Federal contractors could attend events every day of the week, sometimes in both the mornings and evenings, if they wanted to. However, should they always attend such events? Table-top shows and expos require multiple day commitments and extra expenses. Companies frequently ask, “Are any of these events worth it?” The answer depends on what you’re looking for.
Breakfasts and after-hours events are usually terrific ways to network with your industry peers. Government speakers usually dispense good information. Your total time commitment to such events is not substantial, yet you can leave with a set of contacts that can help expand your network and develop new sources of business. If you’re comfortable with mainly “B-to-B” contacts and can only invest a little time and money, events like these, properly aligned to match your businesses interests, usually do make sense.
Do you, however, actually want to meet the speakers at such events? Be prepared to pay a higher sponsorship fee if you want to get close enough to actually talk with them before or after the event. Better still, take a leadership position in the organization hosting the event. The more time or money you invest, the more opportunities you’ll have for customer interactions.
Larger events, like trade shows, can be trickier. “Godfather of Government Marketing” Mark Amtower says that events of all types remain a key element of the federal market. Even though it is still difficult for some feds to attend, attendance is growing. Make sure that your expectations of meeting actual federal customers match the reality of federal travel restrictions and shy away from attending events that may seem like boondoggles.
Amtower continues saying, “One key is to select events focused on what you bring to the table, be it product or service. The more focused the event, the more likely it is that your audience will be there. The less focused the event, the harder it will be for you to find your audience and for them to find you.”
You, however, will have to do some digging to determine whether the event meets your own definition of focused alignment with what your company has to offer. Hosts of larger events often promise big to drive attendance and sponsorships. Before you invest your scarce marketing dollars, ask colleagues or even current federal clients, what their views or plans are regarding a specific event.
Sometimes the event could be a good one for your contracting people, but not your sales team – or vice versa. The host sponsor will usually tell you what segment of federal customers will attend. A show sponsored by ACT-IAC, for example, will usually turn out senior level federal thought leaders, meaning that your senior team should represent you. A National Contract Managers Association event can still be valuable to your business, but this time your contracting people – who speak the language – should attend.
Who goes is an important factor for you and for the federal attendees. More than one company has hurt its reputation, for example, by sending line-level people to an event targeted at senior leaders. Not only will you waste time and money with such a mismatch, you might have some image repair work to do afterwards.
The bottom line, though, is that successful government contractors must attend different types of events. You can develop critical relationships and trust with regular attendance. You can gain important business contacts to diversify your channels. You can even improve your own professional development.
If you haven’t attended a federal business event this year, get out and about now.
Stayed tuned for Comstor’s Federal Summit taking place April 12th. We’ll be posting regularly about the event and federal government trends on EDGE360.