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How to Hack a Business Conference for High Quality Leads (Even if You Can’t Attend)

social media conferencesI felt the creeping dread in the pit of my stomach.

I had just begun a product launch marketing campaign with a healthy sized list (not huge, but not small either.) After spending nearly two months preparing all the launch content, making the videos, and designing a webinar…

My list was barely alive.

In fact, it was on life support.

I spent several months building that list by blogging and doing SEO (how SEO works).

And I could barely get them to open an email or click a link.

Plus, I had started this launch campaign, so I had to keep going with it. I couldn’t just pull the plug once the first red flags presented themselves.

What was wrong with me?

Was I just a terrible marketer?

Was my email copy that awful?

That’s what I thought at first, and I wallowed in self-flagellation until I started really thinking about the different types of lists I’d built with different types of traffic. 😉

It was at that moment that I realized that my list just sucked.

My list was mostly made from search engine traffic, which I now know from experience, is highly disengaged and not very invested.

When you think about it, it’s kind of obvious. When you use a search engine, you interact with websites in a very different way. You’re mostly like a phantom, just observing and browsing without any real motive to take action.

Not exactly the kind of prospects most businesses are eager to have.

If you’re like me, you want to be qualifying leads, and finding ones that are engaged and invested. Readers who leave comments on your blog posts, give you an answer when you ask them a question, and — most importantly — buy stuff when you offer it to them.

But so many entrepreneurs are encouraged to do SEO, as if pulling a fast one on Google was the hidden secret to unfathomable success.

I mean, if you’ve done any sort of research, you’ve probably heard marketers tell you that search engine traffic is the “best quality traffic.”

Well, I’m here to tell you today that search engine traffic is some of the lowest quality of traffic you can get.

I mean, I’m sure it’s pretty decent if you’re a plumber, or sell computer parts, or something like that.

But if you’re trying to build a loyal and responsive following, you can do better.

So what is better source of traffic?

After realizing that my audience of search engine readers was mostly lifeless, I started thinking about it for a while myself. I came across one of the best traffic sources out there. People who are highly engaged and massively invested…

Business Conference attendees.

These aren’t just SEO tire-kickers. These are people who are eager to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for tickets to attend a live event. Don’t forget to also factor in the cost of a plane ticket, hotel, and the time investment of spending a few days at a business conference.

These people are excited and willing to throw down some money.

That’s the kind of leads I want!

Still don’t believe me?

Here are a few screen captures I took from TweetDeck leading up to a recent conference (images have been blurred and identifying info has been blacked out to protect the innocent…)

People are so excited to attend this business conference that they are unable to concentrate at work and they are literally narrating every leg of their trip and every airport transfer. They are excited to the point of nearly jumping out of their own skin.

Do you ever see people doing that on search engines? (“I am so excited to be Googling ‘weight loss tips’ pls RT!”) Not at all.

These people are also thrilled and excited to meet up with their friends. These are people actively reaching out, elated at the thought of going to this conference and meeting one another.

Do you think this type of person would be a good prospect?

You’d better believe it!

How Can you Leverage This Especially if You Can’t Actually Attend the Conference?

Twitter.

Most business conferences have a unique hashtag to keep track of special conference-related updates (something like: #bigconference).

Keep an eye on anyone and everyone who tweets using hashtags. Then “follow” them on Twitter and “follow” everyone they mention, when they Tweet about the conference.

Then create a special list to keep track of them all.

Now the Real Work Starts…

Keep an eye on these people and reply to a few of their tweets. If they have blogs, visit them and leave a comment.

Basically do anything you need to do to get them to notice you.

What you want to do is make a connection with them and start to build a relationship.

Note: this is not about spamming them or leaving generic “nice post” comments – we all know that doesn’t work, right? Actually take the time to leave thoughtful replies. This is the key to really getting them to notice you.

Is this a lot of work?

Yes!

But it is absolutely worth it. These aren’t just any leads. These are people who are excited and engaged. These are also people who are very invested (they are what some call “buyer leads”, for those of you who have been in the game for a while).

These are some of the best kinds of leads you can get, and they are much more valuable than SEO leads, PPC leads, or any other disengaged traffic source. Some marketing experts I know of have said that these types of leads are ten or twenty times more valuable than ordinary leads. And, from my experience, I really can’t argue with them.

Also, don’t feel as if you have to get them to notice you in the weeks directly leading up to the conference or during the conference itself.

You can take a little time, if you need to, to get to know them better and build a relationship with them after the event.

Some of these people may be more suited to becoming partners or affiliates rather than customers (especially speakers at these events), in which case you still want to make your presence known, but approach them in a different manner. Approach them as a partner and ask if you can help them with something they are working on (big hint: everyone needs a little help, no matter how successful they are.)

So with that I want to leave you with a question: What sorts of business conferences are there in your market that you could be leveraging to get more high quality leads?

About Clayton Terao

Clayton Terao is an internet marketer, a recovering Google addict, and writes about high impact marketing strategies at Journey of My Own. He loves meeting new people, so stop by and say hello.

24 comments

  1. Scott Kindred | SafeHouse Web says:

    Really love the idea of focusing on a target audience that matters, and this post does a great job of describing at least one “how-to” method for actually doing it. The conference-goers who are directly related to & interested in my services are still too general of a group to cast an effective net — the categories of small business and of non-profit organizations. So the key is to identify a sub-group(s), like lawyers or biotech companies or software development houses, and start paying attention to their conferences.

