Over the last decade, consumers have learned to shop differently. That is also true for B2B (business-to-business) companies, which is why chief marketing officers must adapt to avoid business failure or extinction.
Just a few short years ago, B2B companies could still rely on trade shows where they went to meet their prospects, network, and close deals. Vendors, potential customers, and other decision-makers would gather in large halls to visit booths or attend presentations. Companies would spend huge sums of money to create the best possible appearance to attract and engage these prospects. However, the attendance at trade shows started to diminish since C-suite decision-makers no longer felt it was necessary to attend many trade shows.
B2B companies that rely on trade shows for most of their revenue need to find another way to reach out to prospects and customers. Fortunately for them and their chief marketing officers, there are roads they can take – experiential marketing roadshows and B2B mobile trade show tours.
In this ultimate guide to B2B experiential marketing, we will define this strategy and discuss its benefits. We’ll also talk about how to use it to achieve marketing success.
But First, What Is An Experiential Strategy B2B Marketing?
First of all, business-to-business (B2B) marketing is a strategy that aims to secure a contract with another business. However, before a company decides whether they should work with another organization, it needs to consider many factors, with quality of the products, fit to their needs and ROI and revenue impact being the biggest ones.
A successful experiential marketing campaign (also known as engagement marketing) is a relatively new form of event marketing that is widely used in B2C marketing, and also a fast growing effective B2B marketing strategy because B2B brands need a more effective way to build an experience and an emotional connection with their customers. B2B marketers are paying attention to their B2C counterparts and have recognized the importance of bringing immersive experiences to their business buyers and their buyers appreciate it because of the value it brings.
For example, remember your school days when you went on exciting field trips? You were excited about it, and your parents didn’t have to wake you up. All your friends were just as excited as you. Humans like to get out of their routine and experience something extraordinary because it shakes them up and fills them with energy and excitement. Unfortunately, those kinds of experiences become rare as we grow older. However, your brand can provide similar memorable experiences through experiential marketing – something memorable, convenient, and free of charge and brings your brand to life in a fun and memorable way; unlike any other form of marketing can. These programs have a number of names including mobile roadshow, mobile tradeshow, mobile sales center and reverse trade show tour.
The Benefits of Experiential B2B Marketing (Mobile Roadshows)
A business looking to market to other companies has two options:
- Sign up to exhibit at a trade show, spend lots of money on your exhibit space and hope that your dream prospects/decision makers will show up and talk to you or your representatives. Ever hear that “hope” is not a strategy?? Or,
- Make a list of your dream clients, reach out to them, and set up a visit to their parking lot of your B2B mobile trade show. Create an exciting and immersive experience (mobile sales center) and take it directly to them. You will meet each one of your clients on their territory and get their undivided attention. And guess what, no competitors in sight and 100% focus on your products and services.
Which one is the right choice? It is pretty obvious – the mobile trade show is an experiential strategy that comes as an alternative and a much more effective solution that trade shows. When you do a mobile trade show tour, you get the decision maker and the influencers all at once and not only is the sales cycle cut in half, you also get huge growth in your pipeline.
What Types of Content Are Utilized in B2B Experiential Marketing Campaigns?
Experiential marketing content is essentially digital marketing content designed to create an immersive experience for the customer through a combination of storytelling embedded media, animations, and interactions. This type of content strategies spark active participation in an effort to form emotional and memorable connections between the brand and the targeted customer.
Engagement marketing content strategies offer so many advantages for B2B companies in today’s increasingly interconnected world. The advanced events technology it relies on removes us from other messaging channels (at least for a while) and introduces us to an immersive world of experience. Successful experiential marketing campaign content comes in various forms and is not limited to selfie booths and other events technology of the past. It uses augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), interactive eBooks and flipbooks, polls and quizzes, research, and cloud-based digital assets. When it comes to digital experiential marketing content, online gaming had taken the lead decades ago, but recently, brands have started to leverage this power in their B2B experiential campaigns.
Why Should Brands Embrace Digital Storytelling and Great Customer Experience?
Storytelling has long been the key element in any form of marketing. In engagement marketing, digital storytelling, and customer experience (CX) are combined into a powerful tool that brings great results in B2B marketing strategies.
Storytelling can become even more memorable and personal when clients are a part of the messaging experience you share. As for enhancing customer relationships through better experiences, delivering a powerful story through experiential content is an effective aspect of a stellar CX.
