Events & Online Outreach for B2B Companies

Many business-to-business companies could stand to learn something about event marketing and online outreach from their B2C cousins. You needn’t be limited to industry magazines or conferences when it comes to building awareness of your business. Whether you piggyback off the attention of a major sporting event or generate sales leads through industry webinars and podcasts, there are engaging opportunities that may benefit your B2B company.Tweet This

Trend Intervention

Comic-Con. The Olympics. The World Series. Business-to-business companies shouldn’t just sit on the sidelines when big, crowd-drawing events come to town, watching B2C marketers make all the great plays. B2B firms can capitalize on these kinds of marquee events to create public awareness and new revenue by amping-up their own marketing.

Even though an event targeted at consumers may not always be a direct fit for a B2B company, it can still make use of the groundswell of interest. Marketers call this “trend intervention” or taking advantage of an event that’s sucking up attention and mindshare.

On a basic level, that could mean outreach to existing and new customers that taps into the excitement of the event. You can try using social media to establish a connection between the event and your company, creating that intangible sense that you “get it.”

What should you do? Here are five areas where your company can tap into excitement around an event:

To the extent your B2B company markets itself to clients, consider how you can integrate the event into marketing efforts such as advertising, giveaways, and other outreach. It’s no secret B2B marketing is borrowing many strategies from the B2C world, so study the ways in which consumer-focused companies in your market are taking advantage of interest in the event, and think about whether similar strategies are appropriate for your business.

Many large civic events actively seek corporate sponsors of all sizes and reward them with recognition in printed programs and other materials. Sponsorships are one way to elevate the profile of your business and demonstrate its commitment to the community.
Big events drive people to social media. Super Bowl 50 generated nearly 17 million tweets, for example. Your company’s social media presence should promote your business, but it also can provide a more human connection that reinforces your company’s place in the community. Consider using social media to showcase employee excitement about the event and have a little fun. Are employees decorating their work spaces to root for a favorite team? Tweet a photo or two.

Local media are on the lookout for all kinds of unusual angles surrounding a high-profile event. An equipment rental company could share statistics about how much of its gear is being used in the event’s preparations.
Does your company’s expertise match up with any element of the event? If so, use interest around the event to share tips or best practices with customers. A security company could use the large crowds to discuss best practices for crowd management.

Of course, none of these strategies are one-size-fits-all for every business or every event. Consider carefully what works best for your company and community, and make sure there’s some reasonable fit with your business or its culture before taking the plunge. With some planning and creative thinking, B2B companies can be big winners in trend intervention.

Online Event Marketing

Online events are fantastic for building brand awareness and driving small business sales. Unlike traditional events, which require a physical location and incur various hard costs, online events are low cost and low maintenance, with the potential for very high returns. In short, they can be a boon for B2B companies.

Just like a live event, virtual events require a strong marketing plan to help ensure their success. The right preparation is key to making sure your online event is not only well attended but attended by the right people – the ones most likely to purchase your products and services and become loyal fans of your brand.

Whether your online event is a one-time thing or ongoing, a webinar or a course, a large virtual summit or a VIP mastermind group, these seven secrets of marketing success can help you get more sign-ups, attract more attendees, and transform those attendees into paying customers.

  • Choose a Proven Topic

    Both the topic and format of your online event should be based on research. The best online events have components of education and entertainment. They provide interesting experiences for attendees while sharing valuable information that makes their lives better.

    And though it may be tempting to brainstorm highly creative, innovative topics for your online event, it is far more effective to speak directly to the problems, questions, and interests of your prospective customers.

    Find out what your prospects are struggling with or what they’re most passionate about. Then choose event topics, speakers, classes, and offerings based on what you’ve discovered.

    How can you determine which topics are likely to resonate with your target market?

    You can …

    Create a survey and send it to your email list.

    Research comments and threads on forums and social platforms.

    Look at past events held by your competitors, and poll attendees about what they liked and didn’t like.

    When you plan an online event around a topic your audience is sure to be interested in, half the marketing battle is already won.

  • Conduct social outreach

    Even if you have a robust email list and social following, one of the biggest benefits of holding an online event can be exposing new prospects to your brand.

    In addition to marketing your event to existing customers, leave yourself enough time to connect with new sales leads who may be interested in attending your event. Consider:

    Using social media to track trending topics and keywords that are relevant to your event. When the opportunity presents itself naturally, engage with prospects and share your event as a possible solution to their problem or answer to their question.

    Following and “friending” prospects that fit the target market description for your event. Engage them by sharing their content, liking their pages, and commenting where appropriate. Work to build an authentic relationship first, and then direct them to your event sign-up page when the time is right.

    Joining Facebook and LinkedIn groups whose members may be interested in your event. If you become an active member of the group, you can provide valuable insights and help to other members without asking for anything in return. When the moment feels right, you can share your online event with members who may be interested.

    You can also conduct a pay-per-click campaign to promote your event via social media. However, given the organic nature of social interactions, your best bet may be to develop authentic relationships with individuals first, then supplement with a paid campaign.

