Event Marketer recently surveyed some of the industry’s top b-to-b marketing professionals to find out where they think the industry is headed, and how they plan to meet the demands of an ever-evolving attendee base. The marketers you’re about to hear from are literally transforming the landscape of b-to-b events. Their creativity and know-how is responsible for some of the best conferences, trade show exhibits and industry gatherings around the globe. Their events are engaging, immersive, informative and fun. And that’s just the stuff they did this year.
As you map out your next b-to-b event, some expert predictions to help send you in the right direction.
Customization is Key
Mike Trovalli, vp-experiential marketing at Sage, sees events becoming more tailored to individual attendees. “There is so much of a demand on peoples’ time, especially in the audience sectors we are playing in. People don’t have the time to attend a lot of events and conferences,” he says.
Trovalli’s challenge is to entice people to attend Sage conferences, to make them relevant and worth the investment of time they spend out of the office. The answer, he says, lies in providing customized experiences as opposed to big-box events designed for thousands of attendees. To do that, getting to know the customer is a must. “Get out there. Talk to your audience and customers and hear what they really want. Customer input should be first and foremost,” he emphasizes.
Make it Personal
Victoria Lieffring, associate creative director-visual display at Kohler, says events are becoming more personalized, especially at trade shows, where increasingly there is more of a focus on people over product and sales. “They’re becoming less focused on the looks of things and more about an emotional connection. It’s more about quality over quantity,” she says. She achieves that personal connection by creating a warm, inviting space at Kohler’s booth, where attendees can stop for a cup of coffee or snack and begin a relationship with the brand. “It’s about creating trust with people in a more personal way. That personal connection is really important,” she says.
Personalization plays out a little differently at Adobe MAX, which over the last two years has increased in size from 6,000 to 11,000 attendees, largely due to personalization. “Attendees will always want and expect more,” says Jennifer Heaton, senior group manager of trade shows and events at Adobe.
Heaton stays on top of attendee demands by studying the demographics. “Who’s there? What are they looking for? Whether it’s a freelancer or someone working at an agency, how does that change what you deliver in terms of content? You have to keep up with the high level of expectation, and personalized experiences,” she says.
Dig Into the Data
“Events are going to become a lot more targeted and data-driven by their audience,” says Helen Stoddard, head of global events at Twitter, and captain of Event Marketer’s 2017 B-to-B Dream Team. “It used to be that you kind of just sent word out, and you hoped people came, and you sort of hoped they were the right people,” she says. “But now, there are so many usable data points and information that can be gathered to help make those decisions.” Stoddard, along with every leading-edge event marketer out there deploys technology to invite the right people, then track and engage them once they’re on-site. The result is a meeting or conference that is relevant to each attendee.
Get Your ‘Consumer’ on
Jane Culcheth-Beard, head of tier 1 events at HP, envisions b-to-b events taking on more of the traits of consumer activations. “I see things going away from regimented schedules towards more of an attendee-driven experience,” she says. That means more individual choice as to how attendees decide what they want to do and how they spend their time. “In the same way, if you go to a festival, you don’t expect someone to tell you what you are going to do every minute of the day. That is very important and the trend will grow over the next few years,” she says.
Consider Thought Leadership
Culcheth-Beard also has noticed a trend toward the introduction of issues into b-to-b events that are important to attendees in a personal as well as a business way. “Some of those thought leaders are from social activations or working on non-profit projects or have other experiences outside the world of business,” she says. Another trend—bringing them in not only as guest speakers, but to lead experiences for the attendees.
Dare to be Different
“Experiences can be differentiators,” says Garett Carr, global auto show and events manager at Ford. “The more you can make an experience engaging, whether it is b-to-b or b-to-c, the better chance you have of success. One-to-one marketing is becoming more and more important. The people that can figure it out and execute it effectively and at low cost are going to be the winners.”