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NPA Expo 2022: Our Experience As First-Time Exhibitors

In September, the Ocra team attended the National Parking Association’s Conference & Expo, AKA NPA 2022, in Austin.

In many ways, NPA 2022 was an inflection point for us, one of which is that it was our first time ever exhibiting at a parking conference. We’re proud to report that due to NPA’s true partnership and our team’s planning, it was a smashing success!

In fact, we’ve seen *significant ROI* within just 3 weeks post-show!

Scroll on to learn more about our methodology for deciding to exhibit, the tactics that we employed to maximize our investment, and the concrete outcomes we’ve seen from NPA 2022.

There are specific questions that growth-stage companies ask when deciding whether to exhibit.

For companies of all sizes, but especially those in the start-up and growth stages, making the investment in exhibiting at an event involves many considerations – such as:

  • Who is attending, and how can I secure time with them?
  • Can I confidently forecast how much new business I will open?
  • How will I attribute deal momentum to this event and prove pipeline impact?
  • How are we prioritizing events in our marketing programming?
  • What’s my total travel and expenses (T&E) budget?
  • Considering how fast and hard we’re working with a lean team, does it make sense to take people away from their day-to-day to attend a conference?

For NPA 2022, we based our decision very methodically on all of these factors.

After several weeks of consideration and planning, we elected to send our Ethan, our CEO & co-founder; Nate, our COO & co-founder; Sarah, our Vice President of Growth; and Chris, our Vice President of Product & Partnerships to represent the business unit.

Also in attendance from the engineering side were Garth, our CTO, and Leo, our Technical Program Manager & founding member, both of whom could speak to the complexities of our platform and integrations.

Here’s how we went about making our decision.

Step #1: Check out the attendee registration

  • Before the NPA 2022 registration list was publicly available, we looked at attendees list from previous years and used our historical knowledge and experiences to gauge audience makeup.
  • We also asked around our networks to see if our partners planned to attend.
  • Once the list became available, we started proactive one-on-one reach-out and try to set up time to grab a coffee with the people we wanted face-time with.

Step #2: Consider the location & the duration of the event

  • NPA was transparent around when events and activities were occurring, so we could make smart decisions about which team member(s) should be where when.
  • Women in Parking was scheduled along with NPA, so Sarah was able to add WIP to her trip and get a lot of value out of spending time with that community.
  • Austin was a convenient location for our team because we’re split between the East and West Coasts (plus, Nate, had moved there right before the show!).

Step #3: Evaluate the expo hall map & exhibitors list

  • On the conference website, the expo hall map was always up to date, so it was a breeze to check in regularly and see which other companies were exhibiting.
  • This allowed us to make a plan to divide and conquer and connect with as many people as possible.

Step #4: Inspect team bandwidth

  • At Ocra, we’re very nimble and work quickly; as a result, there are major initiatives teed up for this year that need to be continually in motion.
  • We configured a schedule that allowed members of our team to be hands-on with projects, present in meetings, &/or do deep work while still maximizing their time at the conference.

Step #5: Dig into pipeline and set up an attribution model

  • The most important piece of making an investment is understanding returns. In our CRM and other business management tools, we set up a clear attribution model to track impact.
  • Assessing revenue outcomes in the context of total investment (booth, marketing, client meals/gifts, T&E, etc.) is how we calculate ROI.
  • Keeping our notes and pipeline pristine is a critical practice that helps us do our best work and support our partners in a hands-on, timely, and proactive manner.

Step #6: Create a schedule

  • We looked at the educational programming and saw that it was packed with valuable sessions featuring speakers who we didn’t want to miss!
  • Knowing that there would be parties and dinners hosted in the evenings, we kept our eyes peeled for invites and announcements on LinkedIn and RSVP’d promptly.
  • We ensured the booth was staffed at all times and used Slack for communication where each team member was at any given time.
  • We built in times to meet up for meals, sync on each day’s events, and take necessary breathers.

Step #7: Align on messaging and perfect the pitch

  • At Ocra, transparency and knowledge-sharing is paramount.
  • The team met several times ahead of the show to ensure that everyone, regardless of their role, felt equipped to speak to our vision and business activities.
  • One thing we pride ourselves on is that everyone in the company knows what we’re focusing on and why, and that different people specialize in different areas of the business. We took the time to create a plan for when to bring each specialist into conversations so we could provide the most value for whoever we were speaking with at the moment.

We’re happy to report that the ROI for NPA exceeded our expectations!

Here are three things that we found incredibly valuable about exhibiting at NPA 2022:

1) Having a home base in the expo hall.

Being able to be found proved invaluable. Anyone who wanted to chat with us could simply glance at the expo hall map and know that somebody from Ocra was at the booth at any given time.

Because we had the awesome opportunity to participate in three panels at NPA, folks who attended our sessions approached us at the booth afterwards for some excellent conversations.

2) Increasing our brand footprint.

We were proud to see our booth in action and staff it with team members in electric purple t-shirts, each who represented a different business function. Being visible and present was a game-changer for us (next up: cool booth swag). NPA’s partner did a terrific job printing the booth; it looked slick!

3) Seeing proof of our investment paying off.

At NPA, we scored 3 new enterprise contracts, 4 new operators with contracts in hand, and 3 new operators currently seeing demos of our platform.

Today, we have 13 pilots officially running with operators and 21 unique parking operators live!

Thank you, NPA, for a terrific event.

The NPA team was an incredible partner who afforded us many opportunities to participate and support. From the educational sessions to volunteering to rockin’ our Startup Pavilion booth, we saw tremendous payoff in every aspect, and the connections we made were invaluable.

Three cheers to the NPA team – and see you all at next year’s show!

If we didn’t have a chance to touch base at NPA, or if you want to continue a conversation with our team, send us an email at info@getocra.com!

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