Demand Generation is no easy task these days despite the many solutions, platforms and experts who are available to help us. However, a solid strategy and plan can go a long way in maximizing effectiveness of communications, content, events and sales enablement…everything a B2B marketer loves. A well-defined plan is essential for driving results from events and as spring has finally sprung – that means trade show season is here. Most organizations attend a few, if not many, trade shows during the year, but how many can actually say they have optimized their event strategy – pre and post event (full event cycle)? Whether you are attending an event, exhibiting or hosting one yourself, there are areas to focus on to help maximize results and they all tie back to understanding your ideal customer profile.
Four areas to help optimize your event strategy:
Theme– Take some time and plan out your event theme. Tie it in to your value proposition and around your ideal customer profile – focusing on how your solution helps your customers is what matters in a theme. Cool graphics alone just don’t cut it when you have to deliver real results from an event. A cohesive theme and clear, concise content makes attendee stop to read your signage. Make it engaging, tell them how you can help them solve their problem and they might even talk to you before slipping away with a free pen.
Social Strategy – Social strategy needs to be tightly integrated into all you do in marketing, but especially as it relates to events as you connect with your customers, prospects and influencers. Social media is hugely effective in driving awareness and attendance at events if done correctly. If you are running your own event, you must develop a baseline strategy for social marketing, but then dig down into details like what’s the hashtag you want to use to promote it? How can you incorporate the hashtag to drive greater exposure for your event, encourage conversations, or gain influencers? Think about a poll, contest or tweet a pic of something pre- event to gain momentum or awareness…it works. Think about how to use social promotion outside of the web – “take it to the street”. I saw a company’s hashtag written in chalk outside of a café near a conference venue –offering free coffee. Great idea.
If you are attending an event, use social media to call out amazing speakers, vendors and key ideas or themes. Social is a fast and easy way to find like-minded people at an event. Think about how valuable it would be to set meetings pre-event? You can via social media. Follow (not stalk) those you are looking to meet with and see if they are attending the event or session (they might mention it via LinkedIn or be part of Facebook group) and respectfully, engage. Reach out to them, share your plans and encourage ongoing communication – that’s what social media is all about.
Don’t forget to use social to drive attendance to your party, speaking session, booth or even lunch table. Let people know where you will be, what you can help them with and why they should care and you’ll see results. Lastly- don’t forget to listen. Social media can backfire if your communication is only one way- that is especially important for events. Pay attention if an attendee is complaining or praising you – recognition and a fast response go a long way.
Pre-show promotion – If you are running an event, one of the hardest parts about event marketing is driving attendance. There is a lot of competition out there, so your planning is again, essential. However, pre-show promotion isn’t just sending out creative email invites. Your message needs to connect with your ideal buyer, your next customer. How to reach them? People consume content in different ways – it all depends on you buyer. Use a strategic mix of tactics. Try a direct mail with a link to discover the unknown keynote speaker, a new piece of content to help drive awareness of your solution, or a video from last year’s event uploaded to your YouTube.
Pre-show promo isn’t limited to an invitation. Think bigger picture. It’s about reaching your customers where they are, connecting with and helping them. Use the same philosophy in event marketing as you do in content marketing. Make your event messaging valuable, produce something engaging that speaks to your customer, deliver quality content to help solve business challenges…and they will come.
Metrics – This section is hugely important and may have been better placed at the top of the list as it touches all facets of marketing, especially events. As the old adage goes, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” It’s true. First things first in running events – define your goals and objectives for revenue, attendance or sponsorship and then of course, ROI or deals closed or in pipeline from the event. Not all events will have the same metrics, but you must identify the objectives you need to meet before you even get started.
Set metrics even if you are just attending an event. For example, how many meetings do you want to hold with key individuals during the event? What sessions are essential to attend for networking or continuing education? Can you gain 20 new followers on twitter? Can you write a blog post from the event to further thought leadership? These objectives are important too.
Metrics need to be identified and then measured against. Use those baseline metrics to keep assessing like events so you can evaluate effectiveness over time. Again, not all events will have the same metrics or goals and that is ok. Just like content marketing where not every piece of content is designed to drive the same behavior, events can accomplish different objectives. Just document them and analyze the results. Don’t do events or even attend events if they aren’t driving the results you need or want. Only metrics give you an honest view of goal attainment. You can’t manage what you don’t measure…and you won’t be successful if you don’t connect with your buyer throughout all aspects of the event cycle.