Business-to-business events play an integral role in the long, relationship-based buying process of a business customer. Unfortunately, brick and mortar events are happening less often, due to spending cuts, travel limitations and an often misperceived lack of value.

Don’t be fooled. The tradeshow booth, open house, or Lunch and Learn are not dead! With proper planning, promotion and execution your company can present stellar B2B events that are both fun for your audience and leave you and your sales team with a long list of leads.

Before you allocate most of your 2016 marketing budget to digital advertising and email marketing, consider how even in a technological world, the following offline initiatives can help drive your business forward.

Basic no-brainers 
Every organization has inherent value, it is why the organization exists. The trick is to find ways to deliver bits of that value, expertise or knowledge to the individuals who need your products and services or can refer your business. When you have a compelling message to share, figuring out a venue for it is the easy part.

Join Industry Organizations. If you have not done this already, immediately assign all of your staff to become active in the industry organizations where your target audience belongs so you can be where your customers and prospects are. Remember: this may not be your industry. By doing so, you can demonstrate a genuine commitment and interest, will have plenty of networking opportunities, and will be in-the-know when conducting outreach.

Host an Open House. Those familiar with Gravity Marketing events know nothing gets attendees through the doors like complimentary drinks and snacks. Open houses are easy — pick a date, send out the invites and order the catering. They also are a great way to engage customers, create referral opportunities, and let prospects get a feel for your organization’s culture.

Become a Presenter. Take the thought leadership materials you may have developed as white papers or blog posts and create a trend-driven, educational presentation. Apply for speaking opportunities at industry conferences, networking chapters, or annual meetings where you would have the most attentive audience. Public speaking engagements help you gain credibility and promote your company’s expertise.

Take it up a notch

Already engaging with prospects and customers offline, and looking to add new programs in 2016? Our clients have had success with the following.

Exhibit at a Tradeshow. To repeat, tradeshows are not dead! With early planning and a clear understanding of the audience, competitive environment, and potential exposure, tradeshows and expos remain the ideal opportunity to engage with an industry or supply chain. In addition to collecting leads and increasing audience interaction with sales staff, you can build brand awareness, launch a new product or service, shorten the sales cycle and convey your competitive advantage.

Present a Workshop or Seminar Series. If your company has a healthy lineup of industry experts and an audience of prospects and customers with common questions, consider hosting a free half-day training workshop or educational seminar. If you have a captivated audience, consider a series to get them coming back for more.

Planning guidelines 
The key to a stellar event starts with these guiding principles:

  1. Put your audience first – their perception is reality.
  2. Be a resource – avoid a pitch, quality content rules the day.
  3. Don’t reinvent the wheel – there are tools and ideas that are proven.
  4. Speak their language – focus on what they need, in ways they understand.
  5. Execute against a plan – no matter how simple, a plan keeps you on track.

As we get deep in the swing of holiday parties and customer appreciation celebrations, it is the perfect time to test out the value of an open house or networking event. From there, you can develop a program that serves as a year-round sales tool.