Conferences are generally hosted by organisations selling B2B. People come together at a conference to discuss the latest trends and opportunities related to the theme of a conference.
In 2018, Dreamforce had more than 170,000 registered attendees. During the conference, attendees can attend workshops, keynotes and network with other Salesforce users.
The advantage of conferences as a marketing channel is when executed successfully it is very difficult to replicate by another organisation. The conference provides the organisation with an excellent source for leads as well as increase the lifetime value of a client which indirectly generates more sales.
An increasing number of B2C organisations are also hosting their own conferences too such as Disney with D23 and Blizzard with BlizzCon.
Characteristics of a conference:
- Paid event - Attendees can only attend after purchasing a ticket.
- Huge audiences - Hundreds to even hundreds of thousands of attendees.
- Detailed program schedule with multiple speakers and activities throughout the conference.
- Usually goes for multiple days - Non-local attendees need to book a hotel in the area.
Workshops are much smaller than conferences and last only one to two days. Because workshops are smaller than conferences, attendees tend to spend more time interacting with the presenter as well as other attendees. Workshops also include more interactive activities compared to networking.
An example of a workshop is Xero Refresh.
The goal of Xero Refresh is to bring together accountants, BAS agents and bookkeepers within the local community together while at the same time providing practical training on using Xero. The more familiar accountants get with the Xero software, the more likely they are to recommend Xero to their network and their clients.
The benefit of Xero Refresh is each workshop is just 3 hours long so Xero's clients don't have to allocate a full day or sometimes multiple days to attend a workshop.
Another benefit of their workshops is it is hosted across Australia in all states and multiple locations. For example in Victoria, it is hosted in Caulfield, Mornington, Ballarat, Bendigo and Warrnambool. Most other workshops are hosted in the CBD area which is inconvenient if you are located at a regional area such as Bendigo or Warrnambool. Xero makes it convenient for clients from all over the country to attend.
- Much smaller than conferences.
- Generally, workshops last for one day.
- Attendees are normally existing clients of the company.
- Held to onboard and educate attendees on the company's product or services.
When dealing with B2B, most of the time it is more about who you know than what you know. Every business professional understands the importance of a broad network to call upon when you need help.
The benefit of hosting a networking event is it doesn't require as much planning compared to a conference and it definitely doesn't cost anywhere near a conference. You don't even need speakers too. You just need a venue and people. If you want to save on the venue costs, you also have the option to host the event in the company's office.
An example of a company executing this strategy is HubSpot. They call them HubSpot User Groups and these networking events are hosted across over 150 locations. It doesn't cost a lot of money and planning to get started and to scale up to multiple locations if you are a global company.
The image below shows all the HubSpot User Groups around the world.
- Free event - Sometimes a small contribution is required to cover location costs and snacks.
- Specific target audience - Existing customers, industry partners, people in a similar industry.
- Attendees are often asked to bring extra guests.
Product Launch Event
Product launch events are hosted when a company wants to generate buzz around a new product or products. These products are shown to the public for the very first time and only exclusive to the press and influencers.
The most popular product launch event is Apple Special Event where they launch their latest iPhone, iWatch and other product lines. Google has also been doing more of these launches with its Google Pixel event.
These product launch events are smaller than your average conference but they can build as much awareness than a conference because the company is leveraging the network of the press and its influencers. It is a win-win for both the company and the attendees. The company gives the press exclusivity in being the first to write about the product/s and the press gives the company exposure to its network. Another benefit of product launch events is it cost less to host due to its smaller size.
- Entry is free but is invite-only.
- Stakeholders or account managers invite their own contacts.
Award night is a formal event during which awards are given to recognise achievements in a specific industry. These award nights can be stand-alone events or part of a larger conference.
Utilising award nights is a great way to position your company and brand as an industry leader. Winners love sharing their successes - you don't even need to ask them to share it on social media.
Aside from nominees and winners spreading the word, awards are a great opportunity for press coverage. Invite the media and you'll help them do their job by giving them something to write about.
However, awards night can be expensive because they are by nature meant to be prestigious and you need a venue to match that. In addition to the venue, you have to account for catering, printed menus, signage, wait staff, AV and lighting into your event budget.
An example of an award night is Mumbrella Awards. Mumbrella Awards 2018 was attended by over 900 attendees.
The five events discussed in this post are:
- Networking event
- Product launch event
- Award night
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