  2. Robyn Davis says:

    Excellent post, Clayton – I like how you suggested to not only follow (and add relevant tweeters to a list) but also to engage your potential prospects with thoughtful replies, comments, etc. (instead of spamming them)! Although, as you said, it’s not an immediate turn around, this method is much more likely to result in real relationships (which might event turn into sales and/or partnerships)…

    For anyone wondering how to find the conferences you’re most interested in (that their target audience will attend), here’s a free resource where y’all can search for trade shows by industry, size, location, dates, etc. (the event websites are hyperlinked within the database so you can visit the ones you like to verify the “official” event hashtag and twitter account, usually listed on the front page) – http://www.HowToTradeShow.com/

    Hope this helps and thanks again for the great tips!

  3. Kim says:

    Great suggestion, especially since there is a conference coming up I am just not able to attend. Now I just may be able to “meet” some of these folks after all!
    Thanks so much!

  4. Harry Fassett says:

    Very good way to build a list of excited and very motivated people in ones target market and engage them! Will test it for sure.

  5. Brilliant! I love this idea. While you won’t connect with those attendees who don’t use Twitter (and yes, there are people who don’t) you’ll still create some great online connections. Thank you for this great tip!

  6. Karen Jonson says:

    What a brilliant idea, Danny! This is one action item I can act on right away. I feel like a door has been opened.

    Best,
    Karen
    Author, Writer, Blogger

  7. Michelle Hutchinson, Wordhelper says:

    Don’t forget that the hosts of many webinars will designate a hashtag for those too, so you can connect with webinar attendees by searching for the hashtag associated with the session.

  8. Nancy Leve says:

    I’m giving a presentation on social media for CAMs (Community Association Managers) in two weeks so this tip came just in time for me to use. Thanks.

  9. Sandra says:

    This is a brilliant idea! Thank you so much – it’s one of those “duh, why didn’t I think of that earlier?” but I’m so glad you did, Clayton, and thank you for sharing it. 🙂

  10. That’s brilliant!

    I hadn’t thought of using Twitter to find happy conference attendees instead of actually going to conferences… but now I wish I had, before everyone reads this post and starts doing the same.

    A real eye-opener. I love when an idea is completely new to me even though I recognise all of its parts. Thank you!

  11. Ian Brodie says:

    Well, that’s a new strategy on me! I’ve used “social media stalking” before – but never focused on conference attendees – nice one!

    I think you do search engine/ppc traffic a disservice though. It’s not unengaged (why would someone be searching for something if they’re not engaged) – but they aren’t invested (literally) in the way conference attendees are.

    It’s worth pointing out though that the “cost per click” or per subscriber of this form of lead generation is exponentially higher than search engine or ppc traffic. So it’s only a viable strategy when your returns from each visitor or subscriber are pretty high. If your visitor/subscriber value is low, then although you can get a profit out of ppc/seo, the cost to your time of this strategy is going to outweigh any benefits (which goes to show the importance of knowing your visitor value).

    Ian

  12. Les Cross says:

    Nice idea, Clayton.

    I guess we must be careful with the assumption that everyone who wants to go to a conference does so because of the content of the conference. People go to conferences for all sorts of reasons: To meet up with old friends, because it’s the place to be seen; to do some sightseeing; simply because it’s not ‘work’ (however you want to take that), time away from family responsibilities back home, it’s a perk of the job, a chance to meet new people, an opportunity to network, to see the keynote speaker in person, etc., etc.

    Of course some people WILL be going because of the fantastic benefit they get from the lectures at the conference, no doubt. But just because they are excited about going doesn’t mean that they are necessarily good or even potential prospects, I would say.

    To narrow the funnel I would suggest, therefore, that you look for tweets that indicate positive intent of desire for knowledge, and even better, for solutions to problems. Better still ask yourself a question: If my business is so good, the solutions I can offer so great and the conference so big then why am I not at that conference, too? Then you could see for yourself the key lectures, lecturers, topics, find working groups (they are guaranteed to be interested in problem solving!) and you could directly introduce yourself to people you could see who were actively interested in the subject matter, allowing you to professionally network and get involved in helping them solve their problems.

    Just a thought.

  13. This is a nice strategy. I guess one should follow only 2-3 influentials because if you follow all, follow the one they follow and mention… People can easily figure out you are trying to game the system.

    I have another handy tip. Follow and read the Hashtags and once you get a super cool idea reply toone of the influentials with the hashtag. If its really worth it he will retweet it to all the followers. I have got couple of followers just by this example !

  14. George says:

    Clayton,
    You’re one sharp dude! This is a brilliant way to connect with others who are like-minded, like-valued, AND have already proven they will spend money to get their problems solved!

    What an amazing way to engage with potential buyers and collaborators!

  15. Jill Tooley says:

    What a cool way to meet new people and connect with potential business connections! I see convention hashtags just about every day, so this wouldn’t be too hard to start. I’m glad you suggested following people and interacting with them on blogs, rather than responding to them on Twitter directly. Some spammers use hashtags as a way to find and pester people about buying their products and services (rather than taking the time to actually add value) and that drives me crazy.

    1. Clayton ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      @Jill, thanks for the comment. Yeah, you definitely don’t want to come across like a spammer or someone who is trying to leverage a popular trending topic for a quick hit of traffic. Always approach people with style and class. Remember, business may be a numbers game, but you’re dealing with actual people 🙂

  16. Dave Tong says:

    Great post… good summary on why a list can be so non-responsive too. My photography blog over at iphotocourse.com gets most of my traffic via SEO and sure enough, I was able to build a list pretty quickly using the typical opt in methods.

    However, almost off of these subscribers aren’t open to be nurtured or sold to, nor are they conditioned to relieve newsletters and emails that required call to action, only RSS type of content is expected. That’s not to say they can’t be “trained” eventually to be receptive, but seo traffic opt ins just aren’t that high in quality compared to others… that taught me a big lesson and this post gave me more ideas on how to do it better in my upcoming launches and sites.

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