Turning Lattes Into Leads

How do you get leads at a conference? We like to bring a coffee bar along whenever we visit conferences. Success guaranteed!

A few years back, I started my new internal BD Barista career as our company’s BD Barista. That might not seem like a lot, but it was actually one of my better moves, if I may say so myself.

Basically, the BD barista is the guy who makes the coffee and does BD simultaneously. You can easily explain the success of this conference act if you think about the following:

  1. People love coffee
  2. Conference coffee is usually shit
  3. People will come to you for your excellent coffee
  4. People will talk to you to get your good coffee
  5. Quod erat demonstrandum!

So yeah, that’s it!

Doubting if it really works?  Check it out for yourself here!

The primary benefit of being the barista instead of a hired hand is that you get to talk to everyone coming by for coffee. You often see BD folk giving out goodies like that without any conversation whatsoever; that’s wasting money.

For some reason, people don’t expect the barista to understand their business which puts you at an advantage because they tend to be less concerned about sharing their problems.

Making someone a latte should take anywhere between 60 and 90 seconds, so make the best of this time. I use it to:

  1. introduce our company and myself
  2. ask about their challenges
  3. convince them to participate in a raffle
  4. exchange business cards and create commitment for follow-up

When was the last time you shared one or multiple of these with 400 prospects in one day?

There’s more to it than simply renting a coffee machine and waiting for the magic to happen. Here are the things you want to consider:

Organization and costs of a coffee bar

You will want to plan well ahead because you have to find a suitable local vendor willing to rent it, convince the conference organization to let you do it, and get permission from the conference centre (sometimes they charge fees).

Try to determine where you’d like to do this because you can’t be everywhere. I feel larger conferences are best for this because people often walk around. If there’s a limited amount of professionals, you won’t be able to maximize the potential. So try to aim for 2000+ conferences.

Altogether, this little strategy will cost you somewhere between 1000 and 1500 euros, which is worth every cent. This usually includes the beans, milk, standard cups, milk/sugar, and rent.

The coffee, cup, and sweets all need to be good.

The coffee

This means good beans, and it also means that you need to have someone on board who knows their way around a professional coffee machine. Your menu should include at least (double) espresso, latte macchiato, cappuccino, cortado, and that hip new flat white.

The cup

Coffee goes into a cup, and this cup is your means of spreading free advertising throughout the exhibit floor. Imagine you give away 400 coffees (which is very realistic at larger conferences), and all these people walk around with your cups as little billboards. They’ll put the cups on tables everywhere because no one actually uses bins at conferences.

Subsequently leaving all surrounding the cup wondering where they might find this wonderful black brew. And they will find you, don’t worry about that.

The sweet

Consider this your finishing touch because you’ll hit the sweet spot (pun intended) with some visitors. They’ll be all like: What? A flat white and a stroopwafel? You guys are fantastic.

What to take? Anything valued above the standard issue mint. Just take some chocolaty stuff along, or cookies or you can make some customized M&Ms. Something original from your country is also fun, whatever you feel comfortable with.

How do you create a good experience at your booth?

If you’re going to try this, please don’t take along just any regular coffee machine, put it on a table, and think everything will be ok. So far, I’ve received very positive reactions on rented piaggios that have a rustic Italian-like look and feel that make people want to talk about it or ask questions.

I’ve literally stood next to another exhibitor with fancy automated machinery that can generate much more coffee than I do. But guess where the line was.

Remember that these little piaggios are not so little when cramming them into a 3×2 m spot. So, try to get a slightly larger booth if that’s possible or talk to the organization about being on a corner spot or something.

How to make a make a playboo for conferences?

If you’re playing your cards right, there should be a line occurring some of the time. But, don’t worry about it because people are well aware that they have to wait a bit and chat with you in exchange for their drink. Sometimes, it’s good to slow down and generate a line for a bit to create a sense of value for passers. Think about it. People are waiting for something, so there must be something good.

In any case, instructions for your colleagues should be clear:

  1. Chat up people in the line
  2. Be available when you want to introduce someone

These instructions are pivotal to the success of the barista act because of the simple fact that you can’t walk away from the coffee machine all the time. This will annoy people. If there was ever a time for teamwork, flexibility, and quick thinking, this is it. So make sure to have a team that can process prospects, leads or whatever at the speed of light.

Finally, a charming, yet skilful barista

Re-reading my own story above, I feel it comes across as easy but be assured that it’s not for everyone. Besides being ok with actually burning your hands every now and then and getting a bit dirty, whoever you pick as the barista should be able to:

  1. talk convincingly and knowledgeable about your company
  2. socialize with a diverse crowd
  3. identify their customers quickly
  4. ask the right questions to determine their challenges
  5. make a hell of a latte

Or leave us me a message, and we will do it for you!

Success is guaranteed because we love doing it.

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