Experiential marketing for B2B customers

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Experiential marketing for B2B customers
Most business-to-business companies participate in trade shows and exhibitions in order to develop business and to reach out to potential customers. However, most businesses participate in such events in a very uninvolved and lackluster way. There are so many opportunities here, if only they look how other industries such as automobile and IT benefit from trade fairs.

The B2B strategy for trade shows has remained the same for years: We are not showing this to retail consumers and so we do not need to use latest interactive technology, no experiential marketing is necessary for industrial customers. Perhaps they are right about consumer marketers wanting to interact with customers as the brand is critical there. So any opportunity to make them interact with the brand and products is beneficial for revenues and long-term value. This is evident from the positioning of consumer brands in large events such as a pop music shows or cricket matches.

While it may be so, does that necessarily stop B2B from using similar techniques to get the B2B brand-width? Experiential marketing can drive B2B marketing too. Here are some pointers:

Be different: In any exhibition, companies of all types from your industry and otherwise congregate and showcase their latest products and new technology. If you can market your business innovatively, chances are you will end up attracting more visitors to your stall and increase the leads you generate.

An interesting suggestion is to use the social media. You can make use of this tool before the event in order to publicise and generate some excitement in the market. You can also talk about some contests or teasers about what you are planning at the event. Some businesses use video and photo albums in social media channels to create excitement weeks ahead of the event. Some use microsites dedicated to the event and their own plans for the stall. Many use LinkedIn groups to initiate discussion on a topic which is relevant to the theme they are plan to use for the show. All these enhance the relationship with the audience and prospects.

It is also important to make sure that all social media efforts provide pointers to your stall number, and brand is clearly visible in all messages, blogs, or discussions so that potential customers can find you without much hassle at the trade show. Once the trade show starts, some businesses use Facebook effectively by making their page live. What they do is automate the page by forwarding the tweets. Some people start a live twitter chat to engage their customers. There are also incidents of having live interviews at the stall video taped and posted in YouTube or own channels. Here is also a chance to do some contests linking social media.

There is so much one can do with new technology platforms to create special experiences for customers. Therein lie brand experience and identity.

Move beyond trade shows: Is there any other way than trade shows and exhibitions to reach out to B2B customers? Where do your clients and prospects turn out in large numbers? It is easy for consumer marketers as they can go and distribute samples almost anywhere. They can go to festivals, sports, movie halls, malls, picnic spots or wherever people are congregating.

Computer companies have used some innovative ways to do B2B marketing in the past. For instance, a leading brand has tied up with many large companies in selling their laptops to employees at special rates. They display their products and allow users to sample them at reception area of such companies. They also promoted the deal with some attractive options to employees. For companies tying up with this computer maker, it became a tool for employee motivation as it offered special rates for the employees. This route should be explored by businesses to create win-win situations.

Aim for the top: In B2B marketing, at some point, meeting with the top management becomes a requirement. How do companies approach them and create an experience for them? Perhaps sponsorship of leadership events, golf events, or some other private sessions with management of top companies might be the best route to reach out to them and build relationships.

(M Muneer is the CEO and MD of CustomerLab)

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