As a marketer, re:Invent is one of the largest shows I’ve ever attended. With close to 400 individual sponsors (each with a booth) and over 50,000 attendees, AWS essentially has Vegas rented out.
For CloudZero, re:Invent is our Super Bowl! Getting registered ASAP when AWS opens the doors and getting prime hotel reservations is what we always tackle first, because no one wants to walking or Uber-ing (is that a word? Let’s make it one right now) from Mandalay Bay. Sorry MB, I don’t mean any offense, I just don’t have that kind of time.
Considering it’s November, I’m sure you’re already locked and loaded. You have your hotel rooms, flights, and sponsorships. You have or plan to ship all of your swag, booth materials, and T-shirts.
I can give you some tips on those things below, but I’m sure they’ll be more beneficial next year. So let’s start there.
Lessons I’ve learned from years past that have impacted my marketing decisions, and tips for when you’re actually in Sin City, the wonderful, dirty, loud, and unexpected city of Las Vegas.
Rethink Your Swag
Oh swag. This will be a long one. What can I say, I’m passionate about this topic.
It’s the one thing I get more Slacks about than probably anything else in my career. People say they love swag. Often at conferences you have a subset of people who are literally walking about with a bag, JUST for swag.
They want no part in having a conversation, learning anything about what you do, or becoming a buyer. If you’re experienced with conferences and trade shows you know these people. You can see them coming a mile away, literally. They have a free tote bag they have grabbed from a booth and have now filled it to the brim with the free swag given out at the show, and your booth is next.
So here is my tip for next year, when you’re evaluating your swag items and planning not only for re:Invent, but also ALL your shows. Please stop killing the environment. Swag items tend to be low-cost, and therefore produce an abundance of crap. These items often end up in landfills all over the world, and likely cannot be reused.
So what else can you do? Well, I’ve been blessed to work for a boss who shares my appreciation for the environment. We are delighting our booth visitors with something less wasteful.
We’ve teamed up with Alyce (no this isn’t sponsored, this isn’t Instagram). We are utilizing their redemption cards for both our booth visitors and our VIP meetings. Our booth visitors will receive a small, wallet/pocket-friendly card that contains a one-time use code to redeem for a $5 Starbucks gift card.
Okay Karen, we know you don’t like coffee, so exchange it for a $5 Amazon card, or literally any other gift card within the Alyce marketplace. We collect their business email, they can recycle the card, and everyone gets what they want. Including our planet.
There are no wasted XXS t-shirts or random stuffed animals made of materials that are highly flammable.
Choose Your Booth Staff Wisely
Nothing makes or breaks your soul quicker than having booth staff show up late, hungover, or disengaged. You’ve just invested $60k+ in this booth, and now part of your ROI is dependent on those who are working the booth.
They need to be friendly, knowledgeable, and outgoing. You are in a sea of booths, likely among your top competitors who may or may not have very similar messaging, so how can you stand out?
Those working the booth for CloudZero were picked for a reason, and I know if I walk away to take care of logistics elsewhere, or just to take a break, I can depend on them to represent CloudZero better than I could.
I encourage you to have a meeting before re:Invent where you review booth etiquette. How should they dress (what they wear is a branding opportunity, make sure they have your logo present), how should they take breaks and ensure the booth is covered, what time should they arrive, how should they handle technical handoffs, etc.
Enable them to be successful.
Ok, now let’s get into some quick tips YOU can implement for this year if the above are better for next year!
Wear Comfortable Shoes
It’s Vegas, expect everything to be farther away than you thought it would be. Without even trying hard I average about 20,000 steps per day, and that’s staying at the Mirage.
Even if you’re just stuck at the booth, the days of dressing up are history; you’re at a tech conference, make sure to prepare.
Sneakers are welcomed and encouraged.
ALWAYS Leave Early
Even if you’ve been to Vegas before, re:Invent is on a different level. You already know everything is farther away than expected (hence the comfortable shoes), but also, everyone is going to the same exact place you are.
Elevators take forever, restaurants take longer than you expect, badge lines are ridiculously long (get your badge at the airport!). It is imperative to your success to plan ahead and leave early when you need to be somewhere, especially when you’re opening your booth or meeting room up for the day.
Outside of your booth staff, there are several areas where you can benefit by having someone assigned to a job. Here are the jobs I assign before arriving at the show, to make sure we are truly getting everything we can out of re:Invent.
- Competitive intelligence: You are in a room (a very large room), full of your competitors. Aren’t you curious to know how they sell? Sure, you can check out their website and go up against them in deals, but this is an opportunity to see their entire package tied up with a bow. How are they talking to prospects, do they have any big announcements, how do they demo the things they say they do better than you, etc? Have that individual take notes, and report back.
- Session attendance: As an AWS partner, it’s important for us to understand all the new and exciting things AWS is coming out with, since it will not only impact our customers, it will directly impact our business. Sessions are a great way to gather information on-site. But don’t worry, you can also go back and watch sessions you missed, since everything will be recorded.
- Clone yourself: Kidding, kind of. You’re the marketer on-site who is in charge of essentially all the things, but what happens if you’re unable to be there? Having someone on-site to help make decisions or handle anything that might go wrong is important. You may get stuck somewhere, you may get sick, or you may have a fire to put out. Empower your team around you to make important decisions.
Don’t Be Generic
Remember when I said you are 1 of 400 or so vendors? Well, if you have your SDRs or AEs do a generic outreach that says, “Hey Tom, thanks for stopping by the booth,” you will ultimately fall flat on your face.
Those attending re:Invent are getting quite a bit of follow-up via email with the same generic message. Those emails are going to be deleted, or will just sit unread in a very FULL inbox.
Now is the time to put those marketing skills to work and differentiate yourself. How can you provide a memorable experience at the booth, so when you do follow-up after the show, they remember you? How can you create a unique follow-up, where even if they don’t remember stopping by the booth, they’ll reply?
I’m not going to give away all of our secrets here, but spend some time thinking about this. Take good notes at the booth during those conversations, utilize the lead scanner, and make sure their experience is memorable.
Be In As Many Places As Possible
Even if you have a small staff, be in as many places as you can be when the expo closes. Who is having a party, meet-up, or intimate dinner? How many of those events can you attend?
You’re bound to network with someone that will deliver value later. Identify those events and staff who attend ahead of time, and keep that information handy for your team to reference. There are a lot of moving pieces at re:Invent, so staying as organized as possible before the show starts is important!
It’s A Marathon, Not A Sprint
AWS re:Invent is a beast. Between the time it takes to plan it, work it, and follow-up with it, you’ll be TOAST! Make sure you’re eating when you can, resting when you can, and know it’s over by Thursday night!
I could go on and on about re:Invent. But I’m also happy to share in-person. If you’re going to re:Invent this year and want to understand what the CloudZero experience will be, stop by Booth #612, and let’s chat.