When it comes to events, many B2B brands are a bit out of shape. Maybe even flabby. Shows are being booked, tickets purchased, booths shipped, and hours invested, but the returns are nowhere near what they could and should be. It’s literally and figuratively a “sh*t show.”
To help the CMOs of CMO Huddles anticipate and avoid such calamities, we dedicated all the June huddles to events. Not surprisingly, almost every huddler has or plans to attend/exhibit at a major event this year. These discussions have yielded a number of tried and true approaches as well as a few interesting “exercises” to help you get in shape and make the most of your event investments.
Lift Smarter, Not Harder
Like weight lifting, events can be painful when done incorrectly. Marketing needs to happen before and after the event, not just during. If there is no plan for pre/post activities, don’t go. Hopefully this rule of thumb will cut down on the number of events you attend and ensure that you optimize the ones you do attend in a big way. Keep in mind that event expenses (booth space, travel, hospitality, premiums, temp staff, etc.) are way up and expected to rise at least 10% higher in 2023.
Set Realistic Goals
Chances are if the event was ineffective before the pandemic, there is no reason to believe it will suddenly become a winner. Everyone needs to agree on the potential value of the event. One huddler projects the potential “revenue in the room” for each event, including new customers and upsell opportunities. With that figure calculated, it is much easier to work backward into realistic lead/opportunity goals relative to attendance costs.
Make It Fun
Getting in shape is daunting unless you turn it into a game. The same applies to events. Creating fun experiences worked before the pandemic and is working even better now since many B2B brands simply forgot how. One huddler noted: “The game in our booth attracted three times the traffic as our staid competitors, generating 2x our lead target and making it really fun for our employees as well.” Given the retention challenges also facing many B2B brands, a little fun at your events goes a long way.
Stretch For Your Customers
You may be out of town at your event but chances are there’s a customer nearby. So, don’t waste the opportunity to pay them a visit before, during, or after the show. They will appreciate the time and attention, especially given the primarily virtual relationship you’ve had with them over the last 2 years. Most people will welcome a face-to-face visit particularly if you can do it in a small, relatively safe environment. And in this way, you’ll stretch your budget, adding retention (and possibly upsell) to the overall event value.
Sell Without the Burn
Most of us prefer dentist visits to time with salespeople. Keep this in mind when you’re picking the staffers for your booth. It’s unlikely you can keep all of your “hunters” away, but the emphasis should be on serving customers and prospects with fun, insightful demos and product roadmaps. As one huddler noted early in the pandemic, “The more we help, the more we sell.” This mindset applies to events even if your primary goal is to get leads and/or close deals.
Health is the Priority
No matter how strict the protocols, people are coming back from events with Covid. Of the 10 or so huddlers who attended the recent RSA conference, at least 2 got sick shortly afterwards. At a recent gathering of several hundred employees, one CMO reported that 20-30% of the staffers ended up testing positive. Fortunately, in these cases, no one got seriously ill, all having been vaccinated and boosted. Given this reality, your employees need to make the choice of attending events on their own. It can’t in any way be a requirement.
Final note: If you’ve found a fresh approach to shaping up your events, please let us know.