The role of offline events for B2B marketing in 2015

Triana Jarman
Direct mail, face-to-face events and print advertising formed a large part of the toolkit for many B2B marketers in the 1990s. Then came digital and everything changed. Didn't it?
Well yes, things certainly changed. Indeed it continues to change things as digital continues to evolve with new tools, platforms and devices which cause a gentle yet constant shift of the digital marketing landscape. But 'change' doesn't necessarily mean that what was there before is now defunct, unused or any less valuable.
The reality is that some of the 'traditional' marketing activity is now more effective in 2015 that it was 20 years ago, long before social media had taken the world by storm and long before marketers had any concerns about having mobile friendly websites.
So while we, like other B2B marketers, like to look to the future for the next tool or opportunity that will provide a tactical advantage, we also need to acknowledge the continued value of some of the old school marketing techniques, which continue to support so much of what we do today.
Of course it's the strategy behind the use of marketing tools rather than the tools themselves which forms the driver for success and let's face it, content marketing – which continues to be strategy of choice for many B2B brands right now – is nothing new. Yes, the use of innovative tools (native advertising, online webinars, and social integration tools for example) helps to optimise ROI for digital campaigns, but for a great many businesses email remains a critical tool in promoting and engaging content with a target audience. 
Email continues to be chosen for good reason. A recent report by the Content Marketing Institute suggested that email newsletters are the second most popular tactic used by B2B marketers – with 83% claiming to use them as part of their strategy. The fact that over 40% of our own email newsletter recipients read their emails on mobile devices only goes to highlight the continued importance of email as an engagement solution.
Email is dead heh. Dead? I’d say it has a perfect bill of health. In fact email has never been in better shape – it needs to be, what with all the extra work it has to do these days supporting shiny new marketing solutions.
Dare we say it, but even direct mail continues to have it's place. Admittedly it is the more targeted and innovative campaigns which do well, often integrating online interaction with personalised URLs or a digital call to action, but for certain brands it remains a valued part of the marketing mix.
But what of offline events? Do they still have a role to play? We’re getting there I promise…
Let’s think about what the latest tools (supported by email or even direct mail!), often promote. More often than not it’s content, but what is the purpose of at least some of that content? Whether it's a form of lead generation or brand awareness the ultimate hope is that the reader will get in touch directly to have a conversation.
The theory goes that effective communication is where there is clear delivery of a message from one person, and appropriate and correct receipt and interpretation of the message by a second person.Tone, word choice, body language, eye contact and attentiveness can influence whether this is truly effective or whether it leads to miscommunication and misunderstandings. 
With the above in mind, we can see that conversations by phone continue to be valuable, conversations via video conference are more valuable still, but conversations held face to face are likely to provide the most effective level of communication and therefore offer the greatest value to B2B brands looking to engage their prospects. And so come on to the role of offline events… 
Face to face events have been used by organisations for decades (longer if you consider the Great Exhibition of 1851) as an effective tactic for engagement, and this is still very much the case today. 
Some reasonably well-known industry tradeshows may be losing their audience numbers year on year (no need to name any names here), but they tend to be those which have failed to move with the times. Importantly there are also a great many new tradeshows which have really captured the attention of industry professionals and prove that well thought out, innovative events continue to provide a valuable return on investment for sponsors.
Our own events (see below) have gone from strength to strength in recent years we have some new and exciting ventures launching in 2015. 
So offline events may not appear to prevent a new channel to market, but they continue to have a strong role in B2B marketing, especially those which get the format right and are truly innovative. Interestingly, organisers who support such such ‘traditional’ activity with multiple tools from more recent times (social media, live blogging, etc) are likely to experience far greater audience engagement – and that after all is the key to success for such events). That said, whatever tools are integrated into a particular event, ultimately it is the same process as it has always been – one person delivering insight and starting a conversation with an audience.
Whether you support your event via social sharing platforms, more recent traditional channels such as email, or you go ‘old school’ with direct mail or print, offline events continue to play a significant role the the B2B marketers arsenal – think twice before discounting events from your strategy.