Events are an old marketing technique. From the forums of ancient Rome to the World’s Fairs of the 19th and 20th centuries, business owners, inventors, and marketers have been taking advantage of events to sell or display products for hundreds and thousands of years.
Despite their storied history, events have stayed mostly the same. Sure, there are more niche industry events and a lot of new technologies, but everything is still basically the same.
One thing that has changed is the way we approach marketing. Generational shifts and rapidly changing technologies are forcing marketers to really look at what makes a consumer purchase a product.
This is happening in every industry, crossing both B2C and B2B lines.
This shift in foundational marketing wisdom has produced a number of new techniques and methodologies, i.e. modern content marketing and inbound methodology. However, these changes revolve around one very basic idea: the buyer’s journey.
With this foundational shift in the way we approach marketing, you have to look at each of your channels and determine where they fit into the buyer’s journey. This will help you determine exactly how to use each platform and tool more effectively.
Today, let’s look at events. More specifically, let’s look at where events fit in the buyer’s journey.
The Buyer’s Journey
Before we jump straight in, let’s look at and define the phases of the buyer’s journey. This will help you understand exactly what we’re talking about later on.
Here are the basics:
At this stage people are beginning to recognize that they have a problem. Maybe it’s that they don’t have enough equipment on a job site to get things done, or they don’t have enough trucks on the road to meet freight demand. They recognize there is a problem, but they don’t know the solution yet.
At this stage they are fully aware of the problem they are facing and are actively looking for a solution. Now they recognize that they need to buy new equipment or trucks. They’re finally asking the right questions, “Which piece of equipment/truck will have the best performance for my business?”
They have looked at a number of brands to find the best one that fits their needs. They’ve spoken to dealers, looked around online, and read through a lot of spec sheets and sales collateral. They’ve finally decided on what they are going to buy and make the purchase.
Events and the Buyer’s Journey
Events are an interesting marketing tool. Unlike many platforms and tools you use, events are a microcosm of the buyer’s journey. They don’t work this way for everyone, but some businesses can see customers move from awareness to decision at a single event.
Most likely, events fall into the awareness phase of the buyer’s journey.
Take a second to think of events from the viewpoint of your customer. With some exceptions, most people don’t attend an event to find a solution to a problem they’re having. They’re attending an event because they find something valuable there.
There are a lot of reasons why people attend an event. There may be an interesting seminar or breakout session, an important speaker or VIP in attendance, or it may even be the cool stuff displayed at the event that gets them there.
How do you market to the awareness phase?
Now you know where events fit into the buyer’s journey, you need to leverage your marketing to align with your customers’ current needs. In other words, what do you need to do to get them further into the journey and into your sales funnel?
Utilize a pre-show campaign.
You need people to know about your event presence before an event. You can build some buzz about your booth, any contests you’re having, or any product showcases or unveils you might feature. Not only can this get your current customers and prospects to visit you, but you can also attract a number of attendees who may have need of your product.
Use social media at a show.
For every real, physical event that is taking place, there is a conversation happening about it online. Attendees are talking to each other in person and online, and they’re using social media to communicate. Fortunately, businesses aren’t barred from this conversation. This is a great opportunity to remind people that you’re there and remind them why they should stop by.
Create awareness stage content.
Remember, you are marketing to a large number of people who probably don’t know they need your product yet. At this point, you need to make sure they know there is a problem and that you can help them solve it. Try creating simple content that highlights a common problem among your customers. This helps you propel them forward in their buyer’s journey and keep yourself top-of-mind.
Events are a great way to get your brand or business in front of a large audience of people who need your products. However, you can’t rely on outdated processes to accomplish your goals. Building a campaign that aligns with the buyer’s journey will help you propel prospects into your sales funnel.