How to Growth Hack Your Event with No Budget
How do you successfully growth hack an event with a shoe-string budget? In this interview, marketing guru Lloyed Lobo shares his secret formula to success.
Lloyed Lobo is Co-founder and Co-chair of Traction Conference, an annual two-day event co-hosted by Boast Capital & Launch Academy. It’s a leading technology conference that brings founders and growth leaders from some of the fastest growing tech companies to teach attendees how to get, keep, and grow customers and revenue.
After co-founding Boast Capital and leading several successful events through it, Lloyed Lobo and his partners set out to create a new kind of conference that focuses on customer renewal and growth. With almost no budget, Lloyed and his team leveraged strategic partnerships and sponsorships to growth-hack their way through the events space.
In this interview we will explore how.
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Bizzabo: Do you think events are useful for generating leads?
Lloyed: Live events are a great way for generating leads, if your annual contract for a client is large enough. If you’re selling 10 dollar stuff it’s not worth it, a way to primarily generate leads. Otherwise it’s a great opportunity engage your community and to build products, to understand what your community cares about. Because as a business you should always be talking to your customers. I think that’s one aspect.
From a lead gen perspective, I think everything ties down to the same standards of marketing: Identify who your customers are…What are their needs and goals?…What are their pain points?…What are jobs they’re trying to get done?…And figure out how you can solve those things. So by doing an event, if you are doing a very specific targeted event on a specific topic, you are able to engage the same kind of people who care about it. And you don’t have to sell there–you’re all talking about this topic and your product solves that, product or service solves that. It’s a brand builder.
If you do a live event, you likely bring on some sponsors and those sponsors, based on the speakers you have, in business items of your event, could be big names. So as a result of throwing that event and all the press and the email and the sponsors surrounding it—even if you are not a massive company—you get the brand rub of those bigger brands. And it helps build your brand.
“People buy from people at the end of the day.”
So people say, “Oh, this is not a fly-by-night operation. They’re a serious company, look at all these awesome people speaking. Look at the huge group of sponsors.” So you look big as a result of that. That brand value is huge in generating leads because it’s the same kind of people, accumulating a similar topic that’s solved by your product.
Gainsight does this big Pulse conference, which is all about customer success, how to make customers successful. All the people who come there are customer success practitioners. It makes it a very good lead gen opportunity for them.
Bizzabo: What sort of strategies/tips do you recommend for generating leads at live events?
Lloyed: So, a few things you could do at live events: Maybe you could run workshops, maybe you could run webinars leading to the live event, and at the event you could do workshops specific to certain aspects that your product pinpoints, that your product solves. It’s all opt-in because they’re coming to work at this event anyway. So if you run something on the side, and say, “Hey, do you want to deep dive into this?” those leads end up being a little more qualified. You could also do specific dinners or roundtable discussions on specific topics.
People buy from people at the end of the day. If you come across as knowledgeable about the space and as a trusted advisor then the chances of you being able to sell are much easier. It’s not a sales process then, it’s you’ve given them so much advice and then they’re like, “You know what, let’s work together.” It’s more natural.
Those kind of things work really well–anything that gives you a reason to engage with the prospective customer. Whether it’s running workshops, webinars, live webinars leading up to it or doing specific small group dinners, case studies, those sorts of things.
What you could also do is, as a part of the session selector, you could have free consultations. So if you’re an event management app and you’re doing a conference for event managers, maybe you’d do office hours so people can book 20- or 15-minute time blocks to get a free consultation on how to make their events better. Then, that’s also an opportunity for you guys to slowly bring up your product. Those are some ways I’ve found.
Bizzabo: How can marketing and event planning teams coordinate with sales teams?
Lloyed: It’s really understanding what is the ideal customer profile. Because marketing plans these events, and marketing needs to make sure that they’re drawing the right kind of audience to these events, and they’re just not everybody. That is important. Have a very good understanding of the ideal customer profile that the salesperson is after and build that list and you only market to those kinds of people. Whether it’s via email or ads or what have you. But your best customer profile and your best prospect profile will tell you that.
