Last week I joined 100k+ people in Las Vegas for CTA’s Consumer Electronics Show. A great time was had by many, for sure. But, I thought I’d review my experience through the lens of an experienced B2B marketer. Here are a few notable lessons.

It’s Noisy
To give you a sense of cacophony, there were over 3200 exhibitors at CES this year. That’s a lot of logos, brand messages, and products features to remember — never mind absorb. On top of that its Vegas, baby and there is a myriad of distractions.

For B2B Brands, a memorable experience is the key to cutting through the clutter. Sometimes that means throwing a party with great music; having a unique booth experience; or doing something special for a select group of attendees. Each will create business value: goodwill for your brand. Some brands did better than others on executing their vision. The takeaway is do I remember the Group Black Party (thanks @Kerel Cooper) and the fascinating VR experience from Disney Studios (thanks @Accenture) for months to come. And that increases brand favorability for those brands versus their competition. 

Execution is Key
As with most large industry trade shows execution is key for success. At CES this year, some B2B brands did well, others missed. Whether your company is hosting a panel discussion, a party, a booth, or a lounge, having the right audience is paramount to success. I liken these large events to a storefront in a mall, not all passersby will be interested in your brands or products. So much of it is proactive outreach to ensure that the people you want to reach are the ones engaging your brand.

This is where pre-event planning is so important and thinking strategically about how events generally fit into your go to market. Elevate your events activations by overlaying your ABM and Segmentation Strategies to ensure that the audience you are attracting to your events are in alignment with these strategies. Ensure marketing and sales are armed with the tools to reach out to your key targets / segments a month or two prior, so your event audience over-indexes to your target ICPs. 

Measuring Success
There are two sides to measuring marketing success brand improvement and revenue generated. All to often I see B2B brands measure an events success on the number of meetings booked. That’s a misinformed ROI calculation. CES is a perfect example of this. One meeting with the right partner, potential customer or existing client can lead to millions of dollars of revenue. Which means at large confab like CES the B2B marketers goal is to create a multitude of micro experiences to align those audiences with the right sales and service teams.

For example, while at MSFT a tactic that we would employ is create a slew of private dinners, based upon our segmentation strategy (e.g., marketer dinner or party by industry, IT leadership dinner). This provided two things better results at each mini-event within the broader context of the larger trade show. The real benefits of these events is creating points of engagement between your sales, service and partner teams with their constituencies in a creative way.

From a revenue perspective, make sure your CRM is flagging meetings appropriately – and the sales team is doing so as well. Then develop post event marketing program that re-engages your audiences and enables sales to do so as well. Sometimes the after-marketing is as important as the event itself. Events generate community, use that affinity to drive better, smarter pipeline.

What are your thoughts on what metrics to use to plan your marketing effectively? Share your thoughts on Slack.