In a recent webinar by Certain and Heinz Marketing, top marketing and event industry professionals discussed findings from The 2018 State of B2B Event Marketing: Uncovering Best Practices to Drive Value, Pipeline, and Revenue, and offered their insights on how companies can maximize their events in 2018.
Taking a Holistic Approach
One of the most surprising results of the report is that while half of respondents reported that hosted events are in their top five channels being used for demand creation, 40 percent of respondents ranked events as ineffective. How do we explain this? Certain’s VP of Marketing, Kristen Alexander, suggested that part of the problem lies in the fact that often times there is an over-emphasis on pre-event marketing. “The opportunity for events and increasing the effectiveness of events is thinking about events holistically, throughout the entire journey, from pre-event to the opportunity to market during an event, and the opportunity to market after an event.”
Alexander stressed the importance of collecting real-time data during events, as this helps to better engage with targets both at the event and beyond by personalizing the experience.
Professional Keynote Speaker and CEO of Marketing Insider Group, Michael Brenner, said that, “The companies that are the most effective are the ones that look at their event as an ‘always-on’ activity.” This includes asking speakers to help promote events, write articles about the event, post event conversations by using the event hashtag, and hosting quarterly webinars that tie back to your theme. Brenner emphasized the importance of leveling out your pre- and post-event activities so that the value of your event carries on throughout the year.
- Pre-Event Marketing
Alexander continued to note that from the start of the planning process, event marketers should find ways to take the time to think strategically about what you want to accomplish from an engagement perspective. “The real opportunity is for marketers to take a step back and think more strategically about their events program and what they’re trying to accomplish; if they can understand three things from their attendees, what would those three things be that could power their marketing in a smarter way?”
- During the Event
Results from the report revealed that when it comes to marketing during an event, social hashtags are still a popular choice. “Every event needs to make sure that they have a hashtag strategy,” said Brenner “You’ve got to provide mobile interactivity with your audience; it’s a potential disaster for the events that don’t take advantage of it.”
In addition to the simple fact that most people are comfortable using hashtags, Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing noted that hashtags are a free tool that can be easily promoted and shared, avoiding any limitations that marketers can have when promoting an event.
David Raab of Raab & Associates also highlighted the benefits of using a more interactive medium like social media hashtags during events, but noted that, “It’s not just the technology or ease of use from one person to the other, I think it really also has to do with adapting the right medium for that particular situation.”
Alexander shared an effective tactic for Certain, which is to use email during an event with contextually relevant info about an attendee that happened at the event, based on interactions and data collected during the event. She noted that in doing so, that communication feels personalized, which tends to result in a higher conversion rate than a generic email.
- Post-Event Marketing
When it comes to post-event marketing, results show that email is the most used and most effective tool, followed closely by content marketing.
While email seems an obvious choice, content marketing might come as a surprise. So why is content marketing such an important and effective post-event marketing tool? “Events are a physical manifestation of a content strategy, the result of which is the online potential for publication of that same content, and it should be content mapped to every stage of our journey,” said Brenner.
Alexander offered an easy trick that Certain employs to assist with content generation that involves assigning a “content ambassador” for events to gather info on topics for post-event content. “If you know what you want to get out of attendees going into an event, for example if you have segments based on a particular topic, you can task people with writing about that topic, or anything that is relevant to that topic.” This tactic enables her team to then develop post-event content that touches on that topic, with the added knowledge of who to market that content to. “That’s the next level opportunity for content marketers, you can engage with that content across channels,” said Alexander.
Alexander provided insight into why it’s important to understand what types of events are in your overall program, and to consider what those segments of events do for your business. Attaching those segments to harder metrics for the business then enables measurable results. For example, her team is currently focused on pipeline influence and acceleration in field events, and around brand awareness and top of funnel creation for larger trade shows. “That’s a way to think about your business to ensure that events are delivering what they need to based on the type of event, type of accounts you’re engaging, and the outcome that you want.”
Brenner further advised that in many cases people are putting more energy into the event itself, but not into the pipeline generation and data. He advocated for designating a member of the team who is responsible for the task of overseeing the marketing operations and analytics in order track and measure event results. “Tracking pipeline influences is the right answer to the measurement side of the equation; the companies I’ve seen who have done that see hosted events as their biggest driver of closed and won opportunities from a pipeline touch perspective.”
Personalization is Key
Event marketers all seem to agree that personalization is key for events in 2018, an assessment that is shared amongst our contributors.
Brenner noted, “I think personalization in marketing overall is the biggest opportunity we see in 2018”. He advised assigning members from sales and marketing teams to act as personal event ambassadors for target accounts, noting that simple, personal acts like this can enhance an attendees experience. “The more personalized the better, whether that’s through data or human contact, that’s the biggest opportunity for event marketers in 2018.”
Raab agreed, adding that, “The nature of an event is that it’s personal, so anything that enhances the personal nature of the event. People go to events because they want to be with other people, so you have to do things that encourage interactions at all levels, both before and after the event.”
Thinking in advance about your events strategy and the data you want to capture, even if it’s just a few data points beyond registration, will help to inform marketers on the intent of attendees. “This is the basis of creating a personalized experience. Personalization is the key for 2018,” Alexander commented.
Click here for more insights or to view the full webinar, Maximize Events: Supercharge Audience Engagement in 2018
Marcela Ricci, Certain, Inc.