With the summer officially behind us, business-to-business (B2B) marketers are actively involved in the fall trade show season and year-end conventions. Because when it comes to B2B, one of the most important touchpoints for reaching customers is event marketing. Whether your event is an industry conference, client appreciation event, or an intimate CEO roundtable, it is a tremendous opportunity for you to drive positive brand value. Don’t waste it.
In some cases, trade conferences provide the perfect opportunity to reach nearly all your audience, all at once. According to research, the business-to-business trade show market in the United States was estimated to be worth $10.2 billion in 2022. For 74% of trade show attendees, engaging with exhibitors increases a prospect’s likelihood of buying the products/services on display. And 82% of trade show attendees have the authority to make purchasing decisions.
Beyond the regular schmoozing that goes on at conferences, many savvy marketers create their own events outside the main conference to attract new customers away from the crowded environment. But with so many extracurricular event options, your challenge is both attracting your audience and making your event memorable once they get there. Here are six strategies B2B marketers can utilize to maximize their brand impact and marketing spend at events.
The first step is to get them in the room.
Remember, these are busy people with lots of options. Your invitation design goes a long way to communicating what kind of event yours will be. Don’t expect caviar-level executives to be wowed by cocktail wiener-level design. Your invitation should be approached the same way you would create an advertising campaign. A solid concept, great design, and compelling copy should all work together to communicate your brand and sell the event.
This means thinking beyond the eblast.
While email marketing is a fantastic way to reach thousands of people, when it comes to events, you often have a list of only 100 or so targets you really want to attend. These are the decision-makers who can make a huge difference in your business. To reach these people, it’s worth spending extra on your invitation to include things like special printing or even a gift.
Your invitation doesn’t stop at the invite.
Just like how an advertising campaign hinges on frequency as well as creative, you sometimes need to deliver your message multiple times to your audience before it connects. For your event, this means you need to look for opportunities to promote your event. For example, things like signage, conference sponsorships, room drops, gift bag swag, and speaker endorsements can help convince your audience that of all the swanky after-hours events to attend, yours is the swankiest.
Own the room. Literally.
Too often we attend events with very little branding beyond a couple of easel signs. Afterwards, even if we had a good time, we struggle to remember who held it or what the purpose was. Your event should be well branded, with creative signage and design throughout. People should be absorbing your brand throughout the event without even realizing it. This doesn’t mean you should just slap your logo everywhere. It means considering how things like theme, color, fixtures, room layout, food, entertainment, and giveaways are integrated into the event. Every decision is an opportunity to communicate your brand.
Party time is work time.
Even the most well-designed event spaces will fall flat if your people are not owning the room. Your team needs to be engaged throughout the event and play the host, while at the same time making the crucial networking connections that are the whole reason you’re holding an event in the first place.
Your event doesn’t finish at the end of the night.
One of the biggest mistakes we see is the lack of follow-up afterwards. Your event isn’t the end of your efforts; it’s supposed to be the beginning of a new client relationship. You need to follow up quickly while you are fresh in their minds to further engage them and get them into your marketing funnel. This is how you create ROI from your event, which is the entire point.
Among Fortune 500 companies, 14% reported a 5:1 return on investment (ROI) from their trade show exhibitions, meaning they earned $5 for every $1 spent. The ability to get directly in front of buyers is why event marketing continues to be one of the strongest tactics for B2B marketers. And when done effectively, it can convert into sales and long-term brand loyalty.
Kimberly Tyner is Co-owner and Chief Creative Officer at Spire, named the 2023 Agency of the Year by the D/FW chapter of the American Marketing Association. She was named 2021 Agency Leader of the Year by the Dallas chapter of the American Advertising Federation.
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