The B2B market is huge. Of course, such a large market means lots of competition which in turn means that complacency is not an option; you need to put effort into everything you do to stay ahead of your competitors and generate healthy revenue levels.
One area of the B2B sector that stands out is events. Those events may be ones where multiple companies are participating, such as trade fairs. Or the events may be ‘solo’ ones organised by you to launch a new product or service or simply to promote your business. What strategies should you be pursuing in B2B event marketing to ensure success?
1. Set your objectives
Before you even consider B2B event marketing tactics, you need to be sure of one thing; what is the purpose of your event? Having clearly defined goals and objectives is going to inform you as to what tactics will work best. At its heart, your event isn’t simply an opportunity to drink wine and share gossip, it’s designed to promote your business and meet potential and existing clients.
After your event, you want to be able to sit back and analyse how the event went. Did you generate new leads, sign new clients, expand on deals with existing clients, and so on? So, your first step is to plan the event by considering the following points:
- Audience: Who are you targeting with this event? New customers, existing ones, or even a mix of both. Knowing your audience can define the format of the event.
- Budget: Your event budget is very important in that it will define what you can and cannot do.
- Goals: What do you want to achieve from your event? Increased brand awareness, lead generation, or actual sales? Setting clear goals for the event helps you appraise the success of the event later.
- Tactics: What will your tactics at the event be? Will there be product demonstrations, seminars, giveaways, etc? Knowing what tactics will help you achieve the event’s goals is a major part of planning.
- Type: What form will the event take? In-person or virtual? While a virtual event widens your reach, it can be restrictive in terms of what you can do. You can also consider live-streaming parts of an in-person event.
- Metrics: What data are you going to collect or use to gauge how successful the event has been? Being able to see how different aspects of the event worked will help you when it comes to planning future events.
2. 8 Tactics to Succeed in B2B Event Marketing
So, you now have an idea of what form your event will take and what it is you want to achieve. The next step is to look at tactics that will work for your B2B event marketing. The thing to remember here is that it’s not always the number of attendees that matters, it’s how well they engage with you and vice-versa (quality not quantity).
Having a large business sponsoring your event can help raise interest and awareness. Not only can sponsorship offset some of the financial costs of your event, but your sponsor could also add other things such as guest speakers, product demonstrations, and even special offers. For example, if you are organizing a congress focused on HR, you could approach the makers of a payroll software solution to sponsor (or part-sponsor) the event.
2. Create an app
Events can be complicated creatures. You may be part of a trade fair or you may be running the event alone. In either scenario, there will be things to consider such as schedules that show when the guest speakers are on, when there are product demos, etc. An app can include everything from the ability to sign up for seminars, maps of the space, bios of guest speakers, and so on.
Apps can be an integral part of your digital marketing efforts for the event. You can use your app for any type of event and it can help to engage with potential attendees. It can also be useful for updates such as guest speaker cancellations/replacements. You can even reuse the app for future events.
3. Listen to your customers
You want your customers to be fully engaged with your event so why not allow them a voice? Of course, you may have seminars that include Q&A sessions but those tend to be on specific subjects such as aligning sales and support teams. But why not hold open forums too where customers can discuss relevant subjects?
Adding this ‘voice’ to your event can be a great marketing tactic as it will attract people who will want to talk about how they feel about your products/services and how it has solved issues for them. This can have a great knock-on effect, marketing-wise, as it may persuade others to buy your product.
4. Give VIP status
When you’re planning who to invite to your event, consider if any of the invitees should be given VIP status. But how do you decide who are VIPs and what benefits will you give them? Your VIPs could be your biggest customers or a qualified lead who you feel is close to signing a deal with you. Knowing they have VIP status can be a great way of encouraging attendance.
As to perks, that’s something only you can decide. They could include exclusive access to seminars, giveaways, special offers on products and services, or one-to-one meetings with guest speakers or your own executives.
5. Encourage networking
Your event should not just be about you engaging with attendees, it can be about encouraging them to engage with each other.
If your event is in-person, consider organising events within events where people can network. This could be a cheese and wine evening event or a casual buffet lunch. You could also include gamification where teams are chosen at random, ensuring attendees mix with each other. If virtual, your event could include breakout rooms that people can visit and chat with one another.
6. Goodie bags
People love free stuff, and giving your event attendees goodie bags won’t necessarily break the bank. You can give away anything from pens to coffee mugs with the added advantage that you can splash your logo all over them. As well as that free stuff, you can also include informative material about your brand such as pamphlets or sales brochures.
If your event is virtual or hybrid, you can still give away things to remote attendees. These can include access to webinars, discount codes, or anything else you think will boost your brand. An added bonus of goodie bags (real or virtual) is that people will talk about them on social media, boosting your marketing efforts further.
7. Use product demos to showcase your products
People may have some interest in your products or services but they often want to see them working. Advertising that you are doing a number of product demos can be a great marketing tactic. For example, you may want to showcase the best VoIP app by actually holding demos to show how it works.
One thing to remember is that event schedules can often be hectic and there may be things that conflict with each other timewise. If the purpose of your event is to showcase several of your products, then it may be worth holding multiple demos of your main products.
8. Encourage sharing
You want your B2B event marketing to reach as many people as possible. While you will – of course – send out invites to people on your email list or who are existing leads/customers, there may be thousands of others out there whom you have no direct contact with. When planning your marketing, encourage people to share your marketing posts, especially influencers who you may already be utilising.
Some people might do this naturally, but incentivising it can help spread the message further. Think about holding a competition with a prize randomly awarded to one of the people who share your promotional posts. Also, keep one eye on future events and encourage attendees to share their experiences during the event itself by creating easy and memorable hashtags.
3. The takeaway
B2B event marketing can combine art and science. The bottom line is that you want your event to be a success, whether in terms of actual sales or generating new leads. The actual form of your event, and the activities included, may vary between sectors but you should always remember to include some fun elements as well; all work and no play makes Jack a dull customer.
Budget is going to play a big part, both in terms of your marketing of the event and the event itself. Sometimes events may be – fairly – spontaneous, and may not have been planned for in the annual marketing budget. In cases like that, it’s worth asking for extra budget allocation to meet your needs for that specific event.