B2B marketers realize that they need to consistently reach their target audience to successfully close business. In fact, Aberdeen's 2012 Marketing Lead Management research report found that, on average, prospects receive 10 marketing-driven touches throughout the course of a successful buyer's journey.
Trade show participation consistently ranks in the top tier of tactics used to facilitate prospect communication, but it's also one of among the most difficult tactics to execute as well. Aberdeen's Lead Management research found that events account for an average of 7.4 percent of first touch marketing responses (i.e., first touch leads), the third-highest channel following the website and email marketing.
The top marketing goals for events are predictable: new business development, improving/supporting existing business relationships, and building brand awareness.
MarketingSherpa's 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report reinforces Aberdeen's report findings. This graph illustrates that trade shows are one of the most effective lead generation tactics utilized by B2B marketers but are also the most difficult to execute, on account of the time, effort, and expenses involved.
On the heels of Aberdeen's 2012 report, Trip Kucera, Senior Research Analyst at the Aberdeen Group, recently published a report on event marketing, identifying best practices in event management, perspective on platforms and services, and lead management integration.
The most interesting takeaway for B2B search engine marketers involves the correlation between content marketing and event marketing. This article discusses the comparisons drawn and how B2B SEO can augment and benefit from event marketing initiatives.
1. Optimize Event Collateral
Quite often, event marketing is handled by employees who aren't directly connected with a company's online marketing group. As a result, B2B SEO professionals need to become more proactive in their communication with this team to ensure they are made aware of upcoming events and shows.
As stated above, Kucera draws an important parallel between event marketing and content marketing. When we think about the role the former plays in the enterprise buyer's journey, events "are a source of information, education, and engagement. In this way, they very much play the same role as other content; that of helping buyers identify challenges and scope solutions to those challenges."
Consider the following opportunities when collaborating with event marketing personnel:
- Integration of SEO best practices, including keyword research, SEO tagging, and cross-linking, within key online event marketing collateral.
- Review of copy for keyword optimization and link references in traditional marketing collateral.
- Assembly of digital variations of traditional copy for use in social media platforms and other online mediums (i.e., blog posts, landing pages, etc.)
- Review of content placed in third-party sites for event promotion to ensure SEO visibility is maximized.
- Coordination of social media visibility in the form of share buttons, social media profile cross-linking, and "share-friendly" messaging.
Bottom line: events offer a wealth of opportunity for content, link outreach, and social media visibility.
2. Optimize the Event Itself
Since the Aberdeen research focused primarily on company-hosted events, it was interesting to see the shift in how organizations are developing event marketing initiatives. Fifty-five percent of companies plan to either start using, or to increase their use of virtual online events, while 40 percent plan to start or increase their use of regional road show style events.
Online events in particular present a significant SEO and social media tie-in. Here are some opportunities and recommendations:
- Integrate keyword research into content development, specifically presentation headlines and supporting descriptions.
- Use high quality graphics and media assets designed to be easily shared (as allowable) in social media platforms.
- Make sure applicable presentations, media content, and other promotional material contain requisite embed code and share buttons, either through integration of existing social media assets or direct implementation on site/conference.
- Cross-link relevant solutions and content marketing assets from the website where appropriate.
For regional events, consider outreach to local business publications and organizations for link acquisition and show visibility. Schema event tagging should be considered on event landing pages as well, for better information delivery to search engines.
3. 'In Real Life' SEO Link Building Outreach
Events present an opportunity for B2B SEO professionals to connect with potential site owners for link building outreach. Oftentimes, strategic partners, distributors, or other vendors offering complementary solutions will attend these events and trade shows, giving SEO professionals the chance to put a face to a name (otherwise only seen in email or social media communication).
More importantly, in-person discussion at a trade show provides an opportunity for the SEO practitioner to learn more about an individual's specific business challenges, which can, in turn, help determine the right pitch to use when presenting a guest post, byline, or other form of content marketing asset for link building development.
A few thoughts on best practices for in-person discussions at trade shows:
- Learn about the person and the organization he/she represents.
- Listen for key opportunities and pain points/areas of need.
- If you don't have the opportunity to ask about links during the initial discussion, make sure to follow up promptly with a well thought out idea and concept.
4. Showcase Branded Organic Search Referral Growth
Work after the event is just as important as the planning and production. Aberdeen's report highlights the significance in proper reporting in order to demonstrate ROI of program. One of the ways SEO professionals can support event marketers is through brand related keyword referral patterns.
Leverage reports in Google or Bing Webmaster Tools to (hopefully) show growth in brand-specific search engine traffic. Google provides filters for web marketers to identify trends in specific keyword phrases in application. Bing allows marketers to download the entire data set, which can then be filtered appropriately.
Branded keyword data helps validate the performance of event marketing in association with brand development and webmaster tool programs provide a simple way to better support this initiative.
According to the report, best-in-class marketers allocate more than 9 percent of their budget to company-hosted events alone. In my limited experience with event sponsorship and booth participation, I know costs of participation and sponsorship can easily exceed tens of thousands of dollars.
As such, event marketing represents a significant percentage of the B2B marketer's budget and a critical asset SEO professionals need to leverage for performance. Event marketing provides immediate SEO opportunities for obtaining content marketing visibility and acquiring links and social media connections.
How is your B2B organization tying SEO tactics to event marketing programs? I would love to read your perspective via comments below.