More and more companies are choosing to host their own customer events. And with the majority of marketers spending over 20% of their budget on events, we're starting to see a shift from large scale conferences and tradeshows to smaller, company hosted events that are much more targeted to their buyers and customers. One type of event that works really well at a targeted level is the company roadshow. This type of event allows you to bring the content, the influencers, and your sales people to your top prospects (and customers... don't forget about retention!). You bring the show to your audience in their backyard. It's like when Beyoncé announces a world tour and you rush to her site to see all the cities she plans on performing in and you pray you are fast (lucky) enough to purchase a ticket when they go on sale in the city closest to you. That's what you're going for... building your own personal Bey-hive. So how do you do it?
Start by identifying your target audience
The easiest way to do this is by taking a look at a geographic breakdown of your customers and pipeline. This includes your target accounts, active and closed lost opportunities, as well as marketing qualified leads. Your end goal is to select the key cities that have the most prospects and potential for the biggest impact.
Pick a format that works best for your business
Think about the format that will be most convenient and attractive for your guests. It's best to avoid full day events. Your attendees usually don't have the time to give up, it requires putting together a ton of fresh content, and will quickly deplete your budget. A good rule of thumb is to stick to a 2-3 hour event - a breakfast or lunch is ideal because it attracts people before they really get into their daily grind and also provides an incentive for people to stop by (free, delicious food). A late afternoon or evening cocktail reception could work as well - it's just about knowing your audience.
Identify content and speakers
Whether you're a big or small company, established or new, it's important you treat the roadshow as more than a sales tool. If you're just pitching your products or services and only invite sales people to run them, people are less likely to show. They don't want to be sold to. They want to hear why they need to be doing something differently or how you can help them make smarter, better decisions or changes to positively impact their business. Showcase your thought leadership, come up with an interesting angle, and invite your top speakers across departments. Obviously a member of your founding or executive team is ideal, but your VP of engineering, director of product management, and chief architect all have valuable insights to share as well. If you really want to take it to the next level, bringing in a thought leader from outside the company can validate what you're trying to do without feeling too sales-y. It offers new perspectives and can appeal to a broader audience. It's about finding the right mix, for the right audience.
Set some goals
Scale your goals based on location and don't apply a broad blanket across each city. The goal isn't to get as many seats filled as possible, it's to get as many high quality leads to attend with the goal of converting into closed won opportunities. And just because you're prospecting, doesn't mean you shouldn't invite customers. They are your evangelists and in person case studies. It may be interesting to see how the customers who attend your events compare against those who don't at the end of the year when it comes churn, upgrades, add-ons, and NPS.
Now that you know who to invite, the general location, the content that will be shared, and speakers from your team, comes the task of finding the venues. The venue is arguably as important as the content. It needs to be in a convenient location, easily accessible, and it should be somewhere your attendees would want to visit. A music hall may work well for a fun, young group, but probably not the best idea for a CEO roundtable. The venue must also fit within your allotted roadshow budget* so be sure you have enough to go around.
*A quick note on determining budget. You can let your budget determine the number of cities and size of your events (perhaps you only have $20K left in your marketing spend), or if you have more flexibility and start early in the budget planning process, you can take a look at your attendee profile per city and determine how much you'll need per location. And definitely take into account the location - a 100 person event in NYC will cost much more than an event of the same size in Minneapolis.
Send out the RSVP
3-5 weeks in advance is a good rule of thumb. If you already know which cities you're including on your tour and perhaps know the date, time, venue (these details can also be filled in at a later date)... you may want to consider the Beyoncé music tour method of listing them all out. This creates some excitement around your events and gives them a consistent theme, further enhancing your brand. HubSpot's #GrowWithHubSpot or Marketo's #MKTGNation roadshows do a great job at this. It also gives people options if they miss your event in one city, they can attend an event at a nearby city or one they happen to be traveling through around that time. And if your content changes from city to city, be sure to promote that. People may even choose to travel for a specific topic.
Engage and Follow-up
This is just as crucial as getting people to attend in the first place. Make sure the presenting team for each city knows who will be attending their event and who they should be meeting with. Thank your guests for attending and include a clear, succinct call-to-action - perhaps a brief survey, a request to sign up for your blog, or a link to some additional, relevant content. A question we often hear from clients is whether to share content or not to share content... Well, the goal is to get people in the room and not rely on a false RSVP just to get access to some slides. If people can't attend, offer a one-on-one meeting post roadshow to get them up to speed. Definitely share some soundbites and graphics on social, but offering the entire presentation removes the personal interaction that can be so crucial to closing.
Have you planned an event roadshow before? What's worked for you? What would you have done differently? Let us know in the comments below and contact us for an initial consultation.