We're hearing it more and more: "do more with less."
With B2B marketers tasked with maintaining smaller budgets whilst maximizing ROI, especially over the past few years, everyone is feeling the pressure to prune wherever possible. But instead of taking a hatchet to your resources, marketers and event organizers would be well advised to lean hard into more sustainable (and affordable) solutions wherever possible.
By which we mean: automation.
Automation is of course not a new phenomenon. People have been crying themselves hoarse about robots taking over our jobs for a decade
But most companies have quickly stopped crying once they realize how automation can unlock value and efficiencies across business processes. Recent research from Accenture underscores how investment in intelligent automation has helped companies grow their businesses five times faster.
So when it comes to B2B conferences (regardless of the format), it’s not really a question of whether to use automation or not, but instead a question of where it can provide the most value.
Event marketers need to ask themselves several questions.
- In the B2B conference event lifecycle, which are the most time-consuming and expensive manual processes?
- Which are the most repetitive?
- Where could improved accuracy or better data be beneficial?
- If automation can do X task, then how can the time and energy allotted for it instead be used to move the needle at an event?
To help out, we’re specifying the different ways you should be leveraging automation - if you’re not already that is:
The pre-event stage is crucial in setting the tone for the conference and generating excitement among potential attendees. Automation can help event planners manage several key tasks during this stage, including:
- Social media promotion to educate, and build urgency: You’ll already know that automated posts can be scheduled on various social media platforms to build interest and awareness in the conference.
Take this one step further by creating a workflow to send out social posts when specific numbers of spots have been booked or tickets sold. For example, the instance 80% of spots for the conference have been blocked, a social post indicating the same can help create a sense of urgency/FOMO and prompt last-minute holdouts to sign-up or book.
- Registration confirmation emails to nurture interest: Automated emails can be sent to registrants immediately after they sign up for the conference. These emails can include information about the conference, instructions for accessing the conference platform, and a schedule of events.
Based on the information you collect from your registration forms (for instance, the track the attendee is most interested in), your emails can be personalized to an attendees interests (the header image featuring key speakers in that track). It's a small step but one that can make your attendees feel seen, heard and understood.
Without automation, you would have to manually input email addresses, segment them into certain lists and send out email blasts on different days and times.
- Calendar blocks to improve turnout: Triggering an automated Google Calendar block when someone registers for your B2B conference is one of the best ways to keep the conversion rate from registration-attendance high. It’s a simple heads-up and reminder to a registrant to show up.
- Reminder emails to also improve turnout: 99% of email users check their inbox every day with some checking 20 times a day so automated emails are a no-brainer.
Send automated emails to remind attendees that the conference is 1 week away, 3 days away, 1 day away and then 1 hour away to keep the event firmly in their radar. Plan in a drip of content updates such as ‘Here’s a new speaker we added,’ or ‘Here is some new information on what we’re doing,’ or ‘Here are some other folks that you can expect to see there.'
On the day of the event, reshare important information such as details about the venue (transport, parking, accessibility) or virtual venue (login links). This will help to increase turnout.
And automate WhatsApp messaging as well Sending updates to registrants’ WhatsApp accounts is an especially efficient way to reach them where they are.
- Chatbots can do a lot of talking for you: Setting up a chatbot on your landing page can help interested conference-goers get quick responses to questions. This can help reduce the burden on you and your team and provide attendees with quick and accurate information.
The chatbot can go as far as sharing personalized session recommendations based on answers provided by the attendees about their interests and goals - i.e. ‘Here are the [sessions] that we think can provide you with value’ or ‘Here are the people you should meet with because we know they’re also going to be there.’
When attendees are actively engaged with the conference content, automation can help event planners manage several tasks during this stage. Here’s how:
- Session start emails to increase attendance rate: Automated emails can be sent to attendees to remind them when sessions are starting. These emails can also include information about the speakers and the session topic.
- Mobile or self-check-in for easy entry: Automated mobile or self-check-in can help reduce the burden on event staff and provide attendees with a quick and efficient check-in process.
- NPS surveys after each session for better data collection: NPS (Net Promoter Score) surveys can be sent automatically to attendees after each session to gather immediate feedback on the session content and speakers. This automated collection of information means that you can bring together different pieces of data for a more cohesive (and easier) understanding of what performed well with different segments of your audience. Without automation, you’d have to spend hours copy-pasting details from different sources into your spreadsheet - that can be prone to error.
- Slack messages to the sales team: Enabling real-time Slack alerts about registrations and attendance at B2B events can empower sales to interact with prospects in real-time - especially if your sales colleagues also have access to actionable data such as attendees’ reactions to in-session polls or how long attendees spent at a session.
It’s a misconception to think that once the event is over, your work is too. Post-event is an extremely important phase in the event lifecycle as it’s when marketers can gather valuable feedback from attendees and share conference content. Automation can make this easier by helping event planners manage several key tasks during this stage, including:
- On-demand video emails to nurture leads: Emails with an event recap and links to on-demand videos from the event can be sent as soon as the conference is over. It’s a major value addition to registrants who were unable to attend, as well as to attendees who were unable to take notes or attend all the sessions they wanted to catch. It also serves as a touchpoint for sales to follow up with them later on. These emails can also include surveys to gather feedback on the conference content.
- Activity-based emails to also nurture leads: Using marketing automation software, you can set up triggers for emails based on actions your conference go-ers take, such as their badge scans for entry to different sessions at a in-person/hybrid event or if they watch a product demo at an expo booth, or based on their answer to a poll. This enables you to reach out to attendees with context, nurturing their interest and keeping them engaged with your brand.
You can take this one step further by setting up a workflow based on lead scoring. Set up different emails based on the number of activities completed by attendees at the conference, or based on the scoring they receive if they perform specific activities. This enables you to set up specific nurturing streams using engagement data.
- Automate post-event reports to be able to take immediate follow-up actions: Automation tools can lead to cost savings for businesses, as it frees up organizers from individually entering a daunting amount of data into a sheet, or tracking individual engagement which can be near impossible at an in-person or hybrid conference.
By pulling together important bits of data, automated reports enable you to see the effectiveness of your conference, and how well your customer journeys are working - and turn these insights into actions.
Move faster with automation
It’s not difficult to see the various ways in which automation can make life easier and better for marketers and event planners. By streamlining workflows, reducing human error, and providing attendees with a more personalized and efficient experience, it can make all the difference when it comes to moving the needle at your next conference. But the key is to always infuse automation with the right dose of human touch - to quote Maya Angelou ,“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”