Hosting an event

Why events?

Hosting a small event is an effective way to gain the attention of a relevant and wider audience segment than just the targeted attendees. They offer a unique opportunity for prospective buyers to interact with solution providers to get firsthand a sense of the company’s focus, perspective and personality. People buy from people and an event helps to facilitate face-to-face discussions and relationships that can improve your chances of obtaining new buyers. Not only can you identify at what stage of their journey they are at, but also achieve progression to the next stage. Events are more effective at the top of the funnel, and can function as a troubling (is this a problem in your business?) or positioning (my company offers a solution to your problem) tactic.

Types of Events

The format of the event will depend on the type of buyer you want to attract. Delivery of presentations could be online through tools such as webinars, discussions and workshops. Presentations through physical events can include trade shows, conferences, seminars, breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Ensuring that you select the right event format for your target audience is critical in guaranteeing the events' effectiveness and success.

Small format event

align.me believes in the power of hosting a small format event to position yourself in the category, trouble the buyer around a problem, achieve buyer progression and even generate demand. A small format event provides personal interaction with prospective buyers and increases the chances of engagement from the audience. Your event needs to focus on one specific problem that buyers might experience, while at the same time offering a solution to that problem (your company’s product or service). align.me hosts one small event every two months, and gains one new client on average.

Call to Action

The starting point of organising your event is determining the Call to Action. What action do you want people to take after attending your event? Once you’ve decided on the Call to Action,you can begin to plan your event. Set clear and realistic objectives that you want the event to achieve. Incorporating a strong theme that is creative and innovative is an effective way to ensure your event has structure and direction. Use tactics such a buzz monitoring (e.g. Google alerts, forums, social media) for topic ideas. Make your guest speakers event drawcards, use someone who has experienced the same or similar problems and has overcome them. Also make sure to develop a procedure that includes the end-to-end process of organising your event (pre, during and post event). Work backwards and include a timeline that starts with what needs to be done one month in advance all the way down to the day of the event.

Pre-event

Having a good mailing list will largely determine the success of your event. Besides the Call to Action, determine your target market since this will mainly inform the type and the length of your mailing list. Identify the right people to be invited and determine the right goals of the event to ensure that invitees match your ICP. In our experience 400 names generate roughly 12 attendees. For more information on acquiring a mailing list visit our wiki on list management and list rental. Sending out a large amount of emails at the same time requires a solid CRM system. Consult our Electronic Direct Mail wiki to learn about CRM best-practice.

In the next step you need to invite the attendees to your event. In general we recommend sending out a personalised letter instead of an email. However, we recently learned that sending out an email to announce the letter increases the response rates. For Direct Mail, use a long copy describing the event, separated into reasonable chunks of information with bullet points and subheadings. Ensure that your invitations are as personable as possible, making reference to previous contact with the potential buyer. The personal references make the potential buyer feel their time is important and helps to develop your relationship. The invitation must clearly highlight the benefits of the event, what the attendees will gain from attending. Finally, to minimise drop-outs, ask the registrants what their objectives and requirements are. In our Direct Mail wiki you’ll find more do’s and don’ts for invitations.

Once you've sent out the invitation, follow everyone up with a phone call. Develop a script for your telemarketing campaign that offers a response for every type of scenario. Then, book three days to phone all targets on your mailing list, after they’ve received the letter of invitation. Ensure to capture all the responses and contact information in a spreadsheet. Closer to the date, send non-respondents as well as confirmed attendees a reminder email with the event details.

To maximise registration rates, you will need to be in touch with your target market multiple times. Develop a timeline of contact with your target market, e.g:

-2 months before - Send out a ‘save the date’ message

-1 month before - Send out the invitations, and immediate email confirmation for registers

-2 weeks before - Resend invites to those who have not yet replied, and send pre-questionnaires asking registrants what they wish to get out of the event

-1 week before- Telemarketing follow-up (call the registrants to confirm their attendance, be sure to be personable and informative)

-1 day before - Call and send e-mail reminders with all the event details (time, place etc.)


Archer, Lisa July 30th 2010, Best Practice Guide to B2B Events, views the 22nd of November, 2012, http://www.mointernational.com/blog/best-practice-guide-b2b-events/.

Social media promotion

Using your business's social media channels is a great way to boost the promotion and success of any event (and particularly for larger events). Fred Callabero has listed a comprehensive 39 social media marketing tips for B2B events as highlighted below:

Main content hub (or Blog)

  • Create a microsite or dedicated landing page for the event with all the relevant information. This should be built several months before the event if possible.
  • Publish blog posts about the event but more importantly around the main topics to make it more engaging. Remember that there will be a lot of people that are not aware of the event, so if you focus on providing valuable what’s-in-it-for-the-audience content, many will feel identified with certain problems and feel that the event is a must.
  • Consider using Tumblr.com. If you’re short of time, Tumblr could help you launch a blog as landing plage for the event. You can easily publish videos and photos during the event straight from your mobile, on the go.
  • Implement a chat widget for live chat. We use Zopim.com. It will give you powerful, real-time insights and the ability to chat with people that have questions before and during the event for instance.

