We all know the cannabis industry is flooded with events and on this week’s eve of the larges, MJBizCon, I thought this article would be timely.
Why Consider Events to Prospect?
Cannabis events are a great way to meet people and develop long-term relationships, events are also a great way to increase awareness of your business. Our secret missions are to find opportunities, which is why so many people go to things.
It’s also about speeding up the KLT (know, like, and trust) factor. You’ve got to get to know someone and like them, and then you’ll be open to trusting them. People want to do business with people they trust. Because you’re physically able to talk to and reach out to people and build a connection, you expedite that relationship. Networking in person is still so important, even in 2017.
When I started TCML, the first cannabis event I attended was the first MJBizCon in Vegas. In about a week, I accomplished something that would normally take a year or more. Something magical happens when you meet people face to face, even if opportunities don’t present themselves immediately.
Whether you’re in the cannabis world, a consultant looking for customers, a company that sells a brandedcannabis product, or in professional services, you can benefit from going to some of these events. I say some because some are horrible and simply a pay-to-play platform that is lacking speaking credibility, so be careful of that.
I want to discuss the four different levels of event involvement. The first level is buying a ticket and going to an event.
At the very first MJBizConmy goals were to network, so all I did was stand in the halls, talk to people, and meet some of my existing contacts. Often, those contacts would introduce me to new people. In hindsight, I might have hosted a breakfast, lunch, or dinner. When you sit down to share a meal with people, amazing opportunities present themselves.
I like to meet with existing clients and support their activities at events. For instance, I’ll attend their sessions and go to their demos so I can also learn more about their businesses and find ways to help them connect more deeply with their audience. Go to activities that align with your type of business. Learn new things, get inspiration, and hone your craft while finding other like-minded people.
I also go to events to meet with people who see the power of exhibiting, as well as to discover who their decision-maker is (something easier to find out in person). I want to learn about what people do so I can see whether it’s a good fit. Whether I’m there to scope out exhibitors or as an attendee, I make sure to respect people’s time. They want to meet with as many people as possible. The same goes for networking with other attendees.
You need to do your homework and prepare yourself. That means visiting the event website, understanding the agenda, and finding the times of the sessions you may want to attend and when any expo is open. Know whom you want to meet.
At events, it’s great to be of service. I’ve helped people set up their booths and offered to grab them coffee. I want to leave them with the impression that I’m there to help them, which I am.
So what are the tips for walking up to somebody you don’t know? You don’t want to launch into your business pitch and you don’t want them to launch into theirs. Comment on an item, compliment their clothing, or comment on the traffic or the business of the booth.
Be direct and transparent when talking to somebody whom you see as a potential prospect. Don’t make it sound like you want to buy their product or service. Explain why you’re there, and then ask for the contact and a way to continue the relationship after you leave the conference. Get emails, Twitter handles, and Facebook addresses so you can follow up with them on all different levels.
Simple Sponsorship Opportunities
When a business wants to spend some money on visibility but doesn’t have an outrageous budget, that business can still be involved with events.
At level two, you can find turnkey opportunities that may align with your business from a contextual or content standpoint. A business might sponsor simple things like coffee stations, charging stations, lounges, and other cool activations.
Sponsoring content, when available, is a great way to have your brand aligned with a particular topic. For example, if the topic is cannabis marketing and you have a great tool or solution for creating video content, track sponsorship is a perfect way to get your product into the minds of attendees almost subliminally.
Coffee, charging stations, tracks, and lanyard sponsorships enable you to generate brand awareness without any physical human presence. This approach is perfect for organizations outside the U.S. that have a great brand and product but can’t afford international travel. I recommend that brands use this approach only if they’re somewhat known to people at that conference because it may not work for a new, unknown startup.
You can get creative with this kind of sponsorship. Lots of events have their own brand personality. As an example, Terpenes and Testing World Conference, put on has a color: purple. They create breaks with purple snacks, like blueberry mini muffins, which is very on-brand for that event. Event sponsors can play into that.
The next level of event involvement is having a booth. All companies have the same sales funnel: people who don’t know who the company is, people who sort of know who the company is, people interested in the company, and customers. Booths allow companies to get in front of all four groups at once. Everyone will be grateful to find out about you and get a hands-on experience. Plus, customers and fans enjoy meeting companies they like face to face.
