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Conference Audience Marketing: How To Build A VIP Target Attendee List


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If you’re in the conference business, you know that your alumni list and other internal databases are going to be your number one source of potential attendees for your next event. But what if you’re launching a new event? Or would simply like to supplement your existing database with fresh names?

Across the board, we have found that a well-researched, freshly-developed, highly targeted list of new prospective attendees can become the most important source of attendee revenue for a new or  existing conference. Creating such a list is labor-intensive, but they work — especially when it comes to high-level executive business conferences.

Your goal is to find people who are real “players” in your target market. These are folks who (1) you would love to have in the audience and (2) are highly likely to want to be there. Starting with the region where the conference will take place also helps load the list with folks who (3) can get there, easily.

Here are some sources and strategies for building a VIP list for your next business conference:

  1. Start by identifying the largest corporations headquartered in the region, using lists such as the Forbes Global 2000, Forbes Largest Private Companies and FORTUNE 500. For each, pick up titles of interest. The C-Suite is covered on corporate websites; additional titles can be researched using LinkedIn, filtered by location and using keyword searches. The blogs of the largest companies can be good sources as well; a list of contributors often contains people of very high interest.
  2. Research the largest corporations/employers for a city or region, available for most cities on Wikipedia or on state and local government websites.
  3. Look at competitive conferences, picking up speakers as well as attendees, if attendee company lists are available.
  4. Look up associations in your target industry. Add association executives, board members, advisory boards and the leaders and members of Special Interest Groups (SIGs). Member companies often contain those not picked up elsewhere. You can find even more contacts through business schools, research centers and think tanks.
  5. Federal, state and local government leadership should not be overlooked: states and cities now have folks with sexy titles like CIO, CTO and Chief Innovation Officer.
  6. Google and LinkedIn searches using key words always result in individuals of interest.

How do you market to your VIP list?

Send an invitation. A letter, stripped of marketing hyperbole, signed by a real person, and giving a phone number to call with questions. Then, follow up with a phone call. This is a new list of fresh contacts—you need a personalized, professional approach to build a new relationship with them.

Make sure you keep your list clean. For contact information, you’ll have to quickly verify the individual’s location with a search (name + company + LinkedIn usually does it). Manage any returns you get, correct and re-send those invitations. And make sure any telemarketer you hire will diligently flag those who are no longer employed by the company or not at the number you picked up—as well as give you more general feedback on responses.

We’ve spent countless hours building and managing these lists—but it pays off every time. What sources do you use in researching new names for your conference marketing database?