Spend enough time in the business world, and you’ll encounter event marketing in some form.
Perhaps it’s that annual convention you and your teammates look forward to attending. Perhaps it’s watching a TEDX talk or the latest Apple product release announcement during a lull at work. Or maybe you’re following Marvel Studios’ social media buildup to the release of the trailer for the next Avengers movie. (It’s OK; we are too.)
Thanks to the internet, event marketing has transformed over the past few decades, but the idea is still the same: It’s the experiential marketing of a product, service or brand, using a live promotional event.
It’s the service part of that definition that SaaS companies often overlook. They shouldn’t; after all, SaaS is an acronym for Software As A Service.
Because of the nature of SaaS offerings, event marketing isn’t an obvious marketing tactic (unless you’re well established like Adobe, Salesforce or Quickbooks, which hold huge conferences).
On the surface, skipping over events makes sense if you’re a growing software company. SaaS companies aren’t selling a physical product, and many times that product is constantly changing and evolving with each upgrade.
To further complicate things, many SaaS companies are B2B operations, selling their wares to very small target groups.
So it’s no wonder that SaaS sales and marketing teams often overlook event marketing when developing their lead generation strategy. With additional focus these days on using content marketing to develop sales leads, doing live, in-person events seems almost quaint.
How event marketing can work for an SaaS company
Now let’s debunk the above paragraph.
SaaS companies aren’t selling a physical product. True. But that doesn’t mean that sound sales methods don’t still apply. And the personal approach is time-tested and proven.
Having your concerns heard and questions answered by a live human being, and building actual relationships with a person are two key reasons to attend a marketing event; this is true regardless of the nature of the product.
SaaS products are constantly changing. True. But...so what if they are?
The value in event marketing is the personal connection you’ll make with new and existing customers. Getting that face-to-face time when you’re about to release a new version of your software can help your sales and marketing teams generate buzz; meeting customers at an event following a new release can help your teams gain valuable insights into what your customers really think about the product.
Something else to consider: The products may be constantly changing, but your brand likely isn’t. Brand recognition is another great reason to incorporate event marketing.
A 2016 survey showed that 72% of consumers had a positive view of brands that provided quality event marketing experiences. 74% of those said that attending such events made them more likely to buy that brand’s product. And those consumers are very likely to become advocates of your brand, even doing your work for you: 98% of attendees create some form of digital or social media content at those events - and 100% of those indicated that they share that content with their networks.
(Oh, and if you decide to do a rebrand? Event marketing is a great way to introduce customers to your new look.)
Many SaaS companies are B2B focused. This is true, yes. It’s also true that 77% of B2B marketers use in-person events as a part of their overall content marketing strategy.
When it comes to effectiveness, close to 70% ranked in-person marketing at the top of the list.
One common refrain is that because so many SaaS products are aimed at businesses, those products don’t resonate with most of the consumer public - so why bother with big public events?
The numbers here don’t lie; if 70% of B2B marketers think so highly of event marketing, there must be something to it.
Again, we go back to that personal connection - if you’re having an event for a small niche target audience, it stands to reason that when you have an in-person event, when it comes to attendees you’ll have a much higher ratio of people who are interested and invested in what you have to say.
B2C event marketing — often referred to as “experiential marketing” due to the integration of digital and social media elements, as well as augmented and virtual reality — is a strong component of many companies’ marketing plans.
B2B sales and marketing teams also recognize the value of event marketing, and with a little creativity and research, SaaS companies can take full advantage of the opportunities and rewards it offers.
Building a community can be a powerful first step to growing your SaaS business.
Giving current and potential new customers the chance to meet the real people behind the software can help cement old relationships and build new ones.