When it comes to event marketing, conferences and tradeshows are typically what come to mind, right? They are what we at Marketo call ‘the big rocks’. When a company sponsors and/or exhibits at a larger show, they are doing so with the dual goals of brand visibility and acquiring high quality sales leads. These investments are usually steep, costing a company upwards of $15K for a basic sponsorship. Don’t get me wrong, these types of events are very beneficial for a company. They have a significant impact on the sales pipeline, so every company should participate and sponsor their fair share of conferences throughout a fiscal year.
But, let’s think outside the box for a moment and explore another viable option—field events. What exactly are field events? They are ancillary events that a company hosts ‘in the field.’ There is no definite formula for field events, leaving the creativity up to you! It could be as simple as a networking happy hour, a small scale half-day roadshow, or an executive dinner. Field events allow a company to have intimate interactions with prospects and customers, without the distraction of a large conference.
Here are four reasons why every company should host its own field events:
1. Attendees are there specifically for your brand
It goes without saying that large conferences have the potential to produce a lot of leads. So though your company’s field events may cater to much fewer people, the point is that these folks are there in the first place specifically to get to know your brand better. They are already interested; all you need to do is hit a home run with the presentation and message. Therefore, the overall percentage of conversions may be even higher than those resulting from conferences.
2. The geographic location is up to you
Conferences are where they are and you have no say in that matter. Understandably, they are typically in large, metropolitan areas, which make it easy for several thousands of people to attend. But what about other, less obvious locations? A field event is your chance to bring visibility to your company in cities that may not get as much attention. (And your company’s sales reps who manage harder to reach areas will LOVE you for doing so). Granted, depending on your industry, some geographies will perform better than others. It is important to carefully measure these numbers and provide relevant reports to your manager when making event decisions.
3. You decide on the format
Field events are a chance for you to put your thinking cap on and GET CREATIVE! Perhaps hire a local band to play an outdoor happy hour on a warm summer evening. Events that feature compelling speakers or performances like music, dance, or comedy engage the senses and are sure-fire ways to not only encourage people to attend, but to also make the event memorable as a whole. Leaving a lasting impression is your goal.
Another way to highlight your product and its main features is to set up a series of lunch-and-learns in key locales and schedule them during the lunch hour, so it’s easy for your prospects to attend. Or, perhaps there are a handful of executives who want to meet with a member of your company’s C-suite. Take advantage of this opportunity by putting together a swanky Thursday night dinner at a restaurant with a view.
Whichever format you decide on, the goal is for all attendees to leave the event with thoughts like: “If there is another one of these events, I’m definitely going!” or “I have to tell my colleagues about this!” Give attendees something to talk or tweet about.
4. They are typically cheaper!
Who doesn’t love to save a little money every now and then? Conferences can break the bank, but field events don’t have to. The biggest cost of any field event will inevitably be food and beverage, but even this expense can be kept to a reasonable amount. When conducting research on venues, compare their food and beverage minimums. If spending a hefty amount on food & beverage is your only option, try to at least negotiate down the venue rental fee. Another idea is to enlist a speaker or performer who is a friend or supporter of the company and will thus do the gig for free.
All in all, don’t be afraid to throw out some different ideas—mixing it up is always a good thing! Ask for feedback from your peers, and then make a convincing business case to your manager. This is your chance to have fun and make an impact on your organization. Remember, the bottom line is to get your brand out there and get people talking about it!
What type of field event has worked best for you? Let me know in the comments below.