  • Design a great landing page

    For online event marketing, your landing page is everything. It is the catalyst that can excite prospective attendees and inspire them to sign up for your event.

    In steps 1 and 2 above, you laid the foundation to drive targeted traffic to an event landing page. Now that you have a proven topic for your event and targeted traffic coming from social media and your email list, it’s time to create an event landing page that can convert.

    Choose a strong, benefit-rich headline that immediately captures the attendee’s interest.

    Make use of video, graphics, and multimedia. Consider split-testing different layouts to see which page design works better.

    Focus on the benefits of your event. What will participants get out of attending? How will your event make their lives better? What problems are you solving?

    If applicable, you may be able to include the photos and testimonials of past event attendees. If your event features industry experts or thought leaders, you may be able to include their photos and bios for an extra boost of social proof.

    Make sure the only place people can click to is the registration page. Don’t include any external links that could distract them from your goal.

    Your landing page can make or break your online event. Make sure it’s benefits-focused, light on text, and heavy on social proof. Make it as easy as possible to sign up for your event, and constantly remind the attendee what they’ll get for attending.

  • Create an email autoresponder campaign

    Now that you’ve secured plenty of sign-ups with a great event landing page, you’re marketing is as good as done, right?

    Sorry! Step 4 is actually where the real work begins. Getting sign-ups is great, but what you really want is for everyone who signed up to actually attend your online event.

    According to Shibani Roy, a senior digital marketing executive at LeadSquared, the average registration-to-conversion rate for webinars is as low as 30%. Hubspot estimates even lower average attendance at just 25%. That means if you get 125 people to register for your online event, only about 30 are likely to show up.

    A great way to increase your chances of higher attendance is by making use of email autoresponders. These “set it and forget it” campaigns allow you to automatically remind registrants about your upcoming event through strategically timed emails in the weeks, days, and hours before it happens. Autoresponders are also fantastic for promoting the benefits of your event, providing further testimonials and social proof, and introducing registrants to other aspects of your brand.

  • Leverage brand ambassadors and industry experts

    The next proven way to market your online event is by leveraging relationships with brand ambassadors and industry experts.

    Work with your current customers and colleagues to promote your event to their networks and exponentially expand your marketing reach.

    If you have a loyal customer who’s also well connected, ask them to share your event with their friends and followers.

    Offer affiliate incentives or discounts to current customers who can secure sign-ups to your event.

    Reach out to industry experts and thought leaders in your field and ask them to take part in the event. Find ways your event will benefit their audience, and offer an incentive for sharing your event with their email lists and social networks.

    Leveraging personal connections is the best way to market your online event, but don’t worry – they don’t have to be your personal connections! Consider reaching out to colleagues and even competitors, and present your event as a mutually beneficial opportunity to provide value to your respective audiences.

  • Time it just right

    When it comes to online event marketing, timing is everything. Give yourself plenty of time to engage attendees and partner with influencers long before your event is scheduled.

    As the event draws near, make sure to time your email campaign for maximum impact. The closer you get to the day and hour of the event, the more reminders you’ll need to schedule.

    Here’s a sample email campaign schedule for the week leading up to an online webinar:

    7 days before the event – benefit-rich reminder email

    5 days before the event – email with video testimonials from past attendees

    3 days before the event – reminder email with social share request

    2 days before the event – reminder email with incentive to share with friends

    1 day before the event – two emails with last-chance incentives and reminder of benefits

    Day of event – email link with online event access

    30 minutes before event – resend link with time-sensitive reminder

    Event start – “We’re live – join us!” email reminder

    10 minutes post start – “We’re live – where are you?” autoresponder sent to registrants who have not joined the event

    Depending on the type of online event you’re holding and the nature of your attendees, you may need to increase or cut back on the use of reminder emails in the days and hours leading up to your event.

    Regardless of your event type and audience, the marketing experts at Hubspot recommend sending a minimum of two email reminders in the 24-hour period before your event happens.

  • Follow up

    After choosing a killer event topic, conducting social outreach, designing a great landing page, creating an email autoresponder campaign, leveraging relationships with industry experts, and timing your reminders perfectly, you’re nearly certain to hold a successful online event.

    After the event, you have an opportunity to entice attendees with special offers to purchase your products and services.

    Though you’ll likely reveal a special offer during your online event, not everyone will make a purchase right away. Be sure to follow up with another email autoresponder while interest is still high in the days and weeks following the event.

    Use this campaign to …

    Reiterate the value provided during the event.

    Give access to slides, videos, or recordings from the event.

    Offer products and services that are similar to what you offered during the event, that attendees may be more interested in.

Using Podcasts to Generate Interest

Internet podcasts are a great way for small businesses to engage and grow their audiences. These low-cost, high-impact communication opportunities can add a personal dimension to your business, give the podcaster wider recognition, and help your small business become an influential voice in your local community and/or industry.

What makes podcasts successful?

Many successful business podcasts have a consistent focus, topic, and schedule that they maintain. These three characteristics are important for starting out as a new podcaster – and for continuing as one too.

