If you’re in sales and marketing and want to amplify your pre-trade show efforts to land more meetings, LinkedIn is your treasure trove waiting to be unburied.
Professionals have recently shifted to LinkedIn to engage with companies, promote their own events, and secure meetings at conferences and trade shows. If it’s been awhile since you dove into LinkedIn best practices, we suggest you sit down and prepare yourself for a new era of social media pre-trade show marketing with these seven tips for scheduling more meetings at your next trade show using LinkedIn.
1. Searching for the Conference or Trade Show
There are multiple ways to search for a conference or trade show on LinkedIn. First, you can search by simply typing the full name of the company.
For example, if you’re attending “Black Hat USA” then type in the full event name and hit search. When searching full words, you can either search by relevance or by date. Searching by date allows you to sift through the latest and most relevant posts first. Searching by relevance will actually pull up the most popular posts.
You can also search the official event hashtag, though hashtags do not have the same sorting feature like date and relevance searches. While searching with proper capitalization doesn’t matter on Linkedin, you will want to use the official capitalization for your posts so you remain consistent with the event branding. The official tag for Black Hat USA, for example, is #BHUSA and you will always see it written that way. Don’t forget to search unofficial versions of the event hashtag too (#BHUSA18 or #BHUSA2018). The bigger and more well known the event, the more unofficial hashtags you will come across.
Once you find posts, you can begin interacting with them by adding value. Start by liking the post, then leave a genuine comment about the content or the show. If the individual is sharing their excitement about a speaking opportunity, be excited for them. Be careful not to overstep any social boundaries—keep it casual and refrain from talking about yourself.
2. Searching for Companies
Before you search for an individual, we highly recommend searching for the company name and gauging their online promotion of the event. This is a great opportunity for you to follow them, ‘like’ a recent post, and even comment on the post with something valuable. If the company posts about a representative who will be speaking at the event, then offer support. Remember to keep things light and casual. For example, “I see Joe is presenting about influencer marketing—hope he crushes it!”.
Unlike other social media platforms, LinkedIn doesn’t notify companies if they’ve gained a follower, so there’s no sense in following them for exposure. Instead you will need to interact with the company’s posts to get in front of someone from the company. Know that the people managing a brand’s LinkedIn page might not be your audience, so be sure to also interact with individual prospects.
3. Searching your Prospects
LinkedIn is a great way to separate yourself from the noisy inboxes of your prospects, especially if they’re actively engaging with the event. Using your attendee list, identify which event attendees you’re targeting through LinkedIn. Then search for the company the individual works for to see whether the company is promoting the event.
If their company is actively posting about the event, then continue on a search for the full name of the individual as well as the event name (Joe Shmo Black Hat USA) or full name and event hashtags (Joe Shmo #BHUSA). This will show you if your prospect is actively posting about the event. If you strike gold and find your prospect’s comment on an event post, jump in and engage with the post. Don’t forget to add value!
If you can’t find anything by searching their name and the event name or hashtag, head to their personal page and find an appropriate post to initiate a dialogue with the prospect. Typically the prospect’s most recent post is a safe place to start.
4. Update your Headline
Use your headline as an announcement about the event. This tactic is just beginning to settle into the mainstream and we’re all the happier for it. Simply change the headline on your LinkedIn profile to promote the event. There’s no need to beat around the bush, be direct with something like, “Attend our Dreamforce event (insert trackable link)”.
We often insert a SummitSync smart meeting scheduler link into our profile and say something like the below:
5. Using Event-Based Groups
LinkedIn Groups for events are exploding, and for good reason. Groups are the perfect environment to do some pre-trade show networking, post any event-based content your brand is creating, and score more meetings. Sometimes LinkedIn event groups are sanctioned by the event organizer itself, so often times the LinkedIn Groups are created by a third party.
Look for big groups and smaller groups. For example, there is a “Cannes Lions” group on LinkedIn with 39,093 accepted members (plus over 3,000 unaccepted requests waiting to be approved) but there is another, much smaller group titled “Media and AdTech at Cannes Lions 2018” which has 419 members. The smaller group is actually much more active and, depending on your target market, is more tailored so you know what kind of people are in the group. Join the smaller pond where people will actually engage with you.
In order for this search method to be effective, make sure to search months before the event and join these groups before you need to strike. If you wait until the last minute, you can be delayed for quite some time before someone approves you.
6. Slide into the DMs
Sending cold direct messages (DMs) is the last approach you should be taking to schedule meetings. DMs can be effective but only if they are used sparingly and…you guessed it: add value.
Our most successful DM efforts have focused on personal invitations. Invite the person to a group dinner or fun event you’re hosting. Highlight the exclusivity of the event and why you hope they can attend based on their specific qualifications or interests. Do your research! Keep these three points to keep in mind when reaching out cold to a prospect on LinkedIn:
- Hyper-personalization: Take the time to research the individual, their role in the company (beyond their job title), and their level of participation at the event. Use what you find to note a session their company is presenting, their booth number, or a party they’re hosting.
- No Pitches Allowed: My inbox is full with LinkedIn messages that are purely a sales pitch. Yuck. Sales and marketing are about creating relationships and adding value—not pitching your product. Avoid templated ice breakers that lead to an ask. One of the most popular templates I’ve seen looks something like, “Hey Kathryn, I loved XYZ. I do ABC for a living and wanted to know if I could show you a demo at Microsoft Inspire.” This is selfish and neglects the “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me) principle of sales and marketing. Most folks I know (myself included) block and delete these messages. You don’t want to be known as a spammer and shouldn’t waste your LinkedIn credits on messages like these.
- Be specific: Vague messages get vague responses, it’s as simple as that. Events are designed for a specific reason, so be specific and offer a time and location you would like to meet (if the conversation leads to that point).
- Ex: “I’d love to shake your hand on Tuesday afternoon if you’re free!” or “Can we grab a coffee Wednesday morning at Peets down the street?”
7. Create your own Content
LinkedIn video is on fire right now, so step into the heat! Similar to other social media platforms, most of the videos are filmed informally on a phone or laptop camera. These casual videos are low-cost, simple to create, and can gather a ton of impressions for free! Crush your first video this these quick and simple hacks:
- DO break up your post into small one or two sentence paragraphs for better engagement. This strategy seems to trigger something in LinkedIn’s algorithms.
- DON’T post a link to an outside source within the body of your post. Instead, add the link to the comment section and say, “See the first comment for the link to XYZ resource.”
- DO get your team to like and comment on the post immediately after it goes live! Virality on LinkedIn hangs mostly on initial velocity, so you need to get those likes and comments within the first few minutes to an hour.
- DO post the link to the post on a Slack channel and get your whole team to like and comment on it. Incentivize them if you have to. Be sure to tag others you know are going to the event. Have team members attending or current customers you know who are going? Tag them! It might also be appropriate to tag a prospect you have a meeting with a shout out like, “can’t wait to meet @soandso and @soandso2!” This will notify them when you post and hopefully encourage them to like, comment or share.
If you’re not a video person, that’s okay. You can also post a story about something that happened around the event or mini-event that your company is hosting. Whatever you do, just create something and post it or you’re missing out on a ton of opportunities!
Make Your Action Plan
LinkedIn is no longer Facebook’s lame second cousin with a day job. The platform has exploded into the go-to social media hub for hyping up conferences and trade shows. We hope these tips help you schedule even more meetings at your next event.