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Leveraging Live Events for B2B Marketing

It's every marketer's goal to wow potential clients with the best presentation possible. But outside hopeful dreams and fantasies, having the 'best' presentation is often reserved for those companies with mind-blowing budgets and a crack team of B2B experts managing every aspect of of that same presentation. The complexity of live events, the difficulty of capturing engagement, and the high costs associated all make them an arena where, typically, the ROI on dollars spent just isn't enough to justify participation when that same investment can yield a dramatically higher ROI with excellent and targeted online marketing campaigns.

But according to a 2014 survey conducted by MarketingProfs reveals that approximately 91 percent of B2B marketers surveyed have a budget set aside for live marketing. But of these, only a small majority, a hair over 50 percent, have set budgets aside for live marketing. According to the survey, these live events include things like trade shows and co-marketing events.

What can B2B marketers do to help leverage these live events, increasing their ROI and lead conversion?

They can start by giving event visitors what they want. Research from dozens of sources produced over years has been confirming the gut instincts of many top-tier marketers: that event visitors desire more free-form engagement, increased relevance, and broad opportunities for interactivity. They want to engage with brands on their own terms, and not to be given a canned experience.

For organizers and event marketers, this can represent a massive headache. Practiced speeches and cut-and-dry presentations are easier to produce, low-cost, and carry less risk. But in order to produce quantifiably better ROI, B2B marketers will need to step outside of traditional comfort zones and begin using events to build community engagement. And they have at least one significant bit of firepower: that opinions made in person, due to a personal experience with a brand, are often significantly higher and stronger than those developed by other means.


Before the Event


To start, one of the best ways to leverage live events is to integrate email and social campaigns before the event. Tease your event, send email blasts, and do whatever it takes to get social participation rolling before the event. Not only does this help spread word of mouth about the event and get your brand percolating in the mind of attendees, but it helps you to identify specific social influencers to later target.

Before the event, it's also imperative to critically assess the brand's web presence. Use analytics to identify common drop-off points and to correct any glaring issues. People will be visiting the website as a result of the event, and the best way to prepare is to ensure every aspect of your web presence is looking top-notch, and is ready to capture and convert leads.

You should also do a full analysis of the event plan and begin integrating potentially helpful technologies well before the event itself. This can be as simple as utilizing lead capture apps on tablets, or having staff on-hand to make social media updates throughout the event. Having the right technology, and applying it in clever ways to expand your brand's reach, is as important as the live event production and staging itself! According is MIG’s (Multi Image Group) Shawn Tyler; “We always encourage having the entire firm live Tweeting quotes from guest speakers that we have arranged for them. Now with Periscope, whole communities can be formed while getting an inside look of the event.”

Before the event, you should also ensure every aspect of your presentation looks great, and practice with teammates on handling common live event issues, answering difficult questions, and other aspects of client-handling.


At the Event


Track everything. Everything. Track visitor behavior, and other important metrics, using session management software. Such software comes in the form of large data programs to simple mobile apps; whatever the size of your event, you can find some way to plug in data captured for later analysis. Analyzing data is the best way to pinpoint event strengths and weaknesses, informing you of what to capitalize on at next events… and what to trim away.

Also, never lose an opportunity to promote a brand. Wearable giveaways routinely get the highest ratings from event attendees, but in this day and age promotions have gotten even more clever. Photo booths which provide branded photos to upload to social media, prizes for sharing stories about the event on social media; the number of tricks to promote positive experiences at live events while also growing brand buzz are virtually unnumbered.


The Bottom Line


How does one increase ROI at an event? By providing a more in-depth event that is more likely to generate a positive reception… and by using an event to capture more leads which are also better targeted. Look at every potential lead which comes to an event as access to that lead's network of business partners and associates. If you give them a positive experience, they're likely to mention you; if they mention you on social media, you've just gotten exposure to all of their contacts.

With the proper planning and team in place, you can showcase your company to a shockingly wide audience. A measurably wide audience, if you engage in proper event analytic use. Events like these that go well have the potential to add the buying power of thousands of individuals to your network.