Lessons In Startup Marketing

Close the Loop on Your SXSW Campaign & Leads in 5 Steps

This is a followup to my post last week How to Hustle SXSW for Fun & Profit, which is part of my sporadically ongoing Lessons in Startup Marketing blog post series and its focused on what to do post-SXSW to make the most of all the hustling you’ve been doing.

Please let me know what other followup tips you have for event marketing, and thank you for reading!


Hello 500!  I hope your hangovers aren’t too brutal.

I wanted to followup on my post about “How to Hustle SXSW for Fun & Profit” and make sure I also told you how I think about closing the loop on the leads and communicating internally about results, ROI, learnings, and expectations for next year. Just sat down in the airport (headed back to SF) and jotted this down, please let me know if I left out any important follow up steps that work well for you.

Who Needs to Do This

If you used more than $5,000 of your company’s money at SXSW you *need* to do this and be accountable for what went down.

Why This Process Matters

This is crucial for a bunch of reasons: it builds trust for the marketing function in your company, it recognizes the marketing team’s version of “shipping”, it increases the chances of opportunities resulting from the leads you worked so hard to collect, it sets you up to justify SXSW next year and understand the value you are getting from this event and events like it company-wide.

Day 0 – Sleep

After epic trips like this one, which involve getting up early, being “on” all day, and staying out late — you are going to be tired.  Rest.  Getting sick after this trip is likely, because if you hustled hard [link: ] you shook over 1,000 hands.

Day 1 – Schedule a Post-Mortem

This should only take 30 minutes, and should include the people who attended and those who were directly involved in planning/execution.  The post mortem with the events team can be a more private opportunity to talk through things that went wrong, and make sure to air any lingering frustrations so that you don’t bring them to the office permanently.  This isn’t a group therapy session though.  If individuals exhibited any inappropriate behavior, it is better to talk with them 1-on-1 about this.  Instead, focus on the goals of the event as a whole and the execution of each piece.

Walk through each piece of the plan, and ask different people on your team to describe how it went, what they liked and the value they feel your company got, as well as what could have gone better.  Make a list of learnings for next year and a list of achievements to include in your email blast to the company.

Day 2 – Distribute an Event Recap (Internally)

While its still fresh on your mind write a recap for yourself, and then send it to your team (or entire company).  Make sure to show through stories how high impact the event was and also how much work it was – for those who stayed home and might resent not getting to go.  Make sure to thank people by name individually and call them out for specific contributions.  Remember, they worked extremely hard for you 14-16 hours each day and you want them to feel valued.  They’re also likely to be the same people who will attend SXSW with you next year.

Its also helpful to be transparent and to share learnings company-wide, but don’t turn it into a laundry list of things that went wrong.  Inevitably things went wrong (I definitely have a list from our trip this year) but focus on just one or two keys things that had valuable lessons attached to them.

Make sure to call out conversations you had that have a lot of value, opportunities that arose spontaneously, unexpected wins, and how your brand was received.  Had people heard of you before?  Did they have a positive impression?  What were the most common questions?  What was the elevator pitch that worked best?  How did you change your interpersonal style to adapt throughout the event?  Who did you feel you connected best with?  Encourage your team to reflect on the same.

Day 3 – Send a Followup Marketing Email (Externally)

Take all the email addresses on every business card, all the emails from your party RSVP list, and any other contacts you made and send a big email blast thanking them for spending their time with you and giving your company some of their precious attention at SXSW.  If you are getting a high volume of leads I hope you are using a CRM like Saleforce, or even a marketing automation and lead scoring tool like Pardot (we use both at Twilio) to capture and organize leads and associate them with a source.  It will be amazing to see exactly the $ amount in opportunities and revenue these leads have accumulated 6 months from now, and this is ultimately the most objective way to justify the trip.

This email can be pretty HTML or just plain text – the most important thing is SEND IT WHILE SXSW IS STILL FRESH IN PEOPLE’S MINDS.  I know you are tired, but if you wait 2 or 3 weeks to send it then you are losing permission to contact these people.  Ideally, you should be ready to send this email by Thursday March 15th… and probably actually send it the following Monday morning at 8am PST.

What should be in this email? Keep it simple, include some pictures if you have anything extraordinary to share, and focus on the person you met and how they can continue to build a relationship with your brand.  Provide only ONE link / call to action for them to click on.  This could be something like claiming a promotional code, viewing a more in depth blog post, entering a contest, whatever.  The key is to have just one and keep it focused around that.

Day 4 – Finalize Your Accounting

Invariably you spent additional money on food and booze, and this year things like ponchos and umbrellas were definitely on our list.  Take an account of all costs and finalize your total into a single Keynote slide, breaking out the line items.

Day 5 – Be Accountable

Make a 4 slide deck which includes:

  • Overview of activities and their total reach (# leads collected)
  • Accomplishments & Learnings
  • Final Budget slide
  • Callouts for each person in the team and their contributions

This is how you will start the conversation next year about SXSW and whether you should go, what you should do, how much you should spend, etc.  You’ll be able to update these slides with ROI information as the leads you generated start converting into opportunities and revenue.  Send it to your senior management team (at least CEO & CTO if not more).

You’re done.  Next big event for me is Salesforce’s Cloudstock on March 15th in San Francisco – hope to see you there along with 3000 developers!

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