By Derek Dallmann, Vice President of Sales
Attending or exhibiting at an education conference isn’t cheap.
There are the tangible costs: plane tickets, car rental and Uber fees, hotel reservations, dining out. That’s on top of the fees to actually exhibit at a show, which can easily run in the tens of thousands. There also are intangible costs, like the time and productivity lost due to travel and being out of the office.
But, education conferences are absolutely worth the money — if you’re willing to put in the work to turn conference connections into customers. Lead nurturing is essential to conference ROI.
How to Nurture Education Conference Leads
You’re sure to meet plenty of educators (influencers and decision-makers) when attending an education conference. Educators value these events for learning about education products and services. In fact, in a February 2017 survey, Agile learned that 64 percent of administrators and 65 percent of teachers favor conferences as an information resource.
Educators attend conferences to learn about education products and services that can make their lives, and their schools, better. Yet, companies often leave that potential business on the table. Can you believe that many conference exhibitors have no plans or processes in place to follow up with leads after the event is over?
This is alarming, considering one of the primary reasons companies attend and exhibit at shows is to generate leads. Here are a few ways you can make sure your investments in conferences and tradeshows pay off in strong leads that convert to sales.
Conference Lead Nurturing: Before the Conference
We know that educators value conferences for learning about education products and services. So, chances are, at least a few of your contacts are planning to attend the next conference on your calendar. Some conferences even make registration lists available. Compare these to your file to find matches.
Then create and deploy a series of emails leading up to the conference that let educators know you’ll be attending, where you’ll be and what they can look forward to learning from you. Create a personalized email series for prospects and for current customers to create new business opportunities but also support relationship building and retention.
Check out a sample pre-conference email campaign in this article from Agile.
Conference Lead Nurturing: After the Conference
Developing follow-up lead nurture tracks within your marketing automation system is an important part of conference prep. You can bet that you’ll meet a lot of educators at the conference. But you also can bet that most of those aren’t ready to buy … yet. Before you hand conference leads off to sales, you’ll need to nurture them.
This all starts with information gathering, either by scoring a business card or snagging contact information from a badge scan. Go through every contact you’ve made at the end of the day and file their information into your CRM to initiate the follow-up process. You might be tempted to wait until after the conference is over, but don’t. Not only will information about contacts still be fresh in your mind, but you’ll also get a jump on other vendors educators meet during the conference.
Before you initiate nurture campaigns, you’ll want to organize these educators according to lead type. In general, leads can be sorted into three groups:
- Tier III Leads: Chances are, these educators scanned their badge to win that free iPad you’re giving away. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some potential customers in the mix.
- Tier II Leads: These educators expressed interest in your product, so you chatted with them briefly about their specific needs and how you can help. They returned the favor by giving you their contact information.
- Tier I Leads: These leads are hot — some might even be ready to buy.
You’ll probably have very few Tier I leads. But if you get them, pass them off to sales. Tier II and III leads should get organized into different nurture segments, or tracks, that deliver a series of highly targeted messages relevant to their interests, needs or traits. Remember to focus these messages on the customer rather than your product. Offer up helpful, brand relevant content (blogs, infographics, whitepapers, case studies) that establish thought leadership and trust before getting product-specific. This approach will naturally nurture educators down your sales funnel.
Keep message pacing organic. You don’t want to overwhelm a new contact with daily messages, but you don’t want to end up forgotten, either. Plan a series of three or four emails. Deploy the first immediately after meeting the educator, but then space the remaining messages a week or two weeks apart. Hopefully by the end of the track your lead will be ready to take action, either scheduling a demo or making a purchase. If they aren’t quite ready, shuffle these folks into your regular communications to stay top of mind.
If you’re working with a more sophisticated marketing automation system, you also can keep track of the lead’s behavior, scoring leads throughout the conference nurture and assigning them to different tracks based on their actions. Gate your content to learn even more about a lead’s interests. If they show interest in a particular product or service, move them to a track tailored for it. If they sign up to read a case study and then immediately download a product sheet, put them on the fast track to sales.
Want to learn even more about lead nurturing?
I’ve got the guide for you! Download our popular playbook, Lessons in Lead Nurturing, to learn the four core components of a successful lead nurturing strategy.
About the Author
Derek Dallmann is Director of Strategic Accounts at Agile Education Marketing. Throughout his 20 years in education marketing, Derek has worked with hundreds of organizations in the early childhood, K-12 and higher education markets. Derek’s expertise lies in helping organizations define their core audiences and develop targeted, multi-channel marketing strategies to reach educators and achieve sales and marketing objectives. Reach Derek at firstname.lastname@example.org.