Why in-person events remain so effective for B2B lead generation

Lead Forensics, Monday 21 March 2016

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Attending big events, such as conferences and trade shows, with the aim of generating new business leads remains a no-brainer for many businesses. But the use of bespoke, highly targeted ‘in-person’ events is also seeing something of a resurgence. 

And the reason - in the same way that using highly targeted content works better than broad, catchall copy, events of this nature can also bring greater results for the bottom line. 



What are targeted B2B events? 

Targeted B2B events can take many different shapes and forms. It could be anything from a small breakfast for 10 people, to an early evening session with a guest speaker for 100 or more industry leaders. Their format and the content covered will be driven by the audience they’re being aimed at. The event itself will be hosted by a company or brand, who will target a very specific type of person with the invitations. The key difference is that the event management and everything associated with it will lie with the organising company.

How successful are such targeted B2B marketing events?

According to a CMI study, in-person events have been rated the most effective B2B tactic for the last six years, with 81% of marketers using them. These small gatherings, if organised well and targeted at the right people, can be extremely powerful. And the reason is simple - if the event is well planned and interesting to invitees then they are more likely to be open to discussions. And nothing beats face-to-face communication for building relationships. Creating an opportunity to get in front of the right people and to have personal contact with them is extremely important, especially in the digital world we now live in. 

What are the main advantages? 

You control the entire event, from who is in the room to the format and the content it will cover. This gives you far more control than any big trade show event can offer. 

What are the main disadvantages?

It takes a lot more time, effort and planning on your part to make it a success. And to achieve the optimal results you’ll need to be working on it far before the event even happens and long afterwards.

Here are some of the key points you need to address, to make sure your event is a success. 

1. Work together to create a strongly targeted invitation list 

Marketing and sales teams need to sit together to brainstorm and decide who should be invited. The list may include existing customers and targeted accounts. It is good for both these groups to rub shoulders and your event can provide a great opportunity for that to happen. Go over your customer personas and ideal client descriptions to define exactly who you want to be on the guest list. 

2. Be strategic with the type of event you hold

The format of your event should be entirely driven by your target audience and what they’d prefer. As after all, you want them to attend. Would a 100+ cocktail hour be a good fit, or should it be a more intimate breakfast for a max of 30 people? As a rule of thumb, the higher up in the hierarchy you are aiming for, the more exclusive you want your event to be. It is unlikely that a busy CEO will attend a mass cocktail hour. However, a gathering with other interesting people, focused on a stimulating topic, may appeal to them. 

3. Have a clear agenda

What is the event going to cover? It can’t be all about you and your products. People’s time is precious and will be in short supply, especially for CEOs, so you need to be offering something of value. For example, you may ask an external expert to give a talk on a relevant subject. Just make sure you vet any speaker to check they know their stuff and are engaging. Avoid long speeches, or having too many speakers, and always keep your intended audience in mind. Hosting a cutting-edge insider party for top programmers is going to be vastly different to an exclusive CEO breakfast.

4. Always go for quality over quantity

Remember it is not quantity that counts but quality, particularly for high-level B2B events. If you cannot provide something of quality then don’t even bother. It’s a big ask of people to get them to give up some of their time for your event. Make it worth their while and leave a positive lasting impression. Show your professionalism and what it may be like to work with you, through a smooth, well run event. And don’t hit them hard with the sales spiel, it’s not the time or the place to be pushy.

5. Be clear on the aim of the event

Before embarking on any kind of marketing campaign or tactic you need to be clear on why you’re doing it. Understand that events tend to lean more towards pipeline acceleration than lead generation. They work better if you invite people who are already engaging with you on some level than just going for complete strangers. That is also why you want prospects and customers to mix and mingle. Your existing customers can help you just by being there, as their conversations may encourage other deals along that you may have in the pipeline. 

6. Maximise marketing opportunities before, during and after

Shooting off a mass email and hoping for the best is never going to cut it. It will take a lot of time before and after the event, to make it a success and to maximise opportunities. Start as you mean to go on. Make the invitation as personal as possible. Reach out to your targets, they will appreciate your efforts. Make sure that your team treats every single guest like a VIP. Have a strategy worked out beforehand for how the event will work and who will do what. Also have a plan ready for after the event - how you’ll compile the insights you’ve gathered and when/who will follow up. This may include emails, phone calls and even visits to thank the people and continue the conversations you’ve started.

It’s because of the highly personal nature of these types of micro events that they are so successful. Face to face communication is always going to be the most effective marketing channel you can use. By devising an interesting event and aiming it at a very targeted audience, you are creating the perfect opportunity to form connections and build relationships. 

These events will require an investment and a solid commitment to be made, in terms of money, time and resources. And everything about them will say something about you as a company – both good and bad! So do them well, make sure you’re offering something that is interesting and of value, and that the whole event it thoroughly planned and well organised. You’ll make a great impression and start reaping the rewards.


 

Now you know the importance of face-to-face events, make the most of your efforts with our cheat sheet: Maximising your B2B event marketing.

 

Event marketing cheat sheet

Topics: Event marketing, Lead generation, Open Sales Conversation

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