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How to Combine Your Conference Strategy with Your Inbound Team

By Joshua Johnson

Two businessmen shake hands in agreement. Combine marketing and branding with authentic human interactions to be successful.

At times, the world of online marketing can be cold, sterile, and impersonal. Everyone has received canned, generic newsletters and hit “delete” without thinking twice. It’s easy to do when a company’s marketing feels like it was created by a computer rather than a person.

It’s for this exact reason that most marketers struggle and fail. They miss out on three key items that are essential to any successful marketing effort.
  • Focus on always adding, not deriving, value through content. This means when you create a blog or newsletter, think first about educating and providing insight, not driving readers down a funnel to become a client.
  • Get in the same room. An opportunity to connect in person adds a human element to your brand and helps you forge authentic connections, not transactional customers. Independently, these two elements of marketing and branding are difficult to master and implement in any organization. However, they still only represent two-thirds of what it takes to truly connect with an audience.
  • The final element is getting these two different, but connected, pieces working together cohesively. I’ve seen few organizations realize the need to connect the two, and far fewer do it successfully.

This guide should give you some ideas on how your organization, regardless of size or industry, can start that process.

Why In-Person Outbound Marketing Matters

While inbound marketing is effective on its own, there’s still incredible value in making face-to-face connections through outbound marketing to add a human touch to your brand.

At Influence & Co., we highly value in-person events with potential and current partners, clients, and relationships. While our company’s focus is on content and other inbound marketing tactics, we jump at the opportunity to meet people in person. Because most of our work is done behind a computer screen, this offers us the opportunity to show we’re normal (sort of), friendly people and foster close personal relationships.

Love them or hate them, tradeshows and conferences are still the top methods for connecting with others in your industry. twitter_blue They’re fantastic ways to break the ice with people who share similar goals and backgrounds.

That said, you shouldn’t just jump on a plane, roll up to the conference, and walk out with a stack of business cards. You’ve got to do your homework if you want to maximize your conference experience and make meaningful connections.

How to leverage your inbound marketing efforts at conferences

There are a variety of ways your personal research efforts ensure you’re set up for success at an event. I outline many below, but there are a variety of inbound initiatives you can undertake to be prepared as well.

  • Join the pre-conference conversation. As many of you know, conference organizers typically use a hashtag to organize dialogue around an event. Get involved with these; spark questions and conversations around the theme of the event. Often, I’ve seen this lead to great connections, established meetings, and even clients, just because I did a little “networking” before I arrived at the conference.
  • Write a pre-conference blog post or article. This frequently accomplishes a variety of goals. First of all, it forces you to do your research and prep for the event. Second, it gives you a high-quality piece of content that drives exposure to the event, shares your immediate expectations and opinions, and is easily circulated by expected attendees. Just like social conversations, it’s a way for you to be top of mind before heading to the event. Share this using the hashtags or social groups mentioned above.
  • Take a look into your inbound leads and contacts. Depending on how much inbound marketing you do, you might have a few hundred to tens of thousands of online leads. Chances are, you may have leads who are local to the city you’re traveling to or who are planning on attending the same event. Reach out to them and say you’d love to meet up while you’re in town. This goes a long way toward building trust and relationships with those inbound leads.
  • Get someone on your team to attend virtually. While you’re at an event, you shouldn’t be stuck on a phone or computer tweeting and interacting. Focus on the people in front of you, and ask someone on your team to handle the virtual side from home. He can stay up-to-date on what’s going on, then maybe even make an introduction if he chats with someone you should talk to.

