On the current site for Access Intelligence's February 2019 3rd Annual Connected Plant Conference, there's a thrilling three-minute video showing highlights from the 2018 event. Industry panels impress, presentations pop, auditoriums are filled with engaged attendees, and the tradeshow floor hums with activity.
"[Why] do I start with digitalization and analytics?" one speaker begins. "To make smarter and faster decisions." Testimonials resonate—"This is the first time I've attended and I definitely will be coming back," says one conference attendee. "Just the volume of people that are here and the connections we're able to make." An exhibitor regales over the quality of attendees he's encountering.
I always preach that getting a good photographer or videographer is sound strategy, if those photos and videos get used! A lot. (I've seen the opposite too often.)
One of the biggest takeaways from the 2018 State of B2B Event Marketing, a report from the event-automation firm Certain and Heinz Marketing, is to define your ideal attendees. It can be by identifying key target accounts, verticals, titles or roles. Then develop a thoughtful strategy around how you want to reach them, engage them, and, eventually, convert them.
The Connected Plant Conference, which won a 2018 SIPAward for conference marketing—see my story here—has accomplished that attendee defining. Here are other takeaways from the report:
Meet with sales early to smooth the process. "The lead hand-off to sales is arguably the most critical point in an event's lifespan," says the report. "However, over half of B2B professionals report that this hand-off is ineffective. When leads are either lost or inappropriately assigned to sales, it hinders marketing's pipeline accountability, prevents the sales team's ability to close deals, and affects the likelihood of future events."
Employ better tools. When asked to rate the effectiveness of the mix of technologies and resources being used to plan and manage events, only 25% of B2B pros ranked their mixes as effective, with a majority ranking their mixes as somewhat effective. However, B2B professionals who use an event mobile app and event automation platform rank those tools as very effective.
Use social media during the event. When the bell rings, hashtags become marketers' favorite tactic, and other options, such as event apps, printed agendas—which I'm still a big fan of—and social content are used more frequently.
Automate as much as possible. Surprisingly, nearly 50% of B2B professionals report having to manually upload lists of contacts to their CRM or marketing automation platform. A manual task like that puts one's entire event strategy at-risk. Sales not only has to wait for the list to be uploaded, but also has the added concern of whether or not the data was uploaded correctly.
Send personal invites to key prospects and customers. This can greatly impact your registration and attendance rates. Use your data on what the recipient has interests in to provide suggestions for sessions, activities or content.
Personalize follow-ups. "Use the data you captured at your event to personalize your follow-up and sales tactics," the report urges. It's also a good time to "demonstrate thought leadership... Close to 50% of people use content marketing in their follow-up to event attendees, and of those 50%, 2 in 3 find it highly effective in continuing the conversation and leading to new business" and next year's conference.
Build relationships after the event. "Achieving ROI from events is not [just] about attending the event as much as it's about growing those relationships post-event. B2B marketers with a comprehensive strategy for nurturing post-event are better-able to tie revenue to events," said Ardath Albee, CEO at Marketing Interactions.
And one more that's not in the report but is important...
You can download the full report here.
Get more from your speakers. Secure additional commitments for popular speakers when they sign contracts, not just letting it happen as a one-off, 60-minute session and then forgetting about it. Ask if the speaker can stay for lunch or for a reception where attendees can meet her. Make sure that anything held before—a Facebook Live session perhaps—points to something at your live event. And make sure your speakers are reaching out to their followers about the event.