RSA 2012 – Was it Worth Your Time?

RSA was in full swing last week – did anyone attend? I guess the big question is, if you went, was it worth going?  Most of the material presented at RSA, based on past shows, is now available online…however, the networking opportunity can’t be beat.  Granted, if you sit on the vendor side, writing security software or  manufacturing a security product, you should be there; but only if you can afford to be there with a big enough booth to stand out.

For most, a trade show like this is a waste of time – I know, some people reading this are going to react, thinking I am crazy.  It’s expensive and time consuming, but if you sit on the solution provider side (Code word for VAR in most cases,) you probably won’t see any significant ROI in the coming months.  However, there are ways to make this investment worth the time and money.  Armed with a plan, an event like RSA might be just the thing – after all, there are thousands of potential prospects gathering for one thing – to learn about technology, with technology people.

In a recent coaching session I was working with a client on this very thing.  Where else can you meet thousands of prospects for the cost of a plane ticket and a hotel room – perhaps some food and a visit to Starbucks?  With the right  strategy you just might meet some very important contacts.  In this case, the client I am working with is running the company.  That’s important because most sales people sell into a small territory, meaning they probably won’t meet any significant prospects in their personal territory unless the region they cover is big.  My client, in this case, covers the world, so he’s in good shape.  So how did we make this a worthwhile investment?

We started out by developing his advisory positioning statement  (this comes straight out of my book, From  Vendor to Adviser).  Rather than setting up expensive booths for his small company, we created a compelling guidebook designed to help companies securely leverage social media in their sales and customer service programs (which fits in well with his offerings).  Armed with this informative document, my client positioned himself wherever people gather – at a trade show this usually means sitting in the eating areas and coffee shops (another excuse to visit Starbucks), reading or responding to email, while keeping an eye out for those he might want to engage with.

If you’ve been to many trade shows, and most of us have attended one too many, you know people tend to throw everything in a bag, with plans to sort it all out when they get home.  Of course, most never get around to it, so the cards get lost and the contacts go to waste.  In this situation, our plan did not rely on handing out cards, but rather collecting them with an offer to send our new contact an electronic copy of the guidebook.

It worked!  My client met numerous people, connected at a deeper level with several, and ended up talking for over an hour with a couple of very large companies – with some great potential for follow-up project work.  In the end he landed at least five very significant meetings with strong possibilities for future work.  In fact, two of them represent software houses that have the potential of feeding his company a never ending stream of subcontracted programming work – recurring business that will last as long as he demonstrates unbeatable value.  It’s his to lose.

Collecting names in exchange for value greatly improves the chances of moving to the next level in the relationship.  Now we just need to make those follow up meetings worth attending – new business is just on the other side.  Start preparing now for your next trade show, and plan for a big return on investment.

© 2012, David Stelzl


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