This post is digested from the report and seminar 7 Key Insights from the "How B2B Marketing is Changing". One of the gems you'll find in the middle of that report is a solution for avoiding "Tirekickers" at shows. We're talking about those pesky people who love filling their bags with expensive literature, CDs and giveaways with no intention of buying anything.
One way to get around this is to think strategically about your marketing content, before, during and after the event--and "map it" to the buyer's journey. This may look something like this:
Similarly, as they think strategically about event marketing—how to coordinate their use of online and live events, as well as third-party (trade shows, conferences) and their own corporate hosted (road shows, customer conferences) events—they may apply a similar model, like this:
In this model, industry conferences and tradeshows are primarily lead generation channels, though they of course serve other functions as well such as connecting with local clients, hosting arranged meetings with known prospects, and media relations. Invitation-only executive events such as those arranged by IQPC or CIO Magazine are expensive but can be effective at generating a small number of very high-quality leads.
Vendor partner events (Dreamforce is an extreme example), webinars, and road shows are a combination of lead generation and lead nurturing, helping to move existing known prospects further down the funnel.
As the marketing director at a customer experience (CX) software company articulated this idea, "We're doing more of our own hosted events than in previous years, and we're doing them differently." In addition to the company's big annual customer conference, she said her firm is also "finding that smaller, more intimate, lunch & learn type events have a big impact in moving the needle from a raw lead to more of a qualified opportunity."
B2B sales cycles, especially for complex high-value products or services, generally require multiple brand touchpoints prior to closing. While email, social media, and even direct mail can all play a role, live events provide a powerful way to move the relationship forward, shortening the path from brand awareness to a signed purchase order.