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Sheena Schleicher

Winning Growth Strategy: Invite Prospects, Clients to Conferences

Sheena Schleicher
Winning Growth Strategy: Invite Prospects, Clients to Conferences

After years of attending various marketing conferences, I decided to invite one of my long-time clients along with me. It ended up being so incredibly valuable to our work relationship that when the next conference came along, I invited another client. And then one I was still in conversations with. Each facilitated such pivotal moments with partners that now I can’t really see myself attending a conference without a client – and I’d like to share why these invitations were so well-received and so powerful to client/consultant relationships.

To back up a bit, I certainly received a handful of weird ‘are you crazy?’ looks when I first told people about inviting clients to SEO conferences. I get it. Why in the world would you do such a thing? Aren’t you teaching (or in this case sharing) yourself out of a job? I don’t think so. And here’s why:

Clients Appreciate Transparency

Brands are used to agencies and even consultants being ultra cautious about how much, when, and what they share that an invitation to join you at an SEO / digital marketing conference (that they otherwise would never have known about) is a nice surprise that fosters a trusting relationship. I trust my clients to stick with me for the long haul, even if they learn about various SEO tactics themselves; and my clients trust me to always do what’s right for their brand even if that means giving away some of the “know how.”

Value of Face-to-Face Meeting

Inviting clients to industry conferences is a great opportunity to show the person on the other side of all those calls/texts/emails/etc. that you are, in fact, human! A little dramatic, I know, but in a digital age where we’re all glued to a device and telecommuting or ‘long-distance’ client relationships are the norm, it’s hard to come by real-life interactions. And you really can’t put a price on the opportunity to meet up, hang out, and grab coffee or a meal with your client in-person. A definite win-win and possibly one of the best reasons to invite your client to an industry conference.

Conference Speakers Explain Things Differently (and Sometimes Better)

I can’t even count the numbers of times I’ve sat in a session at an SEO conference and thought “how did I not think of explaining or presenting XYZ like that?!” Now I’m pretty darn good at explaining complicated SEO concepts in simple, understandable language – it’s one of the top things my clients say they appreciate about working with me. But every once in a while I miss the mark on conveying the why, the how or the urgency – and sometimes the conference speaker can convey those things in a way that spurs my client into action. And because I already have a strong, trusting relationship with the client, there’s no weirdness about who’s idea it was. On a few occasions I’ve even heard, “Ahh, that’s why you’ve been pushing XYZ so much!” My client learned something AND we made progress.

Client Education is a Good Thing!

Even before inviting clients to industry conferences, my approach has always been to teach and empower client-side teams with SEO understanding – beyond just the basics. I’ve just found this approach to be the most effective and efficient means for getting things implemented, boosting creativity and reaching performance goals.

I’ve noticed a few common things happen when clients sit alongside me during various digital marketing and SEO conference sessions:

  1. They pick up on things I missed (and vice versa)
  2. They take note of things they don’t understand
  3. They get excited about what we’re working towards

All of these trigger invaluable discussions about how we can incorporate the various new tactics into our digital strategy. My client is more supportive of my contributions than ever AND we make progress.

Clients Better Understand Your Value

While at the conference, clients see you interact with other industry experts and are given a boost of confidence that they’re in good hands. They’re working with an SEO and digital marketing strategist who’s not only keeping them on the leading edge of digital innovations (by attending conferences regularly), but who knows the right people and resources for whatever challenges may come their way.

It’s also pretty great when a session’s topic is all about why you should be doing XYZ and it’s something you’ve already implemented! Cue the client elbow-nudging you and saying, “Hey, we did that!” Even better is when the questions that pop up post-conference turn into valuable Q&A sessions – the client gains a better understanding of what we’re working towards, new ideas pop up, and you become valuable to the organization.

I’ll admit there have been a few instances where a session speaker mentioned a tactic and I immediately thought to myself “Ahh, I need to get on that…I hope [client] doesn't ask me why we haven’t done that yet.” But that’s all on me. And trust me, I took note and made sure to vet the tactic post-conference.

The Upshot

I have attended three SEO / digital marketing conferences (SMX West, SMX Advanced, and MozCon) with brands I now lead digital strategy for – twice with existing clients and once with a brand still in the vetting process. The idea of inviting clients and prospective clients to industry conferences originated from my desire to teach and build relationships, but ended up as an extremely effective strategy for building my business – one I encourage you to try!

Sheena Schleicher is a strategic digital marketing consultant specializing in SEO, PPC, branding, eCommerce strategy, and analytics. With nearly a decade of driving the digital strategy for some of the world's most recognizable brands, Sheena credits the success of her campaigns, in part, to her diverse professional background in writing for print publications, retail merchandising, photography, design, PR, and teaching. After a number of years working within digital marketing and design agencies, Sheena launched her independent consultancy where she partners with select brands that not only offer quality goods and services, but contribute something positive to their communities. Learn more at sheenaschleicher.com.

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