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Chances are you’ve heard about Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). We’ve seen first-hand how this conference provides a massive amount of value for attendees and even those that join from afar. Many partners are in the same position we were in this time last year. We were looking to grow, knew WPC was looming large, and wondered if taking on a larger presence at the event was a good idea. We decided that it was, went to Toronto, and have nothing but positive things to say about the experience.

But along the way, we learned some valuable lessons that other partners can benefit from. In today’s blog, I’ll share my team’s most important learnings to ensure that you are prepared for WPC 2017.

Lesson #1: Know your demographic

Before deciding on what your company’s presence at WPC should look like, take a good look at the attendee demographic of past shows. Microsoft provides really detailed data on the subject, including:

  • The numbers of attendees
  • Sector and industry breakdown
  • Job role breakdown
  • Areas of interest breakdown

Be sure to look out for this information when Sponsor and Exhibitor sales go live later this year. For us, as a digital marketing agency for Microsoft Partners, everyone at WPC is a potential customer, lead, or useful connection. But even so it was important for us to take time to study exactly who was attending.

Lesson #2: Add value

While you probably are looking to grow your client base and ultimately your revenue by attending WPC, it’s important to think about the visitor perspective. Those visitors are bombarded with hundreds of stands, thousands of leaflets, and endless competition for their attention.

To provide value to our customers, we produced an annual review celebrating the marketing efforts of Microsoft Partners, titled Inbound Marketing Excellence. It contained interesting features, guides, and how-to’s to help partners improve their own marketing. We launched this year’s edition from our stand at WPC, and gave away free copies to our visitors. Our pitch was simple – “Would you like a free guide to better online marketing?” That value add helped get people’s attention and sparked some great conversations.

Lesson #3: Get organized

If you are considering attending next year’s WPC, now is when you need to get ready. We learned not to underestimate the amount of work involved in preparing for the event:

  • Set a budget. Includes all your costs and stick to it. Resist the temptation to get another ten thousand glossy leaflets or cards printed at extra expense if you don’t need them.
  • Decide who you are taking early. Not only is this a cost issue, and a logistical issue (think planes, hotels, and meals) but keep in mind who will be tasked with getting the daily business done during the show.
  • Pinpoint collateral and your USP. What are you taking to the show? How is it being printed, produced, collated, and rehearsed? Plan now for a more strategic and prepared WPC experience.

Lesson #4: Define roles and responsibilities

Once at the show you need to be very clear about who is doing what, and when. Consider the following:

  • How many people will be promoting your company at any given time, and where?
  • Who will be networking at other stands, speaker events and social functions?
  • How will people cover work or check in with the office while at WPC?

In our case, we had four people at our stand at any given time to promote our business. I floated around, speaking to leads and connections as needed, and the rest of the team was split between networking on the floor and attending useful talks. This clear definition of roles and responsibilities helped keep our team on track.

Lesson #5: Have a target list

Everyone at the stand should have a customer “target list” with information such as:

  • Named leads that you really want to connect with, along with background information so people recognize them.
  • Named companies that you also want to connect with.
  • Exhibiting companies you want to visit.
  • Existing clients that are attending that you should say hello to.
  • Relevant Microsoft employees that you want to meet at the show.

We prepared a printed datasheet so everyone knew who was important to talk to and why. It was extremely helpful during the conference.

Lesson #6: Get the right data

While WPC employs the latest RFID badge scanner technology which records details from visitors who swipe their badges, this system won’t capture the most important data of all – your conversations with them.

That’s why we learned it was important for everyone at our stand to have clipboards, paper, and pens. Not only was everyone scanned, but after conversations had finished, notes were immediately written up with as much detail as possible. Contacting these people afterwards was then a very natural case of “Hi, you spoke to my colleague x about y, and wanted to know a little more about z…”. If you plan to host an event where your attendees badges will be scanned don’t rely on that alone—this sort of personal, authentic email is so much more effective than an automated mailer, and we would not have had the information without collecting it ourselves.

Lesson #7: Follow up with leads

When following up with your leads and new contacts from WPC, be sure to keep track of the following:

  • Who was contacted?
  • When were they contacted?
  • Who in your business contacted them?
  • When should you follow up again?

You can use a good CRM system to automate this process, like we do, but a simple spreadsheet can sometimes be just as effective. You also need to be patient and persistent to see real results.

Lesson #8: Maximize your investment

We learned that WPC is about more than finding new leads and new clients. You want to showcase that you’re are the kind of company that has a presence at a show like WPC. To make the most of the experience we invested time in writing blogs and sharing collateral from the show. We were also very active on Twitter during and after the show, and have continued to share videos and pictures from the week – along with the video of my talk on the MPN stand.

Lesson #9: Calculate your ROI

Ultimately any company attending WPC is doing it to grow their company. So after the show it is essential to:

  • Calculate every cost you incurred in attending WPC. Don’t forget all the incidental costs while you were away.
  • Look at the work you have won since returning. It is very likely you need to take a long-term view that incorporates the length of your typical sales cycle or longer as leads from a trade show will typically take longer to result in sales.
  • Remember to note a return for the connections you made with Microsoft. While harder to put a number to, often this is the most valuable reason to be at WPC.

To date, we have new signed work orders covering 70% of our total outlay on WPC. Many of those clients will go on to complete repeat business, which will take our ROI well over 100%. We still have many leads in the pipeline, and new relationships with Microsoft teams that will prove to be much more valuable than any of the client work. All in all, we can say WPC has already showed a hugely positive ROI for us – and hopefully by reviewing these lessons learned, you can do the same.

Chris Wright is the founder of Fifty Five and Five, a digital marketing agency dedicated to helping Microsoft partners communicate more effectively, reach new audiences and drive leads.

What lessons did you learn from your WPC experience? Share them with the partner community in the comments below.

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