Secrets to Running Stellar B2B Events
B2B marketing and sales professionals are invited to events left and right. Spring and fall are notoriously big trade show seasons, but events really run all year long. What makes one event more popular than another? How do attendees choose the events they attend? Is it the content, speakers, locale (who would say no to sunny Miami or hip New York City), venue or audience that helps make events enticing and drive attendance?
Truthfully, it is all of the above and running an awesome event is a lot of work. However, there are some tactical and strategic tips that can help you plan an amazing event and keep your attendees coming back year after year.
Date selection – Do your research. Do not underestimate the number of events out there for your target audience. Try not to compete with similar events within the same week or even month. People have limited availability to travel, whether it is due to budget or time out of office, so be mindful of competing events.
Venue choice -Choose your venue wisely. Scout your location personally. Do not rely on website pictures or reviews to make your decision.Venues are all different and depending on your needs (large ballroom for general sessions or breakout rooms to host workshops), not every venue will have the space you need or the layout that suits you. Think accessibility too. A venue needs to be easily accessible via public transportation if in a city and don’t forget about the availability and cost of parking for those who must drive.
Think of attendees as your guests. Are there hotel rooms available to service overnight guests if you host a multi-day event? Venue reputation or the wow-factor plays a part in attendance for some events. People might be more inclined to attend a new event held at a local hot-spot like the Liberty Hotel in Boston or a feel comfortable in a traditional venue like the Hilton Union Square in San Francisco where events are frequently held. Either way, venue is a factor when people choose the events they will attend.
Quality speakers matter – Great events require great content. You can promote an event all day long, but if the content/speakers are not relevant to your audience, you will not succeed. Securing industry experts, intriguing personalities, as well as solid, subject matter experts is essential. If your budget is limited and paying for a speaker is not an option, look to your partners, key customers or peers to provide content. You don’t have to have a million dollar budget for speakers to deliver great content and engage your audience.
Promote heavily, but intelligently: This seems obvious in today’s B2B marketing world where relevant, targeted messaging is what drives revenue for organizations. However, this is often overlooked in the marketing of events. Don’t spend time advertising your event where your target customers are not. Know your customers! Focus online or print advertising in relevant industry publications that your customers read, offer links to registration in your marketing program follow-up emails or promote the event in banner ads on your own website or in partner newsletters.
Social media is a great medium to help promote events – run a contest on your Facebook page to give away a FREE pass, start a discussion on your LinkedIn group about which sessions are filling up quickly, tweet about your agenda or discount deadlines and blog about new speakers added to keep the event awareness high. Promote only where your target customers are – anything else is likely a waste of time and money.
Leverage content marketing best practices: Just as any B2B marketer uses content to move buyers through the funnel, think of event attendees as customers too. Content should help educate, engage and then and close your prospects (attendees). Develop a solid, executable content marketing plan to help drive attendance whether you are running a virtual event, a one-day workshop or a multi-day conference.
Think about it, you wouldn’t use the same piece of content to introduce a new product and close your “buyer” would you? Don’t do it for promoting events either. A solid content marketing strategy will enable you to clearly map out your messages with content designed to help educate and close your “buyer” throughout your event cycle.
Running world-class events is not easy. There are many variables that go into event planning and the logistics piece is just one area that is tricky for people in the early stages of planning. Strategic use of B2B marketing best practices is essential to driving demand and ultimately, running a great event. Thinking as a B2B marketer and not just as an event planner helps make a good event, a tremendous event.
Author: Erika Goldwater @erikawg Director of Marketing, ANNUITAS