Everyone loves conferences. The nice hotels, the self-conscious "I'm just here for the schwag" vibe, the thrill of meeting people you only know from Twitter and LinkedIn, the shining nuggets of actionable information that made that one really boring presentation worth going to...what's not to love?
Is this you after most conferences?
You're a new business development rep who went to four conferences this year. You met a lot of cool people, listened to some great speakers, and absorbed a ton of new information.
After each conference – you go back to your office, inspired with new ways of how you could help your organization grow! You spend the next two weeks thinking about how you can implement some of these new ideas, but when you approach your boss to see if there's a budget available to purchase the tools you need to be more successful, you're told there's no money available. The budget has already been allocated toward the conferences and the expenses that come with it.
Your hopes of making a significant change at the organization, start to become deflated. You resort back to old ways – going through the motions – not seeing any new results.
If it is familiar, you're not alone (not even close). Even the most successful organizations aren't allocating enough of their budgets toward new business development tools.
Does your conference budget include money for new tools?
Most conference budgets include money for the attendance -- the education -- but not for what happens when you get home -- the execution. I’ve worked with hundreds of new business development reps and have seen this common scenario play out every month.
The opportunities available to generate new revenue are endless, but you need to have certain tools in place to efficiently navigate these treacherous waters.
Here are several best practices my most successful clients use when trying to balance the education vs. execution budgets.
Too Many Conferences?
If the budget for four conferences is preventing you from investing in tools that will allow your teams to be more efficient and generate new revenue, consider cutting back on the amount of conferences you attend. Pick two conferences to attend and then allocate the additional dollars toward tools needed to execute the tactics discovered at the conferences. I also have clients that will purchase a conference pass, with the intention of not attending. Why? To save money on airfare, hotels, food and drinks – but allow them to still receive the collateral, videos and attendee list from the conference -- which is what they really wanted anyway.
Whose budget is this coming from?
If your conference budget comes from the marketing department and your new business development tools budget comes from the sales department – then it is crucial to get both departments on the same page. Anticipate that after each conference there will potentially be up to $10k needed to implement new tools and strategy. The heads of each department need to map out a game plan. It can’t just be – we pay for the conference – you guys figure out how to purchase the tools you need. Some of the marketing budget may need to be allocated to the sales budget to make this whole thing work. Taking a deeper look at why you are attending the conferences you are - and what results are you trying to accomplish after the conferences – will allow you to start seeing stronger results.
Can we be smarter next year?
Prior planning prevents poor performance (The 5 Ps). Whether you want to attend more conferences, fewer conferences or the same amount – you need to learn from each conference and start thinking of how you can do things better the following year. What is the ROI you're trying to get from attending? Maybe you anticipated the conference itself would be enough for your rep and did not budget for additional tools this year. That’s fine – but the biggest mistake you can make is not take your reps' feedback seriously. If you have to say, “Oh, that’s a great tool – we’ll try to get that approved for next year’s budget,” make sure it's on your radar when you go into budget planning. Take notes, research the tool and have your rep create a proposal that highlights the ROI. Be smarter when planning budgets for next year. Take every recommendation seriously and strategize with all departments on what the end goal is. If you can generate more new revenue more efficiently – everyone wins.