Entries Tagged as 'Events & trade shows'

Pros and cons of in-person events for B2B marketing

In today’s hyper-connected world, there are good reasons for in-person marketing events such as “lunch-and-learn” seminars. The traditional style of building a relationship with a potential client required you to get in your car, get on a plane, or pick up the phone–and that’s what you need to do for an effective group discussion or simply to connect more directly with prospects.

If you’re choosing between remote or in-person, factor in the time needed to present the information, the needs of the customers or prospects you’re targeting, and the physical locations of attendees.

Live events can include:

  • Executive briefings
  • Breakfast meetings
  • Lunch-and-learns
  • Seminars

Pros of in-person events

  • You can hold your audience’s attention longer. Remote events should last no more than an hour, but with a live seminar or briefing you can provide more in-depth information. Users or technical decision makers who want to dive deep into the details of your solution may want that extra time. Live events are also effective for prospective buyers who are further along in their purchase cycle–they’re more willing to commit the time to attend.
  • You can show attendees more. Have an on-site tour, show how your product is made, or let attendees see how services are provided. If your facilities are impressive, prospects absorb the atmosphere of your company’s success. Alternatively, you can invite prospects to events at your customer’s site to see your products or services in action.
  • Your audience can meet you and your team, and vice versa. A live event gives prospects a chance to meet and make a personal connection with you, and to vet you and your staff.
  • Attendees can interact with your happy customers. You can invite satisfied customers to your live event and have them mingle with hot prospects. These customers often act as your ambassadors and help sell the prospect on the benefits of selecting your products or services.
  • You can gauge audience reaction. Are attendees staring into space? If so, you’re either moving too slowly or too fast. Switch your gears and now you’re connecting with them. At one seminar I gave recently, I saw two attendees whispering and nodding to one another when I made a key point. When I caught their eye, they told me that they understood the value of the recommendation but didn’t know how to “get there from here.” Their immediate feedback let me outline specific strategies and tactics, and it created the opportunity to talk later about how my services could help.
  • Your venue can be a draw. If you’re holding an event at an attractive facility–at a casino or on a yacht, for example–attendance may be higher simply because the venue itself is a lure.

Cons of in-person events

  • Live events can be more costly. Expenses for travel, meeting rooms, audiovisual equipment, attendee meals and refreshments, and parking can add up quickly. You’ll also need personnel to staff registration tables, meet and greet guests, and oversee event logistics.
  • They require a larger time commitment. Unless the event is being held at your site or your customer’s, you’ll both spend additional time traveling to and from the venue.

What factors do you consider? Please post a comment with any other pros and cons that have helped you decide to either hold a live event or “go virtual,” and I’ll let you know if I’ve got ideas on the topic.

 

When it comes to generating leads, do virtual events make sense for B-to-B marketers?

Think of a conference or tradeshow conducted online with presenters, exhibitors and attendees exchanging information and networking from the convenience of their computers.

These “virtual events” can benefit all parties. Attendees don’t have to travel, or even leave their offices. Neither do the speakers and exhibitors. This saves everyone time and money.

And the convenience of attending via their computer can boost the number of attendees significantly.

I think virtual events are great. Why? Because few of the conferences or tradeshows I want to attend happen in little ol’ Rhode Island. So if I want to attend I have to waste way too much time at the airport and on the plane, then again in the rental car or taxi line, trying to get there. Or I have to spend three or four hours taking an Amtrak train to New York City. Or I waste an hour and a half or more, both ways, driving to attend the event if it happens to come to the Boston area.

Compare this to what is involved in attending a virtual event: I block the time on my calendar. Then at the appointed hour I click on a link and attend the event via my computer.

The same goes for when I’m speaking or presenting at one of these virtual events.

Yes, it is sometimes good to get out of the office and network with clients and suppliers at in-person conferences, tradeshows or seminars. But often that means losing the day or more just getting there and back, not to mention the time away from my family. This makes me pretty selective about which in-person events I will attend.

I’m less selective about signing up to attend virtual events. Why? Because if I determine that the virtual event isn’t a good investment of my time, or the presenter is putting me to sleep, I simply close my browser and use that time for other things instead.

 

For additional strategies, tactics and tips related to using B-to-B marketing events to generate qualified leads and drive sales, check out the articles under the heading B-to-B events & trade shows at my website’s Learning Center for Marketers.

 

13 don’ts of promoting your marketing events

Having worked with dozens of large, medium and small companies in planning and promoting their marketing events, I’ve learned what can make events succeed or flop. So when investing your time and money promoting your next event, consider these tips to avoid learning the hard way.

Events are a great way to increase leads and move prospects along the sales cycle. But you’ve got to promote them well to maximize the number of prospective customers who will attend.