LinkedIn

  • Register the event and check attendees’ profiles. Then click on “recommend” from the event page to give it more exposure in the stream of updates.
  • Add selected professionals to your LinkedIn network, always with a custom (relevant) message.
  • Create a LinkedIn Group for the event. Steer discussions, especially before the event.
  • Use LinkedIn mobile to check profiles on the go.
  • Promote the event through individual & LinkedIn company status updates.
  • Run LinkedIn targeted ads.

For more information on LinkedIn best practice, visit our LinkedIn wiki.

Facebook

  • Share blog posts about the event and updates.
  • Share pictures from the previous year.
  • Make clear, as much as possible, what’s in it for the attendee through visual status updates.
  • Promote (tag) speakers, partners, colleagues, borrowing their audiences.
  • Post video teasers of the event and maybe videos and interviews from last year’s event.
  • Launch FB Questions (Polls).
  • Run Facebook Ads in parallel.
  • Depending on how your company is using Facebook, you might want to consider creating a Facebook event page and add it to your page.

For more information on Facebook best practice, visit our Facebook wiki.

Twitter

  • Create a dedicated event hashtag to track and monitor engagement.
  • Use Hootsuite to track all segmented conversations.
  • Use Twitter mobile to track mentions/connect on the go.
  • Be ready to answer any questions.
  • Promote speakers, partners, colleagues, borrowing their audiences.
  • Tweet the news: Share photos and videos before, during and after the event (always use hashtags).

For more information on Twitter best practice, visit our Twitter wiki.

Foursquare

  • Create venue & name event (sponsors shouldn’t do it).
  • Leave tips for your event so people that check-in can see them.
  • Interact with those that leave comments.
  • Track all check-ins & follow them on Twitter. Ideally add them to a specific Twitter list (track page insights).

Email Marketing

  • Create a clear call-to-action on the event microsite or landing page. Add a “pop-over” sign-up form if possible.
  • Build the email database months before the event.
  • Add QR codes in your event booth and ask people to scan them to sign up to your email newsletter. Ensure that the landing page is mobile friendly!
  • Segment lists accordingly (by topic, main interest, etc) and email updates along with “what’s-in-it-for-me” content.
  • Be careful with the frequency of email campaigns.
  • Email to all subscribers a branded ebook or white paper with industry insights captured at the event. The shelf life from these documents could go from 6 to 12 months.

YouTube, FlickR, Slideshare

  • Upload all videos, photos and presentations to the correct platforms. Ensure to enter a good title, description and tags.
  • Embed them on the blog / microsite.
  • Consider live-streaming the event with Ustream.tv or Livestream.com. The latter currently implemented a Tumblr-type solution to also share photos and comments on the broadcasting page.
  • Upload all presentations to Slideshare to facilitate sharing.
  • Record video testimonials & interviews. Don’t limit this to your own team. You can gain a lot of brand exposure by hosting/moderating conversations with industry leaders.

Event

Combining strategy and consultation with real-life case studies will make your event content easier to relate to. Also, capture the event on the video to share as an asset, send to those who cannot attend the event or use it as a tool to promote future events.

As mentioned previously, a small format event can leverage progression from one stage of the buyer’s journey to another. A feedback form at the event is a useful tool to identify the stage that the buyer is at as well as identify whether progression has taken place. Allowing attendees to provide feedback is always an effective way to engage them in the event and will highlight for you what aspects of the event are not working well. Develop a feedback form that specifically asks to what extent the problem that you solve is a problem in their business:

Is the lack of customised software a priority for you?

  • Yes, and it’s urgent
  • Yes, but it’s not urgent
  • No, it’s not a priority

A respondent indicating that the issue is urgent is clearly troubled about the problem, and a follow up call can move them onto the next stage of their journey: “I have a need for customised software solutions”.

Post-event

Benefit from the created momentum, by sending all attendees a follow up email on the same day of the event. It is important to include a clear Call for Action, and this is a great opportunity to propose a meeting. The event and the feedback form have provided you with background information on their business and the problem that they're facing, and therefore validates a meeting. After sending out the emails, follow all attendees up with a phone call to schedule a meeting. This follow up can be done 72 hours after your event.

The people that registered for the event, but did not turn up, are evenly important. It’s easy to neglect this group, but by signing up for your event they clearly indicated that they are interested in the problem that you solve. A so called recycling tactic is valid. Similar to attendees, send an email with a summary of the event and conclude by proposing a meeting. Follow the email up with a phone call.

Also the people that showed interest in the initial invitation round, but were unable to attend, warrant a recycling tactic. If you are running an email campaign or newsletter, this is a good opportunity to opt these contacts into your campaign. Another effective tool is to set up an online event and invite them to access it. Make sure this online event includes all the relevant and crucial information that arose from the completed event. The key is that you position yourself in the category, and are top of mind whenever prospects are ready to buy.

As a final step evaluate your event and process, and record any improvements in your procedure where needed.