I recall what Twitter did with their booth at a direct-marketing conference. In a large booth with three televisions, Twitter walked people through the process of buying ads and reaching their target customers. The hands-on experience was great, especially for those who might not understand how to target people on a digital platform.
Aside from the usual things like demonstrating your product or talking to experts in your booth, I suggest having a fun game of skill that leads to a raffle. I’ve seen basketball games, ring the bell with a sledgehammer, a circus sideshow-type of game, and booths where you get inside a glass booth and grab dollar bills. These fun ways to get people to participate create excitement, activity, and traffic, and get people looking around. Another cool one was to guess the terpene smell.
To demo a product, you can set up a laptop or iPad and project a video or software interface onto a bigger screen. This visual will draw in more people and be more than just one-on-one. You may also want to have a canned demo or a reel that walks people through what your product will do for their business or at least have a “Here’s how this works” script.
You can bait people into your booth, too; whether it’s with candy or fun promo products. For some items, you can offer them in exchange for scanning an attendee’s badge. Products can be on-brand and are fun if it’s something people will wear. For example, a friend who a media company gave away green, glow-in-the-dark glasses that you can see everywhere. Imagine people associating something like that with your brand.
When you go to an event, think about your target. For example, say you want to reach influencers. If you’re looking at MJBizCon, this show is so fan-based that the influencers aren’t going to be on the floor much, so I would definitely look at sponsoring something that put my brand in front of those influencers.
Also, nowadays, as opposed to 20 years ago, you can target attendees, especially through social media, before you get to the event. Instead of promoting that you’re going to be there, look for the event hashtags and visit the different sites that are hosting the event. Then start engaging with people.
If you plan to record interviews in your booth, you can reach out to the experts who are going to be there, especially if you already have relationships with them and they have an existing audience. For instance, I saw Dr. John MacKay go live from a scientific booth at a cannabis event. Coordinate with experts so they can come by your booth for an interview. Whether you broadcast the interview live or record it, it will naturally draw a crowd.
Using the technology of the moment, such as Facebook Live, can be very compelling. This technology can draw in people not only at the conference but also beyond the hallowed halls of a convention center. Maybe go behind the scenes and give people a sneak peek or tease it up and say, “Hope to see you here later.” Use the hashtag so those paying attention on social media platforms might see your video and come to your booth.
“Help, don’t sell,” I saw someone create a valuable cheat sheet to hand out at the same event. The cheat sheet lists the formats and length for posting video on the different social platforms. This company wasn’t selling their product. They were helping marketers understand the requirements for creating videos.
About the importance of booth location… you want to be in a highly visible, trafficked spot, although that’s not always the case in large expos. When you’re fortunate enough to be in an environment where they think about the flow of traffic, you want to be in a good location, near friendly people, and have competitive separation. Good organizers will help you find the ideal spot.
Level-four involvement, can be big or exclusive parties, lead sponsorships, and places where you get more visibility like live stages. Typically, people call these platinum, title, or lead sponsorships. These sponsorships are the most expensive but also provide the most branding and exposure opportunities.
For example, Dunkin’ Donuts and AMC put together a lounge at a non-cannabis industry show, VidCon. They held a contest for people to have their own show and teams helped contest entrants record a little teaser. At the end, AMC was going to pick a winner. Dunkin’ Donuts was handing out coffee. Because of the performance aspect, people were sharing posts about the contest. That was another way to get your brand amplified beyond what was happening at this huge show.
This kind of a sponsorship gives you expedited branding. It’s not aggressive; you’re partnering with the event. This is especially true with party sponsors. Remember, when people get hyped up on a brand, they still want that interaction. Make sure that you have that physical presence (a booth) within the event itself.
Again, Terpenes and Testing World Conference next year, has a speaker party, I add. The sponsor gets a few minutes to talk to all of the speakers in one setting, which can be super-powerful for the right kind of sponsor.
See You There
Well, it’s just about time to head out to Vegas. I look forward to all my meetings with so many of you and my surprise visits with others. Viva, baby. 😉