“Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.”   —Benjamin Franklin337589470_18f702dc28_z

On CNN recently: Women selling their positive home pregnancy tests to other women on Craigslist for the purpose of trapping their boyfriends into marriage, most popular around military bases. Now, there’s a good way to start a long life of suffering! Another news report from the New York Times: Companies are now selling social media “support” services where you can pay to have them bolster your Twitter followers and Facebook friends. The reporter shared how $5 brought him 4,000 new “friends.” Had he splurged for $3,700, he could have had a million on his Instagram photo account.

This isn’t new. I know of many marketing “gurus” who have paid someone in India to fluff up their social media followers, jamming these channels with a whole lot of people that they don’t want, in an attempt to look popular. In my opinion, it’s a bad idea. But how many of YOU use the same type of lame tactics and metrics to trap new customers?

Stop taking the lazy route

In talking to a new potential sponsor the other day regarding our Boot Camp and other events, we were asked about getting the list of attendees. We told them we don’t share the e-mail addresses of attendees to any of our events because of our privacy policy—and because it annoys our clients and doesn’t do anyone any good. Their sponsorship provides them with only one thing: access. We’ve gone to a great expense and a LOT of effort to round up a very dynamic, high-quality group of good prospects. Believe me, that’s no small feat.

If they know what they’re doing, it’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel, but they need to have a plan to generate interest and capture the names and contact information of prospects while there. That means having a good offer and a compelling message to engage people, designing their booth to attract people, having a sharp, well-trained group of professional salespeople and technicians working the booth, a solid plan for following up on any leads received, etc. You actually can unload a gun into a barrel of fish and miss `em all.

They said that without getting the list of attendees the show was “worthless” to them and made it “impossible” for them to get a solid ROI. Stupid. AND lazy, I might add. Of course this idiocy is driven from the top down because the marketing department (who are in charge of picking which events they sponsor) is measured on leads provided, not sales. I know. We asked. Getting the list covers their butt by allowing them to say, “Look how many leads we provided to the salespeople” (make sure you read Point #2 below).

Stop wasting opportunities

Of course the salespeople aren’t much better. They get the list from marketing and start spamming the crap out of it with nothing interesting to say, annoying the majority of the list rather than building rapport, much less sales. The other day Robin Yost got a call from a vendor trying to sell us a better firewall who had obviously gotten her name from an industry event she recently attended, but they made no attempt to find out more about who they were calling, what our company does, what her role in the company was, etc. Five minutes on our website would have revealed we AREN’T a potential prospect. She tried explaining to them we aren’t an MSP and aren’t their target market, but they persisted, clueless. I wish this was a random occurrence, but it’s not. Stupid is as stupid does.

What’s absolutely stunning to me is that this company, like many others, spends huge sums of money to exhibit and sponsor our shows and others, but has no-pre show strategy, no at-show strategy, no scripted and rehearsed presentations, people in the booth with no quotas or even expectations, and no follow-up strategy. They’re just too damn lazy to do all this, which is why they’re so adamant about getting the list.

Spam is easy. It doesn’t require them to actually have a plan for attracting the right prospect to their booth, a presentation of benefits and reasons why an MSP should use their services over their competition, or a low-to-no-risk offer to get them to entice their prospects to give their services a try. They completely WASTE the opportunity they have for direct access to a very large group of high-quality buyers who are NOT distracted by running their business, e-mail or the phone, or hidden behind a secretary or spam filter. They’re within arm’s reach, available, walking around.

I told this vendor that if all they measured success by was a list, then they shouldn’t squander money by sponsoring any events, much less ours, and should just hire a $10-per-hour telemarketer to use Google to find MSPs and build a list. It would be every bit as effective and a lot cheaper. Good luck.

Robin_Robins_quote-1.jpg3 keys to meaningful event marketing

Point #1: A good list of qualified potential prospects is no different than a huge oil trap under the ground; it’s only POTENTIAL opportunity.It still needs to be accessed and mined correctly to be worth anything, but that doesn’t diminish the value of the oil in the ground. Google AdWords provides potential opportunity. Telemarketing, direct mail, LinkedIn ads provide potential opportunities. Likewise, a sponsorship to our event or ANY trade show, networking event or sponsorship provides only potential opportunity—it doesn’t guarantee it.

