Marketers need to go where their audience is and increasingly, that place is online. But that doesn’t mean you should discount traditional marketing activities like events with print advertising, especially as event marketing becomes part of the larger omnichannel brand experience.
80 percent of marketers believe live events are critical to their company’s success (Source: Bizzabo).
Events provide valuable opportunities to showcase your brand; engage meaningfully with potential customers; and connect with partners, thought leaders, and industry leaders. If you aren’t hosting or attending events in your industry, you could be missing out on benefits that only an in-person experience can provide.
Here are four reasons why you should make events a more meaningful part of your overall B2B marketing strategy:
Brand is one of the few remaining marketing currencies businesses have available to promote their products. A clearly defined, recognizable brand is something every successful business should have, but many struggle to cultivate.
In the strictest sense of the word, brand is defined as a name, term, design, or symbol that identifies and distinguishes you from your competitors. More generally, your brand is the set of expectations customers have, the stories you tell, and the relationships you build, all of which contribute to your company’s identity. These key aspects of your brand also determine whether someone chooses your solution over a competitor’s.
A large percentage of brand building today occurs online through channels including social media, websites, blogs, content offerings, advertisements, and webinars. Each channel is a platform to tell your target audience who you are and what you have to offer. While inbound marketing reigns supreme, events remain one of the most effective ways to communicate your value and build your brand recognition.
In fact, according to Bizzabo, 95 percent of marketers agree that live events provide attendees with a valuable opportunity to form in-person connections in an increasingly digital world.
If we look at new technologies being used in marketing, like artificial intelligence and augmented reality, the reason for this becomes clear. When it comes to our audiences, short attention spans and instant gratification are very real challenges that B2B businesses must overcome. Non-passive digital tools provide more immediate, immersive, and personalized experiences. As marketers, these help us to capture more audience attention, stay top of mind, and deliver a meaningful connection with our brands.
Marketers are looking for ways to use technology to cut through the anonymity of online engagement, but the answer isn’t necessarily new and digital; often, it’s proven and in-person. Events are the perfect opportunity to maximize your potential to connect with your audience, leveraging the speed and efficiency of technology and the high personalization of in-person exchanges.
One of the more immediate benefits of events is lead generation. Events often generate a high volume of both marketing and sales-ready leads, and the return on investment (ROI) is simpler to calculate than some digital marketing initiatives.
Bizzabo also reports that almost two thirds of marketers plan to invest more in live events in the future, both in terms of budget and number of events.
The quality of event leads can vary depending on several factors. Whether you are organizing or exhibiting at an event, there are a couple of strategies you can use to not only attract a high volume of leads, but quality ones as well:
- Promote your event to existing customers as well as potential customers in established (verticals or regions that represent your current customer base) and emerging markets (those that represent large growth opportunities) to make your event an effective lead source for your sales team.
- Include forms in your registration process to learn more about your attendees’ roles, business challenges, and interests. This will provide you with valuable insights to improve future communications and events by personalizing your messages and offerings.
- Create your own omni-channel brand experience by incorporating technology at your events, including an event app, live streaming and video, augmented reality (think Snapchat filters), and other digital platforms and tools.
- Prompt attendees to make a purchase at or shortly after the event by providing incentives. Use exclusive promotions with time restrictions to target sales-ready leads and create a sense of urgency.
- Use pre-event promotions and contests to generate traffic at your table or booth and attract new leads, engage with potential customers, create buzz around any recent news, and discuss the value of your offering.
- Use landing pages and forms to capture lead intelligence. This will save you from collecting and keeping track of business cards, and manually entering them into your CRM later.
- Create a custom workflow for event leads with relevant information and personalized offerings. A targeted campaign will move leads through the customer journey much faster than a generic one, helping your sales and marketing teams shorten sales cycles and hit targets.
Ensuring your team is present at events provides your organization with a beat on the latest industry news and announcements, particularly those from your competitors. Events are often used as venues to launch new products or announce channel partnerships and collaborations. Market awareness, including knowledge about your competitors’ product developments and marketing initiatives, is a fundamental part of an effective marketing strategy. Knowing what the competitive landscape looks like enables you to develop a marketing strategy that accounts for competitor activities and responds to them in an appropriate way.
Virtually every industry event includes networking opportunities. Depending on the size of the event, this can be networking breaks and meals or larger activities such as golf tournaments, award banquets, and cocktail receptions. These interludes can provide a bit of a reprieve from content-heavy sessions throughout the day, but don’t just think of them as breaks. Use these networking activities as opportunities to make connections and build partnerships with other businesses in the industry.
In increasingly competitive markets, it can be valuable to have mutually beneficial partnerships with organizations in or on the periphery of your field. You can leverage others’ experiences and knowledge to build better solutions and, ultimately, provide your customers with more value.
Your brand is largely defined by what others say about your company and your product, more than what your logo looks like or what kind of solution you offer. Hosting and attending events can help you create positive brand equity, turn customers into promoters, and drive sales.