Much of B2B marketing is a one-way street: Companies rely on tradeshow exhibits and conferences to get their names out there and compete for business. They bring brochures, swag, and helpful representatives in an attempt to capture attention, but they often find that to be a hit-or-miss approach.
It can be effective, but it can just as easily result in getting lost in a sea of competition.
However, there is a way for B2B marketers to stand out—even on a crowded conference floor.
Experiential marketing is a successful B2C marketing strategy, but it can also be a powerful tool for B2B marketers. The businesspeople you want to reach are like the rest of us: They, too, want to enjoy fun, interactive experiences while learning about your company.
How to Make Experiential Marketing a B2B Strategy
Experiential marketing can help you create unique brand experiences by engaging, educating, and creating deeper connections with target customers and employees.
Here are a few ways B2B marketers can take advantage of its potential.
1. Gamify your booth
A 2019 report found that 67% of B2B marketers planned to increase their experiential budgets in the next 18 months. But if you can't find a way to stand out and be memorable, the value of marketing events will go untapped. To keep that from happening, forget the idea that booth space is simply an area for delivering information. Instead, use it as an opportunity to create a fun and unique brand experience.
Gamification is a good way to do that. You've likely seen rudimentary versions of this approach before, such as when booths set up prize wheels or raffles to entice potential customers. Take things further by creating games that both educate and entertain attendees: maybe a low-tech offering (a trivia game), something more elaborate (a gigantic Plinko board), or something more tech-heavy (a scavenger hunt via a geolocation-enabled app).
The goal is to engage others while delivering your sales pitch.
2. Hold your own showcase or conference
If you're struggling to differentiate yourself on the tradeshow floor, cut out the middleman and develop a truly immersive experience by creating your own showcase.
Some companies have already taken this path. Salesforce, for instance, produced the successful Dreamforce. And LG designed a traveling showcase geared explicitly toward the B2B market. LG TechTour, as it's called, travels to six cities and gives businesses hands-on experience with a variety of enterprise products, from its digital signage to its renewable energy solutions.
Unlike traditional conferences, where reps have a short amount of time with each customer, showcases allow for deep dives into products and give customers a real sense of what the companies have to offer.
3. Take your marketing directly to customers
If you're a smaller business, you don't have to create your own event or rub elbows with the competition at tradeshows to reach customers. Instead, try going directly to customers with a customized experience, creating a unique opportunity to showcase your products in a controlled, competition-free environment.
This type of experiential approach allows companies to tailor the conversation to a captive audience of key decision-makers instead of wasting time trying to shout above competitors.
4. Create a recruitment tool to attract top marketing talent
Effective marketing is effective because of the people behind it. To attract the best talent, host recruitment events, such as the ones Ford Motor Company puts on at universities across the country.
Ford Days are small car shows on steroids. These events not only feature a variety of vehicles but also allow students to meet with Ford employees and hear from senior-level leaders like CTO Ken Washington.
Experiences like that are a great way to market your company to prospective employees and to build connections.
5. Make employee training more meaningful and memorable
Employee training is crucial in marketing. If a marketing team doesn't know the product it's promoting, how can it possibly sell that product? Consider turning employee training into an experience that will stick with your team—like an internal marketing event—to increase productivity and knowledge retention.
When Scion launched its iM and iA models, the company didn't just send out a brochure to its dealers—it took them to the racetracks so they could experience the vehicles. There, they got hands-on experience from professional racers as well as classroom-style education from product trainers.
That experiential approach is a significantly more striking and fun way to train. And it's so effective because marketing isn't just limited to external customers; great experiential marketing targets internal audiences first.
6. Engage marketing employees
Once you've recruited and trained employees, it's imperative to keep them engaged and passionate about marketing your product, so don't stop marketing to them. This isn't just about keeping people interested; it's also a way to show you care and to learn from your team to provide them a better environment and marketing messages going forward.
Once again, Ford provides a road map for businesses looking to take experiential strategies to the next level. The company recently initiated a Check Your Blind Spots mobile tour, which provided a variety of interactive experiences meant to challenge unconscious biases and help people develop more inclusive behaviors.
These sorts of events can keep employees engaged because they show companies caring about the well-being of marketers.
* * *
When creating experiences, it's not a matter of B2B versus B2C marketing—both can take advantage of this strategy. In fact, 54% of B2B marketers say they get more value from events than any other form of marketing.
Move beyond traditional B2B methods to develop client relationships and harness this great way of attracting new, lifelong customers.
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