After an event, there are ways you can leverage your inbound efforts to further your success. Remember, you and your team are creating your inbound content because it’s adding value to your audience. You’re not being an egomaniac by sharing your articles; you’re being smart. Here are three ways you can do this effectively and organically:

  • Link to content in your email signature. It’s always beneficial to show people the content you’ve been working on, especially in the places they’d least expect. twitter_blue That’s why I include a link to a piece of my content in my email signature. It’s even better if you can make this a bit.ly or UTM link. That way, you can see who’s clicking on your content and where they’re coming from.
  • Connect with them on social media. When I get back from a conference, I take the Twitter handles of the people I met and put them in a special list on our social media account. That way, when new content comes up on their feeds, it’s easy to interact with them via social media. This also makes it simple to stay updated on their companies and personal lives.
  • Directly share articles that add value. If you see or hear something in your conversations that you or someone else at your company has written on, share the article with your contact. For example, if I know someone needs more information on why we do what we do after speaking at a conference, I might send her a link to this article about the lifetime ROI of thought leadership. Or if she needs help developing a content strategy, I’ll send this article her team’s way.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to leverage your inbound content in your outbound marketing and conference efforts. Remember, though, that there’s just as much opportunity to have your outbound efforts feed your inbound ones.

How to leverage conferences in your inbound marketing

The majority of the people you meet at a conference won’t be ready to start working with you right away. While you want to make sure it’s a reason and not an excuse, there are plenty of situations where it makes sense to touch base six months down the road, when it might be a better fit.

Here are some specific ways you can use these opportunities to fuel your inbound marketing department’s success:

  • Subscribe them to your blog updates, social accounts, and newsletter. By adding individuals who have identified that the timing isn’t right to your email newsletter list, you’re helping your inbound efforts expand their reach. You’re enabling them to touch more individuals you’d like to educate and add value for. Sure, they may never become clients, but they could become dedicated readers, share an article or email with their networks, or even make an introduction down the road. A hard rule of mine is to always ask permission before placing someone on a list.
  • Incorporate their knowledge into your content. Inbound marketers are constantly writing new articles and are always on the prowl for fresh ideas and perspectives from people who can add value to their content. Try referencing connections in content you’re writing, or include their insights. By reaching out for an interview and showcasing their expertise in your article, you’re enhancing your content with new perspectives as well as nurturing a relationship.
  • Share your knowledge in the content creation process. In the end, the people on the front lines always have the best perspective on trends, people’s challenges and thoughts, and what’s relevant to your audience. As a conference attendee, you should be active about sharing potential article topics with your team so you constantly have new, relevant content to share with your network. 

It’s important to note that there’s no such thing as “handing a lead off.” Nothing another person does can replace your personal relationship with the lead. twitter_blue Emailing contacts once every two months is still important for staying in touch and continuing to add value.

The Dos and Don’ts of Combining Your Inbound and Outbound Efforts

While there are numerous positives that come from your efforts to combine your inbound and outbound marketing processes, there are some pitfalls and best practices to be aware of.

  • Be altruistic. If you’re going to conferences, tradeshows, or networking events with the sole purpose of acquiring leads, you’re going to have a bad time. A lot of these strategies might not help you close sales immediately, but they’ll demonstrate your passion for your service and its ability to help your clients.
  • Don’t hijack social media. If you take over your event’s hashtag with self-promotional tweets and posts, you’re not going to win many fans.
  • Don’t get spammy. There’s nothing worse than ending up on an email list or mass newsletter without your consent. Don’t do that to your connections. Make sure they’ve given you the thumbs-up before you send them content.
  • Don’t have a “me first” attitude. Do your services genuinely benefit your connections? Don’t try selling something to someone who doesn’t need it. twitter_blue

There are many ways you can make sure your inbound and outbound marketing and sales efforts work together, rather than in separate silos. It takes time and effort to strategize your company’s specific overlaps, but when you put these things into practice, they will boost the reach and effectiveness of both areas of your business.

Do you undertake any specific efforts to make sure your inbound and outbound teams’ work complements each other? I’d love to hear any good points or tactics I might have missed.

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Posted on July 1, 2014

About Joshua Johnson

I am a Vice President of Influence & Co. I'm passionate about entrepreneurship, technology, Mizzou, and all St. Louis sports teams. I've contributed to Forbes, Entrepreneur, Under30CEO, and Linked2Leadership.

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