B2B events and exhibitions had been the only major lifeline of numerous small and mid-sized businesses for a long time until the digital revolution arrived. All types of Businesses of all types wait with bated breath for events around the year to network with prospective customers and generate qualified leads. In fact, according to a study, around 50% of B2B marketers considered events as important levers to increase business and they plan to attend as normalcy returns post-COVID.
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While COVID moved every single b2b exhibition to digital conferences, virtual events have become omnipresent and taken out the personalized connect element, apart from being highly distraction-prone and cluttered line-up given the ease and low entry barrier to organizing a virtual conference. While it is true that B2B events are expensive propositions for many small businesses the ROI it delivered made it a very attractive event in every marketer's calendar.
It is relatively simpler for bigger organizations that manage a marketing budget of a few million dollars to plan their annual B2B event calendar. Small businesses work on shoestring budgets and do not have leeway to splurge around buying large real estate, deploying more resources, and giving out freebies and prizes. For them planning diligently before any event is extremely important to meet their business objectives of generating enough quality leads and booking appointments.
What objectives are fulfilled by attending B2B Events?
- Networking with potential customers, suppliers, partners, investors, and any other ecosystem stakeholders. Also, one gets to meet & greet important industry experts, evangelists, and other peers for advisory, mentorship, and vital partnerships.
- New Product Launches: It's a great opportunity for small businesses to showcase their new product ranges during B2B events. It gives them a unique platform to get new leads, quick product feedback, and product trial signups.
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- Brand Awareness is one area for small businesses where it's never enough. They use B2B exhibitions are an opportunity to build brand awareness and acknowledgment in the market.
- Investors and Funding: Small businesses also find prospective investors during B2B events. Investors find such events a great way to scout for good innovative businesses with robust product portfolios.
- Direct Lead Generation: All other tangible and intangible benefits aside, business events are best known for increasing sales for small businesses. If planned and executed well, businesses can generate new sales by generating enough interest among prospects and building a strong lead pipeline.
How can SMBs maximize quality lead generation during business events?
An easy-to-do this would have been to get more people during the event, get bigger prominent booths, and associate as a sponsor of the event. Add to it exciting contests and prizes during the event, giveaways, and creatively designed booths. Well, there is a long list of To-Dos attendees can do. But not every organization can afford to approach this way, especially with a health ROI in mind. The ideal way is to chalk out the objective the company has in place, and the budget allocated and then plan out the event (all of Pre, Post, and During) properly. Teams that go unprepared and solve on the go will rarely really benefit from such events.
Before the event:
- Book a Booth with good visibility during the early-bird offers: Small businesses should always be on the lookout for early-bird offers they get their hands on book a high visibility booth at the B2B exhibition event.
- Get the List of participating companies from the organizers or use the pretty standard and publicly available list. Start creating a targeted list of companies that your business considers as an ideal prospect.
- Outreach to the list of companies shortlisted for the B2B exhibition through cold-calling, email campaigns, or 1-1 outreach with key stakeholders in the organization via LinkedIn.
- Schedule appointments as many of them as possible before the start of the event. Getting a solid line-up of meetings with prospects will supercharge the team and motivate them to double down their efforts during the meeting.
- Prepare presentation material like pitch decks, sales presentations, and product launch material, and rehearse demos before you head to the final event.
- Run ad campaigns on social media and other digital mediums in a targeted manner to keep top-of-the-mind recall for your targeted group of companies and their key specs.
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Before the event:
- Notify to remind all your interested prospects: Send out a message to all engaged prospects with your Booth Number, Date, and Time in case of appointment bookings.
- Research the host city and send out exciting tidbits to relevant attendees. Some ideas like the best fire-baked pizza shop nearby or a park around to take a quick stroll could help everyone attending.
- Brand, Brand Brand: Give your brand high visibility at every possible location, the booth, business cards, pamphlets, emailers, or audio-visual interfaces.
- Get to the exhibition booth early: You may find a lot of early risers flocking the booth while there is little footfall in the event. Make sure you bump into some of them at your booth. It is also useful to take a quick look at some other high-footfall booths to get some conversations started.
- Lead Capture Forms: Everyone has their preferences. Have something to cater to all of them. So, have all kinds of lead capture forms. Web forms in a tablet/mobile or with an offline form printed on a piece of paper. Also, in this age of technology, why leave a QR-code-led digital form address for easy scanning for folks short on time? The team needs to also ensure that the form is elegantly designed to capture all relevant information and not appear to be too lengthy to encourage drop-off.
- Business Cards never go old as well. Exchange cards with the prospects. Getting a creative card with a clear business name and POC name always helps.
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- Follow up with interested leads as soon as possible. Time your follow-ups 1-2 days post the event so that everyone has settled down and also time it right not to be late. Try personalising the message as much as possible to make the best impression after the face-to-face meeting. It is imperative that your leads have visited tens of booths and may not recollect each of them. Adding a selfie taken during the visit or an anecdote may help make a better recall.
- Add them to LinkedIn: The best teams plan and execute their post-event outreach and follow them diligently. To send out a LinkedIn invite to all possible visitors engaged during the B2B exhibition is helpful. Drop a note while you send an invite giving a reference of the event to get better accept rates.
- Identify qualified leads from your list of generated leads and plan a personalised follow-up to engage them over some time. Use email sequencing tools to get the best results with personalised messaging and minimal effort.
Offline B2B networking events and exhibitions are here to stay. They are the lifeline of small businesses to generate additional business, helping them expand their network and add more clients. Moreover, such events help small businesses with limited resources as a one-stop destination to keep abreast with the latest industry trends, and market research, and foster partnerships with ecosystem players. Small business owners should also use these exhibitions as a platform to evaluate funding avenues, launch new products, and build greater brand awareness in the category with innovative approaches. While digital events will pick up, offline exhibitions will continue to carve a niche for themselves in the overcrowded digital environment.