You just got back to your office from Adobe Summit, SXSW, Unleash, or [insert your industry’s biggest and best conference here]. You’re tired, but your feet are surprisingly well-rested thanks to the Allbirds you got from that tech startup that has too much money to spend on swag.
But you’re also energized and pumped - you are walking back to your desk with some pretty hot leads burning a hole through your surprisingly cool and well-made conference giveaway backpack.
You put in the preparation and time to gather lots of valuable conference leads both before and during the show, and now you have a stack of business cards, notes, and lists of contacts —all warm leads that are ready for a sales conversations.
How do you follow up with those leads to maximize the likelihood of making a connection?
It’s tempting to start firing off emails with information about your product or service. Or get your sales pitch ready and call as many people as you can.
Resist the temptation. Those strategies could work . . . but you’ll stand a better chance of making a valuable connection if you stop and think about the best way to follow up.
Here are some factors to keep in mind:
The Right Timing for Conference Follow-Ups
When it comes to getting in touch with people after a conference, timing is everything. Which often means waiting longer than you’d like to.
We get it—you’re excited. You want to fill your sales pipeline with prospects, and you have a stack of leads just waiting there...begging for attention. But if you email too early, you’re not likely to get many responses.
Because most people are dealing with a huge amount of email after a conference. They may have taken a day or two off of work to attend the event, so they’ll be catching up on regular work emails. And they probably gave their info to a bunch of other people who are clamoring for their attention.
If they traveled to the conference, that’s a couple more days of email from both sources to pile up. To stand out, you’ll have to keep your email out of that pile.
So timeframe should you aim for? Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer. It depends on the people you’re emailing, the event, its location, whether travel is involved, and how likely your prospect is to pick your email out of a crowded inbox.
In general, though, you should wait at least a few days after the conference ends. Two or three work days is often enough to get out from under the crush of email.
But even if your prospect’s inbox is less crowded, there’s no guarantee they’ll remember you. So you’ll have to give them some help.
Remind Prospects Who You Are
We all think we’re memorable. (I mean, you’re opening sales joke one-liners gets them every. single. time.) But the truth is that it’s hard to remember people from a conference. You might meet a dozen people over the course of a few days, and they all start to blend together.
So you need to remind your prospects who you are. That being said, you still need to keep your email short. A sentence or two about who you are, where you met the prospect, and anything notable that you talked about should be enough.
Here’s an example:
We chatted at OutboundCon for a few minutes about how you’re having trouble systematizing your outbound process. You mentioned that you’re looking for a Kanban-style tool to help.
I thought I’d reach out to follow up and tell you about our
software . . .
Of course, you don’t always talk about business at a conference - in fact, we emphasize making human connections at the conference over sales talk. Sometimes you make small talk and part ways. You can still share a reminder of what you talked about:
We met at OutboundCon before Geoff Rowley’s keynote. What did you think of the presentation? I remember you said you’d never seen him before, so I’d love to hear what you thought.
Also, since you were at a conference on outbound sales, I thought you might be interested in . . .
At the conference, if you talked about their upcoming company outing at a brewery, make a note - and remember to ask them which beer tasted best! If you bonded over your love of beachside conferences, jot it down. These notes make it easier to connect after the event. And they’ll help your prospects remember who you are.
Of course, sometimes you won’t have had much of an interaction. That requires a different tack.
Tailor Your Approach for Cold Contacts
If you spent time talking with someone, they probably don’t need much context for your email. If they remember you, they’ll probably know why you’re emailing.
But if you grabbed someone’s contact details without talking to them, or only spoke in passing, you need to provide more context.
At this point, you’re basically sending a cold email. But you have one point to connect over: you attended the same conference. So open with that connection. Resist the temptation to jump right into your pitch.
You might, for example, open your email like this:
I was hoping to get a chance to chat with you at BOOST Outbound, but I was only able to grab your business card. What did you think of the conference? I had a great time!
Anyway, my company specializes in optimizing business systems for healthcare marketing agencies, and I thought you might be interested . . .
Like the previous examples, you’re establishing a connection. In these cases, it’s a smaller, more tenuous connection—but it should be enough to pique someone’s interest.
