We’ve closed over $50,000,000 of sponsorships to SaaStr events but it took me a while to totally understand why they perform — and when they perform.

And a lot of folks who have been doing this a while will talk about how, for example, they now just do side events at Dreamforce, rather than participate in the event itself.  Fair enough — and we’ll talk about why that’s good too, first.

You should try to do a side event along every major customer event your customers are at.

At Dreamforce, if you are in the SFDC ecosystem.  At Shoptalk, if you are in eCommerce.  At SaaStr Annual, if you are in SaaS and especially if you see to founders or revenue leaders. At AWS Reinvent, if your customers are there.  At InBound, for HubSpot customers.  The biggies, you gotta be there. Your customers are.

If a major event can draw in 10, 100, or even a 1,000 of your customers, you should be there.  At least do a dinner or a party and get as many to come as you can.  It’s just plain efficient.  We do that ourselves as SaaStr.  We had a VIP event at Reinvent and at Shoptalk ourselves!

Isn’t that enough?  You can put together a dinner for $5K or $10k, an evening event for $20k.  Why pay for a booth, the costs of flying people out, and more?  That can be 5x-50x the price.  The traditional “man a booth” play does cost more, so if you aren’t ready to run that playbook — don’t run it.

But here’s the thing.  The top events in an industry draw:

  • Your customers
  • Your existing prospects … but also
  • Your competitor’s prospects
  • And new buyers in general.

Only the first two categories will come to your own side event.  And even then, more of your customers and prospects will attend the event itself, and likely come to your booth and come talk to you, than will take more time out to come to your side event.  Putting together your own side event is terrific.  But you likely can meet with 3x-50x more potential and existing buyers if you also go all in at the biggest industry events.  It’s just math.  They won’t all come to your dinner, and many potential buyers won’t even be on your list to invite yet.

The biggest, best events in an industry aren’t cheap to sponsor or participate in.  But they are efficient.

They get a ton of people together at one time.  And the more of your customers you meet in person, the more they buy from you.  The more prospects you meet in person, the higher the chance they buy from you.  And importantly, if you are #2 or #3 in the space, buyers go to the top events.  And you get a chance to meet prospects that might otherwise … only talk to #1.  You get a shot.

This isn’t to say just buying a booth is magic.  It isn’t.  You have to staff it with the best.  You need folks there who know how to follow up correctly, and do.  You need to know how to take care of both customers and prospects.  It’s a project.  If you don’t have someone in marketing good at events, maybe wait until later to spend too much there.

But in the end, events are expensive, tiring, and overwhelming.  At least — the best ones are.

But they are also where field and enterprise marketers spend 40% of their budget.  Why?

Buyers, customers and prospects go to them.  And then go to them looking to meet, evaluate and compare vendors.  It’s efficient for them.  And so, it’s efficient for you.  Not cheap.  But efficient.


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