Having spent my career in the digital marketing industry, I’m a true believer in the power of technology to build brands. I can speak with enthusiasm about the many tech tools that empower companies to have one-to-one conversations with diverse customers, and to personalize the marketing experience for each of them.
Still, there's nothing quite like meeting customers and prospects face to face, which is why in-person, or even virtual, events are a powerful part of any robust marketing strategy.
For the fourth year in a row, B2B marketers rated in-person events their most effective lead-generation tactic, according to the Content Marketing Institute. Best-in-class marketers rated events as the second most effective tactic only to blogs (76 percent versus 79 percent).
It's not hard to understand why in-person events are considered so efficient. They provide marketers with unique opportunities to put a human face on their brands, to have meaningful conversations with customers and learn about their challenges, to share insight and thought leadership in an intimate setting, and to help attendees connect with peers and industry experts who can help them build their businesses or improve their lives.
With Silverpop's 2015 Digital Marketing University (DMU) having just wrapped up its spring series and IBM Amplify 2015 taking place this week, our team has spent a lot of time brainstorming, researching and testing how in-person events contribute to lead generation and customer retention. Here are a few pointers on making your next event a win-win for your attendees and your brand:
1) It's All About Them
Think about events like any other marketing channel. Your goal is to build brand visibility and customer loyalty by providing attendees with valuable information, insights and thought leadership — not to have a captive audience for your sales pitch.
Most DMU attendees have already engaged with Silverpop's brand. They have checked us out on search engines, downloaded a white paper or two, spoken to a salesperson, and maybe even closed some business. In the case of Amplify, most attendees are customers, including many who have been with us for three or more years.
So our intention with these events is to deepen trust and build partnerships, not to sell our products and services. Rather than making it all about Silverpop, we focus on what we can offer attendees: a better understanding of the digital marketing landscape, tools and tactics to help them engage customers, and connections to experts who can help.
2) Measure What Works and What Doesn't
Figuring out what to talk about is the most important component of in-person events. If you have a large, diverse customer base, it can be hard to discern which content will be most engaging and useful for your audience, especially because you need to create an agenda before you know who is attending.
This is where data becomes particularly important. If you've been tracking individual customers' behaviors and preferences across different channels — email marketing, social media or customer relationship management (CRM) — then you have a good idea of what they want from you as a group. From there, use customer feedback from previous events and A/B testing to measure which parts of your communication strategy are hitting home and which tactics are falling short.
With DMU, for example, Silverpop's team had to decide which sessions would focus on retail versus travel, or B2B versus B2C. After last year's DMU event series, we received feedback that we focused too much on retail. Data on event attendees and our current customer base gave us an idea of what our audience might look like this year. So our marketing team made sure to line up speakers, tracks and topics that would appeal to our diverse attendees.
3) Keep the Conversation Going
By showing up, event attendees have already proven that they're interested in what you have to say. They are as invested in your brand as they're ever going to be. Don't lose that momentum by neglecting to stay in touch.
The right content marketing strategy can help extend the life of your event. Collect data about which topics interest individual attendees, then use that information to generate emails, white papers, videos and webinars that will continue to engage and inform — and endear your brand to them — long after the show is over.
For tips on promoting your next virtual event, please check out "10 Webinar Best Practices." Also, be sure to check our upcoming Silverpop events.
1) Ebook: “The New CMO Guide: A Handbook for Marketing Leaders”
2) Tip Sheet: “10 Tips for Getting Started with Mobile App Push Notifications”
3) Ebook: “Ultimate Guide to Assessing Your Digital Marketing Program”