So marketing can work with them to market events that way so they’re driving the right kind of people there. Also, marketing can coordinate with them for ideas. Whether it’s webinars leading up to the event, what kind of workshops to run at the event, what office hours would look like. Those sorts of things. Usually a lot of marketers focus on sort of feel-good stuff. They don’t as much focus on ROI stuff. So working with sales helps them figure out what is important for the sales person. This kind of job title with a certain pain point, how do I maximize the number of qualified leads generated for our sales people?
“People love things being tailored to them.”
If you come with that angle then you’re thinking, “Now what can I do to drive?” So not only are you getting traffic to the event that’s engaging with your brand, [but] your brand is associated with solving that pain point and then leading the brand with all of the sponsors. But then they’re thinking what specific things can we do leading up to the event? Whether it’s webinars, whether it’s running a viral contest, we’ll give away something if you share this stuff about the event.
Bizzabo: That seems really useful and often under-utilized. It’s not just promoting for the event and saying, “Hey, we’re gonna have this event coming up,” posting on your Facebook wall, sending out emails, but really using opportunities like webinars to promote it.
Lloyed: Exactly. So that’s the whole game.
Like office hours, I think a lot of people don’t do that. If it’s your event, set office hours with your top consultants. Then run an office hour on solving their pain points specifically.
People like customized stuff because they go to a conference to learn general purpose stuff, it’s a little bit tailored. But when you do office hours, they’re discussing their problems with you directly and they love that. People love things being tailored to them. I think that’s one good idea that people often miss is office hours. Because it’s completely opt-in. You make it as a part of the session selection process, and if people want to sign up for it they will. Even if you get 5, if your annual contract value is like 20, 30 thousand. It’s meaningful.
Then post event you can do a number of nice follow-ups. It doesn’t always have to be like: “Buy my stuff.” Post event you can be doing the same thing. “Hope you enjoyed the event, here are the slides for all the sessions.” And then you can ask them a couple questions so it’s a conversation. Then you can follow up with some more interesting content. You can invite them for an online consultation session. You can keep that dialogue going post event.
Be specific and pull out pain points related to the problems your product solves.
It’s all like dating. It’s not like you go from meeting someone in the bar and marrying them. If you go up to someone in the bar and ask them to marry you, they’re going to slap you in the face. Your goal should be the first step. So between the first connect and the close, what’s always the next step? What are the 10 steps? So in the beginning when you go, your first goal should be: how do I get the number? And when you get the number it’s like: how do I get that first date? So it’s the same thing, how do I get them to respond to me? How do I take the conversation further? How do I get them interested? How do I get them coming to my events? How do I get them engaged in the brand? And how do I get them to open up about their pain points and their problems? And then I can offer solutions and then you can go towards a close.
It’s a little bit of a journey. Post-event, you can map out what that journey looks like. There’s a natural email you’re gonna send with the slides and the recap, but for the specific people who talked to you and expressed interest, it’s a direct sales meeting event, then this is a soft ask saying, “Hey, are you interested?”
Bizzabo: After an event happens, they’re going to be receiving emails from a bunch of different people as well who they were talking to. So there’s a need to break through that noise.
Lloyed: Exactly. And if you’re doing your own events, you can easily send them specific content. If you send them specific tailored content, it works well because they want that stuff. The other thing, you could send out a survey and try to figure out what are their biggest pain points right now.
Each person can answer the survey and say I want to do x, y or z. They can talk about their frustrations. And that serves as mind signals for the sales person to think that so-and-so has these issues. Okay, our product solves some of these so I’m going to specifically target X.
Because you can ask them what they’re looking to get out of the event. What are their biggest frustrations right now? And so if someone says, “My biggest pain point is generating more leads and scaling that.” You can keep it open- and closed-ended so you have some questions to approach. That way, the person doesn’t think that they have a blank canvas and then talks about his parents are having issues and so on. So you can be specific and pull out pain points related to the problems your product solves. That’s a good way to gauge and follow up because then you come to know if these people are just casual browsers at the conference, or do they actually have certain pain points that they’re coming to find answers to?
Bizzabo: I imagine that helps you prioritize, as well.
Lloyed: Yeah, exactly.
Bizzabo: Are these things that you’ve implemented with Traction Conference yourself?
Lloyed: Some of it with Traction, some of it with the other events we run.
Bizzabo: Through Boast capital?
