According to Certain’s Event Marketing Benchmark Report, over half of B2B marketers spend 25% or more of their budget on in-person events. Whether a large conference, regional seminar, or intimate dinner, events take a lot of resources from both the marketing and sales teams to pull off.
With that much invested, it’s critical that event leads convert to measurable sales pipeline. However, unlike digital programs in which leads flow smoothly through measurable nurture stages and into sales’ hands, events create a messy, manual data problem from start to finish. And this problem can’t be solved without a high level of participation from the sales team itself.
Below are some tricks we’ve found help keep marketing and sales in lock-step surrounding events, regardless of how much wine is consumed. If you're left wanting more tips at the end of this post, consider checking out this webinar.
Trick 1: Getting the Right Prospects & Customers Invited
As marketers, we can build and segment lists all we want based on the data in our CRM or MAP. But when it comes down to which prospects or customers we really want in the room, particularly for intimate events, sales’ input is critical. Designing a process for collecting this info, however, can be daunting. It must be easy for them to:
- Locate the registration page
- Add people to the invite or RSVP list
- See who has already registered
- Know which invitations bounced or failed to deliver
All within the platform they use the most.
We’ve successfully managed these tasks using Salesforce Campaigns and personalized, automated HubSpot emails. If a rep adds a person to the campaign, an email invite is automatically sent to that person using the rep’s contact information as the sender. We update their campaign status when the email is received (or if it bounces) and when the person registers, providing sales the information they need right in that one view. Most CRM and MA platforms will offer a similar setup.
Trick 2: Tracking Sales Meetings Outside the Main Event
Despite how perfectly planned and glamorous the main event is, the one-off meetings scheduled around the event are often what really moves the needle forward. At Integrate we think it’s important to consider these meetings as part of the overall event investment, as they likely wouldn’t have happened otherwise. That also means we need a reliable way to track these meetings – which are often spontaneous.
After trying for 6 months to get sales to send us a list of meetings post-event, our coordinator Hannah came up with a plan that’s been working for us pretty well: Anytime a salesperson schedules a meeting around an event, they copy her on the calendar invite. If they have a spontaneous one, she gets BCC-ed on the follow up. She treats these like notifications and logs the people into the right tracking campaign on the fly.
Is it messy? Probably will be for a larger team, but its quite manageable for us. Is there a better software solution out there? Probably. But we tracked 19x more meetings with this method than previous efforts, so we’ll probably stick with it for a bit longer.
Trick 3: Ensuring Lead Velocity & High Quality Leads
Have you heard the adage “All it takes is one bad lead and sales will never trust you again”? While maybe not 100 percent true, it’s still a good thing to keep in the back of your mind when you’re working to get these event leads over to the sales team. In fact, even before letting the leads into my database, I check:
- Are there duplicates? Better get rid of those first.
- Is the data valid? Scrub any typos or fake email addresses.
- Is the data complete? If you’re missing key fields, you’ll need a trusted partner to append the data.
- Do the leads match your persona criteria? Don’t fill your database up with people who just wanted the free swag.
Once your data is perfect, you’ll want to get it routed to the right sales reps ASAP, and make sure they see it. We use a combination of LeanData’s Lead2Account mapping and routing tools plus automated email alerts to do this instantly, but there are several other tools or processes that can achieve the same.
Trick 4: Personalized Follow-Up
In a perfect world, the sales team would be able to follow up with every single lead within 48 hours of the event. But unless you have a really robust BDR team (or an AI solution), this isn’t reality. So it’s important for marketing to have a plan to supplement follow-up. Our approach at Integrate is to follow up with everyone who makes it into our database via some level of a nurture program – unless sales specifically ops them out of marketing communications.
The temptation here is to send a “Thanks for coming” type communication, which can work fine for your intimate events, but gets absolutely buried in a pile of similar communications following a tradeshow. Instead, plan a meaningful nurture path that’s appropriately tailored to the individual’s persona and lifecycle stage, geared at moving them down the funnel. With some guidance from Leslie at Iron Mountain, we recently revamped our nurture setup so it was easy to drop people directly into an existing path that was right for them.
For your priority prospects, consider branching out from just email follow-up programs. Post-event can be a powerful time for display targeting. Even better: work with your sales reps to plan a high-impact direct mail campaign.
Trick 5: Determining Event ROI & Sharing Results
Whenever we dig into attribution at Integrate, we start with the mindset: “It’s not about credit, it’s about getting better.” This keeps everyone focused on one goal: generating revenue. It also enables us to have candid conversation between marketing and sales about what worked and what didn’t without wasting time pointing fingers.
Marketing starts by looking at attribution from all the different views and a couple different models, and mashing them all together for the best picture we can show. Then we gather anecdotal and tangential information from the on-site team. If there’s a drastic contrast between the attribution data and the general vibe, we dig in:
- Did we miss some key opportunities that should've been attributed?
- Did we have good conversations, but with the wrong people?
- Did we forge strong partner or existing customer relationships, despite not creating new opportunities?
Usually this uncovers a combination of the above, so we can go back and fix the attribution, create a new plan to reach the decision-makers, or evaluate against more appropriate success metrics. There’s no doubt in my mind that if we made this about getting credit, sales would be no help in this evaluation process.
If you’d like more ideas about ways to make the most of your event leads, I hosted a webinar on August 23rd with Emily Wingrove from Synthio and Frances McCutchon from PFL. We shared the proven practices, automation tools and specialized data we use to get better sales pipeline results out of event investments. Watch here.