Let’s Talk B2B Conferences. Face-to-Face.

Couples don’t get married by Skype. “Date night” doesn’t happen by text. The long weekend with the “college bros” isn’t by video chat. The trip to the big new roller coaster with the kids isn’t by VR. It’s up close and personal. And if you break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend by email? So uncool. So very uncool.

Is the business environment any different? No, it’s not. A personal relationship, at a face-to-face depth, is irreplaceable. Conferences, events and end-user gatherings are gaining steam, even in this age of the digital interface.  In the geo-political environment world leaders meet face to face all the time. In one of the busiest and frantic environments there is, with a lot more at stake, there they are, at the G-10 Summit, for example.

In the C&I environmental and energy management space, regular face-to-face meetings remain a key part of a marketing mix. And if your planned mix of digital, promotional, lead-gen, thought leadership, sales T/E and custom content promotion and distribution are in place – great.  However your marketing mix isn’t complete without a healthy dose of event presence.

Thought leadership is a term thrown around a lot lately, and in this age of custom content being King, there is no better place to promote leadership than live and in-person. Marketing around conferences can take many shapes, and, what may be unknown, or at least under-appreciated, is that event producers will often customize sponsorships for you as a vendor. There are variables per organizer, but here’s a few tips to consider. Let’s call it “Tim’s Top Five.”

  1. Forget about size of the conference. The decision maker tree at any organization you’re trying to sell is a true pyramid. The CEO is at the top. For every 100-person company there is only one CEO to sell to. Maybe five total contract signees overall. This is still a small industry. What’s much more important is the average title and company of the attendee. So throw the concept of “bigger is better” out the window.
  2. Look for on-stage opportunities. The more elite conferences put the brakes on extensive speaking opportunities by vendors to avoid “sales pitches.” Blunt “pitch presentations” keep attendees from returning. But higher-end sponsorships will often include a moderator opportunity, an introduction opportunity, case study or lightning talks, thank-you remarks or other thought leadership speaking slots. They are few-and-far-between, and often brief, but you can get your message across. And if you can secure one, don’t be a “hammer.” Be a hand-holder. A presentation involving a simple challenge/solution approach is smart. And closing with “I’d love to speak with you more, so just find me during the event” is a nice, subtle way to get the “imprint” on the attendee.
  3. Grab your exhibit space or sponsorship early. While attendee quality is King, exhibit-hour traffic is Queen. The earlier to reserve your space, the better your floor position, and the better your traffic…and you may often enjoy a discount! Also, sponsorships often include booth space, which is a “baked in” discount, and usually a big one. Often you’ll also get your choice of location.
  4. Just like real estate: location, location, location. A destination-city is always a good move for larger events. Las Vegas, for example, can deplete an audience but the size of the event makes up for it. Exhibitors don’t notice. A smaller mid-size city in a state that is environmentally and energy-conscious are the places to consider first as they’ll also include local traffic. Colorado, California, the Northwest…look for conferences in these areas. And near an airline hub? Even better.
  5. Look for events run by trade publications or associations. These types of organizations have built-in marketing capability to qualified lists. Other companies that simply producte conferences have a harder time drilling down into niche events and finding the right lists to promote.

So there you go. Follow these rules, and your events moving forward will be more powerful. I’d also recommend you listen to Ian Altman’s podcast about events:  “Growing Your Revenues Through Conferences and Trade Shows” – he provides even more detail and rationale for a healthy conference presence.

Good luck as you plan your 2018 event schedule!

Tim

Tim Hermes is the Publisher of Business Sector Media’s flagship brands, Environmental Leader and Energy Manager Today. He’s a highly-regarded award-winning b2b publisher who specializes in marketing and promotion expertise for vertically-niched companies and is a regular speaker in the publishing industry on implementing awards, video, events, digital display positioning, and custom content. As Publisher, he runs the operations of both brands including editorial, circulation, marketing, sales, special programs, and webcasts. He can be reached at tim@businesssectormedia.com or by phone at 703-200-1474