What Makes B2B Event Marketing Work?

“Content marketing” and “marketing automation” have taken over our keyword bingo cards. But there’s one word that’s all too often missing from these conversations and should be approached just as progressively in marketing tactics. That word is “events”. 

The world of B2B marketing is always changing, but one thing that will never change is the power of a face-to-face event. I’ve had the privilege over the past few weeks of chatting with a number of leading minds on the subject of B2B events and wanted to share with you some of the best ideas I’ve heard.

1) The Best Events Can Double as Badass Content:

The bottom line: don’t neglect events in your content marketing strategy. I can’t say ‘badass’ and ‘content’ in the same sentence without mentioning Joe Pulizzi. Here’s what the Godfather of content has to say about events:

“In every year since we’ve been producing our content marketing research, in-person events are rated as the most effective content marketing activity. Such an amazing opportunity for any-sized brand.”

-Joe Pulizzi, chief executive, Content Marketing Institute

2) The Best Events are Badass Experiences:

What does it take to throw a good party? Likely it requires the host to surprise and delight their guests with an experience that’s out of the ordinary in order to make sure they enjoy themselves. Events are no different. This isn’t rocket science, yet the majority of B2B events are hosted in crappy hotels, serving plates with rubber chickens. Why? It’s mostly because B2B marketers aren’t thinking creatively enough. When I asked Elizabeth Brooks, senior vice president of content for LiveNation what people wanted from events, this was her response:

“They want to be affected, emotionally engaged, to be changed in some way, to come away “better,” and the experience should make the fan feel good about themselves. If you know how your target wants to feel about themselves, that’s a giant key to engagement.”

– Elizabeth Brooks, senior vice president, Content, LiveNation

She also advised me to look at the following two conferences, which she feels are the best examples of amazing B2B events:

C2 MTL: This conference sells out every year and is usually based in Canada. The same people who put on Cirque du Soleil put on this event, so you know it’s going to be an amazing experience. It’s a B2B marketing-focused event, but with a twist like you’ve never seen. This is why it will sell out EVERY YEAR! They are creating an experience, not just an event.

c2

PTTOW: This conference on the west coast is invite only. The organizer actually calls each attendee to set up a time to invite them personally. This is the only B2B event that has ever had the Dalai Lama as a keynote speaker, and has taken attendees out drinking with members of Seal Team Six.

pttow

3) The Best Events Push the Envelope:

What happens when you take a boy band made up of Australian hooligans and put them on a livestream of “Ask Me Anything” (AMA)? You crank out pure gold!

LiveNation hosted an AMA on Reddit and livestreamed a Q&A session with modern rockers, the Janoskians. Over the course of 60 minutes, they received over 8,000 comments. Talk about serious engagement.

Now, in the B2B space, Wistia has just done the same thing. They featured Rand Fishkin, founder of MOZ.com, in a livestream of “Ask Me Anything.” They generated an increase in signups for their product, and an overall increase of 583 percent to their product page on the day of the event, not to mention all of the social comments and community engagement.

rand

4) Badass Events Get Registrations:

Why did C2 MTL and PTTOW sell out? Why does Dreamforce have over 140,000 people attending in 2014? Simple — they put on amazing events, and know how to drive registration. There are three ways to drive people to an event these days:

  1. Email (still the best)
  2. Paid Social
  3. Personal Invitations (not Linkedin spamming by an outsourced agency)

These are the three most effective drivers. First off, you’re only going to drive attendance to an event that people care to go. If you are putting on a product pitch in a hotel, you should seriously reconsider your job prospects, but if you’re putting on an AMA with a massive thought leader, all you need to do is drop an email out the day of the event. No joke, that’s what Wistia did to promote their AMA with Rand. If you don’t have email, do not buy a list. Instead, use paid social promotions. If you rely on organic social, it’s very likely that you will fail. You need to pay Twitter and Facebook to target your prospects. Remember: if your event is awesome, you need to make sure your copy reflects this and your images as well. If you do this, you’ll get registrations.

5) The Best Events Use Digital Well:

If you’re not using technology at your event, you should pick up the slack. There are two easy ways to do this. The first is a tweet wall. There are lots of tools which will let you turn a digital screen into a highly interactive live tweet experience. Try to set up a wall next to your speaker or in the main event space. Allow people to be social and watch what happens. This idea comes from TedX, so I promise you it works.

tedx

Step it up and try geo-fencing (not a literal fence, but a digital one). Use hyper local mobile (HyLoMo) technology, which will allow you to push marketing to people’s phones at the event. This doesn’t require anyone to download an app, but rather takes advantage of the time they are spending on social. Consider dropping an ad for your pub crawl into their social feed while they wait for the speaker to start. This is totally possible via HyLoMo, and a great way to help people discover new things at events as well. Experiment with these strategies, and you’ll see you can drive engagement in a whole new way while people are at your event.

6) The Best Events Get Re-Racked:

If your event is truly valuable, its lifespan will extend beyond the end of the event. Anita Covelli, director of Product Strategy, Readytalk, says:

“We’ve seen attendance to an event drop by 10 percent, but the leads from the hosted recording increase by 300 percent”.

Learn to maximize your lead flow by anticipating the number of leads that will surface after the event has aired.

If you are only counting leads who attend your event as “hot leads,” you’re missing a massive opportunity, and really gauging your audience wrong. We live in a digital age where Netflix killed cable — what makes you think your fans are going to show up to watch your webinar at a specific time if they won’t even do that for Game of Thrones? The harsh reality is that people will engage with your content on their own time, not yours.

7) Events Are the Original Social Marketing

“Events are the original social experience. It’s the immersive experience centered around a central topic, idea, or belief, shared between the collective audience and presenters, which makes events so central.”

Matt McGowan, Ad Strategy, Google

Remember this: events are personal, social, and are the best marketing you can do.

If you want to be great at content marketing, B2B marketing, social, or just drive more leads at your next event, listen to the pros. Put the experience first, consider hosting events in non-typical formats, and use new techniques to drive more engagement. Remember that not all events are created equal. There are the ones that get remembered and talked about, and then there are the others. Which kind of events do you want to put on?

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