In-Person Events and The Role of Marketing

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With in-person events and tradeshows coming to a halt due to the pandemic, the world is divided over the pros and cons of trade shows, especially for B2B tech companies. Many marketing gurus are espousing against trade shows. To some extent, it is true that for the kind of expenses that go into an event, you might end up getting a bulk of junk contacts and the customer acquisition cost (CAC) can be steep. Trade shows can be super expensive- from sponsorships, booths, promotional material, giveaways, travel, accommodations et al

Are in-person events dead?

It’s natural for people to question the need for such events once things are back to normal. After all, didn’t we see marquee events hosted by the likes of Gartner, Salesforce, Microsoft, SAP and Google still taking place, albeit virtually? And sponsorship packages weren’t exactly any cheaper for most events globally.

In addition, we saw a surge in other online interactions - webinars, AMAs, live group demos and even podcasts. 

Travel was always mandatory, until now, for sales meetings, customer QBRs, customized demos, workshops and assessments, project kick-offs, requirement gathering and software implementations. But remote meetings (courtesy Zoom, Google Meet, MS Teams and others) have replaced business travel. CFOs of businesses whose pipelines didn’t take a big hit are in a state of euphoria over the unprecedented impact on the bottom line due to cost savings where no travel has played a huge part.

So are in-person events dead? Will we shun trade shows, conferences, round tables and the likes once the world opens up for travel?

Why in-person interactions matter

Nothing can replace the physical experience of meetings and events!

Humans get to see humans, see your products, experience your services, judge your capabilities in a more personalized manner. Plus, having a presence at events kind of reinforces the belief in your audience that you are here to stay and not a fly-by-night outfit. You are likely to remember stuff that you see, people that you meet, brands that you see. 

There is a certain vibe to in-person interactions that goes for a toss virtually where most of the audience is probably juggling between multiple tabs or distracted in their mobile phones!

Just having a booth doesn't work. You have to do a lot of groundwork before and after events to make them successful. Schedule one-on-one meetings, organize private dinners, interview your ICP, create follow up engagement plans and so on. 

Another aspect that a lot of marketers miss out on is to leverage an event to create a lot of content which can then be distributed in various formats. Events can help you come up with trends, influencers, analysts, personal conversations, mini-interviews, FAQs, videos, blogs, reports and I can just go on and on…

Maybe, cut down on the number of events and go big on a few select ones. Maximize your ROI from a select few rather than spreading yourself thin. 

Events are here to stay! One-to-one human connection is something that your competitors can’t replicate with technology, digital content or automated outreach. There is no alternative to the value generated by seeing a face, shaking hands and socializing over coffee / drinks.

But in-person events are definitely not dead!

How marketers can add value by attending events

Very often, marketers are relegated to purely backend logistics and administration at physical events such as customer advisory boards, tradeshows and conferences. Marketers are seen as those responsible for only taking care of event logistics, bookings, registrations, booth, card scans, collateral, tchotchke, branding and other similar stuff. Add some photos and social media to complete the list.

While this is important for the success of any event, companies miss out a lot by not utilizing (or empowering) marketers at an event.

At events, marketers can:

- Attend sessions to find out what's trending

  • - Feel the pulse of the industry /domain by observing attendees, absorbing vibes, gauging interests
  • - Analyze other exhibitors (collateral, content, pitch etc.) to get inspired and probably compete better
  • - Observe booth visitors, understand common regional pain points, identify FAQs, note objections
  • - Actually chat with counterparts from competitors
  • - Network better with attendees and peers to unearth best practices, share ideas, exchange tips and basically get their mindshare

Armed with all this, marketers can go back to their bases and actually use this first-hand information to create content, relook positioning, devise strategies and more.

In addition, with better planning, marketers can actually use an event for other interesting outcomes.

Say, why not get hold of attendees / partners on the sidelines for ad-hoc interviews? With permissions, these could be leveraged in various formats - byte sized videos, event report, e-book collecting opinions of your ICP and so on.

  • Planning your own private dinners with hand-picked attendees / partners / customers can help you take the outcome of the event to another level. Can be a great “ABM” tactic that is hardly ever mentioned. Of course, stay away from pitching something right in their faces!

Sales is focused on selling and is unfair to expect them to look at all these delectable nuggets that an event can offer. It's marketing that can actually tap into this rich data without the pressure of just manning booths. What’s more is that if marketing is empowered to do this, they could actually take the pressure off sales and product personnel who have their own busy lives to really bother about making

What still remains true is that sending folks to events is expensive and hence the number is often restricted to people who can actually engage with the visitors. But with a little bit of planning, right-sizing the number of events and investing for the future, it’s definitely possible to get more from events!

Looking forward to soaking in some real human interactions!