Even if you’ve jumped on the experiential marketing bandwagon for B2C (and if you haven’t, you should), you still might be skeptical about experiential’s place in the B2B space.
After all, the B2B purchasing journey is highly different from B2C.
B2C purchases are often emotional; B2B, much less so (although it’s true to say that every purchase has some element of emotion involved).
B2C purchases usually involve a single individual choosing to buy, while B2B often involves multiple people or committees weighing the decision to purchase over several weeks or months.
Finally, the B2C market generally offers more opportunities to connect in person with customers—at shopping malls, on the street, in airports, etc.
B2B connections happen mainly at places like trade shows, conferences, or exhibitions, which means that any experiential campaign you’re developing has to fit within that context.
Yet, despite these differences, experiential marketing truly does have a place in B2B marketing. Here’s why that’s true, and what B2B experiential marketing should look like in 2020.
Why experiential marketing works
Experiential marketing, done right, works for a number of reasons.
The first is that it creates a memorable, lasting relationship with your audience. Customers that connect with your brand during an experiential activation are much more likely to remember your brand and try your product than those who don’t.
According to EventTrack, 74 percent of attendees are more likely to purchase products that are promoted at live events.
Experiential marketing campaigns also create excellent opportunities for your customers to create and promote your brand through their own content.
According to that same report, a whopping 98 percent of consumers create digital or social content at events and experiences, and of those, 100 percent report sharing it.
That’s an immediate and powerful boost to your brand’s social media presence—and what’s more, it’s content that your content team doesn’t have to create. Instead, your team can focus on amplifying and repurposing that content instead.
How to make experiential marketing work for B2B
So how do you translate the benefits of experiential for B2C to the B2B space?
Step 1: Know your audience.
If your company has created brand personas for the B2B buyers you serve, pull those out and study them again.
What are their pain points?
How do they consume content?
What information is most important to them when making a purchase?
You’ll also need to know where you’re most likely to come in contact with these customers—at a trade show, at events hosted by your brand, at a conference, etc.
You can then use these answers to guide your experiential marketing and start crafting your experience.
Step 2: Identify the opportunity and the goal.
Now, you’ll need to identify the specific opportunity and the parameters you’ll be working within.
Will your experience take place at a conference or trade show? Then consider how large your exhibitor space is, what limitations the schedule or conference atmosphere will create, and how long you can expect to keep customers’ attention (answer to that: not long).
Are you creating an experiential campaign for an event you’re sponsoring, or sponsoring in partnership with another brand?
Or are you creating a stand-alone experience owned by your brand?
In all three of these cases you’ll have to determine how much control you have over the event, how much space you have, how much time, and, of course, what your budget is.
You’ll also need to know specifically what your goal is. The goal of any activation is to increase awareness and strengthen your customers’ relationship with your brand—so with that as a given, what do you want this experience or activation to accomplish?
Here are a few examples to get you thinking.
- Jumpstart sales or pre-orders for a new product or service.
- Help reestablish your reputation and brand image after a crisis.
- Reach a new B2B segment or niche.
- Invest in your brand’s relationship with long-term customers.
- Give customers a new or more in-depth view of your company.
Ways to accomplish these goals include:
- Product demos
- Invitation-only parties or receptions for long-time customers
- Facility tours
- Pop-up giveaways—renting an ice cream or food truck and providing food free of charge at an office or workspace, for example
- Charity drives or fundraisers
- Community service events
One of Zen Media’s most successful experiential campaigns to date was created in partnership with Chase for Business: the Chase Bizmobile.
Chase partnered with us because they wanted to position themselves as the “wingman” for small business owners (SBOs), and they knew that one thing these SBO’s needed was easy access to expert, personalized advice for growing their business.
We came up with the idea for the Bizmobile: a mobile, high-tech trailer that traveled across the country for Chase for Business conferences, festivals, co-working spaces, and more.
At each stop, it served as a space where small business owners could come and sit down with our Zen marketing experts for one-on-one advice tailored to their specific needs.
At the same time, they could learn about Chase for Business’s product offerings and services independently through a tablet, or with the help of a Chase representative.
So far, the Bizmobile has made more than 50 stops across the country, serving hundreds of SBOs and spreading Chase’s message of partnership with small businesses everywhere.
Step 3: Take advantage of the data experiential offers.
One major advantage of experiential marketing is that it allows you to get data directly from your customers in real time.
For example, since 98 percent of event attendees create content about the event, you can have your social staff track those mentions as they occur and amplify them.
Events and activations also present an excellent opportunity to gather customer information. By offering perks like VIP treatment or early access to a demo in exchange for an email address, you’ll be able to gather leads throughout the experience.
In addition, if you’re demoing a product or service, you’ll be able to get feedback from attendees immediately.
Whether it’s informal, anecdotal evidence gathered simply through listening to the chatter and taking notes, or formal, structured data collected through a post-event digital survey, the information you’ll get can be invaluable as you move forward in promoting your new offering.
And of course, as with any event, you’ll want to follow up with attendees post-event to move that relationship along and make B2B purchasing more likely.
Experiential marketing for B2B has some real differences from experiential in the B2C space, but by making certain adjustments, B2B brands can still reap the many, lasting benefits of this strategy. For more, read “3 Truths for Launching a Successful Experiential Campaign.”