Successful businesses are built on strong relationships that flow through every part of their operations – from their internal dynamics, to the external connections they form with clients, suppliers and new prospects.
And when it comes to building relationships, getting face-to-face with existing clients and new prospects remains THE most effective marketing tactic. People respond to people and despite the growth in new online channels and technologies, nothing beats personal contact.
So it’s no surprise that events remain a popular choice for B2B marketers, with 67% saying event marketing is one of their most effective strategies. A well planned and executed event can create fantastic opportunities for face-to-face communications, as well as ticking a lot of other sales and marketing boxes.
What type of event should you choose?
B2B events come in all shapes and sizes, with each format having its own advantages and disadvantages, so which is going to be best for your business?
When you’re making a decision about which type and size of events you may attend or host, remember all events take a lot of time, planning and a substantial investment to get right. There is no point taking part unless you’re going to fully commit. Every action you take, the materials you give out and how you present yourself will say something about your company. So to take full advantage and get a proper return on investment there’s no cutting corners.
Here we take a look at two different forms of event marketing – third party and self-hosted – to help you weigh up the pros and cons of each and find the best fit.
Third party events
What are they?
These types of events are hosted by a third party and typical examples would be things like conferences, exhibitions or trade shows. Space is made available at these events for other organisations and brands, who may be able to rent space, take a stand and/or sponsor all or part of the event itself.
- Drive up credibility – you will be positioning yourself as a key player in your industry and by association strengthening your reputation through the companies you are surrounded by
- Increase visibility and awareness – you will be getting seen by the right type of companies and can differentiate your brand from competitors
- Captive audience of your target market - people attending a trade show are usually there for a reason and will already be interested in the topic/theme, meaning they are more likely to be a potential prospect
- Market research – they can provide an effective platform from which to launch and test new products and to gather opinions
- Industry research - they present a learning opportunity, both in what others in the industry are doing and saying, and for keeping tabs on competitors and their strategies
It is very difficult to meet the right people from the right accounts at these types of events. While trade shows may be of interest to your target audience there is no guarantee that the person attending will be the person you want to reach.
They are low focus and therefore low efficiency, making them little better than a scattergun approach, where you hit the masses with your marketing message and hope for the best.
Building, stocking and manning a stand or exhibition space can also prove tricky, expensive and exhausting. The space must look professional and the individuals making contact with visitors need to be fully trained and on message.
But the biggest challenge is finding the best show to attend. There are now more shows being held, more often than ever before. Your choices will be high – which mean choices for your target customers are also high - and it is often difficult (if not impossible) to accurately predict which may bring you the greatest return.
What are they?
These are events that you put on yourself and as the hosting company are then responsible for organising and managing. Depending on the nature of your business and the target audience you wish to reach, it could be anything from a small executive breakfast for 30 highly targeted CIOs, to a large training day for hundreds of delegates. Or even something activity-based and creative, in a wildly different type of setting.
- Proven to be extremely effective - highly targeted in-person events organised by a company/brand are often extremely effective, which has seen them rank top with B2B marketers around the world
- A revenue driver – hosting smaller targeted events can help drive revenue directly, far more easily than attendance at larger trade shows can
- Offers full control – you will have entire control over the event and the list of invitees so you can focus on your top targets
- Greater touch points - sales teams will have opportunities for conversations before, during and after the event, the touch points are far higher
- Existing customers can influence new prospects – at your own event you can bring together existing customers, prospects and partners, which can be a very powerful combination. When new prospects get to meet existing customers it can have a very positive effect on them.
Organising an event, even if on a small scale, takes a phenomenal amount of time and resources. Success will lie in how well thought through and organised it is. You will need someone in the team to take overall ownership of the event and who needs to have knowledge about how to do this.
Every element of the event and its execution will leave a lasting impression of your business but delivering a smooth, highly impactful event is not easy to do. It will take meticulous planning down to the last, minute detail. Then double and triple checking.
It will be down to you to choose and secure a good location, to set an interesting agenda, to secure speakers and encourage attendees. Any one of these elements can have an effect on your event’s results and whether it achieves your objectives.
You may also need to provide your sales team with extra training on how to best to work their magic in an event-style environment, if it is new to them.
Whichever type of event marketing you choose, it’s vital you begin the whole process with a clear set of goals. This should guide all decisions you make moving forwards.
And don’t forget to maximise your opportunity to start conversations and generate leads by having a detailed communications plan in place, covering the time before, during and after your event.
Any marketer will know that events, exhibitions and conferences require a significant investment and substantial planning. Download this 3 step guide to engage with prospects before the event, maximise your opportunities on the day and convert those opportunities into sales.