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Channel Matters Blog > November 2011 > Are events still effective channel activities?

Are events still effective channel activities?

by Andy Grant
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Are channel marketing events still effective? With so little time available and so many alternatives like webinars available, running any kind of event can be a major resource drain. What makes a good channel marketing event and how do you get a positive return on your investment?

If you asked any sales director in IT and telecommunications the question, are events still effective channel activities? I believe you would receive a variation of the same response, “I think so but I don’t know for certain, I would have to ask my marketing team”.

That is a fair response because again I would hazard a guess that most decisions within organisations of whether or not to run an event is based on the theory, “we did it last year and it seemed to work well”, or the very similar, “we have always run events, our channels expect it”.  These could be very valid reasons, especially if they create the bulk of your sale opportunities, and help develop very important channel relationships. But I challenge anyone involved in creating, managing, running or funding events to stop and ask a few simple questions before agreeing to run another event.

Questions like… Are physical events more successful than virtual events, like webinars? When I say successful I mean with a positive return on investment for the company. Do we know the results; have we got the metrics from previous events to give us insight? What role do these events play in the sales cycle? What has changed, are customers, prospects, partners, vendors still coming out to events? What will the audience learn at our event? Will they actually turn up to our events? Who is the target audience and finally can we actually resource this event?

In my opinion, webinars are popular with vendors because they are a recurring information resource that be accessed 24/7 on their website, but I do question how many people actually watch or listen to each and every webinar in its entirety? What do the vendors channel partners say about webinars, are they useful, do they deliver the correct amount and level of information required to move on and sell the next generation products?  Are partners surveyed to ask how they would like to receive future information, as I think there is email overload for most vendors and distributors to their channel partners?

Whereas at a physical event, you can tell who is engaged and who is not engaged, you can physically demonstrate the products and solutions, plus your sales people should be able to focus upon building relationships with the attendees. It is a good test to see which of your channel sales people are natural networkers, and can actually engage with their channel partners. Another benefit of physical events is when partners sell to other partners or event better to potential new channels; you can’t get that from a webinar.

So how do you make your events more effective? First think about the elements that contribute to successful events. The three essential items are venue, content and presenter. A successful event will be set in a great location, it will have character, be easily accessible and relate directly to the topic of the day, for example if the theme is higher education, why not use a state of the art university or for architects you would use architecturally inspired building, it will be an immediate talking point. The content must be current and relevant, plus try and build in some type of exclusive content as this will answer the initial question of what will the audience learn at our event? Finally, please ensure you use tried and tested presenters; this can make or break an event. Ensure they are rehearsed and briefed not to go off script or make any inappropriate comments. Please also check all the slides to ensure they are legible and not repetitive, channel partners will be upset if they have seen and heard the entire message in other events or forums. These three simple elements require preparation, as with any channel activity, but the benefits will be enormous and measureable.

Events can take a lot of time and resource but for channel relationships can be hugely beneficial. Here is a simple approach to actually making it happen. We can look at three main areas which are planning & organising, running the event and post event. Firstly create a team and develop an actual plan that has dates, deadlines, budgets and areas of responsibility. Next decide on a theme, venue and most importantly a date (try to avoid any holidays, industry trade shows or anything that could harm your attendee numbers). On the day the team must all know their roles for an event to be successful; as once it starts it cannot stop it. Ensure you have the correct signage, the AV and presentations have been tested and the food and drink are suitable for the audience. Finally post event, you may have decided to create a feedback form to handout on the day of the event, with an incentive (maybe linked to certification or funding) of a gift for its return or as an email the next day, either is acceptable. 

This final step is the most critical to the overall success of the event and the purpose of running the event, lead generation and relationship building. I would advise that the team have a verbal debrief – preferably face to face, to discuss all aspects of the event, what worked well, what didn’t work and how are the leads going to be handled? Event follow up is often forgotten, as most marketers think that an event is completed once you say good bye to the last delegate and put the final box back in the car. This is actually where the real work begins.

One final point to consider for channel planning is the number of events you plan to run in a given year, what percentage of the budget and activity plan is taken up with events, is it 30% or 50% or even 80%. Just step back and think about it for a moment so it is clear what events are essential and generate the bulk of the business and what contribution these events are making to your business. It may help make the decision, along with the key metrics, on whether or not to run the next event.



Last modified on 6/30/2013 10:10:50 PM
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