Doing one or two podcasts may not make you successful, but having a regular schedule of shows at regular times can help your base of listeners find your podcast over a period of months or years.

Preparing your podcasts

Like any good piece of content, whether in text, video, or audio form, you have to present it to a targeted audience in the right ways. When you start your podcast, you should know what specific, valuable information your audience will get from the podcast. Here are five tips to help you prepare your podcasts:

1) Plan your podcast

Before you start recording, have an outline of what your podcast will be, what audience it’s for, what format you’ll use, what schedule you’ll keep, and more. Knowing the basics will help you get going.

2) Create great content

Develop an outline of topics that are relevant and beneficial to your audience. For example, if your business provides software to insurance companies, build your podcast around topics that resonate with insurance industry professionals. But understand that continually crafting engaging content can be a challenge (more on that in a moment).

3) Use quality equipment

You can do a podcast with a laptop and a cheap computer microphone, but many of today’s business podcasters are stepping up to buy a good microphone and headphones. Some are even investing in specialty podcast mixing software. The better your content sounds, the happier your audience will be.

4) Host your podcasts online

Get your recorded audio file up on SoundCloud, Podomatic, or other audio streaming platforms. Once your podcast is uploaded, you’ll have the URL and embed codes to share with the business community and industry influencers.

5) List your podcasts in directories

Getting your podcast URL listed in Podcast Directories can be important to your future success. The more people who see the name of your podcast, the larger your audience can grow.

Creating Content for Podcasts

Joshua Dorkin, host of the popular BiggerPockets podcast, has reached a wide audience and earned high ratings for his series about the real estate industry. Here are his tips for making sure your podcast is engaging and provides valuable content to listeners.

Keep it Interesting

One of the best ways to help increase subscriptions and listeners for a podcast is to make it entertaining. Try opening the show with banter, light conversation, and quick tips that can hook your listeners and keep them engaged. Try to avoid lists and successive questions, since Q&As can become long and tedious: if your podcast is too similar in format to a written article, why would people rather listen than read?

  • Stories: Dorkin encourages you to get your guests’ background information, especially their “story.” People are captivated by stories and tend to feel a connection to the person relating the details. Before talking to your guests, ask them if they would be comfortable sharing personal stories that will entertain and engage the target audience. You can help your guests find the right anecdotes to share by doing your research on their business, their strategies, and their interests.
  • Variety: Invite guest speakers that span different positions and fields. From startup entrepreneurs to veterans in the business, a wider range of speakers will allow your podcast to reach a wider audience. Find topics that will inspire, motivate, and push your listeners to make a change – and also subscribe to your podcast.
  • Flexibility: Aim to structure your podcast in a way that allows you to adjust your format to your guest speaker.

It’s useful to find inspiration in other successful podcasts; however, simply copying another series will not necessarily help your podcast attract listeners. Podcasts can be consumed as a form of entertainment, with each having its own “flavor” that can help it stand out. Brainstorm what the unique qualities for your podcast could be, and pick and choose your favorites to create your own “special sauce.”

Not all podcasts need more than one host, but having multiple people leading the conversation might benefit your show. Having a co-host can enable you to play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This can lead to fewer awkward moments, since one partner can fill in for the other if they stumble or aren’t sure what to say. In general, a successful duo can become a cohesive pair who are enjoyed by the listeners but also help the guests to shine.

You can start off by looking in your own community. Remember that just because a person is smart and successful does not always mean he or she will be a good guest for a podcast. Dorkin recommends screening for personality. Do they have a light manner? Can they joke around easily? Are they interesting or funny?

Once you’ve established your podcast, you might also consider providing a way for your audience to submit themselves or others as potential guests on your show. If you have the budget, having an employee or intern who helps with outreach and finding guests can be beneficial and can help save you time.

Make sure each episode of your podcast ends on a fun note. For BiggerPockets, their podcasts end with the “Famous 4,” where the hosts ask their guests the same 4 questions each time. Be creative and finish your podcasts with a satisfying, entertaining end.

Ready to take the initiative and start a podcast? Remember that creating a basic show isn’t that hard. Resources such as My Wife Quit Her Job provide further information and tutorials that can help a business start a podcast. Be determined, accumulate research, plan an agenda, and jump in. Even if you’re worried about not knowing enough about your chosen podcast subject, take the initiative to try – you won’t ever know everything there is to know in the field, and that’s okay. The end goal for your podcast is to be thoughtful, entertaining, and add value to people’s lives.

Promoting Your Podcasts

After you’ve got all your basics set up, your podcast is listed in directories, and you’re podcasting on a regular schedule, it’s time to promote and market your podcast. The five best ways are:

1) Use social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks offer you a daily way to promote your podcast to thousands of potential listeners.

2) Use hashtags for the particular industry that you’re targeting. Examples are #homeappliances and #insurancepodcasts.

3) Share your iTunes link with friends. One week, just use your iTunes link to promote your show and analyze the numbers from that promotion work.

4) Create podcast business cards and distribute them at professional functions.

5) Go to local podcast gatherings in your state or find national podcasting conventions to attend.

Photo Credit: agnormark, Twenty20