  1. Don’t use a writer within the company just because they’re an employee, if they’re not up to the task. Freelance writers may get better results.
  2. Don’t hire a freelance writer who doesn’t have experience with direct marketing or promotional writing. Having an experienced writer will have a direct benefit in terms of attendance.
  3. Don’t assume your audience already understands the value of participating in your event. Provide thorough copy and detailed benefits to show there’s valuable information and that your event is worth the time and energy to attend.
  4. Don’t let grammatical errors or typos slip through.
  5. Don’t assume URLs, phone numbers, email addresses and directions are correct and working properly until you test each one.
  6. Don’t focus on selling the company, sell the benefits of the event to bring in the attendees.
  7. Don’t leave out positive comments from others who’ve attended.
  8. Don’t have a dull headline without clear benefits. Generate excitement and interest to make a good first impression. For example, “7 Marketing Mistakes That Can Cost You Big Bucks– and How to Avoid Them.”
  9. Don’t use formal invitations or postcards. Generally, registrations plummet with these types of pieces because there’s no room for details.
  10. Don’t wait too long to start promoting your event. Get on decision-makers calendars before they commit themselves elsewhere.
  11. Don’t promote too early, then fail to keep in touch.
  12. Don’t rely on only one method of communication. Emails get caught in spam filters for unpredictable reasons and direct mail may not be delivered properly or thrown out accidentally.
  13. Don’t forget to remind them your event is approaching as time draws near. Follow up with key prospects via telephone, and sending last-minute, “See you there!” e-mails to registrants.

Do you have any “Don’t”s to add? If you’ve worked on a project like this before, inevitably there’s something that could have gone better. Add a comment, I’d like to hear about it.

 

Will that conference be worth it? Lead follow-up is the key

Just got back from a conference?

Keep up the momentum by following up with all those leads and business cards you collected. It’s the first step in turning those prospects into qualified sales-ready opportunities.

Plan ahead

When you set out for the conference, bring along pre-addressed overnight mailers. Send the leads back to the office each night for immediate data entry and response. Don’t let the opportunity wither away.

Data entry is tedious, but it’s got to be done.

I invested in a CardScan® business card scanner. It’s easier and more accurate than my manual data entry. The current version of its software lets you do drag-and-drop data entry from emails, Web pages and electronic documents too. Visit www.cardscan.com to see models that will put data directly into Outlook or your CRM system.

You can also call your local temp agency if everyone in your office is busy. Good agencies have specialists who can be at your office in an hour.

Email your prospects right away.

The email addresses you collected from business cards and booth visitors and are most likely up-to-date. So email each prospect with “Nice to meet you…” or “Thanks for dropping by.” Include links to relevant information on your website and attach marketing materials. You may be the first or only one to follow up so quickly, which makes a great second impression.

Start dialing.

Schedule calls to each the prospects you added to your CRM system, allowing a few days for prospects to catch up upon their return from the conference. Mid-morning is usually best for both you and your prospect. Also, make the calls in sets of ten, waiting to do other things until you have attempted to reach all ten, to keep the distractions at bay.

The good news is this isn’t cold-calling. Each one expressed interest when you met them or they visited your booth.

“But what should I say?”

To avoid sounding like just another salesperson and to put the prospect at ease, open each call by saying something like this:

“Hi (prospect’s name), this is (your first and last name) from (your company name). We met (or ‘You stopped by our booth’) at (conference name) in (city name) last week. I’m interested to hear your thoughts about the conference, but first, is this a good time to speak?”

This approach will set your call apart from the majority of the other calls your prospects receive, which usually start with a dumb question like “Did you get the information I sent you?” Why is this a dumb question? Because usually the answer is “No,” which is difficult to move past. Be sure to avoid the overused “How are you today?” (Want to have some fun? The next time a telemarketer asks, “How are you today?” answer “Terrible” and see what the reaction is.)

By saying “I’m interested to hear your thoughts about the conference,” you’ve established a reason for the call that feels comfortable for the prospect. Asking “Is this a good time to speak?” sets a warm and professional tone. Besides, if it isn’t a good time for the prospect, he or she won’t be receptive anyway. If the time isn’t convenient, ask what time would be better.

Next, continue the conversation by asking questions like “What are your thoughts about your time at (conference name)? Did you find it to be worthwhile?” or “Of all the booths you could have visited during the conference, why did you stop by ours?”

The objective is to learn if the prospects are sales ready. The answers will tell you more about the prospects’ business, situations, interests and needs.

Whether prospects are sales ready or not, tell them what you think the next step should be and ask them if they agree.

If you want a business marriage to happen, start dating.

Research shows 3 out of 4 sales come from leads who aren’t ready to buy right away. Only 1 in 4 buys within six months. Half can take a year or more. So you’ve got to find a way to “date” them until they are receptive to your business proposal.

Save money and have more time to invest with sales-ready prospects by starting with less costly one-to-many marketing techniques. Salespeople and telemarketing are costly, so they’re best for only the qualified prospects. You can invest about the same amount per lead to reach longer-term prospects twelve times a year with a postcard or letter, and staying within reach over a longer buying cycle.

Create a series of emails.

  • What are the three or four major reasons why someone would buy from your company?
  • What would cause them to need your products or services?
  • Why would they select your company instead of the competition?

Create a series of emails with each addressing one of these points. Set up a schedule, and your prospects will get to know your best qualities until they’re ready to set a date.

Be sure each email (or call, for that matter) includes a suite of offers or calls to action that are designed to encourage the prospects to take the next step. Educational offers– how-to guides, checklists, case studies, white papers, and Web or live seminars on the same subjects– usually work best.

The key to your success is reaching the right prospect, at the right time, with the right offer. Prospects’ needs don’t change that dramatically. Success comes not from saying something completely different every time you contact them, but from the ongoing follow-up.

 
Need help with B2B lead generation, marketing and sales?
For more information, please call Mac McIntosh at +1-401-294-7730, send him email at or visit www.sales-lead-experts.com