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Social media takes your marketing event to the next level

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To date, few B2B companies have capitalized on the full potential of the seminars, receptions, trade show stands and other marketing events they hold for business partners, clients and prospective customers. Social media holds the power to unlock this potential, drastically altering the ability to interact and engage with attendees before, during and after any event. But there’s a catch.

All it takes is the courage to jump in, boots and all, and a little advice from those who have done it with success. Here are a few pointers on what you can do and how…

Consider these numbers

Research from marketing automation firm Hubspot reveals that 68% of B2B companies rank marketing events as important to their business. The study also showed that B2B companies on average spend 5-8 weeks planning their trade shows or other marketing events. So, if your workplace is typical of companies around the globe, you’re probably already running periodic, seminar-style events in the physical world. But I suspect you won’t be very far down the track of working with methods that promise to build on and extract the full potential of such activities.

A more recent study Marketing Sherpa, had B2B marketers confessing that the perceived effectiveness of face-to-face events dropped 20% during 2011. Yet B2B companies are still allocating a whopping 21% of marketing budgets to trade shows and events, making this the largest post in many B2B marketing spends.

Solve two problems in one go by integrating social media in your event promotion

Why this widening gap between event spend and perceived value for B2B companies? When surveyed by Hubspot, the biggest challenge reported by marketers was quite simply to get people to respond to event invitations — in fact, nearly 50% testified to this. A further 26% confessed to having difficulty knowing which online tools and social media to use for promotion, while 13% of marketers had no experience whatsoever in using online tools.

These challenges aside, leveraging the possibilities offered by social media, and altering how you approach promoting your trade show, seminar, or marketing event will enable you not only to heighten engagement but also to create better, more useful and far more memorable events. By powering up your marketing event with social media, you can create a deeper and more interactive experience that lets the event – and, more importantly, your company brand and message – come to life in the minds of participants before the event, as well as long after the congress center has been vacated.

Get people hooked before your event and have them running to RSVP

In the new world of optimized events, your event doesn’t just start when the smiling greeter hands over nametags and door passes to yet another anonymous auditorium or exhibit hall. The lead-up time is full of opportunities to improve results on and after the day itself.

Here’s how to begin using social media to optimize your events prior to the day:

1.       Using owned or earned media rather than the simple paid media models typical of traditionally thinking marketers, you can begin highlighting the theme of the event months beforehand or talk up the product or services you’re bringing to a trade show while generating interest among those who follow your company or who are connected to its arms-length Voice of Industry activities.

2.       Among the registered or unregistered visitors to your online locations, you can solicit early expressions of interest, using these to figure out whether your theme is on target and indicating what your audience sees as the most important aspects of the event. You may even be able to send out a questionnaire, gathering opinions or other data about a topic of importance, then turning this into a report, the findings of which can be presented as part of the event itself. This heightened activity and focus on the eventgoers themselves puts them in the driving seat and ensures their participation and interest.

During the event…

1.       While face-to-face meet-ups are still highly valuable for engaging buyers and building networks, many industry-level discussions have moved online. The way you approach your trade show or marketing event should reflect this, not ignore it. During the event, many of those unable to attend will still be interested and will hear a subset of your messages, despite their lack of attendance. You can also serve these people by broadcasting event highlights on your Voice of Industry channels.

2.       For further reach, you can ally yourself with industry VIPs or influential bloggers by giving them privileged access and behind-the-scenes information. If you ensure that they have valuable and even exclusive material to share with their followers,the reach of your communications will drastically improve.

3.       Live tweet the event and encourage event goers to do the same. By creating an intuitive and easy to remember hashtag for your event and promoting it heavily before and during the event, you can create a highway of event-related information, impressions and discussions.

Following the event…

1.       Following each event, you can ask for feedback, distribute presentations and seed discussions about points raised by speakers. You will usually notice, too, a flurry of activity following each event as people start connecting with each other and with individual speakers. Such connections are, of course, encouraged and supplemented through networking breaks during the events themselves.

2.       If you have done your social activities well, you’ll also be left with a treasure trove of data to help you refine and revise not only future events or trade show activities but also your communication and even your offering. Debrief VIPs and follow the Twitter stream closely for reactions and comments – reaching out to critics or fans. Listening is one of the most important activities in today’s B2B marketing world, so if you have set up the most important channels for communication you have also set yourself up for success.

My advice, then, is to think in three stages about each event: Pre-event, on-the-day and post-event. It’s a great way to get creative about getting more out of each marketing event – and it will make the whole experience much more compelling for your audience.

 

Do the numbers from the research resonate with your experiences of planning and promoting trade shows or events? How are your experiences with augmenting events with social media or other channels? Be sure to share your own experiences in the comments!

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Jonathan Winch

Jonathan Winch

I’m Jonathan Winch, a partner at Copenhagen-based advertising agency Eye for Image and co-author of the book "The Death of Propaganda - B2B Buyer Behavior Has Changed. Now it's Your Turn". I've participated as a strategic and creative resource in the marketing and communication sphere for over 25 years, making contributions to the strategies and communications of companies of all sizes, the best known of which include Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Danisco, GN ReSound, Hempel, Nokia Siemens Networks, LEGO, Coloplast, and Johnson & Johnson.

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