Embarking on a relationship with a brand new visitor takes time, says Will Broadfoot, founding director of Footfall Events & Marketing.
A well-planned email campaign still forms the backbone of many a B2B trade event’s vis-prom ambitions; it’s measurable, cheap, reliable and proven to generate registrations.
But in a world where email’s voice is increasingly drowned out by other channels, or even silenced in some markets, how can we adapt the standard features and benefits model to work harder?
Ultimately, when we invite prospective visitors to register, we’re asking them to make a commitment: to pledge their time, and occasionally money, in exchange for a rewarding experience. Naturally, we can highlight a show’s “fantastic line-up of speakers” and “unrivalled opportunities for networking” until the football comes home, and such benefits will undoubtedly play an important part in gathering registrations, but when it comes to the crunch, if half your registered visitors fail to turn up on the day, then there has to be room for improvement.
The idea of assaulting a prospective visitor’s inbox with vague threats of “don’t miss out” has little place in the modern marketer’s armoury. What’s needed, perhaps, is a little more nurture. Our cousins in sales will be the first to agree that few deals are closed at the first time of asking, and it’s no different to courting a prospective visitor, especially if they’ve no previous attendance history. Sure, you will have a tranche of show super-fans who’ll need little more encouragement to visit than knowing the date and venue, but those alone won’t often fill the aisles.
Perhaps one cause of visitor indifference that can easily be addressed is a lack of pre-show reciprocity – the idea that if we give something to our visitors, they will be more obliged to give something back to us, i.e. their time. This type of lead nurture is often found at the heart of an inbound marketing campaign aiming to capture front-end data (fill in this form and we’ll send you this valuable piece of content). But don’t be afraid to employ it right along the conversion path. It’s central to relationship-building and basic human nature dictates that your audience will react more positively to your requests if they feel that they have already been rewarded. And if this reward is unexpected and personalised in some way, then it will have greater significance still.
In some ways, effective nurture is rather like embarking on a new relationship: it takes time. Nobody would ask someone to marry them on a first date, yet we repeatedly isolate our messaging and hammer home the call to action regardless of how familiar the audience might be with our event assets. Careful segmentation based on previous attendance history is a must – and of course the nurture approach will be far more effective when applied to those prospective visitors who’ve shown little interest in attending previously.
Actively encouraging small interactions from visitors can also have a positive cumulative effect on their willingness to commit to a visit. This ‘foot in the door’ approach works best if you can solicit increasingly meaningful commitments over the weeks building up to a show. Downloading content, participating in a poll, reading a blog, liking a post… every engagement, no matter how small, will help visitors react more positively to your final request: their presence at your show.
Framing your message in the best light will also have an impact. Naturally you will want to accentuate the benefits of visiting, but don’t undervalue the power that scarcity can have as a persuasive force. Point out what is unique about your event proposition and what visitors specifically stand to lose if they choose to ignore it by paying special attention to aspects that have limited availability or time restrictions inherent within them. Loss aversion can be a powerful motivator: Imagine you win £500. While you would no doubt be delighted with the unexpected cash, the strength of such a feeling would be far less intense than if you had lost £500. Avoiding entrance fee payment by pre-registering in advance is a simple paradigm that plays nicely on the loss aversion model.
Getting the framing right is sometimes trickier than it seems though. The number of times I’ve read overzealous claims that a given event represents ‘everything under one roof’ is staggering. This sort of Barnumesque statement will actually render the reader less motivated in the long run, as we tend to gloss over such panacea. Be specific but consistent in your claims, and you’ll find NPS scores creeping up as a result.
Probably the single most powerful tool in the chest though, is promoting social approval. Twitter and Facebook thrive on this simple principle: that we are more inclined to follow an individual (or brand) if we see our peers and friends already doing so. The exact same rule applies to visiting a trade event. Soliciting testimonials, quotes and feedback from ordinary visitors pre-show (as well as from your VIPs and key influencers) will only increase your registration and conversion figures, and the more social proof you can attach to the brand the better.
Sadly, there is no single magic bullet strategy that will guarantee you greater success in your email comms, but lacing your messaging with a few such ideas may well turn at least a few first dates into lasting relationships.