This article was published on June 15, 2017

Why your startup should use conferences to get users

Why your startup should use conferences to get users
George Beall
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George Beall

With the rise of the Internet and all of the content that comes with that, it can be difficult to justify the time, effort, planning, and expense it takes to travel to a conference. If you can video chat with prospective clients, look up industry information online, and log into a webinar to learn the newest trends in your niche, why bother heading to SXSW to expand your user base?

It’s certainly true that there are some aspects of conferences that are growing obsolete. However, from providing unique learning experiences to facilitating your next connection, they can be helpful for many startup founders. Although it isn’t exactly likely that you will get some big break, you can be creative in how you use a conference to substantially increase the number of your users.

Sometimes, conferences aren’t a good fit.

It’s important to pay attention to the realities of attending a conference as a startup founder. It can be tempting to dream about running into a big investor or sparking some buzz that will gain you a huge following, but let’s be real; with so many startups competing for space, the chances of getting a big break are slim.

If you’re attending a conference in the hopes of gaining massive exposure among your potential user base in one swoop, you might be misguided; 60% of polled startup founders with similar goals didn’t reach them. Instead, there’s a lot to be said for keeping your expectations realistic and looking for more roundabout ways to gain a larger user base through conference attendance.

So what can you get out of them?

By paying attention to the “back of the house” issues that can help you gain a larger following more organically, you can use conferences to your advantage efficiently and effectively.

For instance, it’s rare to have access to so much industry knowledge in one, fun location. Experts and influencers are in huge supply, giving you access to the latest and the greatest in industry trends, strategies to improve your products or services, and ideas for new marketing pushes.

It’s likely you’ll retain more knowledge, too; learning absorption happens more easily in new places as the brain associates knowledge to the memory of the new place. This means better memory and understanding of the tidbits you pick up during the conference. And with the events and parties associated with any large conference, you’ll enjoy yourself doing it.

Obtaining this information is a great way to expand your user base in a more lasting fashion than just superficially gaining a large following that could fade over time. By having a meaningful understanding of what makes your industry tick, you’ll be able to tap into that knowledge, creating more effective marketing campaigns – and just better products. This will not only just get you more users, but help you keep them in the long term.

Of course, networking is another huge benefit to attending a conference. The trick is, though, to not focus on just expanding your user base; it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to chat up enough people to make a significant increase on this front. However, you can gain new users by networking with the right people and in the right way.

Social media and other Internet platforms just can’t quite replace the value of networking face to face. Your conversations will have a more personal sense of depth, making more meaningful connections that can translate into more users. By targeting specific people to network with – social media influencers, industry leaders, and the like – you can ignite an interest in your business that could ignite into a much larger following than if you spread yourself thin trying to talk to hundreds of people over just a couple of days. If you have someone who’s almost as excited about your startup as you are, they’ll spread the word and do some of the networking for you.

As the landscape of startup culture changes, questioning the value of conferences is definitely relevant. However, the Internet hasn’t been able to completely replace them yet. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort marketing your startup at the next conference, it can pay off in surprising ways.

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