Ian Altman, a B2B sales and growth expert and contributor to Forbes, shared his annual list of business trends that are driving success with leading organizations. Three of the trends tie directly to make the business case for holding more meetings and events. Therefore, all three predict an uptick in the number and quality of meetings and events in the future.
1. Communities Embrace Live Interactions Over Social Media
Your smartphone might make you think that people prefer social media vs. in-person interactions. However, top companies realize that building great communities engenders long-term brand loyalty. Nothing drives strong communities better than in-person and live interactions. Even live video engages better than recorded video. Just look at the popularity of Facebook Live.
Recently, I attended an event in Philadelphia with 75 fellow professional speakers. Though the group started as an online community, attendees spent our own money and time away from family to learn from and share with each other, in person.
Great community events like the B2B Forum from MarketingProfs sell-out in advance to attendees seeking high-value, face-to-face interactions that deliver community and social learning that far exceeds what’s possible with social media. You’d have an easier time attending an Ivy League university than getting invited to the annual Mastermind Talks geared toward CEOs and entrepreneurs.
Smart companies realize social media and technology do not replace the need for in-person interactions, social media can actually make in-person interactions more valuable. Since consumers are already connected in the virtual world, in-person relationships can be built at a rapid pace because you already feel as though you “know” the other person.
Expect to see leading companies that cut back on live events years ago, bring them back with enthusiasm.
Creative Group’s Take: To summarize, in-person interactions drive strong communities which ultimately lead to brand loyalty. Smart marketers know this. That’s why a survey revealed that “31% say that events are the single-most effective marketing channel” over content marketing, email marketing, social media, traditional advertising and other marketing. Not to mention, 87% of C-Suite executives surveyed “believe in the power of live events and plan on investing in them more in the future.”
2. Social Learning Outperforms Remote Learning
As more professionals work remotely, companies have found creative ways to keep employees connected and develop their talents outside of the office. One way that has gained popularity among corporate training programs is social learning.
Social learning is the process of learning through peer social interaction. The most common example of traditional social learning is the chance encounter at the workplace water cooler. Two or more people run into each other, share ideas, and walk away knowing a little more in the process; this is social learning.
“Social learning can take place in informal one-on-one encounters, among teams in the course of real-time problem-solving, communities of practice, through social software, expertise directories, and more,” notes a Bloomberg study on social learning.
The study estimates 50% of companies already use social learning in some way, and two-thirds plan to use it in the future. It’s easy to understand why. Social-learning promotes autonomy and self-direction, increasing overall learner engagement. It can also be a welcome departure from online courses which can be lonely, isolated experiences that lack engagement. Learners do not feel the presence of other learners in the experience.
The most successful online learning programs include a digital community where participants can share their experience, ask questions of each other, and engage in social learning that goes beyond the course curriculum.
As companies adopt more social learning, so too will they adopt tools that support mentoring and coaching that leverages the internal expertise organically.
Creative Group’s Take: Beyond the workplace, conferences serve as the ideal location to tap into social learning. Especially meetings and conferences that are designed specifically for serendipitous encounters. Participants come to meetings to learn not only from speakers, but from other attendees – and it’s usually those intimate conversations that turn out to be the most valuable.
3. Serve Your Community Not Just Buyers
The notion of the buyer’s journey was used to describe the path that your potential customer would take when making a purchase. However, today’s customers are sophisticated, savvy consumers who do their research. They vet companies by scouring their websites, reading online reviews and putting feelers out to their social networks. By the time consumers reach a salesperson, they are fully acquainted with your company’s product features, options and prices. They have done their due diligence and narrowed down their options.
As a result, the old ‘buyer’s journey’ has given way to more realistic models that takes into account this new reality. The journey buyers and prospects take is no longer linear or even neat, it’s more unpredictable and fluid which poses a big challenge to marketers. As we enter 2018, we will continue to see these models get updated.
Analyst Jon Reed writes marketers also “should be thinking in terms of “buyer’s community” or “buyer’s network.” Reed notes that “buyers aren’t always buying but they are always learning” and “we shouldn’t only be targeting buyers.”
“Today’s informed buyers get better at their jobs by building “trust networks” of experts inside and outside of their company,” Reed writes.
Therefore, it behooves marketers to be where their prospects — and their prospects’ friends — hang out. Leading wealth management firm, Glassman Wealth, holds events for travel safety and responsible philanthropy. Though his firm doesn’t sell those services or profit from them, Barry Glassman, the firm’s founder says, “We seek areas where our clients have questions, and we strive to provide the single-best resource available to address their inquiry. Our clients don’t have questions limited to investing. They have questions about life.”
Savvy companies realize that the best thing they can do is to serve their community, irrespective of whether or not someone is in a buying cycle. When you deliver consistent value, you engender trust. Then, when they are actually on a buyer’s journey, you are already a trusted resource for them.
Creative Group’s Take: Thought-leadership conferences are gaining popularity as Millennials focus on experiences and well-being/self-improvement. Events like the one mentioned above combine entertainment, mentorship, and community building as well as provide the ideal platform to showcase a brand’s purpose and culture. These types of events will set the stage and build upon the trusting relationships that lead to customer spending down the line.
Ready to start planning events?