With events are currently on pause across the globe as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s an excellent time to study the strategies and tactics of some of the most successful B2B event marketers in the industry. Because when face-to-face engagement has resurfaced and events are once again thriving, marketers who have honed their skills in the meantime will benefit. Here’s a look at what Event Marketer’s 2020 Dream Team has to stay about the latest B2B event marketing trends—plus examples of how businesses are continuing to engage customers and remain connected through virtual means.
1. Embrace New Technologies
Crystal Worthem, Head of Global Brand Experiences for Ford Motor Company, believes that the most successful B2B marketers will do well by embracing change and innovation. Take Ford’s presence at auto shows, which is evolving as consumers crave new technologies. The brand is using chat bots—run by product specialists in another room—within its activations to engage consumers and answer questions inside the actual vehicles. It’s also allowing consumers to purchase cars right then and there at the shows, which represents a shift in funnel strategy compared to previous events.
At Sephora, Jessica Stacey, VP of PR and Event Marketing, uses new technological innovations to elevate event programs. Sephora’s “Color IQ” matches foundation, lip and concealer products for consumers, aiding product recommendations and purchases. Mobile point-of-sale technology lets attendees buy products in real-time at the brand’s events.
On the virtual event front, AI technology company GumGum has engaged customers through webinars, virtual happy hours and interactive content. The latter entailed using a content platform to create a more engaging, choose-your-own-adventure experience. Computer software provider Cockroach Labs has created a virtual badge scan that captures website visitors’ contact information on a landing page. In exchange for their email addresses, a small donation to Women Who Code is made, and an even larger donation is promised in the name of those who commit to a virtual meeting.
2. Focus on Customer Community
Cutting through the conference and event clutter is a huge challenge for B2B event marketers, according to Monica Long, SVP of Marketing for Ripple. One way her team breaks through the noise is by bringing customers together with those who they’re influenced by in thoughtful ways. Lori Ann Pope, Facebook’s VP of Global Event Marketing, is uniquely focused on events that bring communities together. Charged with oversight of events for Facebook’s global small business group, Pope brings the platform’s tools to life through community-based events. For instance, the brand’s “Boost with Facebook” event series, free in major cities and neighborhoods across the world, provides small business the tech and insights to compete in the digital economy.
3. Diversity and Inclusion
Pope’s events offer content for all levels of users, learning styles and abilities, which supports Facebook’s larger diversity and inclusion mission. One-on-one chats with experts, a Facebook Help Desk and digital courses are a few of its support tools. Facebook’s Supplier Diversity Initiative identifies and works with diverse-owned businesses, and the brand’s #SheMeansBusiness platform gathers women entrepreneurs who use Facebook and Instagram tools and helps them connect. Similarly, Twitter’s Global Event Marketing Lead Kristine Yapp Jones works with the brand’s diversity and inclusion division to make sure that different communities are represented in the suppliers that the team engages with for events. And GitHub is somewhat of a specialist when it comes to diversity and inclusion at events, from its pump rooms for nursing mothers to its gender-neutral bathrooms to its prayer rooms.
4. New Event Formats
Verizon Media’s Kevin Schwoer, Senior Manager of Events, recommends that B2B marketers take the time to curate their invite lists, personalize attendee outreach and make sure that the event space itself is interesting. Dell Technologies took analysts and press outside of the ballroom and onto an actual movie set during its Summit in order to spice up the experience. Photo ops, a custom drone show, movie props, virtual reality activations and more engaged attendees in exciting ways. eBay Open, the platform’s annual seller conference, has experimented with various casual event formats between leadership and attendees, Q&A-style sessions and regionally-focused networking groups to inspire connections.
5. A Local Approach
Felicia Kaban, Senior Manager of Live Events, Johnson & Johnson Vision, has seen success with local programming. In place of what’s typically a free dinner and presentation, Kaban invented The Light Symposium, a series of local events leveraging scavenger-hunt tactics to engage eye-care professionals through experiences and encourage them to educate patients when back in the office.
6. Content Studios
Kaban also thinks that B2B events can become hubs of content creation. Her team activated the Insight Studio, where health care professionals could schedule a time slot to create content for their own channels that focused on their needs and topics rather than those chosen by Johnson & Johnson. The action positioned the brand as a hub for thought leadership and industry influencers. Athenahealth Event Marketing Manager Dani Sullivan similarly believes in the strength of content in the B2B space. Through recruiting industry luminaries to keynote its events instead of internal leaders, the brand become known as a thought leader by highlighting its expertise within the health care industry.
Want to learn more? Here are five networking ideas for B2B event marketers, from carnival-themed activations to app integrations to empowering team leaders. And check out a new on-demand virtual chat with event industry leaders about how to get your event portfolios, teams, budgets and strategies back on track.