How To Make Field Marketing Work for Your Startup

What is field marketing?

One of the first tasks that was put on my plate when I got into growth marketing, was taking over the responsibility of organizing field marketing.

Field marketing is defined by any marketing that involves face-to-face interactions. For most tech startups, this means attending “in person” events like conferences, happy hours with clients and other face-to-face interactions.

For many industries that have been around for a long time, meeting face-to-face may be a long-standing tradition and for companies within those industries it is important to have presence at industry conferences and other events.

These events are fun, brand-building and are opportunities to acquire new customers and form new partnerships.

“You really can’t beat the value of face-to-face interactions with people. If you have the opportunity to speak to your product and its advantages in person while you have a captured audience, it goes a lot farther than a cold call or a cold email.”

– Kelsey Brazill, Head of Events & Partnerships at AlwaysHired

Being new to the fintech industry, I didn’t feel knowledgeable enough to understand exactly which conferences were important to attend. I had to decide whether we should just buy a ticket for someone on the team to attend the event or whether we should spend tens of thousands of dollars sponsoring the event.

Even after I made those decisions, I found it difficult to measure the value in terms of ROI (returns on investment) after the event was over.

Now, a few years later, I’ve gotten a much better grasp on how to prepare for these field marketing events in a way that will be productive for everyone involved.

I have sent members of our team to conferences small and large. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on conferences alone- and that doesn’t even include flights, hotels, meals and promotional materials. Holy mackerel!

As such, it’s important to vet conference opportunities and make the most of them. I’m going to share with you exactly what you need to do to make field marketing events work for your company.


Why field marketing?

Conferences and live events, known as”field marketing” are a great place to increase “brand” awareness, acquire customers and build strategic partnerships. Just as Uber can’t snap its fingers and procure riders and drivers, every company must work very hard to acquire platform users. Conferences are one place we do this.

  1. It gets more eyes on your brand within your specific and targeted niche.
  2. It’s a way to network and build relationships within your specific and targeted niche.


Should I attend or sponsor this conference?

As a company, you’ll always have the option to just attend an event or sponsor an event. 

Attending live events can be expensive. Tickets to most industry events can range from $300-$3,000, so if you decide to just attend, you’ll want to make sure that you or your team is maximizing their time there.

When thinking about whether it makes sense to sponsor or attend an event, these are the factors I think about:

  • How many people will be at this event?
  • Are the attendees within my targeted audience?
  • What do I get for the sponsorship?
  • How expensive is the sponsorship?
  • How many people from my company do I plan on sending?
  • Can I achieve the same results by just registering as an attendee?

What does it mean to sponsor an event?

Sponsoring an event means you pay a premium price to have higher exposure to your brand at the event.

Here are some examples of what a sponsorship could include:

  • Having your logo displayed on the event website.
  • Having your logo displayed on printed conference materials like pamphlets, flyers, banners and signs.
  • Getting an exhibit booth or table at the event
  • Being the keynote speaker
  • Getting the opportunity to speak on a panel or moderate a panel
  • Getting the opportunity to distribute your branded swag
  • Getting access to early access to an attendee list
  • Getting mentioned in press releases around the event
  • Getting mentioned in email blasts around the event

For me, as a marketer for a startup looking to get the most bang for my buck, the most valuable things I look for within a sponsorship package are live speaking opportunities and access to an attendee list. Getting mentioned in a press release is always valuable as well, since PR is one of the strongest marketing channels for a startup.

Live speaking opportunities are important because they allow you to tell the story of your company directly to every person in the room. All the attendees get to know a face behind your brand and build a personal connection and familiarity with your product.

Access to an attendee list is important because it allows you to communicate with attendees in advance of the event, set up face-to-face meetings during the event, and follow up with attendees again afterwards.

How to prepare for a live event or conference

When it comes to field marketing, there are a lot of moving pieces and a lot of prep work that goes into making sure the event goes smoothly and your team gets the most out of it.

