While online networking, forums and groups are a great way to swap information and ideas, and make new business contacts, I firmly believe that when entering new markets, or when buying or selling complex products and services, there’s little better than a live event. We are social animals, in spite of technology, and like to meet face to face with the people we want to buy from or sell to. We also respond more quickly to visual and tangible ideas and products, than just words or even images and video on a screen. So, here’s some reasons why I think media owners need to include live events in their portfolio. I’ve summarised the value from the point of view of a visitor, exhibitor or organiser, based on my own experiences in all three roles.
If you are moving into a new market, there is nothing to beat attending a relevant event. In a quick walk-round you can assess who the main industry players are, their relative propositions, the enthusiasm levels of their staff and how appealing they are to their target audience. You can also observe the audience themselves – how they approach the event, where they spend their time, and even eavesdrop on their decision process. Invaluable market research, even before you speak to a single exhibitor! If there are features or seminars, there’s instant feedback on popularity from the numbers and the body language of those listening.
Visitors can meet a wide range of suppliers and services in a very short space of time, without having to travel. They can compare several options in real time, and may even buy or order on-site. Exhibitors see a self-selected audience, and can communicate their services on a face to face basis to a large number of prospects. For b2b events, where visitors want to network with each other, being able to pre-arrange meetings at the event makes it even more effective as a day out of the office.
How hard is it to get that expert, or MD, or key buyer on the phone these days, and forget about scheduling a meeting…. Events are a breath of fresh air, as the experts and senior managers are on the stand, and it takes a moment to catch their eye, pose your question and get a personal answer. Exhibitors can talk directly to consumers or businesses who are in the buying cycle, and hungry for information. If you’re trying to get two or three industry players together to strike a deal, you can pull them aside in moments for a chat over a coffee.
Not all customer issues can be dealt with by your FAQ page. There is still a place for real-life interaction, for understanding the buyers requirements in detail, explaining the fine detail of a product or service, offering a bespoke solution, and observing their reaction. Even those who don’t buy provide useful insight. For the visitor, especially the buyer of a complex service, whether a marketing agency or an architect, the personal relationship can be crucial to the final decision. Events with conferences or workshops also provide a forum for peers to swap ideas and learn more about the issues each others businesses are facing.
A small business can make a splash at a live event through creativity, when they can’t compete in mass media with a limited budget. An expert can demonstrate their knowledge of their subject through a seminar or workshop which may subsequently be reported in other media. Writers from a print or digital product can establish themselves as personalities through panels or Q&A sessions. A new business can launch a new product or service to a receptive audience.
As a media owner, once you have a clear picture of the value that live events add to your current activities of creating content and marketing opportunities, you can explore how to fit them into your brand, and your business plan. If you’d like some help thinking through these steps, feel free to contact Penmaen Media for an initial discussion.
If you’d like to discuss your experiences with live events with other specialist media owners, join the Specialist Media Network on linked-in.
Penmaen Media, founded by Carolyn Morgan, creates practical digital media and marketing strategies, and has a particular expertise in the media sector: print, events and digital.