Q: My business is a new managed service provider and we are looking to get our name out there and make some connections in the industry. We’ve heard that a way to do this might be to attend some tradeshows. Do you have any tips that we should consider as we get started?
Tradeshow season is upon us, and these types of events are a great way to network with other IT service providers, meet vendors face-to-face, and even meet new prospects. These are just a few of the benefits of including events in your MSP marketing strategy.
To help you get the most out your tradeshow experience, we talked to Erin Shaw Crowley, the senior marketing manager of events at Barracuda MSP. Erin is a tradeshow pro; after planning and attending more than a hundred conferences and events, Erin has them down to a science, but she still comes away from each one learning something new. Here is Erin’s advice on how to get the most out of a tradeshow as an MSP.
Maximize your tradeshow experience
Tradeshows move quickly, and within the span of two or three days you can walk away with a new perspective, a new product to try, and valuable new connections. Maximizing your time at tradeshows is something the most skilled tradeshow veterans do. Here are five best practices to help you leave feeling accomplished:
Pick the right event. Research the event you have in mind before you decide to attend. The best way to pick a tradeshow is to look for something that is in the vertical or specialty in which your MSP focuses. If your MSP specializes in delivering services to healthcare companies, attend a healthcare-centered event. This puts your business on the right track for growth.
Stuck on where to start? CRN has a great calendar filled with channel events that they continually update. Also, see where your vendors are going. This will give you the opportunity to have face-to-face time with them, see what new products they have, and to discover new ways they can help fuel your business growth.
Check the agenda. Try to pick an event that will provide valuable takeaways based on its program. Most tradeshows post an agenda early on to attract attendees. Review the agenda to make sure there are sessions or speakers you’re interested in. Your goal should be to walk away with lessons you’ve learned that you can use in the near term. Do a few of the break-out sessions sound interesting? Are any of your vendors going to be there? If you just go through the motions and aren’t particularly interested or open to learning something at this event, you may want to consider other events with more appealing agendas.
Plan your priorities. Think about your goals for the event. Are you looking for new business strategies to help your team be more productive? Are you looking to hire your next head of sales? Are you looking forward to getting some technical training? Knowing this ahead of time will help you get the most out of your time there.
One thing that has helped me in the past is printing out the agenda a few days before the event and highlighting my ‘must attend’ sessions. I decide which breakout sessions I want to go to and add event reminders in my phone so I don’t miss out on hearing from certain speakers. Also, pay attention to breakout sessions. You may be surprised by how valuable these smaller sessions can be, and in them, you may be exposed to ideas that you haven’t considered before. Listening in on a breakout session allows you to take a step back and look at the broader picture.
Take a break from your phone. When you arrive at the tradeshow, try to distance yourself from your phone a little. Although it may be tempting to tap into your email and find out what’s happening at the office, try to disconnect. Instead, focus on why you’re there and what you plan on doing with your day.
Putting down your phone will also give you a chance to talk to other attendees. Don’t be afraid to take part in conversations—even if they’re with a competitor. They might have some good ideas that can change the way you do business. If you’re having problems with specific products or customers, you’re not alone — someone else is probably in the same boat. In fact, the competitor next to you might share insights or advice that will help you and your business. So, go ahead and open up or ask questions.
If you’re newer to the MSP business, don’t be afraid to share your ideas and opinions. Get involved and ask other providers what they do versus what you do.
If you’re attending your first tradeshow, enjoy the experience. It may seem overwhelming with so many activities and different things going on for two or three days — so take a few steps back and soak in as much as possible!
Photo: flowgraph / Shutterstock.