- This year’s Inspire conference is fast approaching
- We share the best Microsoft Inspire 2019 preparation tips
The Fifty Five and Five team have seen first-hand how Microsoft Inspire (formerly known as the Worldwide Partner Conference) provides a massive amount of value for attendees and even those that join from afar. That value stems from the thousands of Microsoft partners large and small looking to grow their presence and make connections with like-minded people. From our trips to Toronto in 2016, Washington, D.C. in 2017 and Las Vegas in 2018, we’ve had an incredible experience every time.
9 Microsoft Inspire 2019 preparation tips
Those experiences have also taught us some valuable lessons on what to expect and how to prepare. We’re going to share some of our strategies and insights in the hope that other partners can benefit from them. So, here are our nine Microsoft Inspire 2019 preparation tips:
1. Know your demographic
Before deciding the logistics of your company’s presence at Inspire, it’s useful to take a good look at the attendee demographic of past shows. Microsoft provide detailed data on the subject, including:
- Attendee figures
- Sector and industry breakdown
- Job role breakdown
- Areas of interest breakdown
Be sure to look out for this information when Sponsor and Exhibition sales go live this year. As a digital marketing agency dedicated to Microsoft Partners, everyone at Inspire has the potential to be a customer, lead, or useful connection for us. But even so, it’s important for us to take time to study exactly who’ll be attending. Doing your research ahead of the event—and rather, any event in general—pays huge dividends.
2. Add value
While you’re probably looking to grow your client base (and, ultimately, your revenue) through attendance at Inspire, it’s important to think about the visitor perspective. Those on the stands are constantly fighting for visitors’ attention, bombarding them with leaflets, freebies, and prize draws. One of the most important tips for Inspire is learning how you’re going to stand out from the crowd.
To provide value to our customers, we produce an annual review celebrating the marketing efforts of Microsoft Partners: our Inbound Marketing Excellence report. It contains interesting features, guides and how-to pieces to help partners improve their own marketing. We’ve launched the past three editions from our stand at Inspire, giving away free copies to visitors to our stand. Our pitch is always simple: “Would you like a free guide to improve your online marketing efforts?” It’s that kind of value that helps arrest people’s attention while initiating further conversations for those who take a particular interest.
3. Get organised
If you’re considering attending Inspire 2019, first of all, great! We hope to see you there. Before you get overwhelmed with excitement, you need to get ready for this Microsoft Partner conference. It’s important not to underestimate the amount of work involved in preparing for the event itself.
- Set a budget. Include all your costs and, most importantly, stick to them. Resist the temptation to get another 10,000 leaflets or cards printed at extra expense unless you believe it’s absolutely necessary.
- Decide who is attending. Ideally, this needs to be done well ahead of time. Not only is this a cost and logistical issue (think travel, accommodation etc.) but keep in mind who will be tasked with getting the daily business done during the event.
- Pinpoint collateral and your USP. What are you taking to the show? How is it being produced, collated, and rehearsed? Do this planning now, so your experience at Inspire is more prepared.
4. Define roles and responsibilities
At Microsoft Inspire 2019, you need to be very clear about who is doing what, and when. Consider the following:
- How many people will be promoting your company and services at any given time, and where?
- Who will be networking at other stands, speaker events and social functions?
- How will people cover ongoing work or check in with the office while at the conference?
In our case, we usually have four people at our stand at any given time to promote Fifty Five and Five and our report. The rest of the team is split between networking on the floor and attending useful talks and presentations. Having a clear definition of roles and responsibilities helps keep us all on track so we get as much out of the event as possible.
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 recognise them.
- Named companies that you also want to connect with.
- Exhibiting companies you want to visit.
- Past or existing clients that are attending that you should say hello to.
- Relevant Microsoft employees that you want to meet at the show.
We always prepare a printed datasheet so everyone knows who’s important to talk to and why. It’s an extremely helpful tool during the conference and it makes making connections much easier.
6. Get the right data
While Microsoft Inspire employs the latest RFIP 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 also have the more ‘traditional’ 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 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. Just make sure you aren’t caught clipboard in hand because this can be off-putting to passers-by!
7. Follow up with leads
When following up with your leads and new contacts from the conference, be sure to keep track of the following:
- Who was contacted?
- When were they contacted?
- Who in your business should contact 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. We’ve learnt that actual work won’t come as an immediate result of your trip to the conference. But be patient and persistent and you can expect to see real results. It takes time but is well worth it in the end!
8. Maximise your investment
It’s important to showcase that you’re the kind of company deserving of a presence at a conference as big as Inspire! To make the most of the experience, we invest time writing blogs and sharing collateral from the show. We stay very active on LinkedIn and Twitter during and after Inspire and share videos and pictures during the week.
9. Calculate your ROI
Ultimately, any company attending Inspire is doing so to grow their business. That requires revisiting your experience of the event soon after its conclusion.
- Calculate every cost you incurred in attending Inspire. 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 billable work or sales.
- Remember to note a return for the connection you made with Microsoft. While harder to put a number to, often this is the most valuable reason to be at Inspire.
There are your nine Microsoft Inspire 2019 preparation tips. Make sure you pick up your copy of our 2019 Digital Marketing Excellence Report when Inspire kicks off in July!