By Yulia Edirisinghe
In B2B marketing, events are one of the most frequently leveraged tactics, and whether it is a large event, a trade conference, or a small format event in your boardroom, the success of an event hangs on getting the right people in the room. So your event invitation is key. It has to:
- Successfully convey what the event is about, while being coy enough to peak the recipients’ interest to find out more;
- Allow for a process of self-qualification, making sure the people who attend are those you want to have a conversation with;
- Illustrate the value an attendee will gain by attending the event; and
- Position your organisation as one of those known for solving a particular problem.
Big ask for one little letter or email, isn’t it? With a bit of careful planning and execution, it doesn’t have to be.
Start with the outcome in mind
Events are great tactics because when leveraged correctly, they can progress a prospect quite far into the buyer’s journey. So, think to yourself, what is the goal for running this event? Is it simply lead generation? Or is it perhaps to position in the minds of the prospect that you solve a particular problem? It could be to peak their interest in what you do, or even to have them acknowledge a gap they currently face – one that you can potentially solve.
Once you have an idea of what outcome you want, you can figure out what good looks like, and then start to work towards it. For example, if your event is a small format breakfast during which you want to trouble your buyers (ie. get them to acknowledge a gap), you’ll want 8-10 prospects in the room: small enough to facilitate discussion within the group, but sizable enough to hold merit as a networking event.
Prioritise your contact list
|Whether you’re mailing out to a list of six hundred or sixty, there’s bound to be some high-priority prospects you’ll want to offer a little bit of additional love to. For example, someone you know is currently facing the problem around which you have built your solution, or maybe someone who has just taken on a new role and therefore is more likely to instigate change. Based on such characteristics, pick out around the top 20 (or whatever number you can manageably customise content for) as ‘A’ priorities from your list of contacts.|
These prospects deserve a little more than the generic invitation, because if they turn up to the event, you’re more likely to be successful at progressing them. And that’s where VBR comes in…
Valid Business Reason (VBR)
A term coined by global sales performance leader, Miller Heiman, a VBR illustrates to a prospect what they will gain from a conversation with you, relevant to their individual circumstances, rather than imposing your own sales agenda on them. Miller Heiman suggest that having a Valid Business Reason for every sales call and meeting is the considerate way to do business – and one which your prospects will appreciate:
“It tells buyers, no matter how long you’ve known them, that you’ve given some thought to their current challenges and that you’re looking for solutions that are “valid” to them.”
(To find out more about VBRs, read our VBR wiki.)
So, what does this have to do with your event invitations?
For those few selected ‘A’ priority prospects, you should be sending out customised VBR direct mail or emails. These VBRs should illustrate a valid reason for a prospect to attend your event, specifically in the context of the prospect’s current business situation, their role in the organisation, and highlighting the value they stand to gain.
Of course, you don’t have to build content from scratch for each prospect. Start with a template, especially written for the event, which leaves room for you to ‘fill-in-the-blanks’ with prospect-specific information.
A few things to note:
- Always start with information about the prospect – you will relate it back to what you do further down.
- Even though the intention is to trouble the prospect about the problem you solve, don’t be patronizing or overly negative – you don’t want to put them on the defensive.
- Cite your experience within their peer group.
Every good VBR campaign depends on sound research. Look online, on LinkedIn, and in the news to find useful nuggets of information you can leverage in your communication. Answer these questions about each of the A-priority prospects:
- What is your existing relationship with them?
- Have there been any recent indications that they are troubled by the specific problem you solve?
- Are there any industry-wide conditions that may affect them?
- How is the problem likely to affect a person in the specific role you are addressing your VBR to? CEOs would be troubled by very different content than operation managers, for example.
Gather such information and weave it into the template, customising when needed so that it reads naturally. Usually, VBRs work best when they are sent directly from your inbox, rather than via a send engine, as this contributes to the personal touch.
The ROI of VBR
A VBR campaign demands a much higher investment in time than a generic email send, therefore, it helps to put some metrics around it. Before launching, decide what good looks like:
- How many VBRs will go out?
- Of these, how many do you expect to prompt any form of response?
- How many event registrations should follow?
Be realistic when setting targets. There are a lot of intervening factors that can affect an invitation campaign. After the event, report on these metrics. Use this information to test and refine.
To truly benefit from sending a VBR invitation, follow it up with a VBR call. If you can track who opens your emails and when, a quick follow up while the email is still top of mind can as much as double the chance of a successful outcome.