3 B2B Marketing Experts Answer Questions On Conferences, Tradeshows & Field Events

On August 23rd I was fortunate enough to host a webinar with two event marketing game changers: Emily Wingrove from Synthio and Frances McCutchon from PFL.

While the concept for the webinar initially seemed straightforward, once we started planning the content, I realized we had stumbled on a pretty meaty, and sometimes controversial, topic. Between the three of us, we had so many examples of mistakes, big wins and planned testing that we could easily fill more than an hour.

In fact, for those of you who've already listened to the webinar, you probably noticed how quickly we had to talk. And as we dug deep into Frances' and Emily's examples, more excellent questions flowed in from the audience – so many that we didn't have time to answer them all live.

Since then, I've received emails with even more follow-up questions and even had a couple calls. So, we've compiled this post to provide answers and further detail about some of the examples we shared, and answer new questions that arose.

Q: How many events do you do in a Year?

Emily: We sponsor 1-2 conferences/trade shows in Q1, 4-5 in Q2, 0 in Q3, and 3-4 in Q4. With each sponsorship typically comes 1-2 smaller events surrounding the main event (VIP dinners, happy hours, cocktail parties). We hope to host our first user conference in early 2018!

Frances: We do 3 major conferences each year, and 12-15 smaller ones.

Kate: We sponsor 2-3 major conferences in Q2, 1-2 field events per month, and then typically test 1-2 more smaller conference sponsorships.

Q: What is the average size of your teams that work on the larger conferences or shows – including digital support that might not be on-site?

Emily: We typically bring 2-3 marketers, 1-2 executives, 0-1 channel rep and 1-2 sales reps (but only the gentle ones – we sell to marketers and we’ve found that the more aggressive the sales person, the less effective they are). On average, we bring about 5 people to each event, depending on the audience size and extent of involvement with side parties/VIP dinners.

Kate: Typically, 2-3 marketers and 1-2 sales managers are part of the strategy and prep. On site we always have at least 1 marketer, 1 exec, 4 sales reps and a product person or solution consultant. Next year I plan to increase the marketing and/or customer success presence.

Frances: We have 1 person at headquarters, who arranges show logistics, travel, list management, booth schedules and advance role play training for attendees. For the show itself, we have a minimum of 2 marketers at the booth at all times, working 2 hour shifts.

Q: When you use an incentive to get people to schedule meetings, do you find that creates valuable meetings, or do people accept just so they can get the expensive gift?

Frances: Typically, these incentives are used to target very senior people in the organization, and we actually find a surprising amount of them won’t even cash in on the prize after obtaining the demo. The generous offer demonstrates that we take them seriously and have done the research to identify them as a good fit (not just someone we are smiling-and-dialing) and that seems to make them more receptive to the meeting.

Emily: We stopped using incentives to schedule onsite meetings because it attracts people who want the gift and not necessarily a demonstration. And if it does end up attracting the right people, we found that they usually don’t even accept the gift/incentive.

Q: Is there a way you rapidly take the handwritten notes and move them into digital format?

Frances: Our approach is just to do it right away. No tricks or fancy software, we just make sure we set aside time each day to key in the notes while the conversations are still fresh in our mind.

Emily: We take notes digitally within the lead scanning device and if there aren't any lead-scanning devices, then we'll bring a tablet with our own form and a nice big comment section. We also meet each morning and evening before the exhibit hall opens to discuss the leads, conversations and then take additional notes as necessary.

Q: Is LeanData a competitor to Tableau/Domo?

Kate: LeanData isn’t a Tableau/Domo competitor in any way. In fact, some of their customers even prefer to do analysis and visualization in Tableau using LeanData’s data, so they're complementary. You can learn more about LeanData’s attribution tool here: http://www.leandatainc.com/attribution-reporting

Q: My company recently shifted to an ABM strategy with ~70 target accounts. We decided nurture campaigns weren't personal enough following events and right now just have the sales team sending individual emails. Do you think nurturing is still important for event follow-up with ABM?

Kate: I do. As Frances mentioned during the webinar, sales reps can tend to come in hot. We find account-based demand gen is most effective when marketing and sales have an integrated plan, so we continue to blend marketing nurture in all the way through a signed deal. That way prospects are getting valuable content tailored to their persona and stage throughout the entire "buyer's journey," without pressure to respond or talk to someone in every email. In fact, just this morning a target-account customer responded to a nurture email (that by the way, did not contain any “schedule a meeting” type language) that she was ready to talk to someone from sales. I know sales has been calling on that account, but this way she is doing it on her own terms and timeline. 

Emily: I always vote for dual nurture from marketing and sales. Sales does come in hot (like Frances said), and while there is definitely value in having that more aggressive touch, it needs to be complemented by the softer communication from marketing.

Frances: If you’re worried about nurture not being personal enough, consider ways to make your nurture more personalized. There are many ways to do so beyond just email salutations: website personalization, direct mail, VIP event invites, a resource library tailored to their specific needs, etc.

Q: Can Emily explain the difference between the two nurture streams on Slide 38?

Emily: The graphic in its entirety shows Synthio's overall messaging strategy from both a marketing and sales development rep (SDR) perspective. From the top, it shows that inquiries are received at the event and the MQLs are then identified and isolated. From there, the communication begins from both marketing as well as sales, specifically the SDRs. It’s important to remember that marketing communications are a one-to-many function – and that sales communications are one-to-one. This means that marketing communication has less of an opportunity to have a conversation, and therefore less reason to ask for a meeting. And it means that sales communications can consist of actual conversations and more of a reason to ask for a meeting (which is why the sales nurture is shorter than the marketing nurture). The messaging should match this logic – so marketing sends communications with assets that are relevant to the recipient’s online/offline behavior, and with a thought-leadership stance (whitepapers, infographics, ebooks, etc). And sales sends communications with relevant content, but content that is more fitted for an engaged conversation (case studies, testimonials, guides, etc). These take place during generally the same time period, but not entirely simultaneously. From there, opportunities will arise and other leads will fall out of the funnel. This is the beauty of the ongoing nurture – we have staggered wait times incorporated into the logic, but for closed-lost opportunities, they receive an ongoing marketing nurture and a second chase nurture from sales. And note that even the closed-won opportunities still get an ongoing nurture too. #CustomerMarketing

Do you have data to prove that waiting to follow up is a smart strategy?

Frances: PFL watches our unsubscribe rates very carefully, like all good marketers do. During the first year of heavy trade show attendance, we did the traditional “nice to meet you” immediate email follow up. We saw unsubscribe rates go up significantly when we did that. So, we drank our own champagne, and switched to waiting for 10 days after the event to send a physical mailer. Leads are then dropped into our nurture stream. This change reduced our post-event unsubscribe rate by 30%.

Emily: We have seen the unsubscribe rate affected on the marketing side (as Frances shows), but from the sales side we measured engagement (opens, clicks, responds) and saw a 26% increase in engagement when we waited 2 weeks after the event to reach out.

Hopefully this gave you some fresh ideas to get more ROI out of your event marketing investments

If you missed the webinar or just want to take a look back, you can watch it on-demand here or view the slides here.

 

Making the Most of Your Event Leads

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