Cocktails for breakfast: Client acquisition at an online marketing conference


Keynote speaker Patricia Bergler of Facebook on stage
Entrepreneurs are supposed to spend time and money on client acquisition when business is good so that they will be prepared for rainy days. This is why Dagy decided to try to expand her client base at a time when she was really busy, following a slow start into the new year. Still, spending 400 euro on a 1.5-day conference that wouldn’t be relevant for me as a linguist  (but all the more as a consumer) wasn’t an easy decision. Luckily, I ended up getting a coupon for 20% off and I was ready to attend the “Mobile Marketing Innovation Days” in Vienna.  I quickly learned that the buzzword “mobile marketing” simply refers to tools and strategies used to sell products (and sometimes services) online using apps. Also, I learned that these sales are mostly done on people’s phones. The speaker line-up at the conference was quite impressive, with some of them working for the big players in the industry, including Google, Facebook, and the likes. The speakers from Google stood out for their professionalism and they also came across as really likeable, also because they emphasized that privacy was holy to them. Which is something I truly wanted to believe, given the huge amounts of data I share with Google on a voluntary basis every day.

The linguist in me heroically ignored language-related hiccups in the conference program (German/English) and elsewhere and focused on my primary goal: networking.

With a total of roughly 400 participants (most of them considerably younger than me), the conference was a good choice in terms of size because it seemed manageable and not too overwhelming. A plus was that everybody was on a first-name basis, which seems to be common in this hip and young industry and which made starting a conversation much easier. As expected, the presentations per se were mostly irrelevant for my job, but interesting from a user’s perspective. Among others, I enjoyed learning about online crime from a representative of Europol, the EU law enforcement agency.
Branded chocolates for everyone (no calories!)

Ultimately, the reason I attended the conference in the first place was the networking during breaks and after or before presentations. Other than a trained translator who now works in online marketing, I was the only translator/interpreter in sight. This fact alone ensured people’s attention when I introduced myself and I soon took to referring to myself as an “exotic species” at the conference. I always used my “ice-breaker question” about the difference between translating and interpreting, which works every time to get a conversation started. Many of the people I spoke to showed interest in my services, from marketing agencies to a pharmaceuticals company, a government agency, a university department, etc. Each and every time, I conveniently ended up talking to the person most likely to need my services, which are people working in marketing and communication departments. Talking to the person sitting next to me before and after presentations also turned out to be a good networking approach.

Even though it was an easy-going crowd, networking can be an exhausting exercise. For those who needed a little pick-me-up, vodka-based cocktails were being served as early as in the morning, thanks to a sponsor, which is certainly unheard of in the US. Drinks in hand, participants avidly exchanged old-fashioned business cards. Needless to say that it is very important to follow up on these contacts shortly afterwards using LinkedIn and/or Xing.

Here are a few takeaways from my client acquisition project at a marketing conference:
  • Don’t expect it to be easy. Making conversation with people can be hard, especially outside the US. Make sure you are willing to approach people and start a conversation. Don’t expect others to do it. 
  •  If you don’t feel like you’re in a great networking mood on the day of the event, motivate yourself and set some realistic goals such as having a meaningful conversation with three or five people and getting their business cards. I also recommend having a few funny translating/interpreting anecdotes handy. Everybody loves a good story! Asking the other person questions about their job, etc. always works, too. Who doesn’t like talking about themselves?
  • Bring a little something. After introducing yourself, go ahead and use our favorite icebreaker mentioned above. Give a small “prize” to those rare people who get in right and to those who gave it the good old college try. Years ago, I had small chocolates with my logo and my contact information made for that purpose (see below, it’s for “Texterei,” the European side of our business). People loved it!
  • Cut yourself some slack. Even though you have paid to attend the entire conference, don’t feel bad if you skip a session or two or go home early. After all, networking is not so much about quantity than about quality, but be sure to talk to a fair amount of people.
Last but not least, here is the big question: Did this marketing effort pay off? The success of marketing efforts is generally hard to measure and if at all, time will tell. My presence at this conference might result in future translating/interpreting jobs or somebody might share my contact information – who knows. One thing is for certain: meeting new people is always an enriching experience, both from a professional and a personal perspective. Needless to say, the chances of getting new jobs will increase with a linguist’s visibility, both online and offline. My bottom line was this: I had fun, I got great insight into an industry previously unknown to me, it was sometimes exhausting (after all, it was work) and I am already planning on attending other small conferences in Vienna.




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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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