits; however, oftentimes they don’t do a good job making sure members take advantage of these perks. Business owners understand the value of strategically sponsoring organizations and are ripe for the asking–that is once they feel the organization they support understands what they’re trying to achieve through their membership, and helps them reach their promotional goals.
  • Show Sponsors Measurable Results: There’s nothing that makes a sponsor happier to be invested in a nonprofit than seeing the results of their contributions. Nonprofit organizations that capture data and communicate measurable results periodically throughout the year to members and sponsors have a much easier time of meeting their fundraising goals. Current sponsors are more likely to increase their donations, and prospective sponsors are likely to begin giving–if they feel their dollars are making a meaningful and measurable difference.