Guest Contribution by Mike Burton, Cofounder and SVP of Data Sales, Bombora
Event marketing is often the most expensive line item in a marketing budget, but it has not yet embraced a data-driven approach. Most companies know to bring a cadre of marketing and sales staff to events to man a booth and maximize their exposure. Many will invest in tchotchkes, getting potential prospects to sign up for emails or share a business card in exchange for a squishy ball or some other knickknack.
Compared to other marketing tactics, like targeted programmatic advertising, event marketing is still in the stone age. Many of those “prospects” aren’t in-market at all. They just wanted the squishy ball with your logo on it. So while the team may come home from an event with hundreds of names, maybe a quarter of those are real leads.
For marketers, it’s important that they understand which quarter are the best prospects, and which require less attention. This is where intent data comes into play. By deploying intent data before, during and after events, B2B brands can rewrite the event marketing playbook, finally bringing a data-driven approach to this important marketing component.
Most events will allow you to understand what companies are attending the event, and your team should take advantage of this by using intent data to understand which attendees are actively researching and in-market. There may be representatives from 1,000 unique companies at an event, but only 15%, or 150 companies, are likely to be in-market. Identifying that 15% ahead of the show gives sales teams a guide on who to pursue for meetings at the event itself, and who to engage with more deeply should they visit the booth.
This use case also extends to the overall event strategy. By looking at past attendees, marketing departments can make an educated guess on which companies are likely to attend going forward, and use that info to identify the events with the greatest number of in-market prospects.
The use of intent data carries over to the event itself, and helps cut through the noise. Event marketers already know that people will come up to your booth even if they have no intent in ever buying your product. Conventional wisdom is that the sales and marketing folks staffing a booth need to give the entire pitch to everyone who walks up, but that’s a waste of time and resources.
Instead, B2B marketers should use intent scoring to focus their booth teams on a narrower value proposition, helping attendees discover the product, but not trying to close any deals. After all, purchases aren’t made at the booth itself. Focus on creating a great experience for everyone, and then following up based on intent scores.
The exception to this rule are the companies that you scored as high priority prior to the event. Arm the booth team with a cheat sheet of in-market prospects and give them two different ways of interacting with walk-up guests. There’s a simple talk track for the majority of prospects, but for those who have already displayed intent signals, there’s a more strategic and focused way to interact, with a different call to action. The booth team can offer them a meeting on site. In fact, you may even want to offer something a bit more special than the squishy ball that everyone else gets.
This prioritization helps the team, because they’re not putting the hard sell on everyone, nor are they ignoring companies that aren’t currently showing intent. You’re aligning with those who are actively interested, while planting the seeds to nurture a relationship with those who might display intent at some point down the line.
When you’re back at the office following the event, it’s time to follow up. Again, intent data can be a tremendous help in prioritization. You scored the list of attendees in advance, and now it’s time to do the same for all of the contacts and interactions made at the event. A B2B marketer may generate 1,000 names or leads from an event, but it would be foolish to have outbound sales dedicate the same amount of time and attention to all 1,000.
In reality, maybe 15% are going to be in-market and need to be contacted right away, while the rest are best served by nurture campaigns to grow interest and keep in touch until they actually are in-market. This creates a much better experience for those who aren’t currently in-market, because they aren’t getting hit by unwanted messages and sales calls.
Going one step further, marketing and sales teams can find other points of contact at the companies that are in-market, and interact at a much deeper level with those 50 companies, rather than going really wide and shallow across 2,000.
By making it easy to score prospects, intent data has the power to rewrite the intent marketing landscape. It helps event marketers move away from making the hard sell to every single attendee. Instead, it lets marketers provide value to attendees, engaging the prospects who are actively in-market, and planting the seeds for those who aren’t at the moment.
It helps teams better understand how to approach prospects before and after the event, introducing efficiency, and possibly even a way to better measure ROI. Marketers looking for a way to justify their most expensive line item should look no further.