Lloyed: Yeah, we do like 40 to 60 events. Some of these we’ve implemented and some of these we’re in the process of. We hosted the Founders party at SaaStr for example. It was limited—we only had 1,000 people there—but as a way for people to get in we asked them to do a viral share of a webinar we were running. We had like 600 people opt-in to that. So it was good for us.
“There are ways to hack into other people’s events for your own benefit.”
They had to share the webinar on social or email, and once they’re done sharing that then they would be entered into a draw to attend. I used WishPond for that. It’s a good viral marketing tool. It is able to tell me then how many people engaged with it. Each time each person shared. Then it becomes like a sport.
Bizzabo: Similar to SaaStr, when you attend other events what sort of strategies do you use?
Lloyed: We try to figure out who’s attending, in some way or the other, because that has huge value in our community. Then we can always do specific outreach. Either start a booking with people, speak about their pain points, do a webinar before, either do a day at the event, either do a workshop at the event, either do a combination or a party or whatever. You just want to engage with people. There are ways to hack into other people’s events for your own benefit.
And if you’re sponsoring an event, then they likely will share the list with you and so you can pick and choose. You can also ask them to send a survey asking for all these pain points and stuff in exchange for a prize. If it serves your exact audience I think it’s worthwhile.
Bizzabo: What are your thoughts on account-based marketing, sales, everything?
Lloyed: The top sales people have been doing account-based for like 50 years. We were doing account-based from the time we started anyway. Boast started in 2011. But before that, everywhere I worked we did account-based. All account-based is basically: identify specific companies that you want as clients, identify the key stakeholders, map out the organization, and just market to those people in those organizations that have relevant content at different levels of influence. So you just focus on that strategy.
I think people are hyping it up because maybe a couple of people built tools for it so now they want to create buzz for it. Usually the buzz is driven by the tools companies. Which is good if there are tools that now make it easier to do account-based. But everyone is talking about account-based because of that.
We try to find all the influencers right. We start with the CEO of a specific company or whatever title you’re looking for. Then you’re going to figure out who’s that person’s circle of influence. Then you’re going find out how to dominate that sphere.
Bizzabo: Are there any particular tactics, account-based tactics you’d recommend?
Lloyed: Email, ads, webinars. You pick two or three tactics that work. Email outreach with a cadence always works. Email and call is a good tactic. You can host a webinar because they all share similar pain points. Say you’re going after Fortune 500 companies and you have a couple of Fortune 500 customers who used your product to solve a specific pain point, then you can do an event, online event maybe, or in-person, invite-only event.
Simon & Schuster used to be a client of mine at previous company, and we helped them save 5 million dollars using logistics software. So we did an in-person event and a webinar, and it became a case study on a magazine’s cover that Simon & Schuster used automation in their logistics to save 5 million dollars a year. So we had the Head of Opertaions at Simon & Schuster speak at the event, both in the webinar and in-person event. And we only invited companies’ COOs who were similar to them. They wanted to learn because nobody shares that kind of information. Then we did a tour of their facility and a dinner and all of that stuff. It was very targeted.
You could do stuff like that because it’s an indirect customer reference. You’re not saying: “Buy my product.” The customer is talking about how they saved all this time and money. Obviously, it’s a big profile customer so you have other similar customers coming and wanting to listen. And, of course, the customer is talking about your product through everything.
Our Main Takeaways:
- Given that live events are an expensive marketing channel, make sure you have the kind of ACV that justifies producing them.
- If you are doing a very specific targeted event on a specific topic, you are able to engage the same kind of people who care about it.
- Use webinars and other pre-event activities as promotional opportunities for your events.
- Aim big and try to bring in big brands to sponsor or partner with your events. Even if you are not a massive company—you get the brand rub of those bigger brands.
- People buy from people at the end of the day. If you come across as knowledgeable about the space and as a trusted advisor then the chances of you being able to sell are much easier.
- If you are not hosting your own event, there are ways to hack into other people’s events to benefit you.
- People like when experiences are tailored to them.
- Make use of office hours at events. There prospects get to discuss their problems with you directly, and they love that.
- Follow up with more interesting content. Invite them for an online consultation session or find another way of keeping the dialogue going.
Want more event hack knowledge? Check out how Lloyed and his team generated 50K revenue at 40X ROI. Otherwise, click the button below to access additional resoureces. Your brain will thank you.