B2B marketing is evolving, and events are at the heart of this exponential growth. Image by www.entrepreneur.com
The event industry is currently undergoing a massive transformation in B2B marketing. It may be mind-boggling to consider, but in the early 2000s, online advertising comprised just 3% of total industry spend. Sure, that was a relatively long time ago. But in 2021, digital advertising made up 50% of total spend. That's a major leap even considering the time that has passed.
B2B Events Are Rapidly Evolving
During the pandemic, the growth of the tech industry was accelerated due to the collective transition to virtual events. Although the event world was already headed in a hybrid direction, the pandemic forced corporations and event creators to invest in the development of cutting edge technologies. And even before the pandemic hit, traditional channels like outbound calling and email marketing were becoming less effective than they once were. Emails from SDRs were yielding fewer responses than ever, and even marketing emails often ended up in spam folders. Thus, software companies had already begun to transition to a more community-oriented approach, with an emphasis on product-led and growth and education. Enter events as a channel to facilitate these strategies.
In an experiential market, it's been a challenge to create immersive events that are engaging and easy to navigate for remote participants. But the industry has risen to the challenge, and digital marketing is currently its most sustainable market. Never before have event creators been able to reach such a massive audience on a limited budget.
Not only are businesses able to reach massive audiences through digital marketing strategies, they're able to measure ad performance through clicks and sales conversions. Digital marketing also has a unique capacity for personalization. When creating online ads, it's easy to adapt messaging to reach niche audiences on multiple platforms and channels.
Advances in technology and an experiential culture has changed the way B2B events are done. Whereas they used to be all about getting your logo seen and in-person networking with big names, these events have taken on new dimensions. B2B marketing is no longer about simply seeing and being seen; it's about engaging niche audiences and leadership. It's not enough to just shake hands and exchange business cards.
B2B Networking is More Advantageous Than Ever
B2B networking doesn't just happen during your event- ideally, it starts before and continues into the future. Image by www.thepsi.com.
Let's talk B2B networking for a moment. Prior to your event, you'll want to use targeted messaging to attract a representative from the company you want to connect with. When your coveted attendee signs up for your event, you will need to measure the engagement activity of that representative in the CRM. This way, you have specific information about whether the representative or decision-making from the targeted company helped you meet your business objective.
It would also be a good idea to connect with such an important attendee before your event goes live. You may have a representative from your business reach out to connect with the attendee beforehand, and find out what this person hopes to gain from your event. What are their goals for attending? Do they have any questions they want answered in real time that will help them get the most of the event?
What Kind of B2B Event Should You Attend?
That really depends! There are all different kinds of B2B events, and only you can determine which would best help you meet your business objectives. Independent trade shows are a popular option because they offer a range of sponsors and options. These kind of shows vary in size from nationwide conferences to smaller, regional events or even peer group meetings with a dozen or less exhibitors. This makes them feasible for varying budget sizes, including relatively small ones. And while there may be more choices, especially with bigger corporations, at large-scale events, smaller ones can be very beneficial, too: There's less competition and opportunities to engage in depth with potential long-term partners.
Branded trade shows are also an option, but keep in mind that they take up to a year of preparation. Selling exhibits and speaking slots to potential sponsors increases your attractiveness to them, but this job takes more expertise than it may seem. Programming keynotes, selecting speakers and venues, and catering the event take time and specialized knowledge. That's not accounting for registration apps, remote navigation and engagement if it's a hybrid event, and other AI/AV-related tasks. It's possible that your business would not have the time or expertise to facilitate these features, and would have to hire an outside planner or team.
However, these trade shows can be an excellent opportunity to showcase your unique brand. Whether virtual or in person, these kinds of events allow attendees to directly engage with and experience the culture of your business. They're also highly experiential, which means that they're ideal for creating potential long-term partnerships based on personal B2B interaction.
It's always a good idea to research similar businesses and events in your industry- especially those happening within your region if you are a small organization. The last thing you want is for your event to be lost a crowd of competitors hosting similar events. Sometimes even for larger businesses looking to generate leads or target a niche audience, smaller events are ideal. Again, the less people attending an event, the greater the opportunity to make meaningful one-on-one connections.
On the other hand, if your business is looking for major funding and its marketing presence needs a quick boost, consider a larger event. Sometimes offering sponsorship to a popular name in your industry attracts the right sponsors to you. While this sounds (and is) expensive, the investment often leads to worthwhile business growth and boosts reach exponentially. Title sponsors typically have access to the contact information of all attendees, which can generate massive leads. They also are privy to exclusive branding opportunities, logo placements, and speaking slots.
Jasmina Mueller, VP of global channel partnerships of emergency comms software provider Everbridge, shares that her company invests in large-scale events when its goal is to increase its overall market position. Mueller recommends taking your goals and business culture into consideration when deciding what B2B event to attend. Who are your customers? Is the culture of your market more about networking and community-building or do you expect to generate a specific number of leads?
