By Jorge Abrego
Acres U.S.A. Advertising Director
People buy from people. This is a principle that most companies understand and should remember in event marketing, or any B2B marketing. Events, as most ag marketers know, are a wonderful platform to facilitate interaction, build relationships and create trust. Events are great for B2B lead generation, which is why 68% of B2B marketers say that events are an effective demand generation strategy to acquire qualified top-of-funnel leads. By now some of you might be thinking, “Thanks, Captain Obvious.”
However, to better understand the best ways of yielding optimum ROI from your event spending, you first have to examine what role the events play within your broader marketing strategy. Events enable you to skip a few steps in the early marketing funnel by allowing you to actually talk to a potential client about challenges and how your solution can help them add more value to their business. While this confirms why you do them, maximizing your company’s investments requires that you don’t skip the necessary steps it takes to optimize both the quantity and quality of those leads, which should then lead to more and higher quality conversions.
Strategic Demand Generation
Most companies struggle with maximizing ROI from B2B events because they aren’t planning and executing an event marketing plan that is integrated into their broader marketing strategy. An important key is to remember that events yield the best results when they act as a part of your overall demand generation strategy and not in isolation.
Your demand generation strategy should include a healthy mix between digital marketing, print advertising and events. And according to B2B event marketing research, a healthy balance would be to spend around 35% of your marketing budget on events and 35% on digital marketing, with the remaining 30% spent on branding, content marketing, earned media, owned media and miscellaneous things like partner marketing and affiliate development.
A good way to look at it as that the latter, which primarily feeds the top of the funnel, supports and enhances the former, which feeds the middle and bottom of the funnel. So much so that when done correctly and with strategic forethought, it significantly increases the quantity and improves the quality of your leads.
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Integrate B2B Event and Digital Marketing
Combining events and digital marketing requires companies to stop treating events and online marketing in separate silos. To get more ROI out of B2B events, you need to treat an event and digital marketing as one campaign. Too often, an event is considered a campaign and digital marketing as another campaign channel. Maximizing results requires merging and treating them as one campaign to improve customer experience and create an omnichannel approach to get your target audience to engage with you to improve ROI.
Understanding what you’re aiming at is a fundamental aspect of ROI evaluation and in B2B event marketing is 4:1. This means that for every dollar you invest, you should receive $4 in return on average. However, 44% of marketers only experience 2 to 2.5:1 event ROI. If your event ROI in a B2B environment is 2:1, then you need to figure out ways to improve your event marketing plan.
Of course, not every event will be successful. You will generate more revenue from certain trade shows and less from others. Therefore, you need to evaluate your ROI on more than one event and you should continuously tweak – but not dramatically change – your tactics to ensure you have a broader view of what works best to improve and refine. If you’re routinely changing which events you sponsor then you’re not properly researching the value proposition and true fit. More importantly, you’re not building equity with the audience and your event partners. These two considerations are paramount in making sure you are hitching up with the right events to grow your business.
Optimize your pre-event strategy
At the core of your event marketing plan should be your pre-event strategy. What are you going to do to ensure you will maximize ROI post-event? B2B lead generation is tough and without a pre-event strategy, you likely will not yield the kind of ROI you’re hoping for.
In addition to working closely with your sales team to create a mutually agreed event lead coverage plan, the pre-event marketing plan should include how your team will leverage social media. These should be well-written posts that highlight important event content topics relevant to the problems your solution solves. In order to do so, work with your media/event partner to ensure you have the content agenda to help develop these posts since attendees will generally follow these hashtags and will see your posts.
Additionally, some event sponsorships include media as part of a package, so be sure to leverage those with content-relevant messaging. If your sponsorship doesn’t include media, leverage your event partner’s print and digital channels to amplify your sponsorship again by correlating your message to relevant event content themes. Nothing increases the quality and quantity of leads more than association to events and themes your “community” are interested in and passionate about.
Post- Event Strategy
Many CMOs will tell you that even though MQL (marketing qualified leads) follow-up is the domain of sales, marketing should play a role in continuing to nurture the lead by helping to build the relationship. A good way to do that is to make sure you capture key moments and news-worthy topics from the event to send out digital ads that tout them, and tie it into a special offer you’ve created just for event attendees as a way to thank them.
As for lead follow-up, be sure your sales team closes the follow-up gap to 1-2 days after the event. Especially if the contact is a senior-level person, you need to take into consideration that they are extremely busy and if you don’t follow up fast enough, they will have moved on and started working on other things. The caveat is that they will only talk to solution providers that are able to talk in business value. So take this into consideration.
Because events continue to grow in their marketing importance — assuming your events are on point and checking all the boxes for audience and content themes — working on your event game should be a year-round endeavor. More than any other channel, events afford your company the ability to be part of a community that shares a mission and vision that your company can play a role in bringing to life.
Customer engagement should begin at the event itself for next year by working with your event partner to discuss ideas that can enhance the value of the experience to the audience and your company. Be proactive and leverage your association to the event’s themes and brand via webinars, white papers, podcasts and any other tactic, which enables you to generate endemic engagement, build thought leadership and become a provider of rich content that delivers both direct and indirect value to the regenerative ag community we all serve.
In 2020, event marketers realized that the real goal of an event marketing plan should be similar to the goal of any other tactic in their overarching marketing strategy, the ongoing engagement of your target audience to take the next step in the buyer journey. Events have driven unity and agility as the era in which events were treated in a silo is ending. Recognized as one important part of a larger marketing ecosystem, event marketers are being embraced as an integral part of the marketing team, while giving regenerative marketers the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with a partner in a unified effort toward the same shared outcomes: more loyal customers, and fuel for growing your business.
Jorge Abrego is the Advertising Director for Acres U.S.A. and has 26 years of advertising agency and B2B media experience in the agriculture, energy and technology sectors.
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