One of the largest sectors of Vendere's lead generation business is in driving attendance to the sales events of our clients. We have registered 18,000+ in 2009-10 for the Enterprise Servers & Storage group of one of the largest IT companies in the world. We've done everything from luncheons about converged infrastructure to huge-scale seminars at the largest hotels in the world.
In fact, the demand for our event audience acquisition services increased to the point that we generated a new service offering designed to be an end-to-end solution for sponsoring sales events; we handle the event set-up, management, and prospecting. The new solution is called Event-in-a-Box.
So to help explain why Vendere excels in this particular method of lead generation, we turned to one of our own for best practices. I sat for an interview with Deb Whitaker, our Delivery Manager in charge of event audience acquisition campaigns. She shared with me some secrets to the team's success, and tips for those thinking about running sales events themselves.
How many events have you managed?
Since Q4 2009, we have filled over 300 sales events for large high-tech clients.
What is your average registration to attendee percentage?
About 50% of those we register actually attend the event, but that figure can tend to be volatile. What we've seen is that the percentage of registrations that actually attend an event is highly dependant on a number of variables.
Which variables most contribute to attendee percentage?
Geographic locations, weather, time of year. We've seen better success in driving attendance in February and March, with summertime and the holiday season being more challenging in terms of getting attendees to sales events.
Which geographic locations do better than others?
Large DMAs that do well are Dallas, and New York. New York is a fantastic city for IT sales events because they offer such quality venues for Lunch & Learns and seminars. Venue is just so important. Mid-sized DMAs are hit-or-miss but we've had good numbers in Charlotte, among others.
We've had a more challenging time filling events on the West coast in California, perhaps because it's such an IT-centric part of the country. Maybe traffic conditions also contribute; after all, the goal is to get an interested prospect to put their keys in the car and drive somewhere to hear a sales presentation, and California traffic may be a factor. Also, Washington D.C. can be quite a hard-fought battle, mostly because the market there is often government entities and that's typically a more rigid market with which to fill events.
What metrics do you pay close attention to when generating registrations for events?
Registrations obviously is the goal and the ultimate measurement of success to increase event attendance. However, number of daily dials is the primary process metric. Our company minimum for dials per day on event registration campaigns is 200. What's interesting is that even a year ago it took about half as many dials to get the same number of registrations. What does that mean, really? A lot of IT departments are being outsourced for one. In addition, maybe IT directors are busier than before. Maybe there are just too many products to review. Maybe the competition for qualified attendees at IT sales events is getting stronger. It's hard to tell, really.
Making 200+ dials per day, how many conversations can a telemarketer expect to get?
The ratio works out to be about 200 dials to get 10-15 conversations which will result in 2-3 registrations.
What does the process of quality assurance look like with event registrations?
We review conversations regularly. In those review sessions, the call and the telemarketer are scored based on if they hit certain key benchmarks in the script. For instance, it's required that the telemarketer asks if any other attendees would like to attend. This is so important, because we've found that when prospect companies send multiple representatives to an event, it's more likely that it will become a viable sales funnel addition. Let's be honest, two people listening to a presentation is better because one person would have to come back and relay the information (not as well) to the team or their boss.
Why is it so important to have a well-defined confirmation strategy in successful event audience acquisition?
As part of Vendere Partner's event audience acquisition package, we include voice confirmation as part of the process. Why? Because if I register you for a conference and tie the confirmation to merely an e-mail, I have to HOPE that you're going to open the e-mail, and click on the link that adds the event to your Outlook calendar.
One strategy that helps on the initial call is to ask if the prospect can manually put it on his or her calendar manually and then alert them that an e-mail will follow.
We also implemented the voice confirmation process about a year ago where, the day before the event, our telemarketers will call all registered attendees and voice verify their attendance. We call all attendees at least twice to confirm and as a last resort we leave a voicemail. This has proven to be important to increase event registration.
Do door prizes have an effect, in your opinion?
It's not the "be all, end all" but IT personnel are attracted to high-quality giveaways like HP mini-laptops, or Kindle. The advice here is that if you ARE going to give away a door prize, make it a quality product.
How long before the event should you start calling to ensure the success of an event audience acquisition campaign?
Two weeks tends to be the sweet spot for event attendance. Vendere's Prospect Managers tend to ramp up very quickly, so front-end time is minimal. We find that if calling begins earlier, say four weeks before an event is scheduled, we get a lot of push-back from potential attendees along the lines of, "Well, that's too far out. I haven't aligned my schedule yet."
If a client wishes to do a larger scale event with more than 40 attendees, our recommendation is typically to add more telemarketers to the two week time frame rather than frontload an additional two weeks on one telemarketer. Essentially, two telemarketers calling for two weeks will produce more than one telemarketer calling for four weeks.
When thinking of event audience acquisition, what is the real difference between an average telemarketer and an outstanding telemarketer?
Someone who is persistent. What I mean is, someone who feels comfortable penetrating an account and asking for referrals from the anyone who answers. It's also very important to sound enthusiastic and confident while controlling the call. Timidity is NOT an asset in this business and confidence breeds credibility.
Do you anticipate that there will be an increase or decrease in using sales events as a vehicle to generate leads?
I think that the trend of using sales events as a prospecting tool is definitely increasing. It represents, oftentime, a lower cost-per-lead, which is very attractive to marketing departments who have a fixed budget with which to work.What are your top two lead generation challenges as it pertains to event audience acquisition?
I would say motivation and hiring. In this business of appointment setting and event registration where the telephone is the primary tool for contacting prospects, often it's a challenge to motivate to get past the monotony of the telemarketing process. That's why Vendere has weekly training meetings with all of our Prospect Managers, not only to help improve but also to do a little cheerleading work on motivation and attitude.
Hiring can also be challenging for two reasons: (1) the event audience acquisition of Vendere's business is growing rapidly and so finding all-star hires becomes a priority, and (2) Vendere is very selective about which people come on board - we usually key in on only the best and brightest lead generators there are.