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A Stellar Example of Inbound Marketing Practices at an Offline Event [Interview]

As you can imagine, my excitement and passion for effective marketing does not stop at the door or at the end of the work day. As my family can attest, I am always looking at creative and efficient marketing tactics. I love understanding what works and what doesn’t.

The other day, I was speaking to a very good friend (and loan officer whom I highly recommend, by the way), Mandi Atkins, about an event that she participated in. The event was a Veteran’s Resource fair specifically designed to provide area veterans resources available to them.

Mandi was asked to participate because of her knowledge and experience helping veterans qualify for home mortgage loans. After the event, her excitement was tangible! She talked for nearly 40 minutes about how “all of the stuff” we have discussed about throughout our friendship applied at this offline event and how she ended “with more leads than I know what to do with!”

Inbound marketing is really about a mindset and a process!

Here is an overview of our conversation:

**Shaun:** What did you know about your audience going into the event?

**Mandi:** This event was specifically designed for local veterans in Pierce, Thurston, King and Kitsap counties. The organizers were two veterans who wanted to help people just like them, because they were tired of hearing other veterans complaining that there weren’t resources for them. They also heard it said the other way, where many businesses and services didn’t feel like they were actually serving veterans in their communities.

**Shaun:** Knowing your audience, or ideal customer personas, is important before any event or campaign. Having this information in mind, what were you thinking about before arriving?

**Mandi:** I produced VA Home Loan Workshop invitations [with] a call to action, opposed to just handing out random flyers and business cards hoping to get their business.

There were about 8 other booths offering the exact same home ownership resource as I was, so I needed something that would not be a total commitment, but something that would educate my future borrowers and empower them.

**Shaun:** So, even before the event, you were thinking about the customer and how you can educate them? This really positions you in a place of authority!

**Mandi:** The end game on this is no matter what, even if they don’t end up with me, they gain positive and accurate information regarding their benefits, and will be a more educated and happier buyer.

Educating them is also key to long term business planning for me, as VA benefits can be used over and over again. Education up front will provide me with a repeat customer whom is already educated and well prepared for the process.

**Shaun:** That’s smart. I love how you are thinking about a long term relationship with these folks. What do you feel set you apart from the competition at the actual event?

**Mandi:** [By] providing these no obligation classes. It gives them a chance to further their understanding of what is available to them.

I also was the only one dressed in my logo’d polo shirt and jeans. Everyone around me wore suits, fancy button ups, and ties. They didn’t look approachable. Even to me.

I also have a large half sleeve tattoo that was visible, and in this case, did not cover it up. I was more relaxed, and was better accepted.

I also had items designed to attract kids to my booth. I bought flags and punched holes in my card to slide over the handles of the flags. A few hours in, every kid had one of my flags with my face all over them. I gave away fun little prizes, gave them an activity to do while mom and dad chatted with me.

**Shaun:** This gets back to understanding your audience and speaking their language. It sounds like a lot of other representatives unintentionally distanced themselves because they are speaking the equivalent of “industry jargon”. It is important to always be on your customer’s level when speaking to them — even in how you dress or understanding that the attendees were likely to bring their children rather than pay for a baby-sitter.

How do you feel you presented yourself? Aside from how you dressed, do you think your potential customers felt that you were approachable?

**Mandi:** Although chairs were provided, I never once sat down. Sitting down looks like you don’t care, or that you don’t want to be there.

Sure, it was exhausting to stand on concrete for hours on end, but I looked every single person in the eye at eye level, and made sure to show that I was there for them. It looks lazy and downright rude for vendors to be sitting in chairs, looking at their phones, not engaging in conversation.

I cant begin to tell you how many people ended up coming over to talk to me, simply because of the eye contact I made with them as they were walking by.

**Shaun:** That’s an excellent observation! I cannot tolerate trade show vendors who willingly let opportunities walk by because of this. It only takes a [few simple changes] to make a connection with attendees.

What were some barriers that you identified with your audience?

**Mandi:** Once they came over to me, I heard so many times ‘ I wish I could buy’, and immediately I asked them ‘who told you you couldn’t?” Many cases an actual lender told them this after pulling their credit and getting that small tiny snapshot in time.

A credit report is just that: a snapshot. It is never permanent, so why would a lender say no? Sure [the customer] may be 6 months out, but that is still a lead, that will be better qualified and educated on the process, and help with your future pipeline. Yes, these types of leads take work, but that’s what these workshops are for!

**Shaun:** Its great that you are still thinking of everyone as a prospective customer – and even qualifying them for future marketing! Again, this allows you to put them into a lead nurturing campaign and share educational material with them. Anyone who thinks of these as lost prospects, or a waste of time, is leaving huge dollars on the table.

I recommend you create a specific automated lead nurturing campaign to give these prospects information on how to better their credit and become exceptionally qualified leads for you, in the future.

Is there anything you would like to add?

**Mandi:** I gained quite a few qualified, ready-to-go leads; several individuals that need a little guidance and fine tuning; and some of them just need to wait a little bit.

Every single veteran has a plan now, they have marching orders on what it’s going to take to make them homeowners.


I absolutely thrilled at the many facets of effective, inbound marketing that Mandi employed during this event. She identified her ideal customer persona prior to arriving, she created materials and positioned herself on the same level by speaking the customer’s language, she had a clear call to action by inviting attendees to her free upcoming seminar, and has a lead nurturing plan that can be fully automated to guide the various segments of her audience through the sales funnel.

I have no doubt that she will be reaping the benefits of this event for the next 12 months!

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