Before answering the question ‘is B2B event marketing worth it?’, we first need to define exactly what B2B event marketing actually is.
There are several forms it can take and it helps to be clear on the differences.
B2B events will usually be one of the following:
- Trade show – small, perhaps a stand
- Trade show – bigger, a stand plus sponsorship and taking part in extra events during the show
- Self-hosted events for invite-only guests
- Self-hosted events for public invitation
Each type of event will call for a different strategy, target group and budget. They will all cost money, how much will depend on a lot of things but generally the sky’s the limit! That means careful consideration is needed, to assess whether B2B event marketing will be a good choice for you.
The fact is, getting face to face with existing and potential customers remains a highly effective method for growing a business. And that never changes, despite advances in technology and the digitally-driven world we now live in. Making event marketing work is about figuring out the best strategy for your particular circumstances.
According to the CERTAIN 2016 State of B2B event marketing report, the biggest issues for marketers when it comes to event marketing are defining success, and being able to integrate data from an event into a marketing automation system.
There’s also a shocking statistic in the report that reveals 54% of marketers don’t engage in best practice when it comes to their event marketing follow-up.
But what you do before, during and after an event is critical and will directly impact on its success rate and your ROI.
What follows are some top tips on how to make sure your event will be worth it.
Type of event
Thinking long and hard about what type of event you want to spend money on is a good idea, especially if budgets are tight. When you ask yourself whether the event will be worthwhile, you must weigh up the pros and cons carefully.
Big exhibitions tend to be better in terms of branding and generating leads, whereas small in-person self-hosted events can work wonders at improving a sales pipeline and moving leads along.
Go back to your business goals and start there. What do you want to achieve in the short and medium term?
Do you want to aggressively grow? Then perhaps you need the numbers – more leads, perhaps generated at a niche trade show in your market segment.
Or do you want to shorten your sales cycles and tighten that pipeline? Then a smaller gathering bringing existing and potential customers together will be a much better bet.
You’ll find more thoughts on this here: Choosing the best event marketing strategy for your business and How to evaluate your event marketing strategy and define ROI
How is event success determined?
In most cases, you may assume that generating leads and having a strong lead pipeline are going to be the number one goal for any B2B event, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Simply having lots of people there (raising awareness) could be the most important thing, or improving customer satisfaction and loyalty, if it’s a customer event.
Be very clear upfront on what the main goal of your event will be and how you are going to measure it.
Having systems in place to register people for the event and then check them in is vital. Make sure these systems work and are capable of moving the data into other systems, like your CRM and/or marketing automation.
Knowing who wanted to come, who came and how they felt about it, are all going to be important success factors, no matter what the overall goal of the event is.
If you haven’t used in-person events for lead generation before, then check out: Tips for planning successful in-person marketing events for more expert advice.
How to best promote an event
Social media and email marketing are the two most effective tools for promoting an event. In both cases, make sure you continue to offer an interesting mix of content. Don’t just plug your event all the time.
Keep your social media stream filled with interesting information that your audience will enjoy. Creating a social media buzz around your B2B event isn’t that hard when you know how to do it.
As for email marketing, the most important thing is having an up-to-date database that you can accurately segment. The narrower and more targeted your lists are, the better they’ll work. Adjust the wording of your emails to match each grouping and watch as your open and click through rates go up.
There is also something very special about delivering a beautifully presented invitation by post, or even in person. Nowadays, when a handwritten envelop arrives in the mail you’re bound to open it. If something nice falls out, then there’s even more reason to look at what and who is behind it.
Don’t forget about internal promotion
Never just send the event details round to the rest of the company and assume everyone will be on board and support it. It’s just not going to happen. You’ll be much more effective if you spend some time promoting the event internally too. Particularly if the event is public and not just invitation only.
Make sure the information you supply is comprehensive. Include things like:
- Purpose/goal of the event
- Strategy in overview for the event
- Promotional activities planned
- How everyone can support the promotion
- If employees can take part what their role is and how to behave
- How they can help make it a success
Working the room
Don’t simply let everyone loose on the room and hope for the best. Have at least one session beforehand with all the employees who are going to be there and put a couple of basic rules in place. Things like being extra friendly should be standard, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate how important it is to make the guests feel welcome.
Remind people that success is about forming a connection and starting relationships, and their role is crucial for making that happen.
Usually customers and leads will have their own respective sales personnel attached to them. This could be detrimental at an event, if everyone sticks too closely to their clusters. At the event, it must be clear to everyone that each guest is everyone’s special guest.
Being pro-active also goes a long way. Many people are introverts and don’t like social gatherings, but they may make the effort to attend because of the content you are offering. Make sure they feel welcome aren’t left out just because they aren’t good at starting conversations.
Give some of your best people the specific task of working the room and looking out for those individuals, to connect with them and help get them involved in conversation.
Do not let anyone leave empty handed
No matter what type of event you’re planning, make sure you have some sort of handout prepared to give to people. It may well be worth having a special brochure made up.
You could also think about printing off one or more of your e-books and passing that out to interested people. Just make sure a designer has made sure it looks super professional.
Generally, it’s good to offer a gift, valuable information and sales material. What you provide will depend a lot on the nature of your business and your goals, but it doesn’t hurt to provide something from each of these categories.
Handing out a branded memory stick to every visitor who comes to your exhibition stand may go down well with the audience, but will dramatically increase your spend. Always check that any gifts are going to be worth the price tag they carry.
If you added some marketing material onto the memory sticks, then there may be a better argument for dishing them out. Or you could make it clear to the team that they aren’t for everyone, just for those people who show real interest.
Best practice follow-up post event
During the event, employees will have had contact with invitees. That means there is a huge pool of valuable information sat there, which will just lie dormant unless it is effectively captured.
Before the event, put a date in everyone’s calendar for the day after the event. Make it mandatory that this time is used by everyone who attended to record the details of their conversations onto the system.
What was said? What was promised? What was decided, if anything?
Have everyone categorise their follow-ups in three ways:
- Within 7 days
- Within 30 days.
Make sure these actions are entered onto the system and that there is a way for you to filter them out, to check how it’s all going.
“I’ll send you this” or “I’ll introduce you to” are all promises we make while chatting to people at events. Make sure everyone has a system (such as a little notebook and pen in their pocket, as phone batteries have a habit of running out). Here they can manually record any promises they make. Make sure everyone understands how important it is to fulfil these little promises within 24 hours, if not sooner.
In general, B2B events will work to enhance an existing pipeline. Monitor the impact being made in this area.
Before the event, have a status update on your current pipeline. Then after the event, when everyone has updated the information and readjusted the various opportunities, draw the report again and compare the two.
Have a look as soon as data is captured, again a week later and then a month later. This will give you a great insight into how successful the event was at moving your pipeline along.
Do they work?
Year after year, marketers report they are having great success with B2B events – and they could work for you too.
Planning and executing them well plays a huge part in how successful they will be.
Yes, it isn’t quick or easy to do and they take a lot of time and money, but when you follow methods of good practices, there is no reason why your event won’t be worthwhile.
Here, we’ve focused on events held in the real world, but they can of course be held online too. Most notably webinars can work extremely well for B2B companies.