This blog was originally published in Adweek.
Think about the last few interactions you had: making plans with a friend, setting a meeting, ordering lunch. Whether they be personal or professional, chances are that the majority of your day-to-day interactions have taken place from behind a screen. Between social channels like Linkedin and Meetup, and standard communication tools like email and chat, people are spending less time in-person or even talking on the phone, and are instead building relationships through a growing number of digital channels.
And yet, despite the steady rise in digital interaction, B2B marketers still recognize the value of bringing professionals together face-to-face. We see that the importance of events is steadily increasing as companies are leveraging them to drive brand awareness, demand generation, pipeline acceleration and customer engagement. And we know that in-person interactions uniquely possess the human element that can be a defining factor for decision making.
So, what’s the answer to building successful professional relationships in the 21st century? The truth is that no one approach is better than the other; in fact, many marketers today find that the opposite is true. Instead of choosing between digital and in-person tools, marrying these technology-driven strategies with more traditional tactics—like hosting events—is how marketers can find increased success in sealing the deal. With mobile apps stealing our attention from day-to-day activities, marketers can take advantage and meet event attendees where they already are by engaging through mobile tactics.
Here are three emerging mobile strategies that are leading B2B marketers to drive better business results from in-person events.
Getting organized with in-app to-do lists
Event attendees are typically on tight schedules and can easily lose track of where to be and who to see. Event marketers know that people are more likely to get the most out of an event if they’re given some sort of guidance on which sessions to sit in on and who to take meetings with. When you consider all of the events that professionals attend each year, it’s critical that you are setting them up for success ahead of time to take advantage of everything your conference has to offer.
Through a mobile event app, companies can curate personal, in-app to-do lists for attendees ahead of time to encourage more participation during the event. By using registration data and the background they have on attendees from, say, a pre-event survey about their interests and reasons for attending, businesses can make recommendations on what sessions attendees should join. For example, if an attendee says their main goal at an event is to network and wine and dine with prospective clients, suggesting the event offsite and networking happy hour on their to-do list will ensure that their experience aligns with priorities. Businesses can then track which ‘tasks’ on an attendee’s to-do list were completed, and give a friendly reminder if necessary to ensure everyone is getting the most out of their time.
Encouraging conversation with discussion boards, live polls and surveys
With attendees set up for event success through personalized to-do lists, event marketers now want to know what those attendees are thinking throughout the conference, and how their sessions and meetings are going overall. Real-time engagement is a key differentiator for events today as it bolsters attendees’ participation and allows marketers to gather key feedback for consideration at future events. Mobile tactics like post-session surveys that pop up on the screen immediately after a session ends increases the likelihood that an attendee will provide feedback.
What’s more, through in-app interactive discussion boards and live polls, marketers can create a greater sense of community among attendees, while also using focused questions to check the pulse of attendees’ experiences throughout the event. For example, you can ask attendees in the app what their main takeaway was from the keynote session, or keep things light with a question like, “What song should we play to introduce the next speaker?” Findings can be shared via the mobile event app and even on screens throughout the venue to engage the full audience.
Increasing attendee participation with gamification
People are never too old for games, and we’re seeing more businesses take advantage of gamification strategies through mobile event apps to spark friendly competition. For example, through a mobile event app, ‘badges’ can be earned each time an attendee checks in for a session, takes a prospect to coffee, makes a connection or posts a photo via the app or social channels.
For marketers, gamification strategies lead to more data and insight on attendees’ interests and preferences. Seeing which sessions they attended and who they met with during the event gives marketing and sales a wealth of high intent data so they can better engage post-event with personalized follow-ups. Say someone earned three badges for attending sessions all centered around data analytics; marketers then know this is a topic that that individual has an interest in, and can share content that matches that interest in post-show communications.
Digital and in-person strategies don’t have to be seen as an either/or for today’s marketers. B2B marketers still agree that one of the best ways to increase brand awareness and drive sales is through in-person events. By coupling events with a well-planned mobile strategy, you can not only increase on-the-ground participation, but also utilize deeper attendee insights, allowing for more personalized engagement and proving true return on investment.