Musical festivals like Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival and Lollapalooza are well known even among casual pop music fans. Each year, more music festivals are popping up, putting us in a state of "peak festival." Professional conferences and trade shows -- which can be among the most effective ways to connect with prospective clients and customers -- are experiencing a similar boom in business, just with less attention than their musical counterparts. As recently as 2017, PwC examined the B2B market, analyzing segments such as business information and trade shows, and found the BI segment at more than $55 billion and trade shows estimated at over $14 billion.
Why the size and growth of the market? It’s a testament to the fact that people still want to get together in real time and make the personal connections that help drive sales. But fully taking advantage of this increasingly important direct contact business opportunity requires maximizing both data and increasingly scarce time.
A shared experience is not always possible, but when it is, it remains one of the best opportunities to find, identify and engage new relationships. Stakes are too high to leave potential relationships to the random luck of standing next to the right person during a 15-minute coffee break or scanning a nametag during a conference session. Conference networking is increasingly sophisticated with a variety of models being brought to bear to increase the chance of a “sticky” connection. Data is being used to provide valuable context for participants at live events, resulting in a much higher yield to relationships and a higher ROI for the event itself.
How do you navigate an already overwhelming event? Dave Currie, Chief Executive Officer of List Partners, says it’s by “focusing on refining a list of people that you have time to attempt to meet with so you can make that investment of time and resources more productive." List Partners, parent company of the sales intelligence tool Winmo, sits squarely in the middle of the buy side (national advertisers) and sell side (media publishers, advertising/marketing agencies and ad tech), giving it a unique perspective as a facilitator between the two. "Often with live, in-person events there is a misalignment of goals between the participants,” says Currie. “Capturing data in what we call the pre-show, at show and post-show can realign those interests by providing actionable information on the wants and needs of prospective relationships."
As media continues to consolidate, there is more and more pressure in the marketing and advertising ecosystem. That stress in the system filters down to business development and sales that are making sense of a crowded and stratified competitive landscape. Ubiquity, once prized among marketers and advertisers, has given way to specialization. “The buy/sell scenario is likely the primary motivation at live events and tradeshows, and that’s what everyone is trying to get closer to," says Al Torres, President and Co-Founder, SummitSync, a meeting automation platform focused on driving more meetings and tracking the ROI. “Companies have come to rely on these data capture tools and the insights they provide to make sure they maximize their in-person time with existing clients or potential leads. It’s one of the reasons we’ve partnered with Winmo,” he adds.
The marriage of data and inherent humanity is not lost on Marilyn Mead, Senior Director, Brand Marketing, Winmo, which provides contact and account information so event attendees can pre-plan their outreach. “Nothing has replaced face-to-face interaction, so where we can use technology to maximize time and effort at events with data insights, it becomes a win-win," she puns.
Data as a service is now at the core of the B2B live event industry, and its efficacy initiates the sought-after personal connections that make it all run. There is a unique blending of art and science as the amount of information gathered is only as useful as the person interpreting it. What might appear as pure scale insights generating opportunity is far more bespoke as people are provided with real intelligence to help drive deeper connections.
Our conversations are becoming smarter and more valuable due to a focus on understanding intrinsic motivations on both sides of the equation. More intelligent, data-driven discussions can lead to higher levels of trust and rapport on the back end. What could be more human than that?
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