We have seen the rise of annoying pop-ups on social media platforms, but in 2018, 2019 and 2020, there has been a shift to sharing valuable immersive experiential marketing content with friends and family. In WARC’s 2020 report, experiential content was named as one of the most important elements needed for businesses to enhance digital experiences and achieve greater success.
Developing Strong B2B Client Relationships through Experiential Marketing
“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” – Confucius
Besides leveraging it to generate leads, increase customer engagement, sway purchase decisions, increase sales, and bottom line, companies can make great use of experiential marketing to improve the B2B buyers’ journey to build and strengthen the bonds with their customers.
Today’s buyers are not just looking for a quality product or service – they want more engagement, more partnership, and more listening.
The importance of experiential events is increasing, and B2B marketers are recognizing that and citing experiential and event marketing as their go-to solution because of how effective it is as a marketing and sales strategy. Therefore, one of the main objectives of experiential marketing is to make sure that your marketing dollars are spent well on building effective relationships with your B2B customers and creating a live brand story so you can see the sales cycle take place during your mobile trade show or roadshow. You will be able to build strong bonds with your B2B customers by focusing on these key areas:
1. Equip yourself with patience.
While customer relationships and brand awareness are not built in a day, bringing your products or services directly to your customers in an effective marketing program will increase your relationship faster than any other marketing strategy. This direct personal sales strategy helps to quickly build a strong bond, so take time you need to engage in personalized interactions with your customers. After the experiential marketing event has happened, the sales team needs to maintain the conversation and react to the conversation you had together and continue to move the customer through the sales cycle and continue to build trust.
2. Provide solutions to their problems
Your current and future clients either need a solution to an issue they’re facing or don’t know they need one. Build your roadshow experience (mobile sales center) with a specific product or service that will save them money or help them overcome an obstacle. Ask yourself; What are their needs? How can you help? Once you figure it out, develop and execute a solution.
3. Present your story
Your brand strategy should be much more than a name and logo. What is it? What does it stand for? What is the philosophy underneath it all? What are you valued for in your respective industry? A business should be humanized, and it’s up to you to find the best way to do it and appeal to your client’s emotions. Experiential events present an opportunity for communicating your brand’s values and identity to key decision-makers as well as connect to build strong relationships. Focus on encouraging customers to engage in acts of kindness and send out uplifting messages.
4. Prioritize value and don’t be too pushy
If you decide to go with a B2B mobile trade show strategy, you should pack your products and services, park your mobile vehicle in front of your customer’s premises, make a warm welcome (with some snacks and beverages), and have an experience that can educate, inform and demonstrate your product in the best light. Show how you can add value to their business. Coming to your customers with a try-before-you-buy approach is something they will appreciate. It will allow them to enjoy a hands-on experience with your products, allowing them to see for themselves how your brand can solve the problems they face. Is there a better way to learn?
5. Humanize, humanize, humanize
There are three reasons why you should humanize your brand – it can help tell your brand’s story, let your team be seen, build a memory that is hard to forget, and help build quality customer relationships. Putting a face to your brand and talking through with your customers will give you a competitive advantage because people like doing business with other people in a face to face manner. The relationship with your customers will become a trusted partnership once you show up to demonstrate how you can help their business thrive and while showing them you understand their time is valuable.
B2B experiential marketing events help brands connect through face-to-face encounters. We have created and launched the Hussmann Insight Experience Tour and can be used as an example of experiential marketing in terms of how face-to-face conversations with key decision-makers of B2B companies could lead to success.
Use Experiential Marketing to Appeal to Your Customers’ Emotions
B2C marketers are aware of the power of emotional appeal; many research studies support that this is essential for both B2B and B2C. According to Paul D. Maclean (1913-2007), American neuroscientist and author of The Triune Brain in Evolution, the neocortex (also known as the logical brain – part of the brain involved in higher-order functions such as language, spatial reasoning, sensory perception, generation of motor commands, cognition, etc.) is the weakest of the sectors that affect how we think and what we do. It is actually responsible for about 5% of our decision making, while the rest of our decisions are results of instinct and emotional appeal. In other words, 95% of our decisions are not rooted in reason – they are made emotionally.
The decision-making process does begin in the neocortex, where the analysis of the benefits of a product happens. Next, images and words influence the limbic part of the brain to evoke emotion. It makes various unconscious associations that cause us to feel more positively or negatively about one product than others. Then, the neocortex gets activated again to justify the emotional connection, and last, the prefrontal cortex takes over the judgment of whether it’s safe to make the brand-related decision.
