Nothing can replace the value of meeting potential clients face-to-face. Attending conferences, trade shows, and even local meet-ups can help you expand your network and land projects and referrals.
However, if you don’t live in a city known for hosting events, such as Las Vegas, Dallas, or Orlando, attending a trade show or conference is time-consuming and expensive.
A ticket for the event may cost you anywhere from $100-$3,000. When you add in a flight, hotel, and food, you may be looking at a significant expense.
Not only do you need to cover the costs, but you also lose that time to work on other projects.
If you’re an introvert, like me and many other copywriters, it’s also difficult to approach strangers in a crowded room to ask for business.
But there’s good news.
Conferences can still be powerful tools for you, even if you don’t step foot in the event room. Here are four ways you can make a conference work for you without attending.
1. A Curated List of Potential Clients
It can be difficult to know if a company understands the value a great B2B copywriter brings by looking at their website. A company may be large but still not have the budget to hire someone like you.
Calling a business and asking if they have a marketing budget can be awkward and cause issues in the future. So how do you know what companies are invested in using copywriters?
Your trade show exhibitor list holds the answer.
Each company that exhibits has to pay a fee for their booth space, usually based on the size and location. This can easily be 10 times the cost of the entry ticket.
One trade show I attend has a low-cost ticket for visitors, about $70. The starting price for the cheapest booth is $675. When you add the cost of all the marketing materials they hand out plus the man-hours required, these companies are investing a lot of money to exhibit.
These companies clearly have a marketing budget and understand the value of top-quality marketing.
Most trade shows and conferences have the exhibitor list available to download before the event. Some do not have the current list available publicly, but they do have past lists.
You don’t need to pay high fees or hire someone to find you a list of highly qualified companies. You have a curated list of companies, with a budget, that might want to work with you.
Use the exhibitor lists to create a personal list of prospects to contact.
2. Reason to Connect
The list of exhibitors can give you another tool — a reason to contact someone.
When a company attends a large event, it’s a special situation. The representatives of these companies are looking to connect with potential clients and give them value.
They want to make a strong and powerful first impression. This means they need strong brochures, case studies, a website to point people to, and a thought leadership piece of content like a white paper.
Creating all of this content, especially in a short amount of time, can be difficult for their existing team. That’s the ideal time for you to come in and offer to help.
Some trade shows post their exhibitors early. Many have a deadline to apply months in advance. Or there may be a list of sponsors you can use.
A few months before the show, connect with your ideal companies. A simple, relevant message will pique their interest. Use a subject line related to the event.
The body of the message doesn’t need to be long or complicated. This could be as simple as:
I noticed you’re attending XYZ trade show in a few months. I know the time leading up to these events can be very busy. Do you ever work with outside writers to create the materials you need for the show?
Then, close the message with a call-to-action to get in touch with you.
To save time, you can use the same message for every company you contact.
Each company is receiving a highly relevant message they’re likely to open.
3. Topics for Content
The material presented at a conference or trade show can also be useful to you. Look through the topics of the talks and roundtables. These are very relevant to your industry right now.
Combine your own research and opinion on a topic to create a highly valuable, relevant, and most importantly, actionable, piece of content to publish for your own marketing. This positions you as an authority in your industry.
Publish in trade publications or other news outlets within your niche. You can promote this content on social media. Point to this content when reaching out to new prospects or when people ask for samples.
4. “Attend” from Home
Some events offer live, free streaming. Attend three or four sessions that interest you from the comfort of your home.
Then, write up a listicle-style article to publish for your own marketing. You can cover top takeaways, what you learned, or a counter-opinion on a popular topic. You “attended” the talk even though you weren’t in the room.
Publish your content as close to the event dates as possible. More people are looking for these reviews immediately after the event.
Even if you can’t attend a conference, they are still powerful tools for your business. Use these events as a tool for creating your own content, adding to your knowledge of your industry, and finding a curated list of companies more likely to work with a freelance writer.