Events are increasingly becoming a top revenue-earner for companies. Ranging from in-person conferences, small executive dinners, webinars, and more, there are options for every audience and industry.
However, events can be time-consuming and costly. In order to be effective, you need to do your research, devise a strategy, and make you sure you have a clear understanding of your goals and how your event will help achieve them.
What’s your purpose?
The first step in defining your company’s B2B event strategy is understanding the ‘why’. It really goes without saying, but your ‘why’ cannot be to make money.
Ask yourself, what problem(s) are you trying to solve for your customers? Where does your product or service fit into solving that problem? How do events help to further the buying process differently than other marketing initiatives?
Additionally, think about how events can fit into the entire sales funnel. A large conference is great for generating brand awareness and can attract many levels of interest. Webinars can be used for all stages of the sales cycle, but are especially great for nurturing middle- to bottom-of-the-funnel leads.
Who is it for?
While all of your events should be for your target audience, sometimes your events might have more value for a smaller, custom audience. To understand who your event is for, turn to your ‘why’.
Here are some example scenarios. If your purpose is to:
- Generate Awareness: If you have the budget, a day conference filled with various breakout sessions and speakers is a great way to attract many different types of people, regardless of buying stage. Use social media to encourage people to upload photos, and use a custom event hashtag to track engagement.
- Convert Leads into Customers: Leads who are in the consideration stage can often need various types of information to move them to the decision stage. That’s why it’s important to make events in this stage as custom as possible. Use white papers, client case studies, testimonials, and other content that displays social proof in order to help build trust. Use your event to take a deep dive into your content, or even ask one of your happy customers to co-host with you. The goal is to convince your attendees that your product is the solution they need by showing examples, without forcefully pushing it on them.
- Upsell Customers: Host a webinar or small in-person user group where customers can swap stories, ask questions, and learn from each other. This not only gives you an opportunity to show off your expertise to people who are already purchasing from you but also helps to create a feeling of exclusivity by showing your customers that you care.
Define your metrics
How will you measure the success of your event marketing efforts? Decide what metrics you care about the most, and define how you will track and measure performance.
*Hint: Not all metrics need to equal direct sales. Make sure you also include metrics around lead behavior and demographics.
Some common event metrics include:
- Registration-to-attendance rate
- Where/how people registered
- When people registered (time of day, date)
- Location of leads (if applicable)
- Most popular speakers/sessions
- Overall Engagement (trending hashtags, social interactions, email clicks, website visits, etc.)
- Cost per registrant/attendee
- Close rate of attendees
How do your prospects/customers find and interact with you/your product?
Knowing user behavior, keywords they might be searching for, devices they use and other factors can help determine the best marketing strategy.
What is the exclusivity of your event?
Your attendees should feel like they are receiving exclusive value from the event—something they couldn’t get by simply reading your blog. This could be anything from access to employees or speakers, announcements to new releases or company updates, custom content that isn’t published on the web yet, or even the ability to network with other executives.
While your “exclusive offer” may change from event to event, it’s important to have an understanding of what your options are.
Understand your budget
Before even starting the planning stages of your events, understand your budget as a whole for the quarter, or year, depending on what works best for your business. This can help you stay focused on your end-goal when trying to make costly decisions around venue choice and more.
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Prep your tools
Know what tools are available for you to use during the planning and promotional stages, and even during your event. Some examples of the tools you need might include:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM): This one probably goes without saying, but if you don’t already have a way to track lead and customer data, then set this up first!
- Marketing Automation (MA): A marketing automation platform allows you to send automated emails, track engagement, add user personalization, and more. While price can fluctuate based on the software features you select, you should make sure to find an option that at least lets you send and track automated emails.
- Performance Marketing Platform: Your team is busy focusing on planning the event, but who is focused on making sure people register and attend? That’s where a performance marketing platform, such as Reach, comes in handy. Our experts will reach out to your ideal prospects to ensure that they attend your event and that you meet your goals.
- Event Website/Landing Page: Whether hosted through your own website, your MA platform, or somewhere else, it’s vital to create an event website or landing page. This is where users will decide if the event is right for them, complete the registration form; and ultimately, continue browsing your website and learning more about your product.
- Social Media: Decide what social media channels to utilize for your event promotion.
Design your event branding
Just like you wouldn’t use a random, off-brand color on your marketing materials, your events should all have the same level of consistency. Many companies decide to create a separate stylized brand and name for their events that tie back into the main brand with a singular design component.
Additionally, your branding needs to be carried out in your event’s decor and promotional materials.
Develop your promotional plan
How do you plan on promoting your event to the masses? Will you create your own hashtag? Buy contact lists? Do inbound and outbound marketing?
Devise a multi-channel marketing plan that focuses on reaching your audience based upon the key characteristics you know about them, such as their likes, dislikes, and pain points.
For example, if you know your audience is very active on Facebook, consider creating a Facebook event page where people can RSVP, instead of requiring them to sign up on your website.
Don’t forget engagement during the event
An important part of event success is being able to engage with your attendees 1:1. However, it’s not always easy to do if your team is small and you’re also running around hosting the whole thing. Some ideas for creating these more personalized moments when 1:1 meetings aren’t possible are:
- Live Twitter Feed: Find a public space to display a live Twitter feed of the event (using your event hashtag). This not only encourages attendees to tweet about what’s happening but also gives them more of an incentive to share their experience knowing that they may be featured.
- Breakout Sessions: Breakout sessions can be a great way for smaller groups of people to come together for a Q&A session, discuss the challenges they have, as well as get face time with the speakers.
- Workshop: Your event should always be educational, but a workshop gives you the opportunity to show off your skills and teach prospects in real-time.
- Event App/IM Channel: Using an event app or instant messaging channels, such as Slack or Google Hangouts, can help to deliver fast updates to your attendees, informing them of any schedule changes, fun moments happening, and more.
Develop your follow up strategy
Event follow up is arguably even more important than the initial promotion. How will you ensure that you stay top-of-mind for your prospects? What information is still needed in order to help them make a purchase decision?
Your event follow up should extend beyond a recap blog that’s emailed to your attendees. Consider some of these options:
- Webinar or Follow Up Content: Did you find yourself running into any common pain points or questions when speaking with your attendees? Use this information to create follow-up content, either in the form of a webinar or a smaller in-person event.
- Create New Content: Develop new content aimed at solving these challenges. Send it your attendees before adding it to your website to make it feel more exclusive.
- Send a Survey: Surveys are still a great way to rate attendee engagement and satisfaction from an event. Just make sure you don’t try to skew the survey questions and answers get the results you want.
- Invite Them to Sign Up to Your Newsletter: Keep the conversation going by inviting them to sign up for your newsletter. They’ll be the first to hear about your next upcoming event and exclusive news.
Define your goal
You started this journey by understanding your ‘why’—your purpose. But the goal of each individual event you host will vary. You might host a top-of-funnel webinar this month with the goal of attracting new blog subscribers. Next month, your webinar might be geared towards leads who are currently marked as SQLs in your system with the goal of closing a sale.
By defining your overall strategy and process for hosting events and attracting prospects, you will be on your way to event success in no time!