Also, do a little research before you hit send. Most people that you meet at conferences are likely on LinkedIn, active on other social sites, or maybe a contributor to their company’s content. You never know - take a quick look around and see if you can find anything that you might have in common and mention that in your email - even if it’s something small like a love for hockey. Maybe their hometown team is in the upcoming NHL Playoffs? (Go Vegas Golden Knights! Sorry...I had to get it in there somewhere...) It will start the conversation off on a more familiar tone.
Use outbound email best practices to make these emails relevant and as valuable as possible. There’s an art to it. If you can master that art, you’ll have a lot of valuable leads converting through the pipeline.
And remember to keep it short! When you’re trying to explain who you are and what value you can bring to your prospect’s business, you might be tempted to launch into a long-winded explanation. Don’t give in.
Concise emails get responses.
Offer Something of Value
It feels like everyone you meet at a conference wants something from you. The same is true of post-conference follow-ups.
This is your chance to stand out. Instead of asking for something, offer something.
It’s a simple idea, but it makes a world of difference. It might be a blog post related to your prospect’s business. Or an eBook you think they might like. It could be a tip for another event to attend or a good recording of a keynote they missed.
Don’t jump into your sales pitch right away. In fact, consider saving that for one or two emails down the road.
By offering something of value, you’ll build a connection. And when you have that connection, transitioning to the sales process will be much easier.
Make a Clear Call to Action
What do you want your prospect to do? You might think it’s obvious.
But they’re buried under a mountain of post-conference email. They need all the help they can get when it comes to clearing their inbox.
And you can provide that help with a clear call to action.
Tell them exactly what you want them to do. In many cases, you’ll want to set up a sales call where you can show off your product or service and talk about how you can help their company.
But you might ask them for a meeting. Or to sign up for a free account to check out your service. You might just want an email back.
No matter what it is, don’t leave any ambiguity. Here’s an example of a clear, simple call to action for a return email:
Does that sound like something you’d be interested in? Send me a quick “yes” or “no” and I’ll take care of the next steps!
It can be as simple as that.
If you’re looking to set up a call or a demo, use Outreach’s Meeting feature so your prospect can set up an appointment in a couple clicks. Let them know about it like this:
Let’s jump on a call to talk about how we might work together! Just hit this link to put an appointment on my calendar at a time that works for you: [LINK]
No matter what you want your recipient to do, make it as easy as possible.
Even when it’s really easy, though, you’ll often get no response. That’s when it’s time to follow up again.
Follow Up Multiple Times
People are busy. Especially when they’re getting back from a conference.
They might miss your email. Even if they read it, they might not have a chance to email back. Or it just doesn’t seem important enough. This is a fact of life in the business world.
Your strategy here is the same as with cold email, cold calling, or any other outbound sales technique: keep following up.
Don’t overdo it—you don’t need to send seven emails in the first five days. In fact, that’s a good way to never get a response at all.
But you can send a follow-up a few days after your first email. And again a few days after that. And a week later. Use common sense to create a follow-up schedule (or automate the entire process) and you’ll get a response eventually.
Again, keep it short. Here’s a sample follow-up email:
Just thought I’d follow up quick on my previous email. I think our contract management software would be a great fit for your business. Any chance we could set up a call next week to talk about getting you a free trial?
Thanks very much—
You can include a copy of the original email too, in case your prospect didn’t have a chance to read it.
Striking the balance between useful follow-ups and email overload can be difficult. It takes practice. Just think about how often you’d like to receive emails and use that as a guide.
Apply This Advice to Phone Calls Too
While you’re likely to follow up with a conference lead via email, you might prefer to get in touch with a phone call.
That’s totally fine.
In fact, it’s more personal, so it might get better results. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the above advice. You still need to time your calls well, remind your leads about your interactions, tailor your approach, and offer something of value to stand out.
If you’re planning on making post-conference calls, consider mixing it up with both calls and emails. You’re more likely to get a hold of your leads by using both.
Don’t Let Conference Leads Get Away
Following up with prospects from a conference is crucial for filling your outbound sales funnel. Just because you gave someone your business card, a one-sheet on your product, or your best piece of branded swag, it doesn’t mean they’re going to get in touch to set up a demo.
It’s on you to make it happen.
Be sure to use good email practices, too. That starts with choosing a subject line that gets your email opened.