At my previous employer, a colleague and I decided to run a lead generation experiment by hosting a local, live event series.
The events were small, attracting up to 35 people in attendance each time. (A pretty stark contrast to the massive, industry-wide conferences for which our agency typically shelled out five-figure budgets.)
But we pretty quickly found out that it didn’t matter that our events were small… they got us the amazing client leads we were after. The thing was, we attracted the right people to the events, and our competitors were nowhere in sight. On top of this, the events provided us an environment in which we had the opportunity to spend two to three hours with great prospects talking about the issues that were most challenging to them.
These events quickly became our #1 source of quality leads, and they quickly brought in multiple six-figure and seven-figure deals for our company. With these kinds of deals, we grew from a staff of 85 to 700+ (more than 800%!) in just five years.
Plus, the events didn’t cost much to put on, so we got these amazing, high-quality leads for little investment. Lower costs. More leads. Higher average revenue per new client account. It was a serious marketing home run.
Marketers Rate Live Events High for Lead Gen
Digital marketing tends to grab all the headlines, but live events are an especially effective lead driver for B2B marketers. According to Chief Marketer’s 2018 B2B Lead Gen Outlook report, live events tied with SEO as the second most effective channel for producing the highest ROI leads.
Bizzabo’s Event Marketing 2018 Benchmarks and Trends report confirms that 80% of the C-Suite (among 400 surveyed) see live events as critical to their company’s success.
Even in this digital age, it’s important to interact directly with your audience and to create memorable experiences for them. If your product has a higher price point and a longer lead time, live events can be even more valuable, taking online brand touchpoints and effectively deepening the relationship.
More Evidence that Events Not Only Work, They ROCK!
Because of the success we had with hosting small events with my old employer, we decided to do a similar experiment here at Stratabeat, where we host events on neuromarketing in the Boston area every few months.
We did some market research and realized there weren’t any live events covering neuromarketing in our area, so we set up a Meetup group. With fairly little work, we grew the group to more than 400 members in a few years.
Our events are an educational opportunity for attendees… sometimes someone from Stratabeat speaks, but we also bring in tech CEOs and university professors to do talks. But no matter who’s speaking, the content is always educational and never a sales pitch.
Hosting these events has presented us with excellent networking opportunities, as well as given us leads and new client deals, too.
And it’s not just our own events. We’ve now promoted many events for our clients through the years. In each and every case, the client walked away with serious ROI.
One of our clients’ roadshows sold out across the country to Fortune 500 marketing executives, and we also helped another client attract approximately 350 attendees to their inaugural technology summit. Whether an intimate 30-person event at a local, hip restaurant or a larger event with hundreds of attendees, time and again we’ve experienced the power of live events to bring people together and achieve lead generation goals.
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Tips for a Lead-Heavy Live Event
Even though live events that generate great leads don’t have to be expensive, you do want to prepare properly and execute well. Professionalism matters… and if you clearly don’t have your stuff together for a basic live event, few of your attendees will trust you enough to hire you to do work for them.
From my years of experience with live events to drive high-profit leads, here are some of my best tips:
Make It All About The Attendees
Before you get anyone to attend, you’ve got to make sure they actually want to come, or no one will bother showing up.
To do this, make sure it’s clear in your event description how you differ from similar events, and what the takeaways will be for your attendees. Think through your audiences top problems and challenges, and how you can help them not only tackle these effectively but also achieve more. Treat their time as if it’s more valuable than your own, and make sure you put together an event that they’ll love to be at and they’ll be sure to remember.
Bring in Complementary Outside Experts
When you bring in outside experts and speakers, it typically increases not only the value of the event to your audience, it also can make the content more dynamic by providing a greater mix of complementary pieces.
Plus, and this is huge, it enables you to extend your reach to such experts’ and speakers’ databases, attracting new prospective attendees who may not have heard of your company or events otherwise.
Instead of viewing events as an opportunity for your company to get up on stage, view it as an opportunity to put together the best lineup possible for educating your audience.
Target the Accounts You Value Most
In addition to all of your event marketing, be sure to hand-select a list of VIP prospective attendees. These are the members of your target audience you would most like to see attend, right at the very top of your wish list. Ditch the generic messaging and instead conduct personalized outreach, presenting them with compelling reasons to join in. Make the overflowing value absolutely clear to them (just to be sure make the event all about delivering on that value!).
Develop a Speaker Marketing Plan
Even if you already have great event marketing for yourself—it’s still a really good idea to have a pre-made marketing outline for your speakers to follow.
For example, you can have email and social media post templates to give to your speakers to share with their networks so more people come to your event. Offer a way for your speakers to create short promotional teaser videos.
At most large industry events, speakers are given a Google Doc or other instruction packet mostly filled with logistical information about the venue, and a few social post suggestions. Then the organizers do little else to empower the speakers to be an army of marketers for the event. That’s a lost opportunity.
Think of how to engage your speakers in the months and weeks leading up to your events. Empower them with tools for greater online sharing impact. For example, for certain client events, we’ve provided our clients with a speaker template so that they can easily crank out graphics featuring each speaker.
Making it easy for speakers to share information about your event makes them more likely to do it… and increases the number of people who attend, boosting your lead generation efforts.
Get Sponsors, If You Can
If your event grows large enough, consider getting event sponsors.
This helps offset the cost of hosting the event, but also opens your marketing even wider to the sponsor’s sphere of influence. The sponsors will tell their networks about it and to encourage attendance… which is good for you and them.
Plus, a lot of sponsors love to do really fun things for event attendees. Beyond just covering your costs, a lot of them will want to create a mini-event within the event, making your event even more memorable.
Open bar? Beer garden? Ice-cream kiosk? Competitions? Industry-specific bingo? A DJ and a dance floor?
These are all things you can offer your attendees with no additional cost to you if you can score a sponsor.
Transform Your Events into Evergreen Content
You don’t need to let the value of your event content expire at the end of the event itself. Easy ways to convert the content from the events into ongoing marketing assets is to hold a webinar that provides a “snapshot” of the content provided at the event and then to offer that recording on your site on an ongoing basis. Or, you can turn it into a webinar series. Or, turn it into a blog series. Or, host a Twitter AMA with your speakers. What all of this does is enable you to capture many more leads from the same content.
There are many options for translating your event into ongoing marketing content. You just need to tap into your creativity.
Start Hosting Live Events & Generating Great Leads
If you take one thing away from this blog post, please let it be that live events—even small live events—are an amazing way to do cost-effective lead generation in the B2B world. If your firm has never held an event in the past, start small and slowly build your way up. If you’re more experienced or simply ambitious and have a larger budget, it’s quite achievable to draw hundreds of attendees.