Follow the steps below to prepare for your field marketing event:

  1. Register the attendees or lock down the sponsorship
  2. Send over a company bio, logo and speaker bios if applicable
  3. Prepare exhibit booth materials to be shipped to the conference location.
    1. Table cloth
    2. Banners
    3. Branded swag giveaways
    4. Pamphlets or Fliers
    5. Business cards
    6. Business card holders
    7. An iPad or computer monitor where you can demo your product live for attendees
  4. Review the attendee list and identify people you want to meet at the event. These will be your “top targets”
  5. Connect with your top targets on Linkedin
  6. Send an email to your top targets, letting them know you’ll be at the event and set up a time to meet them while you’re there
  7. Book your flight and hotel at least 6 weeks in advance for the best pricing

What to do at the live event or conference

Once you’re at the event, you’ll want to make sure you have an opportunity to mingle with other attendees.

Stay organized and collect business cards from the people you meet. When the event is over, you’ll want to follow up by connecting on Linkedin and sending them a follow up email.

If you’re sponsoring the event and have an exhibit booth, make sure there is always at least one person from your company manning the booth so that they are there to answer questions from attendees who may stop by to learn more.

Naturally, you may want to attend educational sessions throughout the conference, but if you’re sponsoring you’ll want to attend with more than one person so that you can always have someone present at the booth.

Pro tip: Schedule specific times throughout the event to give live demonstrations of your product to a group of people at a time. For example, you might ask the conference host to include your demo times in the schedule that gets passed out to attendees.

How do I measure conference ROI?

To determine the best use of every dollar, we look at the return on investment (ROI) of money spent.

If $100 worth of Facebook ads allow us to acquire 20 customers and a $100 conference only acquires 5 customers, we will funnel the marketing budget to Facebook ads over conferences.

It’s important to look at conferences more mathematically. Each dollar needs to be wisely appropriated and every conference needs to be executed well to make the most of the investment in the conference.

Pro tip: Create a special offer code for the event itself so that you can attribute any new customers you acquire from the event. For example, create a promo code specifically for the event, like CONFERENCE2017 so that when you get a new customer who uses this promo code, you will be able to identify that they came from that specific conference. This will help to measure the ROI of the event.

You can let people know about the special offer by including it on your business card, a sign or a flier that you hand out at the event.


The conference is over, now what?

It is your responsibility to find out from the attendees exactly how the conference went.

Make it required for your teammates to write you an email with information about how the conference went, the quality of the attendees and the relative return on investment of the conference (ROI).

This is extremely important so that you know how to allocate funds appropriately and whether or not the company should attend the same conference next year.

Have a conference coming up?

Share these best practices with your team

  1. Attend the conference! Unfortunately, we have had conferences that employees have skipped. I don’t need to say twice what an epic waste of money that is.
  2. Before the conference, ask the marketing team for an attendee list. If you ask, we will contact the organizer to get an attendee list. This allows you to set up meetings with highest ROI targets before attending. I can’t stress doing this enough.
  3. Engage: target your customer. Don’t waste your time on people outside your wheelhouse. Politely decline meetings and conversations with parties who will not produce value for the company.
  4. Record: collect business cards or have new clients sign up on an iPad (remember to record the “source” as “conference” in the signup flow if that’s an option).
  5. Follow up with your contacts. Immediately follow up with connections you have made. Keeping potential customers “warm” is supremely important.
  6. Give emails to the marketing team. You will hopefully collect contacts at the conferences. The marketing team has many different email lists that we can upload your contacts to so that they begin receiving content and promotional emails. This means we have a much greater chance of converting them into customers. Bad news: people won’t remember you! We have to reengage potential clients to make the most of conferences.
  7. Host additional events at the conference: smaller, more intimate events are sometimes best for making lasting business connections that have the highest probability of turning into customers. Speak to us if you would like to host a dinner or happy hour at the conference.
  8. Follow up with me after the conference. Tell me how it went, how it can be improved and whether we should attend next year. This MUST happen.

Do you have any tips for how to make the most of field marketing for your company?

Please share them in the comments below!

Leave a Reply