If you are running out of ways to use your marketing budget in a manner that is worth your while, consider hosting a small conference or after work event. Utilizing events to market your company and its product or services can be not only be an extremely great opportunity to network with new clients, it can allow you to become a stronger influence on your community and industry.
In fact, according to a study released by InsideSales.com in mid-2013, event marketing was the second most effective B2B marketing tactic in generating leads and driving brand awareness.
Below are some of the ways that event marketing can help your B2B company grow.
One of the best ways to become known as a thought leader in your industry is to speak and teach at conferences, meet-ups, and events. If your local area is lacking in relevant B2B conferences to go to, or they aren’t covering the type of topics you think local industry professionals could benefit from, consider holding your own event.
If the thought seems overwhelming, try just a one night, after work event at first. Have one or two speakers and serve light appetizers and drinks (or even just punch, coffee, and tea).
If you don’t have the budget to rent out a hotel meeting room, many local libraries allow anyone from the community to reserve a meeting room, as long as it’s open to anyone in the community. Providing expertise through events can help increase your credibility that sounds out from most companies, who don’t go to the effort to do physical learning events.
At Search Engine Journal, we did this by first doing meet-ups on nights of major conferences (so our audience was already in the area). Then, we moved to holding one-day conferences. Our first was last June, and we had a sponsor (partners and sponsors are a good idea, as they make larger events more feasible).
It was so successful, we are now doing seven conferences this year, around the U.S. and London.
Connect With Customers in a Non-Pushy Way
A casual night or day of informative sessions from experienced industry speakers will give customers a new way to learn about your company without worrying about being forced to sit through a pushy sales presentation. It’s fine to talk 5-10 minutes about what your company does (it is your event, after all), however, the focus should be on the content.
In addition to a brief introduction about what your company does, be sure to have a table with more information about your company, possibly staffed by a one or two of your friendliest sales executives. That way, your sales team is there if potential customers want to talk, but they can come to you, instead of your team badgering them for a sale.
Many of the conferences I’ve been to have short sponsors announcements and I’ve seen the audience pay attention, especially when it’s brief and interesting or funny. Keep it light yet informative, and give the audience a call-to-action (“Come see us at our booth after lunch for a free Rubik’s cube!”) so they feel more compelled to take action.
Grow Industry Network
Event marketing is for more than just potential customers. Of course, you want all your events to result in lots of long-term client relationships, but becoming better known in the industry is just as important.
Growing your network of other B2B companies who offer related services to yours can lead to possible future partnerships, referrals, and sharing of information that can help you becoming better known in your industry.
In order to grow your industry network during B2B events, offer a networking reception before or after the event (depending on the time of day). It offers a casual atmosphere to get to know others at the event, giving an opportunity for building relationships.
Many more relationships are cemented over food and drink than in a cold conference room where you are trying to pay attention to the speakers.
Connect With Local Industry Organizations
Holding events also allows you to interact with another important aspect of having a successful B2B company: your local community. Working with local related organizations to host the event, secure meeting space, or recruit speakers can help expand your network and get to know others near by.
This can help you not only hold more powerful and impactful events, it also can help you become more well-known in your community. This can bolster sales and long-term relationships.
After your event, reach out to the connections you made on Twitter, LinkedIn, or email, thanking them for attending and suggesting a time to meet for coffee or lunch, if you struck a genuine friendship or colleague relationship (don’t do it to then push your company’s offerings onto them).
The purpose of B2B event marketing (and the follow-up after it) is to build relationships that will turn into great work colleague or customer relationships. I’ve even occasionally taken it a step further, and sent hand-written thank you notes to speakers or event organizers for conferences or meet-ups I’ve been involved in. It’s a small gesture that goes a long way!
Focus on being a thought leader, the community, and what you can offer your customers and those in your industry. The rest will happen naturally.
Photo via Flickr.