As with any marketing investment, venue, or media, you must have a reliable means for getting your prospects’ attention, engaging them, moving them from mild curiosity to sincere interest, overcoming objections, building value, and closing the sale. Give me a vendor who knows how to do this predictably and reliably, and they’ll succeed at our events every single time WITHOUT getting the list. In fact, they’ll do better because they’ll be too busy working the INTERESTED leads they get rather than being distracted and set off track by those who are NOT prospects, who are NOT interested or never will be.

And while I’m on the topic of trade show marketing, listen up: Putting a fishbowl out at an event with the promise to win a new thingamajig is akin to the Craigslist women trapping husbands with positive pregnancy tests—it’s the wrong bait. And chances are you won’t want `em after you get `em. Prospects who give you their business card this way aren’t doing it because they’re sincerely interested in buying your services. They’re giving you their card to try to win a new gadget. If you’re going to give something away, at LEAST give away something directly relevant to the product or service you are selling. That’s why just having the list is no good IF you don’t have a means of building genuine interest and closing sales, which brings me to my second point …

Point #2: You should be measuring ROI, not names on a list. For the record, a name on a list is NOT A LEAD. A sales lead is someone who has a genuine interest in purchasing your product or service. I don’t see how having a list of people you’ve never met or had a conversation with about a service they have no interest in helps you generate sales. You might try to argue that the e-mailscan be used to get them interested, and I’d agree … IF they were actually well-written with a compelling offer and message. Most are not. See Point #1.

Point #3: Not all customers are equal, and HOW you attract them makes a HUGE difference in how profitable they are, their stick factor, and whether or not you want to keep them. Clients secured through a strategic partner, networking event, referral, speaking engagement, a book you’ve authored, or an article you’ve written will close much faster and with less price sensitivity than leads generated via telemarketing or online media. But the key is the QUALITY of the face-to- face interaction you have. In watching many vendors at shows, you’ll notice their salespeople are head down with their face in a phone or laptop, or they’re eating, talking to each other, or— worst of all—not even present in their booth.

Building relationships takes work

Further, spamming prospects after an event when they have not given you permission to e-mailthem does one thing: pushes them further from doing business with you. For every one you may get, you’ve burned hundreds to scorched earth. If you have an unlimited number of prospects to burn through, have at it. I’ve seen a LOT of vendors with lists of 30,000 to 100,000 prospects that can’t get 50 people to a webinar; that’s because they don’t have any relationship with the list, which is just as bad— if not worse—than having a small list or no list at all.

If building client relationships is important to you, then I’d caution against spamming people by any means and encourage you to work harder at your messaging, offers, and sales process to ATTRACT those clients, consistently deliver value, and entice them to WANT to pay attention. Yep. Hell of a lot more work than sending out a spam e-mail—but necessary if you want results. There is a LOT that can be done at any event, as well as before the event, to guarantee vendors actually interact with and talk to those prospects who are most likely to buy—all of which we can assist them with.

Of course, the lack of understanding of these three key points is one of the reasons why many never succeed in marketing—be they vendors, MSPs, or any business. It takes real, genuine work to build marketing systems that move prospects to buyers in a predictable, reliable way. It takes business acumen to know how to build products and services that prospects actually WANT to buy, making the entire sales process infinitely easier to begin with.

But even more so, it takes ambition to want to learn how to do these things in the first place. Most lack that basic drive, particularly in middle-management corporate America, which is why I have to have idiotic conversations like the one I just described. That’s why I continue to work on making sure WE attract the brightest small minority of clients who have both smarts and ambition; who don’t try to spam their way to success, but roll up their sleeves to earn it. That’s who I write this for and that’s who I want to work with. If that’s YOU, let’s get going …

Photo Credit:Tim  via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons 2.0 Liscence. 

Robin Robins

Posted by Robin Robins

Robin Robins is the CEO and Founder of TechnologyMarketingToolkit.com, the largest sales and marketing consulting firm in the IT channel, specializing in sales-generating marketing campaigns for MSPs, VARs, and solution providers. To date, over 7,000 IT services firms have enrolled in one or more of her programs. Click here for more information and to request a free one-on-one marketing consultation and marketing roadmap for your IT services firm.

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