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Top B-to-B Takeaways from the 2019 Dream Team at Experiential Marketing Summit

By Alison Jenks

AT A GLANCE

  • Community has the power to change business
  • We are reaching new audiences through experiences
  • Nothing can replace face-to-face

Consumer marketing may attract more of the spotlight, but B-to-B marketers are taking the lead with innovative and surprising ideas to engage people and drive results. That’s why we created the Event Marketer B-to-B Dream Team program. It allows us to take a moment to pause and celebrate the individuals and teams dreaming up and producing groundbreaking B-to-B brand experiences.

Last week at Experiential Marketing Summit, members of our 2019 B-to-B Dream Team gathered on stage for a Power Panel session. Here are three top takeaways:

“Community has the power to change business.”

Kelsey Schimmelman, GitHub

The Dream Team panelists discussed how events can create connected communities that drive business forward. Why? Because people can make face-to-face connections with like-minded individuals. They can help each other, teach each other, and uncover new opportunities — all under the shared umbrella of a fun and engaging experience.

So how can marketers ensure their events encourage community?

Think about your attendees and what environment and activities speak to their needs. Our Dream Teamers noted a shift to smaller, more private experiences that focus on niche community building, as well as smaller auxiliary events that cater to unique groups within a larger program.

“Our employees told us it’s hard to network with 5,000 people, so we host smaller networking events at larger events. Networking is less overwhelming and more targeted to their needs,” explained Courtney Hutchison of Zillow Group.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a more human-to-human connection. Erin Moore of Alcon said it best: “We are B-to-B, but we are also B-to-B-to-C.”

“We are reaching new audiences through experiences.”

John Heiman, Sprint

From the Dream Team’s vantage point, one thing in particular drives the experience: content. The event and the information it provides directly address customer needs. These days, that personalization precedes overt promotion of products and services.

Education wrapped in entertaining packaging can attract new audiences, as John Heiman of Sprint pointed out. “We have created playful experiences that help demonstrate complicated technology to non-engineers."

This strategy also applies to sponsor programs. Give them opportunities to be creative and artistic, which leads to more organic engagements. “Beautiful makes good business,” said Schimmelman. “Tech does not have to be minimalist — it can be creative, playful and out of the ordinary.”

For Zillow, that means starting with the story. Courtney Hutchison and team frame every event with ideas they want attendees to know, feel, and do. “Keeping the customers at the center is the drumbeat and heart of our events,” she said.

“Nothing can replace face-to-face. It’s vital to our business.”

Erin Moore, Alcon

The value of live experience was a common thread on the Power Panel and throughout the Experiential Marketing Summit. So how do our Dream Teamers ensure they’re squeezing as much value out of the brand experience fruit?

For one, it’s about being strategic and selective. Kelsey Schimmelman talked about taking a step back to decide what size event gives users exactly what they need.

Other Dream Team members agreed, discussing the need to be selective in both the shows they attend and events they host. Instead of doing something because “that’s how we’ve always done it,” they work hard to meet attendee needs and help them foster meaningful connections with the right people.

They also listen.

Return on investment is important, and return on experience and customer feedback is the #1 way this team measures it.

After all, understanding their key audiences and uncovering insights are primary goals for B-to-B events. It also enables instant improvements, as well as future enhancements. “We collect live feedback through surveys directly on the show floor to make real-time changes,” explained Nicola Kastner of SAP.

The result? Increased satisfaction, strengthened brand affinity, and ultimately, accelerated business results.

Producing engaging and meaningful events requires fast-paced and all-encompassing focus. But as the themes from this panel of Dream Teamers proves, the results are well worth the effort. This powerful live medium connects people, builds community, and advances business more than any other marketing channel.

Nominations for the 2020 B-to-B Dream Team are officially open!
Take a moment to nominate an amazing colleague (or your amazing self!) today.
Nominate now!

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