Ask any B2B marketer what they care about most in the world, and they’ll wax lyrical about family, friends and MQLs - and not necessarily in that order.
We jest, we jest, but, in all seriousness, any day of the week, you’ll find B2B marketers are hyperfocused on generating MQLs via content, podcasts, webinars - and especially events. It’s a no-brainer why, especially in our post-pandemic landscape; marketers were able to have their pick of event formats to generate a set quota of leads, by marrying the energy and community spirit of in-person events with the scalability, reach and inclusivity of virtual and hybrid events.
Now, this may sound peachy, but in reality this MQL myopia can hurt your business more than help it. Events are actually a full-funnel job. B2B marketers need to approach events as a lever for long-term revenue growth instead of solely delivering on short-term MQL goals. (And anyways, there’s already a growing school of thought that MQLs are dead, so what does it matter?)
To this end, here’s a primer on how hosting events - and a calendar of different types of them - can influence conversion throughout the funnel and generate revenue. Scroll down to read about each in detail.
Event formats that elevate brand awareness
Perhaps the most straightforward reason that B2B marketers use events is that they are a powerful brand awareness accelerator. They give your company the opportunity to raise its profile and name recognition within an industry, and build familiarity with your brand.
Now, in their own way, almost all event types, from webinars to large-scale conferences can help to keep your brand top of mind when people think about the industry that you’re in and the type of products or services you sell, such as customer onboarding software for example. But, of these, large summits or industry conferences are two of the best events formats for the top of the marketing funnel.
- Industry conferences and summits
- Reach a wide audience in your industry (especially if its a virtual or hybrid event)
- Demonstrate thought leadership via the theme of the event
- Provide information on key subjects and use it as a chance to promote your products
Hubspot’s ‘INBOUND’ conference is a great example of this. Their conference is all about bringing together experts and practitioners to learn about the latest trends in marketing, sales, customer success, and revenue operations. The event is a smart way for the company to continually position itself as the absolute center/power broker/Beyonce of this industry (and it pulls this off successfully)
However, it goes without saying that not all businesses have the budget or manpower necessary to host a large-scale summit or conference. So, alternately, if you’re a B2B SaaS company, participate in these events instead.
Here’s a couple of things you can do to boost awareness of your business when you’re there:
1. Spending time on pre-event activities is worth the patience: Before you turn up for the event, there's plenty you can do, from using the event platform's capabilities to spread brand awareness (eg. if it's a hybrid or virtual event - getting your signage placed in the lobby or at a Stage, customizing a virtual Expo booth, etc.) to pre-booking meetings with prospects.
2. Getting a table or a booth is worth the money: Many conferences will let companies purchase tables or booths to show off their products. Get one and bedazzle it with your company branding.
- Put up banners and standees
- Put out marketing collateral such as a well-designed one-pager
- Set aside some dedicated space to demo your product
3. Making swag giveaways is worth the effort: From branded apparel to laptop stickers, giving away unique company-branded merchandise can help to attract the right crowd, and increase brand recognition/recall. Just look at these goodies that Team Zuddl gave away at IMEX 2022.
4. Spending time networking is worth the time: Whether virtual networking or in-person mixers, getting some face-to-face time with peers or potential clients you identify ahead of time is a great opportunity to build relevance, trust, and connection with people. And if you don’t - your seat may just be taken by your competitors.
As you can see, conferences are pretty great places to raise your profile to a captive audience. And this is not just theoretical - we know this from first-hand experience. Check out everything we got up to at IMEX 2022, from handing out some of the best swag at the event to being interviewed by organizers.
Event formats that educate prospects about the product
Once you’ve got your prospects’ attention and interest, and they have a general idea of what your company does and what product or service you offer, it’s time to actually demonstrate how your business can solve their problems or help them achieve their goals - beyond an elevator pitch.
And one of the best ways to show instead of merely telling, is through hosting events that are smaller in scale and more focused - such as roadshows and webinar demos.
Let’s look a little closer at each of these event formats:
- Roadshows: You know how comedians or musicians go on tour and expand their audience base by visiting smaller venues in many different cities? Roadshows operate the same way. These events are smaller gatherings held in several locations. They used to be traditionally in-person - ‘taking the show on the road’ so to speak, but now can be either virtual or hybrid too.
Roadshows are a great source of pipeline generation because you can:
- Reach lots of new prospects - Roadshows are all about bringing the event to the people, which means you can reach those you may not have been able to otherwise. And by focusing on a smaller audience, you might be able to build trust and increase confidence in your product in a way that might be difficult to do at a large-scale conference.
- Establish yourself regionally - Driving brand awareness can be made more effective if you can tailor your content to address the goals of each regional cohort rather than marketing it as a one-size-fits-all solution. This means that leads will think of you when they need help or when they are in a position to purchase your product. Relevancy drives revenue. Forbes’ roadshow series called Forbes Live is a good example of doing this event format right. Each show is dedicated to one of the topics covered on their website, and therefore targeted at a specific audience core to their business goals.
- Workshops, ABM lunch and learns, and seminars: Hosting smaller-scale educational events is a way to build-up credibility and earn respect as a brand driving value for industry practitioners - but without all the effort it goes into organizing an industry conference.
On top of providing relevant information which is of value to your land, you have the opportunity to teach them about your organization as well, and nurture them through to a sale after the event is over.
Additionally, your seminar and workshop content is valuable to attendees, those attendees will spread the word for you, making it easier over time to attract attendees.