Remember, you're looking to build mutually beneficial relationships with long-term value. Typically, you want engagement to last beyond just one event. Many event creators strategically network with key prospects at large-scale events, and then enrich the relationship by connecting with them at smaller gatherings.
Consider Your Budget
Evaluating and allocating your budget based on your business objectives is key. Don't aim higher than the numbers you've got, but make the most of what you have. Image by www.wjhl.com.
It's easy to underestimate the cost of sponsorship and B2B events at first glance. Not only is the sponsorship itself a significant cost, but you'll also need to cover entertainment, T&E, promotional items, exhibits, equipment for demos, lighting, electricity, and more. If you can't afford sponsorship at a large event, you're hardly alone.
Eric Pinto, senior director of channel and product strategy at cybersecurity provider SOCSoter, says it's worth it to attend larger events even if your budget is limited. He often attends national events despite the fact that his budget isn't big enough to optimize a sponsorship from a big corporate name. Instead, he invests what he does have wisely: "Where is your money going to do the most amount of good- is it getting in front of a roundtable with ten attendees that are a captive audience, or is it hosting a private party or handing out gift cards?"
Even without sponsorship as a goal, B2B events have the potential to connect professionals to vendors who might present an opportunity for collaboration. Sometimes it's also possible to buy a speaking slot or session that can engage target audiences. But Mueller recommends starting small by investing in small booths or breakout sessions that demonstrate the value of your business to potential sponsors.
Measure Your Success
It's important to develop reliable methods for measuring your success at a B2B event. One surefire way to do this is to ascertain the ratio of registrations to check-ins. If a few thousand people signed up for your event, but only a few hundred checked in, that's valuable information. It tells you that there is a lot of room for improvement in your marketing and engagement strategies. Many times, this just means you need to deveop a more detailed buyer personal and market accordingly. Consistent effort is everything; it takes time to build loyal customers and boost engagement. It's a process, not an overnight deal, so don't worry if you're not seeing the numbers you want in the beginning.
If your goal was to build brand awareness, evaluate your website traffic for an increase. To measure your own ROI, you can track the number of leads and calculate the acquisition cost per customer.
Promotional strategies are integral to attendance, conversions, and lead generation. Connecting consistently with a potential sponsor or event creator's audience doesn't just attract customers- it can keep them in your orbit long after your event.
What's Your Expo Strategy?
It's no longer enough to have a standout, well-designed exhibit or booth. Attendees are tasked with navigating your entire event, so they may not be focused on your particular expo. Depending on their individual skills and personalities,decide which team members will occupy which parts of the floor. As you or a colleague works the floor and makes new connections, be sure to offer them to come visit your company's booth. If you're offering swag and/ or selling products, talk about that with attendees- don't just hope they'll notice. Attendees are typically inundated with so much information that they may not notice all the details around them. If they're focused on navigation or headed toward another destination, they may bypass your booth without even realizing it.
Best Practices for SWAG
Image by www.eventbrite.com.
When it comes to SWAG, the key is personalization. If you're going the classic route, offering electronics or clothing items, you may want to add guests' names to the items. These items are fun and useful, and the personalization adds a memorable touch. However, depending on the kind of event you are hosting, it's also a good idea to think in beyond physical rewards. Practical SWAG can be extremely valued by customers; one company booked a shuttle bus to transport attendees to and from the airport. During the ride, a representative made a brief presentation to the traveling audience. Charitable donations to an organization that supports a cause your attendees care about can make a lasting emotional impression.
If you're introducing a new product or want to generate product sales, giving away items as SWAG is a great strategy. You might also give away coupons to purchase products at a discount so that you're almost sure to drive some sales. Gifting attendees with coupons they can use on multiple products also gives you information about how they're reacting to which products. Which item, service, or experience sells the most as a result of your event? Track it and use the information going forward.
If it's possible, set up a photobooth or area where attendees can take photos with SWAG if it's the kind they would want to show off. Instagrammable SWAG is especially exciting to millennials and Gen Zers because they tend to share their lives online. Because social media is also a powerful marketing tool, attendees like to live stream and share their memories from an event that boosts their networking.
B2B marketing and events are no longer just assets that enhance a company's overall strategy. As the world becomes more and more digitized, B2B has become mainstream and central to marketing plans that work. One of the great things about digital marketing is that it's accessible no matter what your budget. Virtual B2B events are more immersive and interactive than ever, and they're very popular right now. Yes, they require specific software to run smoothly and truly immerse an online audience. But as hybrid events grow in popularity, apps and programs that enhance remot experiences are also becoming more affordable.
The most important piece of advice we can give you is to be consistent in your efforts. Using social media to market your events costs nothing, and strategically placed ads cost very little to run for short periods of time. The more opportunities people have to interact with your brand before, during, and after your event, the better.