B2B buyers are more empowered than ever before. Using websites, blogs, and social networks for research, it’s possible for buyers to make purchasing decisions with little to no direct contact with a seller. For you as a seller, this makes it critical to create opportunities to establish relationships, build rapport, and earn the trust of your prospects and customers. Hosting events—whether they are seminars, webinars, conferences, or full-blown trade shows—provides a valuable platform to connect your market. When approached thoughtfully and strategically, they can also be an incredible medium for your business to differentiate itself from the competition. 

We’ve put together a checklist to assist the marketing efforts for your face-to-face events. The points outlined are a combination of online and offline tactics to ensure that you reach each member of your audience in a way that suits his or her preferences and habits. Every business is different, and no one knows better than you do what tactical mix is right for your industry and customers. Our hope is simply to arm you with the best information to empower your decision-making.

Let’s get started.

STEP 1: Determine Your Objectives  

Before you can market any event successfully, you must first define objectives to measure against.  The simplest way to do that is to think from the end. After the event has taken place, what do you want to have accomplished? Goals tend to fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Facilitating lead generation and/or sales: If there’s one thing show hosts and exhibitors can agree on, it’s the importance of lead generation and sales at events. To generate quality leads and maximize sales, first determine your target audience. If your events are structured around particular themes, topics, or product groupings, invite the customer and prospect demographics that are interested in that content (Marketo). Segmenting your account database, and being selective about which accounts you invite, will increase the percentage of potential buyers in attendance and improve your ROI.  
  • Enhancing customer loyalty: Businesses drive customer loyalty by offering unique value.  Given that for the past 25 years and counting, the #1 reason attendees have shown up at events is exposure to new products (CEIR), a big part of your value must be in showcasing the latest goods and trends in your industry. Create loyalty by positioning your events as innovative, relevant, and up-to-the-minute. Provide information and interactions that can’t be attained anywhere else.
  • Converting prospects into customers: There is a recipe for turning your prospects into paying customers and you’re in a perfect position to use it at your events. It includes one part ‘being informative’, two parts ‘being helpful’, three parts ‘being engaged’, a few big shakes of ‘establishing credibility’, and several dashes of ‘providing nurturing (not hard selling)’. (In our experience, it also doesn’t hurt to provide the opportunity to negotiate rebates on the show floor.)
  • Improving brand awareness: Two of the best incentives for hosting a business event are ownership of attention and the ability to communicate your brand identity holistically. In trade publications and online, brand engagement happens alongside your competitors, who are as close as the turn of a page or the click of a link. At events, your audience is quite literally captive. You control the messaging, the experience, and, perhaps most importantly, the feeling (Marketo). The feelings and ideas associated with your brand are its positioning; the emotional reason people would choose to interact with you and become a customer. What kind of thematic graphical elements will communicate your identity and positioning effectively?
  • Providing customer education: High-quality, highly relevant educational opportunities not only impart knowledge and skills to attendees, they also position your company as a thought leader. When you help your customers improve their business, they begin to see you as more than just a vendor; they view you as a valuable partner who is critical to their success.

Once you understand the desired outcome of your event, you can decide which tactics will drive results. We'll get into those tactics in our next post. Until then!