Safe, social responsibility, responsiveness, expertise, and trust are all terms that often outrank more conventional marketing terms, such as integration, flexibility, and savings. These words carry emotional value, and weaving them into a B2B marketing strategy through an experiential marketing program is highly recommended. Emotions and experiences typically go hand in hand, which is why experiential marketing is so effective with B2B buyers. B2B companies can use the mobile roadshow method for content creation and develop an immersive experience in a customer’s parking lot or neutral location. They can then invite key people to engage face-to-face, get a hands-on experience of their products, and forge an emotional connection.
One of the best marketing example of this strategy can be seen in our work with Invacare, a manufacturer and distributor of walkers, mobility scooters, wheelchairs, and other non-acute medical equipment. After seeing that their program for promoting a new line of motorized wheelchairs cannot be handled in-house, they decided to launch a B2B mobile roadshow with us. Their prospects (medical providers) got the chance to sit in an Invacare chair and put themselves in their patient’s shoes. Thanks to the immersive experience that Invacare provided, their clients were able to understand the freedom and comfort that their innovative wheelchairs provided, and once they felt that, the emotional connection was established. Trust was built through the immersive experience each medical provider was able to see, feel and hear.
Why Should I Hire a B2B Marketing Agency?
So, you run a B2B brand and have tons of experience in showcasing it at trade shows. But the trade show is becoming a thing of the past – year after year, the attendance at trade shows are hitting an all-time low and ROI is failing too – it is just status quo for most brands. The exhibit halls are hectic, you’re surrounded by your competition, and you’ve hit a plateau in sales leads that most companies don’t follow through on anyway. You’ve heard about experiential marketing and how it can help, but you don’t know how to approach the strategy since you have no experience with it whatsoever. In that case, hiring an experiential B2B agency is the right thing to do.
If you need more reasons than that, let’s discuss the advantages of hiring a B2B experiential marketing agency.
- Customized experience. There are not many content strategies that go straight to the heart of the buyer’s journey and provide a hands-on experience of your product. Just reaching out via phone or the Internet won’t do the trick. With an experienced marketing agency, you will get a properly designed and executed experiential B2B roadshow exhibit that can help you build trust, interact, cut out the competition, and close deals – all thanks to providing a one-of-a-kind memorable experience.
- Having experience in the field. If you never launched an experiential campaign before, there’s a marketing agency that has and knows what it takes to execute it successfully. Instead of doing everything in-house, an agency will know how to appeal to your target audience and measure the right metrics to calculate the ROI.
- Return on investment. Calculating ROI on your experiential campaign (mobile sales center) can be tricky. When you partner with an experiential marketing agency, they will track appointment numbers, attendee numbers, program impressions, social media conversations, gather leads and photos, etc. Pro Motion can help you set campaign objectives, build a reporting function, track pre- and post-event social activity (as well as activity during the event), collect data, analyze it, and present it in an understandable format.
- Collaborative effort. Once you hire an agency for help, it becomes your partner, someone you can trust to do the work while you are focused on talking to the key decision-makers. Pro Motion can help you with everything from researching event locations to choosing the right vehicle.
Keeping Track of Experiential B2B Marketing Trends
The emerging events technology is expected to create even better experiential B2B marketing, especially for those companies that offer things such as health care devices, hand tools, events technology products, large machinery, or software services. AI and VR will become more advanced and accessible, and many brands are already looking forward to using it to reach new target audiences with their experiential marketing campaigns. In a curated environment that provides exciting and immersive experiences, customers will be able to see a product in a completely new and engaging way, all thanks to augmented and virtual reality.
Secondly, more and more brands are deciding to incorporate sensory elements to heighten their brand experience. Since this type of experiential marketing is based on building experiences, tapping into as many human senses as possible can play a crucial role in activating the memory centers of the brain, making the experience more impactful. Brands already know how to engage with sound and sight, but by incorporating touch, taste, and smell, they can really nail their campaigns and increase the chance of their customers remembering the experience long after they have gone.
Positive experiences get embedded in one’s memory and can last for a long time. Besides, just thinking about a great experience can evoke great emotions and put a smile on your clients’ faces. That is the ideology behind B2B brand activations. This type of experiential marketing is here to stay and is gaining in popularity among B2B brands because it helps them establish trust among their dream clients and see increased customer participation.
Want to work directly with an accomplished experiential marketing agency with 25 years of experience? Pro Motion is an industry leader in creating engaging, effective campaigns. Give us a call at 636.449.3162.
Learn More About Experiential Marketing from PMI President Steve Randazzo in his book Brand Experiences: Building Connections in a Digitally Cluttered World. Click here to download 2 free chapters!