Hosting a field marketing event isn’t just a way for your inside sales team to get out of the office for a few hours. It’s a legitimate and crucial piece of the closing puzzle. It can often times be the first in-person impression your customer has of your company; the first real, human interaction. Software has made it very easy for businesses to chat and engage with prospects and customers on a frequent basis, but the in-person meeting is what can really help move your pipeline forward, which is why a field marketing event can be so important and impactful if done right.
It’s also the intersection where marketing and sales must collaborate for the most impact. A tight alignment between sales and marketing can make all the difference in achieving a successful event, and allowing sales to forge deeper relationships with customers ultimately resulting in faster sales cycles.
As marketers, we know very well just how much work and budget can go into hosting one of the events. Your sales team may think it’s just a matter of booking a space and having people show up, and so why can’t you just pull 10 of them together per month?! Well it’s more than securing the venue -- it’s setting the strategy, understanding the target, enabling sales with the right content and tools, and communicating with customers and prospects to gain their interest. While we certainly don’t recommend hosting 10 events a month (budget, time, relevancy... just to name a few reasons not to), let’s take a look at how you can get your strategy in order and stay ahead of the game:
Set some goals
The ultimate goal is simple: create more opportunities for your sales team, and help speed up the sales cycle. But you should also be thinking tactically about how you will achieve this. How many events can you host per year? How much budget have you set aside for this? How do you measure your success and ROI? Having this discussion early in your budget year can position you to pull off some really successful events, with the ability to pivot if things aren’t working the way you’d like them.
Define your target audience
The last thing you want to do is send an email out to all your customers and prospects and hope that a handful of them will show up. If the content isn’t interesting or relevant for them, they won’t care, and worse, they’ll be less likely to read your next communication.
You should also consider which customers you are targeting – existing customers with wallet share, new customers, customers who may be churning or you’re trying to win back? What mix of attendees do you want at your event? A pure prospecting event may seem like you're increasing your opportunity to close, but having customers in the room, particularly those that are big fans of your product or service, is a huge advantage. They are your advocates and instead of spreading yourself too thin, they can do some of the talking and promoting for you.
Depending on how your field teams are split (geography, industry, product, etc.), you'll want to build out your target lists based on these groupings to help you identify location of your events and who from your Sales and/or Account Management team will run the session. You’ll also want to bring those colleagues in at this point to get their perspective -- after all, they know the customer best and may have some guidance on who to include from a specific account, or who you should definitely not reach out to.
Cater to your audience
Now that you’ve defined your audience, you have got to find the right topic to engage them on. What is the reason you’re bringing this group together? Is it to launch a beta for a new product and you want them to be the first to try it? Or perhaps it’s a 25-minute session on best practices for their specific industry, followed by networking with people in their field? Whatever it may be, make sure it’s clearly defined and compelling enough to pull them out of their busy day.
Again, this is where a brainstorming session with the account team can help as they know first-hand the topics that resonate with their customers. Other things to look at to help you hone in on the right topics: your top performing content. For example, check the stats to see which blog posts have been read the most, which ebooks and white papers have been downloaded most often, and which webinars have been particularly successful. This could also be a good opportunity to survey your customer base to help understand what matters most to them.
Find a venue & set the date
Start by sourcing venue options that will accommodate your needs based on the audience and content you’ve selected. Do you need audio-visual equipment? Will this be a presentation or demo, or more of a talk and networking hour? Is it a lunch, a breakfast, or just cocktails? The venue manager is your resource for all these questions and finalizing your menu and technical needs.
Often times, the venue itself may be what attracts your attendees to show up at all. A private room at a hard to reserve restaurant, a trendy roof deck bar, a back patio on a sunny day… people will show up for the fun, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s still a great way for you to put a face to a name and build up these relationships so that the next time you’re hosting a webinar on the top 5 best practices for using your software, they’ll want to sign up.
Email & RSVP
The venue and content is what will attract your guests, but without a solid communication plan, no one will ever know that you're even hosting anything, and it doesn’t have to be complex. Create your landing page to collect RSVPs and provide event info. Begin your outreach with an initial invite to inform your guests of the event about a month before the event. Send an event reminder 2 weeks before the event, and confirm RSVPs. A day or two before the event, plan to send a final calendar reminder.
Your internal communication is also just as important. Use your sales, account teams, and partners to help get the word out and confirm attendance.
Keep your communications concise by highlighting only the necessary points. Be sure to highlight the agenda, any speakers, and any giveaways, and be clear about the date and location.
Put in any orders
Start to think about what materials, decor, and swag could go well with the content you’re presenting, even if it’s just a networking session. These don’t have to be expensive. At my last company, we hosted an event at a brewery and provided attendees with koozies with our logo, along with a 4"x11" “menu” listing out the latest applications the customer could purchase. Simple, not revolutionary by any means, but it was thoughtful and the perfect time given summer is nearly upon us (not to jinx it or anything!). Even better, they won’t be outdated a year from now and can be reused for other events and giveaways.
Some other ideas to help get the creative juices flowing:
- A library meetup: personalized journals
- A wine tasting happy hour: custom wine glass charms
- A cooking class: aprons with your logo
- A workshop on your office roof deck: this will save you money on the venue so you can spend a little extra on treats and making it feel special... perhaps a pair of sunglasses or mini external speakers.
Let us know about your favorite event location and the swag you received in the comments below, and stay tuned for our future post on how to make the most of your event once your attendees begin to arrive! Want some help brainstorming? We're here to help!