If your company is practicing account-based marketing, you probably know that events are one of the best ways to engage your target accounts. Events are also still the biggest spend in B2B marketing budgets. Companies invest in events because in-person interaction is the most effective way to create and accelerate sales pipeline.
While B2B marketing has evolved to reach today’s account-based marketing level of sophistication, many event strategies are still stuck in the past. Simply sponsoring big conferences and sending sales reps to work the booth isn’t enough. You need to adjust your event strategy to align with your ABM goals.
Here are six things you can do to optimize your event strategy for account-based marketing:
1. Get the Right Internal Teams Involved
ABM requires full cooperation between Marketing and Sales and so does your event strategy. Without alignment, marketing spends a bunch of money on an event only to have sales dismiss event leads and drop the ball on follow-up.
The benefits of alignment are backed up by data. Teams that report marketing and sales as being “tightly aligned,” report ROIs of greater than 1.5x according to the 2015 State of Pipeline Marketing Report.
Alignment around events goes beyond just marketing and sales. An event with only sales reps present won’t be nearly as effective as one that also includes representation and collaboration from marketing, customer success, and your executive team. This cross-team collaboration needs to start long before your event takes place. Marketing plans and promotes the event while sales invites prospects, customer success invites customers, and your executives reach out to their peers at strategic customer and prospects accounts.
On event day, marketing makes sure the event runs smoothly, manages check-in, and coordinates presentations and content creation. Sales and customer reps connect with prospects and customers to create and accelerate deals. Executives can provide thought leadership in a presentation and connect with attendees one-on-one to build stronger relationships with your customers and prospects.
2. Shift Event Focus from Leads to Pipeline
If the the main purpose of your current event strategy is “lead generation,” you aren’t alone, but recent research suggests that you’re focusing on the wrong thing. With ABM, B2B marketers are starting to realize that they need to move past the lead generation role of simply filling the sales funnel with individual, named leads. Many marketers aren’t using event marketing to its full potential.
Although lead generation is at the top of reasons why companies invest in events, they would be better served to focus on educating their attendees and accelerating sales pipeline.
A recent Forrester report finds that using events for lead generation isn’t effective:
Our results show that marketers rely on events to find buyers but not to educate or persuade them... B2B marketers clearly aren’t treating event investments strategically; much of their money and effort here could be better spent.
One major issue with marketing events today is that many marketers aren’t measuring success in a meaningful way. Looking at attendance numbers alone is an ineffective way to measure event success. Moving away from a lead generation focus to a pipeline focus and then measuring your event’s impact on revenue will help you optimize your strategy for maximum ROI.
Lead gen can still be part of your marketing strategy, but using events to generate leads is far less effective than other tactics. Events are the most impactful when they focusing on engagement with the prospect and customer accounts you know you want to engage.
3. Target Both Your Prospects and Customers
Your happy customers are some of your best marketing assets. Getting your prospects and customers together at an event is a great way to accelerate pipeline via in-person customer testimonials. You don’t even need to have your customers speak at your events (though that’s always a good idea). Just having them around to chat with your prospects provides an opportunity to create and accelerate pipeline at your event.
An ideal account-based marketing event will help you create and accelerate pipeline with both prospects and customers. Beyond that, making your customers the VIPs at your event makes them feel appreciated and strengthens your relationship with them.
Planning the introductions you want to make between customers and prospects in advance is also helpful. This is where having marketing, sales, and customer success working together prior to the event is important. Without that collaboration, those strategic introductions won’t happen.
4. Focus on Quality Over Quantity
Account-based marketing is all about quality over quantity. Your events should be too. Events need to measure more than just the number of new sales leads. Your sales team doesn’t care about how many leads you send them if they aren’t going to convert to real opportunities. Focus your event efforts on getting the highest quality attendees from your target accounts to attend. The next step is enabling your team to maximize their in-person interactions with those target accounts.
Getting a target account to an event is also a much higher value marketing touch than the typical digital engagement. While a website visit, eBook download, or webinar sign up could result in no more than a few seconds of real engagement, an event requires the attendee to take time out of their day to physically show up to your event. Depending on the length of your event, attendance can result in hours of engagement including listening to a presentation of your content, speaking with a sales rep, and getting a customer reference.
Effective account-based marketing requires a lot of touches throughout the customer lifecycle, not just at the point of lead creation. Looking at metrics like the relationship between customer event attendance and customer retention and renewals should become part of your event process.
5. Enable Fast and Effective Follow-Up
Context is the most important part of any marketing or sales activity. Your team needs to have context on the attendees at your event to make your content, face-to-face conversations, and follow-up relevant. One of the most difficult parts of any B2B event is having access to the right data for meaningful follow-up. It’s easy to send a generic “thanks for attending” email, but those emails aren’t a great way to engage attendees.
After your team has those awesome in-person conversations with your targeted list of prospects and customers, what comes next? All of those great interactions are worthless if your team doesn’t have a quick and effective process for following up with relevant information.
To accomplish quick follow-up that actually works, you need a process for both making sure that all of your attendees are personally engaged at the event and that your on-site team has a process for recording their conversation notes. Doing this enables sales to follow up quickly and personally after an event, and start to turn those event conversations into revenue.
6. Track Event Influence
As with any aspect of marketing, measurement is hugely important. Without tracking the success of your events, you could be wasting a lot of money. It’s clear that measuring events by lead generation isn’t a good representation of ROI.
The focus of event measurement needs to switch to pipeline acceleration and revenue generation. Looking at how your events directly influence your sales opportunities is one of the best ways to measure success. The combination of revenue event marketing software and omni-channel attribution will allow you clearly measure the impact of your events.
Events can be one of the most powerful tactics in your marketing strategy, but they need to be optimized to fit your ABM strategy. Focusing on generating leads and sponsoring conferences isn’t sufficient to drive results in the B2B market. Making events a key piece of your account-based marketing requires a strategic reevaluation of your strategy.