Think about the last party you threw. Whether it was your kid’s birthday party or a dinner party with friends, chances are a fair amount of planning went into it — from selecting a guest list and sending out invitations to picking which food and drinks to serve. Now multiply that by a thousand, and you’ll get an understanding of what it’s like to plan a B2B event.
Feeling overwhelmed yet?
I’ve often heard marketers express their uncertainty about the event marketing process as a whole. How do you get the most out of your event marketing investment? How do you make sure the contact information you collect at an event isn’t going to waste?
If you’re like many B2B companies, you’re funneling a good bit of money into event sponsorships, booths, speaking gigs, travel, and more. You want to make sure you’re getting out at least as much as you’re putting in so you can prove the ROI of your efforts.
Let’s take a look at a few ways you can use account-based marketing (ABM) to get more from your event investment by creating awareness before the event and by improving your follow-up process.
1. Driving Attendance with Targeted Account-Based Marketing Campaigns
When you host or sponsor an event, you can use account-based marketing to help drive the right people from the right companies to attend, meet with your team, or stop by your booth.
B2B events are not numbers games. If you simply wanted to pack your venue, you could open up the event to the public and invite a bunch of college students who love free stuff. If I had a dollar for every random event I attended in college just to get free food, I would have been able to afford my own food instead. B2B events should focus on the quality of attendees, not the quantity.
The biggest key to getting a good return on your investment is making sure the right people are present and that you’re able to break through the noise and get your message in front of those people.
Industry Events: Trade Shows, Conferences, & Summits
If you’re hosting an industry event, your target audience may include thought leaders and companies that fit your ideal customer profile (ICP), including accounts you’d like to turn into customers, opportunities your sales team is currently working, and current customers.
When you sponsoring an industry event, you don’t have as much control over the guest list, so it’s important to only sponsor events where you know attendees match your ICP and you know some of your customers and prospects are attending. This allows you to generate net-new contacts at the right types of companies as well as have valuable in-person interactions with key prospects and customers.
Customer Events & Meet-Ups
For a customer event, your audience is pretty straightforward. That being said, consider precisely which people at your customer accounts you want to attend. Chances are, your first instinct is to target the end-users of your solution. But have you considered creating a special track, session, or event for executives only? This will help you build stronger relationships with both decision-makers and end-users, helping you extend your reach within your key customer accounts.
Now, the million-dollar question is: How will you actually get these people to your event or an event you’re sponsoring?
You can use:
- Your CRM to identify prospects and customers in the region the event is taking place
- Email invites sent to targeted lists (segmented by role, industry, etc.) from your marketing automation platform
- An account-based advertising platform to serve relevant (or even personalized) ads to your target attendees
- One-to-one, personalized outreach from your sales and/or customer success teams to invite your target accounts to the event
Case Study: Event Pretargeting with Account-Based Marketing
In 2016, Terminus sponsored a #FlipMyFunnel conference in Boston. The event coincided with #FlipMyFunnel’s first birthday, so we took that theme and ran with it in our event marketing.
First, we selected 375 net-new target accounts that fit our ideal customer profile and were located within a reasonable distance of the event. The goal for our pretargeting strategy was to drive as many registrations from the target account list as possible. To do this, we developed a multichannel ABM campaign with a birthday party theme.
All of the marketing assets were based on the idea of getting an invitation to celebrate with us. The campaign included:
- Terminus account-based digital ads
- Direct mail
- Call and email cadences personalized with an invitational video from our sales reps
Of the 375 target accounts, 11% attended. Because these accounts were handpicked, we knew they fit our ICP, so it’s no surprise those few best-fit accounts drove more than 36% of the pipeline we generated from the event.
The way we see it, even if we’re not the hosts, it’s still up to us to proactively bring best-fit accounts to our booth. ABM is about quality over quantity, and this campaign certainly hit the mark.
2. Setting Meetings on Your Audience’s Terms with ABM
One way to make the most of your time at an event is to use account-based marketing campaigns to set appointments prior to the event date. This tactic works whether you’re hosting, sponsoring, or even just attending someone else’s event.
The traditional approach to event marketing as a sponsor is to send out at least one email blast to your entire database announcing that you’ll be present at a given event. Most of the time, the only thing that’s accomplished through these blasts is annoying your prospects and customers. The majority of them likely aren’t attending the event and won’t appreciate you interrupting their day.
As you can see in this graph from Sign-Up.to, email open rates in 2016 were just under 25%.
When you’re hosting, your promotions will undoubtedly be multichannel, but traditional event marketing still doesn’t take the audience into consideration the way it should.
Luckily, there’s a much more targeted approach to generating awareness about a B2B event that helps you reach your audience on their terms.
If you’re hosting, you’ve got the list covered. If you’re sponsoring, the organizer of the event may provide an attendee list from either the previous year or the current year — or both, if you’re really lucky. First, clean up the list to remove any registered companies that aren’t a good fit for your solution. Then you can leverage your sales team and ABM technology to target decision-makers at those companies and drive them to a landing page where they can set an appointment with you. Because this approach is highly segmented and reaches only key people who are most likely to attend the event, your chances of getting positive results are much higher.
If you’re simply attending a third-party event, you won’t have a list. That’s okay.
You can mine your CRM to find target accounts, sales opportunities, and current customers who work in the area the event is taking place. Then, use this information to reach out on a one-to-one basis to schedule a meeting.
Additionally, you can capitalize off a larger event to plan one of your own. Schedule a lunch or dinner to give hot prospects and customers a chance to meet one another, talk candidly about their business problems, and get to know your team. This tactic is great for accelerating the sales cycle and building relationships with your opps and customers.
3. Post-Event Follow-Up from Marketing and Sales
Let’s say that over the course of a several-day event, you speak to 100 people. Typically, there are one to two people per company present, so we can assume that you now have about 50 to 75 accounts to follow up with.
Most companies immediately input these new leads into their CRM system and begin following up via phone or email. We definitely recommend striking while the iron is hot, allowing you to see immediate ROI from your event — but what about the connections you made with people who aren’t quite ready to make a purchase?
That’s where marketing technology comes in. In order to ensure no accounts get overlooked during the follow-up process, you can engage attendees that fit your ICP using email nurturing, account-based advertising, and SDR outreach.
Email nurturing using marketing automation is a best practice for B2B marketers, but it’s not enough. The vast majority of marketing emails are never even opened. And what about all the decision-makers at those companies who didn’t attend your event and therefore aren’t in your database?
Use account-based advertising to stay top-of-mind with event contacts and expand your reach to their colleagues that didn’t attend the event — even if you don’t have their contact information. This level of sophistication drives engagement at all levels of your target accounts and provides air coverage for your sales development team as they continue building relationships with contacts from the event.
Discover the Best ABM Technology for Events & Beyond
Now that you’re ready to apply an account-based approach to your event marketing strategy, you need to make sure you have the right infrastructure in place. This includes software you probably already have in your marketing technology stack, such as a CRM and marketing automation, but it may also require an investment in additional technology.
The ABM Stack Grader is a resource we created for B2B marketers to grade their account-based marketing technology stacks. Choose from a list of technology your team uses, then get a visual representation of your #MarTech stack that shows you gaps and overlap in your technology. Click the banner below to grade your account-based marketing stack now.