- Webinar demos: Hands down, the best way for prospective customers to see your product in action, and visualize how it solves their problems is a demo. This is why a weekly webinar demo of your product is a cost-effective and efficient way to solidify the trust and relationship that you have already started to form, and nudge them towards the bottom of the funnel. 73 percent of B2B marketers said that webinars are the best way to generate high-quality leads.
Click here to check out Zuddl’s weekly product webinars:
Event formats that nurture relationships with leads
At this stage of the funnel, you can assume that your leads already know about your brand and your products, but need a little something to bring them closer to the sale. But first, consider these stats:
- 73% of B2B buyers say most sales interactions feel “transactional’
- 80% of consumers believe a brand must demonstrate that they care about customer experience before they will even consider a purchase (Wunderman)
To this end, VIP events like C- Suite roundtables, networking mixers, closed group panels, meetups can make all the difference because they’re a proactive way to show leads the value they’d get as they become a customer. Here’s how each event format does this:
- C-Suite roundtables: These are high-value and intimate discussions between thought leaders, founders and C-suite executives (typically the final decision maker in the purchase decision), and so are useful in positioning your company as a strategic partner to the C-suite. Check out how Bloomberg runs their C-Suite roundtables for an idea of how to run your own.
- Closed door events: While the format of the event is up to the organizer, these events consist of a small-medium sized group to keep it exclusive, and usually are invite-only or price discounted for leads and customers. SparkToro’s ‘SparkTogether’ event is a great example of this.
The all-day virtual story-focused marketing summit featuring powerful and unfiltered stories from growth and marketing leaders. But what sets this event apart is that there are no event recordings made available after the event ends - this lets speakers speak without any varnish - they can share real numbers, financial figures, and ugly truths. This ups the exclusivity of the content, and concurrently tickets to the event are $300. However, customers - and leads we imagine - get special treatment: they are able to purchase tickets for as low as $100.
- Networking events: ‘It’s not what you know. It’s who you know’ is the driving force between organizing networking events. Small-scale in nature, but executed in various formats (moderated conversations in virtual rooms, AI-networking powered sessions, trends report discussions), they can enable you to curate a targeted audience within your industry, which can be useful in these two ways:
1. Being a Good Samaritan: By hosting networking events whereby your leads and customers connect with new buyers or partners for their businesses, you’re indicating to leads that customers aren’t just buying a product from you, they are acquiring a relationship. It’s a show of good faith - a way of showing customers that you’re their partner in helping them achieve their goals.
2. Benefiting from referrals: It’s highly likely that at your networking events, current and potential customers will interact with each other. This is hugely beneficial as your current customers can act as advocates for you. And as any B2B marketer will tell you, pipeline generation through customer referrals is one of the best ways to generate revenue.
NOTE: When leads are mid-funnel, having them as guests at your event as a touchpoint to connect and build a relationship with the guest themselves and not just the audience is an often overlooked but important way to nudge them further along the funnel.
Event formats that build customer loyalty
You’ve closed the deal, now what? Keep your customers feeling valued and respected through positive reinforcement and recognition. These event formats can help:
- User group conferences: These events are held exclusively for your existing customers and leads, and are a great way to build long-term loyalty as they really champion the voice of the customer.
During these events, attendees have the opportunity to discuss their experiences with your product, and exchange ideas and best practice. They can connect with the company's senior management and product team to get exclusive advice. And finally, the C-suite can share an overview of the company’s strategic direction and new products in the pipeline.
All this helps to build a sense of belonging in your community. When members have a say, share their opinions and feedback, and a company actively listens, it builds collective buy-in because they feel rewarded for their participation and continue to actively participate. This serves as a foundation for forming strong connections that last beyond the event and translates into long-term sustainable revenue.
Events as a powerhouse content generator
Any event you host is a content gold mine. You can repurpose your event into many different forms of powerful pipeline generation assets. Keep in mind that people consume content in different ways, so it’s important to cater to all types:
- Video: Turning highlights into video snippets is one of the powerful forms of event content you can create. In fact 52% of marketers say video is the type of content with the best ROI — and with good reason. Through each video, you can extend the memory of each event, and consistently remind people of the value of the content learnt. Videos can be used for social media, email marketing, and to share with sales colleagues to share with leads even long after your event occurred.
- Podcast: Given that 388M new podcast listeners are expected by 2024, it’s a smart move to convert video snippets from your event, seminars or webinars into audio for your podcast. This builds credibility, and can also generate interest in subsequent events.
- Blog posts or ebooks: This can take a bit of work, but it delivers great dividends by boosting SEO, and increasing the time on page (according to Wistia, people spent, on average, 2.6x more time on pages with video than without).
Conclusion - Events can influence conversion throughout the funnel
According to a Gallup report, a whopping 60% of B2B customers are indifferent to the businesses they buy from, because of a failure on the part of companies to engage customers. But that’s where events can play a valuable role.
Use a blend of different event formats to create valuable touchpoints between your brand, leads and other stakeholders. A strategic mix will help you foster connections that generate revenue.
💡 Keep in mind: every customer experiences your marketing funnel differently, and some events have value across different stages of the funnel. A user conference can serve as a MOFU event as well as a BOFU one. Be very mindful of where your leads are in the customer journey and then plan your event calendar accordingly.
Zuddl is a unified platform for events and webinars that helps event marketers plan and execute events that drive growth. The platform has clients across the globe, such as the United Nations, Kellogg’s, Microsoft, HSBC, VMware, Google, StackCommerce and Cipla amongst others. In January 2022, Zuddl announced that it closed $13.35 mn in Series A funding.