For many businesses, marketing is synonymous with events. According to some analysts, events account for 50% - 70% of many companies’ marketing budgets. But are they getting a good return on that investment? In most cases, the answer is no.
Event marketing can be a powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal. But only if you’re doing events the right way, with the right customers, at the right point in the customer journey. If you’re not, you’re likely to spend a lot of money and find yourself with not much to show for it.
It can include things like hosting a lunch or breakfast, presenting at a tradeshow or chamber of commerce lunch, or even online, such as a webinar or demo.
What makes events different from other marketing activities though, is that you’re asking prospects to commit to engaging with you at a specific time and place. There are consequences to asking for that level of commitment. First, the quality of what you’re doing becomes absolutely essential. If customers are going to take time out of their day to spend an hour with you, it better be worth their while.
Second, events are almost always expensive. Booking and staffing a booth at a major tradeshow is not cheap. And if you’re hosting a live event yourself, expect to spend up to $300 per lead you plan to invite. Those costs add up very quickly. So, if you’re using events as a major part of your marketing strategy, you should be thinking carefully about how you use them.
What are you trying to achieve with this event? Generate net-new demand? Educate prospects on a new service or solution? Up-sell or cross-sell existing customers? Accelerate opportunities that are currently in the sales pipeline? The type of event you plan, and who you invite, looks very different depending on your answers to those questions.
In too many cases, companies treat events as little more than a social activity, often in response to sales asking to drum up new business. Unfortunately, that approach rarely works. You can make some new friends, eat some good food, maybe spend a nice afternoon on the golf course. And there can be value to that type of basic relationship-building. But for the money you spend, you’re unlikely to generate real demand.
Events do offer an opportunity for a much higher level of engagement, but they should be part of a broader marketing strategy that extends well beyond that interaction itself. For instance, one quarter we will introduce a product to this type of audience. Next quarter, we are going to provide hands-on demos for these prospects at this point in the sales pipeline. Before you invest the significant resources to get a customer face-to-face, you need to make sure you’re focusing on those prospects where high-touch interaction will really make a difference in closing a deal or pushing it forward.
We host an appreciation dinner where we take current and potential customers of the same industry and intentionally group them at tables together. So while it’s a fun night out, it’s also an environment where our customers can get to know each other, talk about their projects and learn from one another.
We arrange events where we bring customers and prospects together and let them sit and talk with each other. We introduce them and let our current customers share what they’ve done. And, we’ve won some major deals after having people come to these events. On top of the dialogue, they get to know each other and build a partnership of trust. There’s nothing that any of us can do that a customer-to-a-customer can’t do better, so we leverage that as much as we can.
Using events to try to drum up net-new business from prospects who’ve never heard of your company can, at the very least, generate some leads for your marketing database. But the conversion rate won’t be great, and it’s a very expensive way to acquire them. In many cases, you’ll find that other efforts, like digital marketing campaigns, will generate more leads—and higher-quality leads—for the same budget.
Where event marketing can deliver a good ROI is when it’s focused on existing prospects or even existing customers. A small event for a few dozen highly qualified prospects (people with whom you’ve already engaged multiple times) can be an excellent way to provide more in-depth education and bring them closer to a deal. Or, if you’re introducing a new product or service, a carefully selected list of existing customers can provide excellent opportunities to generate new business. Often, the most successful event marketing is devoted to high-dollar opportunities—customers who are well along the sales pipeline, for whom a high-touch interaction can really help close that deal.
Keep it interactive: There are many types of face-to-face interactions you can have with prospects, and they’re not all equal. Whenever possible, let people at an event learn with their hands, and actually interact with the service or solution you’re selling. If you’re hosting a technical breakfast, have workstations where people can get in there and try things out. If you’re presenting at a tradeshow or even a webinar, make sure you include demos.
We invite customers to watch the keynotes from events such as Citrix Synergy with us at the Conecto offices. We’ve found that vendor keynotes really help customers shape the future and understanding of their platforms and watching together creates a fun experience for our customers.
Lead Technology & Concepts
Keep it short: Your prospects’ time is valuable. And no one want sit around for an hour looking at a PowerPoint presentation. Everything you present to customers should be as quick and engaging as possible.
Have a clear call to action: What do you want customers/prospects to do after the event? Make sure you’re thinking about next steps and clearly communicating them.
Measure what you’re doing, and continually look to improve: If you’re going to use events strategically, you have to be able to quantify your efforts. Track attendance carefully. Work with sales to measure the results of the events (new leads that came out of it, deals that were accelerated, etc.) as much as possible. You should be closely tracking where new leads (and even existing prospects and customers) are in the pipeline. Which ones should be put into a given stage of your digital marketing strategy? Which should get a follow-up call from sales? Of the high-dollar deals that close in the weeks after an event, how many represent customers who attended? By quantifying your efforts, you can continually refine and zero in on the most effective way to exploit events for your customer-base.