Events are the main place business professionals gather en masse to make new connections and spread their organization’s footprint into their respective markets. They’re also an incredibly high-touch engagement opportunity – personalized communication isn’t just available, it’s the norm.
In part one of today’s Q&A, we’re going to dive into the nuts and bolts behind the typical B2B transaction and discuss how events transform those transactions into B2C interactions. We’ll discuss how social proofing is essential to the process and talk through examples of how to adopt B2C tactics to your B2B organization. Let’s dive in:
1. What are the primary differences between a B2B sales/marketing model and a B2C sales/marketing model?
When we’re looking at a B2B sales/marketing model, it’s a guided process. Potential clients are walked through the sales/marketing funnel by a team of people. It’s rare that a B2B sale is run with self-service in mind.
A B2C model is rarely guided – it’s typically click-to-order and low-touch from the perspective of the seller. But, another key difference exists between the two: use of social proofing. The vast majority of B2B organizations do not effectively social proof their product – they can survive without it. Consumer-focused organizations NEED widespread adoption to stay commercially viable – social proof is absolutely critical for them.
3 main differences: self-service sales, individual-based marketing, social proofing
2. What are the challenges in adopting B2C tactics to a B2B setting? Any clever ways to work around these challenges?
The biggest challenge that we see is the fact that B2B products, services and organizations simply can’t self-serve a sales process for big dollar amounts. The second challenge is getting people excited about a product for their business. The reality is that most people (not talking to you, owners!) aren’t going to be passionate about enterprise software or service contracts, like they would be about personal hobbies and interests.
The first challenge is tough to work around, but the best ways to expedite the self-service aspect is at face-to-face events. You’ve got a chance to talk shop and work through any pain points on the spot. Double points if you can demo for your potential client.
The second challenge is much easier to work through. Rather than selling your value through features, sell it on how it impacts your client’s workday. Example: Sure, your product increases efficiency by 55%, but how is it doing that? By removing duplicate workflows and the headaches they cause! Features are expected, but if you want to create a personal connection to your prospects, talk to their pain points not the organization’s.
The same is true when you’re looking to acquire new attendees or exhibitors. You need to communicate the value for them based on what THEY want to see. Education sessions are important for business value, but that sweet networking party in Vegas is what gets the attendees excited. Key in on those pain points and you’ll find that your attendees can’t wait to come back (and sell their boss on how awesome your event was!).
3. How does social proofing support B2B transactions? Tell us why this is important.
Social proofing is the driving force behind so many decisions in both our professional and personal lives. It affirms that we’re doing the right thing because we feel that our social circle agrees with our choices.
In a B2B setting, social proofing gives confidence that an organization is trustworthy. When we’re talking about multi-year, high-dollar contracts, there isn’t room for mistakes. The people signing off need to know that there’s a history of success and support from the selling organization.
For events, social proofing is even more important than usual. So much value is derived from the connections you can make at an event – if the right people are promoting their attendance, it’s naturally going to garner a larger following. The reverse is also true – if your event lacks decision-makers, it gets harder to convince businesses and individuals to attend.
The reason why Microsoft and Salesforce do so well in head-to-head sales, is that those choices are easily validated. So many other people did it, so it can’t be wrong if I did it too, right?
4. Events are a high-touch opportunity to engage with people throughout an industry – how do events help socially proof individuals by connecting attendees and participants?
Social proofing works on the same concept as ‘seeing is believing’ – If you see someone promote something and you have trust in that person, you’ll tend to gravitate towards what they’re doing or using. At an event, people gain new trusted connections, which help socially proof new B2B interactions.
It works the same when we think of an exhibition hall – if you see a crowded booth, you’re going to want to see what all the excitement is about! That’s the social proof we’re provided by others.
5. Why do events change the typical lifecycle of a B2B client?
Events accelerate every piece of a B2B transaction. It gives salespeople an opportunity to skip the marketing portion of the funnel and move directly to sales discussions. It creates a face-to-face connection with another person. And that creates the social proof that a product/organization needs to gain the trust of new prospects.
And when we’re talking about event-to-event acquisition, you’re able to social proof your future events before an attendee has ever heard of it. Consider how a virtual event allows a prospect to “sample” the full version. It lets your organization prove the value of it’s in-person event (and then increase attendance), by converting attendees at an easier point in the funnel.
B2B events are the best place to start adopting personalized marketing & sales tactics that are typically seen in the B2C world. They enable faster prospect movement through your sales funnel and build social proofing networks that empower your organization’s sales goals. We’ll dive into 5 more strategic questions in our next blog session, but don’t miss the companion podcast put together by Kevin Gough and Bill McGlade. They tackle these questions off the cuff, while going back and forth on their thoughts about adopting B2C tactics at B2B events.