Ocra pivoted from event parking operations to building B2B SaaS solutions for parking operators in early 2020, with the onset of the pandemic. So, naturally, we didn’t start attending industry events ‘til they kicked back into gear post-lockdown.
We’ve been to multiple shows, both national and regional, every year since!
From the get-go, our team felt pretty comfortable at conferences.
Several Ocra folks worked in parking prior to Ocra – at companies like SpotHero, Towne Park, and Peak Parking – so we knew the ropes a bit and had warm, welcoming networks to tap into.
But each business needs to determine for itself how much to invest in sales and marketing at/for events based on attributable return.
According to recent B2B multi-industry statistics, after attending an event…
- 65% of consumers say they better understand a product/service
- 74% of attendees indicate a more positive opinion about a company
- Companies achieve an average gross revenue of 5:1 ($5 earned from $1 spent)
- Companies see an average financial ROI of 25-34%
Though this data is extremely helpful for setting baselines, determining your own benchmarks, criteria, and formulas for events is a highly personalized process, and one based on many factors.
So, that’s what we’ve set out to do for Ocra.
Check out the Ocra team in Schaumburg, Illinois, for Parking Industry Expo 2023 – a terrific show with tons of momentum and many friendly faces!
Our findings so far
Our preliminary observations over the past two years indicate that, for us, attending events makes a lot of sense and shows significant ROI within a short time period.
Using qualitative and quantitative data from the PIEs, IPMIs, NPAs, and regional shows that we have under our belts, we’ve begun to create a framework for how to set a ceiling on spend and measure success for events.
Starting with the general formula of (total revenue generated – total event cost) / total event cost, we’re progressively developing a methodology that accounts for the nuances of our business model, variety in our partnerships, and comprehensive array of event-related expenses.
Before we roll that out, we’d like to share a few outcomes that we’ve seen so far.
Outcome #1: Stronger relationships with key partners
Because we’re in the business of connecting systems through integrations, it tickles us to say that face-to-face conversations and bi-directional APIs have a great deal in common!
Through both, essential information is exchanged back and forth in real time, and all parties involved are speaking the same language. The feedback loop is established and information openly flows through it.
Parking is a community-oriented industry where every productive professional relationship is anchored in strong personal connection. Trust, truthfulness, and transparency (or the “3 T’s”) are paramount.
By spending time with our partners, current and future, at shows, we’re able to show our appreciation and get to know them better as people with goals they’re looking to achieve and problems they’re seeking to solve.
Our hope is they get to know us better, too, as taco-loving parking nerds who want to work hand-in-hand with them to usher in a new connected, defragmented era devoid of silos where everyone is more profitable and operationally efficient.
Outcome #2: Shorter/faster sales cycle
Our partners tell us over and over again that they appreciate our “no B.S.” approach to answering their questions.
(Chris Everton, our VP of Product, calls it our “plain bagel, plain cream cheese, untoasted approach – simple, straightforward language that gets the point across).
Conferences give us the opportunity to communicate essential information to the right people, right on the spot.
This ultimately results in a shorter sales cycle because we can accomplish in an hour what would take multiple Zoom meetings to hash out.
This also means we’re looking at fewer touch-points between key events (intro to demo, demo to contract, etc.), affording both us and our new partners the opportunity to dive in earlier and start seeing meaningful ROI.
Outcome #3: More efficient lead qualification
Events provide ample opportunity for our team and the new people we meet to ask qualifying questions.
What both parties are out to do is assess fit – for the problem, the product, and the partnership.
When we find that fit, scheduling a follow-up call is the natural next step.
There are a million and one ways that our team can work with parking operators, asset owners, tech companies, equipment vendors, demand channels, and more to create net-positive outcomes by syncing, standardizing, and surfacing real-time data.
For example, our partner API with Parker Technology lets Parker’s reps quickly access essential reservation-related data so they can quickly solve in-lane issues for customers using online parking reservations.
The process of asking qualifying questions ensures that every on-the-floor convo that converts to a follow-up call is a thoughtful, productive use of our partners’ time – and of our time, too!
Ethan Glass, our CEO; Josh Douglas, Strategy & Operations Lead @ Douglas Parking; Matt Fahlman, CEO & Co-Founder of Offstreet; and Chris Everton, our VP of Product & Partnerships after their young parking leadership panel at PIE 2023.
Outcome #4: Deeper, wider brand footprint
At conferences, our goal is to always be wherever our partners are.
It’s due to our hustle that we’re visible pretty much whenever you look… though wearing electric purple t-shirts probably doesn’t hurt!
It’s our priority to contribute to our community in meaningful ways – like providing insights on panels, participating in events like this year’s “Park Tank” at PIE 2023, and offering an extra set of hands as volunteers.
By being visible, involved, activated, and engaged, we’ve had the opportunity to connect with so many people who we wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Outcome #5: Better understanding of industry trends
Rather than focusing on dazzling with flashy new tech, what we prioritize at Ocra is building industry longevity and positive outcomes for our partners.
In order to be around for the long haul and deliver undeniable, measurable, ongoing value, we need to understand 1) the world as it’s changing today and 2) how the needs of our partners are changing as a result.
From formal educational sessions to casual convos on the tradeshow floor, knowledge can be found all around at conferences.
We take what we learn and use it to inform how we think about, talk about, and approach problem-solving in an always-shifting landscape.
Looking towards the future
Today, we’re prepping for a future in which we’re make more strategic, substantial investments in being exhibitors and sponsors at industry events.
Our approach to setting up the aforementioned framework for attributing event marketing spend to generated revenue will be predicated on what we’ve learned to be true for us, qualitatively and quantitatively, up until now.
We looking forward to sharing that framework with you in the near future.
We’d love to hear your pro tips for how to navigate parking industry events and get the most value out of them, both personally and professionally.
If you have any you’d like to share and have your insights be featured, or discuss your participation in an exclusive leadership webinar about sales tactics, email Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org!