The world, it is a-changin’. Thanks largely to the evolution of technology, today’s B2B buyer has very different characteristics, influences, and processes than the B2B buyer of even 10 years ago. With endless information and peer reviews at their fingertips, the power has shifted to the buyer’s hands, leading to high expectations for personalization and seamless experience. The journey to purchase has moved from a straight line (the traditional funnel model) to something much more convoluted, with a lack of easy to map phases. And as organizations move from hierarchical management to flatter, more consensus-driven models to keep up with tech-driven disruptors in their markets, the number of people in the purchase-process increases, inevitably making the sales-cycle longer.

Like every other company and role within each company, event marketers have two choices: adapt or go the way of the dodo. Smart event marketers choose to adapt; they recognize and take advantage of these changes to maximize the ROI of their events. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the ways the B2B buyer landscape has changed and how you can change your event strategy to adapt.

Today’s buyers expect a high-value experience

Welcome to the “Age of the Customer,” where the buyer is boss, and their expectations are correspondingly high. Clients are empowered with all the information they want about your products and services, including in-depth reviews from peers. Armed with all of this knowledge up front, consumers are looking to companies to provide more than product education.  

Adapt Your Event: Offer customers a new way to think about or improve their business. Gartner Research has shown that these ‘customer improvement’ conversations are more likely to drive retention and growth than a traditional ‘excellent service’ approach. When planning event content strategy, focus on providing new perspectives on how clients might run their business, make or save money, streamline operations, or mitigate risk by using your products and services. And of course, wow them with the event experience itself.

Buyers today are social

The vast majority of your buyers use online communities like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook for some aspect of their business, whether it’s staying up-to-date on industry news & events, keeping in touch with colleagues, or asking for advice. And after asking experts they trust for referrals, they also turn to review sites like G2Crowd and Capterra when researching new solutions for purchase.

Adapt Your Event: There are TONS of ways to take advantage of social for events. We’ll focus here on just a few. First, set up a unique event hashtag and share it prominently with attendees from the minute they register. This allows you an easy-to-track archive of event social interaction. Include the hashtag in every event promotion email, as well as on the event website, and share updates and teasers there. Once you’re onsite, make sure there are plenty of photo opportunities and your hashtag is displayed around the venue. Also, consider having someone on your team live tweet the event – both photos and meaningful moments. After the event, go through both your hashtag stream as well as the event list and connect with your attendees on social media and continue the event conversation.

They love video

For the last few years, video has been gaining tremendous popularity. As we discussed a couple months ago in our ‘Events are a Video Goldmine’ blog post:

  • 75% of executives watch work-related videos at least once a week; 65% then go on to visit the vendor’s website
  • Add video to your email and boost click-through rates by 200-300%
  • Include video in social posts, and people are 10x more likely to engage and share

There’s no disputing the popularity when you read these and the 50+ other stats you’ll find when you Google video stats.

Adapt Your Event: Live stream your event to Facebook, Twitter, or a custom URL. The link there has a bunch of amazing stats about live streaming, the latest craze in video. It’s a great way to pick up more attendees who couldn’t join you in person. Use video clips during your keynotes and other sessions to add variety and keep attendees engaged. Consider using your event as a place to capture videos (case studies, thought leadership clips, etc.), since so many clients and industry leaders are in one place.

Today’s B2B buyers are more risk-averse, and they’re not alone

According to a 2017 LinkedIn survey, more than 50% of tech buying committees had 4 or more people. And Demand Gen’s 7th Annual B2B Buyer’s Survey, 77% of people agreed that they conduct a more detailed ROI analysis before final decision-making and 75% “use more resources to research and evaluate purchases.” This combination of more cooks in the kitchen, often overwhelming amounts of information, and increased risk-aversion, on top of the already inherently long B2B sales cycles, has continued to increase purchase lead times over the past few years.  

Adapt Your Event: This tip is not so much about adapting your event itself as it is about adjusting your stakeholder expectations and lead/opportunity tracking. You may also want to set metrics apart from opportunities that are more immediately measurable. This is not to say you shouldn’t track opportunities and revenue generated from events; you absolutely must. But be prepared to monitor them for a full 1-2 years, and don’t be discouraged or give up when it doesn’t close as quickly as you’d like.

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