The Intersection of B2B Demand Generation and Event Marketing
Want to know a secret? I work for an event technology company without a dedicated event marketer. Our marketing team is lean and mean: we have demand gen, content, product marketing and ops. When I joined Attend six months ago, we decided to drink a big old glass of Kool-Aid and plan more hosted events. Like everyone else in the known universe, we were kicking off an account-based marketing and sales strategy and we knew in-person in events would be an integral piece of that puzzle.
As the Director of Demand Generation, these events fell to me to execute. Unfortunately, I have no formal event planning experience. A bridal shower or birthday party, sure, but a roadshow with presentations and panels and food & beverage minimums? A little outside of my wheelhouse. But it’s what I didn’t know about event planning that worked to my advantage.
Being a B2B demand generation professional, I wake up every morning with a burning desire to drive revenue. So why approach your events any differently? I knew I wanted to get customers and prospects from our target accounts together in a room to interact with our content and our sales team.
Ready for another secret? 71% of our closed won deals this year interacted with us at an event. Not too shabby!
Combine demand generation and delight
It might sound like I’m going to tell you that the details of your event aren’t important. Just rent a small, windowless room and invite people for a product demo. But you should sweat some of the small stuff – the best hosted events are well-branded with clever giveaways and plenty of nice food and drink. Your attendees will remember those things and feel good about your brand.
Even more important? The content. If you’re planning more than a happy hour or dinner, make sure the speakers and panels are relevant and valuable to the attendees you want to attract. But you can’t stop there! If you spend just as much time taking steps to make the most of your face-to-face interactions as you do on these details, you’ll start driving measurable results from your events.
Divide and conquer
Too often, driving attendance at hosted events falls on the marketing team. At Attend, we believe it’s marketing’s job to provide the room and sales’ job to fill it. That’s a simplification, but the basic premise is true. The marketing team makes sure that the content, format, and location will attract attendees, but it’s ultimately sales’ responsibility to get people to register (and show up).
Like many companies, we have an inside sales model. Make sure that your account executives invite their existing pipeline, your customer success managers invite their accounts, and your sales development team reaches out personally (via email, phone or social channels) to get the right prospects to your event.
Marketing provides target lists of prospects to invite and sends air-cover invitations via email, social and online ads, but if sales owns the relationship, they should be reaching out as well. Nothing drives attendance like a personal touch. Develop clear SLAs around event activities with your sales team, from invitations to follow-up.
Be smart about who you invite
Too much interest in your event sounds like a pretty great problem to have, but such an expensive channel needs to have focus. If you’re following an account-based marketing model, it might not be the best idea to blast everyone in your database with a certain zip code.
Start by driving both marketing and sales efforts against the companies and titles you really want to attend. I knew I wanted a healthy mix of customers, pipeline and new target accounts at our event. By worrying less about registration quantity and more about quality, you can provide a better event for your sales team and your attendees.
Don’t just prep your venue, prep your sales team
If you want to make the most out of your face-to-face interactions, you need to prep your sales team. Before your event, you should meet with the group that will be on-site and go over more than just logistics. You need to do some engagement mapping!
Go over the registration list with your sales team and decide who should own the face-to-face interaction and if any introductions should be made or any specific topics should be discussed. If sales is armed with an engagement plan, they’ll be armed with all the information they need to unlock deals and engage new business.
If you’re not perfectly aligned with sales (who is?), we came up with a pretty good metric to get them excited about engagement mapping before your event. Talk to them about revenue potential! What’s that? It’s the value of all the existing opportunities registered combined with the value of the new and closed lost accounts (based on your ACV). Put that on a slide and your sales reps will be chomping at the bit to create a plan to close that business!
Have a drink after your event, but the work isn’t over yet!
Oh, the sweet relief when the last attendee walks out the door! You’re done! The event is over. Sign the bill, tip the staff and toast to your success. But if you want your event to accelerate and create new pipeline for your sales team, you need to arm them with information for timely and relevant follow-up. Set the expectation with your ops team to get the attendee data back into your systems as soon as possible, the next day at the latest!
It breaks my heart when I get a generic follow-up email after an event where I engaged directly with someone from the company. Marketing follow-up is great, it’s a way to share pictures, slides, videos and any other content from your event, but it’s not enough. We use our own event technology to take notes on in-person conversations that sync right back to Salesforce. That way, when sales reaches out the next day they can continue the conversation instead of starting from scratch.
You can measure every click and page view and even listen to your sales team’s call recordings…but so much of what happens at an event often ends up being a mystery! If you’re trying to show how your events are accelerating and creating pipeline (very important for B2B demand generation), you need to get accurate data back in your systems in a timely manner. Once you have that, you’ll know what opportunities your events sourced and influenced and you’ll know the true ROI.
Measuring influenced opportunities is so important with hosted events, as many of the people you talk to will already be in a sales cycle. If you measure by lead generation alone, you might miss the true impact of your events. Your executives will love reports like that. And great results mean more budget to grow your event strategy and engage sales with your events.
It’s undeniable that events are important for brand awareness, but they should also be opportunities for your sales team to unstick deals and create new opportunities. With the shift from lead generation to account-based everything, marketing needs to take a more targeted approach when planning and executing events. Start thinking like a demand gen marketer and your events will become important revenue drivers for your business.