It amazes me how many companies still continue to approach events and event marketing the very old-fashioned way and a way that doesn’t work anymore. I want better for you. I want you to have so much success with your events. Let’s talk about how events have generally been approached, historically speaking, and specifically looking at B2B companies, although this applies across the board. But generally, B2B companies are the ones that are known to do trade shows or go out and leverage events more, which is fantastic. But a lot of times, those events were the thing. They were the starting point.
Generally, companies fell into two buckets. One, they traditionally went to these trade shows. They kept going. They didn’t really measure the ROI. But it was just something they’d done for… I don’t know, 15/20 years. Then, the pandemic happened. A lot of them had to reassess, “Why do we keep going back there?” No one has stopped to really even ask that question.
The other type of company goes to these events. They often exhibit, and they find lackluster efforts. But they think, “Maybe we’re just not doing it right,” so they keep going back. Either way, events, they feel, have been a hit or miss for most companies, and that’s because the way buyers buy has changed dramatically. But the way companies look at events and marketing through events has not changed in that same span of time.
Let’s think about it in this way. It used to be that, historically, events were the thing. They were a starting point: the first time someone might get an introduction to your company, the first exposure, the first awareness point. But, of course, today, that’s dramatically different. Your prospects, your customers, your partners… They have something called the internet. They’re already doing all this research. The way we really need to start looking at events is they need to be tipping points, meaning you’ve already built up so much buzz that the conversation around the event isn’t, “Oh, that’s what you guys do. Nice to meet you.” It’s, “I’ve heard of you. You guys are everywhere. I just read an article about you. I just heard someone talk about what you guys do on a podcast,” or, “We were discussing this in our Slack chat,” whatever it is.
You want the events that you are doing as a company to be your tipping point, where things really take off. You want it to be a combination. You don’t want it to be the first introduction someone has to your company. I’ll tell you why. I’ll give you a great example of where that’s happening right now.
Let me actually start with the example because that may really help. If you think about traditional Super Bowl ads, people waited bated breath, Super Bowl ad. You had to sign your soul away to make sure that you weren’t going to share anything about the ad if you worked in the ad agency space. It’s very secretive. It was that big ad. Then, eventually, what we started seeing was ad plus, so ad plus digital, meaning there were hashtags. Super Bowl ads… Everyone started using hashtags. Everyone started realizing that people aren’t just watching the Super Bowl. They also have their cell phone in hand. They’re checking their emails, whatever that may look like. They’ve got, now, multiple points of ways to interact and engage with the company in the ad.
Now, what we see is fascinating. This year… I think this is such a great example on so many levels. But take a look at Squarespace. Squarespace, of course, has teamed up with Zendaya, who is Gen Z princess, liked by people across categories, was in the later Spider-Man release, has been the head celeb behind Euphoria, the TV show that’s gained so much popularity. What’s fascinating is, of course, they’ve teamed up a Zendaya for their 32nd slot, or whatever, for the Super Bowl. But they have released this ad, and they have created so much buzz around the fact that they’ve teamed up with her that their return on spend, their ROI from earned media, already far surpassed any ROI they’re going to get from the actual ad itself. All right.
If you think about a company like Squarespace, which, by the way, also B2B, big B to little B… But sure, they’re selling to small businesses, can take something like the Super Bowl and realize, “That’s the tipping point. But we have so much opportunity, so much runway to build buzz and get people talking about Zendaya, get people, of course, talking about Squarespace.”
They already have so much more share voice than their competitors right now because of that. I can promise you it’s a very strategic, well-executed campaign. That’s the other way to think about events is how can you get more creative? How can you create partnerships, take advantage of what’s already happening, where, again, the event becomes almost an afterthought?
When we work with clients, we look at this. We look at every element and say, “Who are the influencers in the space? Is it influencer marketing? Is it content?” The beauty of it is it’s everything coming together. But who does your audience resonate with? What will get people talking? How do you build a buzz? When the event happens, it’s not like a ta-da moment. Here we are. It’s a, “Wow. No one has been able to talk about anything except what you guys have been doing.” That’s a very different conversation.
The other thing you have to realize is the buyer cycle has changed so dramatically in the last five years, in the last two years even, that I think most people are completely unaware of how this is working. But Forester did all this research. They looked at… There was always multiple touchpoints that were required, like 17 touchpoints before someone made a decision. Today, it’s 21 touchpoints. Post pandemic, it takes 21 touch points for someone to be exposed to your company to actually do business with you. That’s a lot of touchpoints. If you’re relying on one event or one ad, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. You really need that cadence and consistency to help you get there.
The other thing that I think so many people don’t realize is that these decisions are getting made in dark social. They’re getting made in Slack channels in Reddit groups, on LinkedIn messages. They’re not getting made out into the open, meaning, let’s say you’ve got a group of prospects, and they’re coming to this show. You are exhibiting. Chances are they’ve already figured out which companies they’re interested in, who they want to go see. They’ve talked about it with their peers in their Slack channels. They’ve talked about it. They’ve looked at Reddit communities to see what’s exciting/who’s going to show up there. They’ve discussed this in LinkedIn messages and already made appointments with people they want to hang out with. So much of this happens long before someone even decides to engage with you. In fact, 64% of people are through the buying cycle before they actually want or reach out to a salesperson, which, to me, is just phenomenal if you really think about it.
I talk about this in my keynotes a lot. I have a program called Close Before you Convince. Because long before you even have the opportunity to convince, before someone shows up to your event or your booth, they’ve already made up their mind. Really, your event, whatever it is, whether you’re exhibiting, whether you’re engaging, it needs to be that tipping point. It’s a great way to actually test the ROI of… If what you’ve been doing is working, you’re going to see the results at the event. But the event should not be the starting point of what you are trying to do. I hope that’s helpful. If you’ve questioned event marketing, how marketing is changing dramatically, leave a question in the comments. I do my best to get to all of them.