Is there anything more dull than B2B marketing? That’s the stereotype, anyways. The popular belief has always been that the most inventive marketers flock to the greener pastures of B2C products, because the road to success in B2B is lined with a lack of imagination and creativity. With that mindset, showing up at eTail West 2020 with a 30 person flash mob would be considered ill-advised. But that’s exactly what we did.
The reality is that, whether you’re in B2B or B2C, at the end of the day you’re still selling to people. And people respond the most when something makes them emotional, surprised, or frankly somewhat uncomfortable.
While leaving a few thousand retail executives dumbfounded should be incentive enough to plan something like this, this stunt was actually the culmination of a multi-day experiential campaign designed to recognize a major company milestone including our announcement that, in April, Wunderkind is becoming Wunderkind. (To learn more about our upbrand the decision to become Wunderkind, you can read our CEOs blog here.)
The campaign was a resounding success, with the conference generating $3.3 million in pipeline thus far, and contributing to a 2.5x lift in both website traffic and inbound leads compared to an average weekday.
This post isn’t designed to be a pat on the back, but rather show that there’s tangible ROI with the type of brand campaign that is often considered off limits in the B2B SaaS space. So if you’ve been itching to plan your own activation an upcoming conference, summit, or trade show, here’s 5 tips you can use to make your activation a success.
1. Develop anticipation and intrigue
Our campaign hinged on a “404 error” theme. Since we were announcing our upcoming upbrand, our branding throughout the conference had a neutral, distorted design and messaging that suggested something was out of the ordinary and subtly hinted at the upcoming announcement.
This was the prototypical example of “less is more”, grabbing attention despite being significantly more muted than other vendor signage throughout the conference. From Day 1, the question most of the conference was asking was, “What the hell is Wunderkind up to?”
We also featured 30 “tech agents”, which ultimately turned out to be our dance crew for the flash mob, roaming throughout the conference apparently troubleshooting the problem. These tech agents as well as every other component of the campaign hinted at something occurring in the Lobby Bar on Tuesday at 10pm.
Give attendees enough that they are interested and expecting, but leave them a reason to want to learn more. This alone will drive significantly more traffic to your booth, where your sales development (armed with talking points to keep the campaign going) can ultimately do what they do best.
2. Sponsor high visibility real-estate, official or otherwise
Every sponsorship package is going to include options to brand every last thing under the sun, down to the napkins and coasters at every bar.
Instead, focus on the the real-estate that gives you long-term visibility and exclusive share of voice. We focused primarily on the registration desk, hotel key cards, and elevators to get in front of attendees early, often, and over the entire week.
Your touch points don’t need to be limited to the official conference options either. Bring some swag that you can plant off the books around the conference. Some organizers might be more receptive to this than others, but don’t be afraid to ruffle some feathers to make your campaign a success.
We introduced phony newspapers, scratch off tickets, and Boxed Water featuring an updated take on missing milk carton tiles that we scattered throughout the JW Marriott. Each of these featured hints related to the campaign while providing some kind of residual value to the guests at eTail.
3. Encourage attendee interaction
Unfortunately, your buyers aren’t at the conference with the primary goal of buying your product (sorry). One of the main appeals for them is the ability to network with peers and uncover something, anything, that they can take back to grow their business.
With this in mind, your campaign should have at least one component designed to help spark a conversation with other guests.
We thought the hotel keycards could be a great opportunity for this. Each keycard had one of three different designs, each containing a vital piece of a riddle to be solved. Combine all three together, and you get the date, time, and location for what would turn out to be our big stunt.
Is that why people were trying to solve the riddle? Of course not. But the question of “hey, which keycard do you have?” was the perfect icebreaker over the course of the week.
4. Make it omnichannel
Pardon the buzzword, but physical branding alone isn’t going to cut it. Nor should it with this type of campaign. If you’re someone like me who finds themselves in hour long Wikipedia rabbit holes, you’re curious to a fault and need answers to just about everything.
Reward that curiosity for anyone who has it. We prominently included an eTail specific landing page for this campaign that provided more context and allowed people to opt-in to receive real-time updates on the “404 error”. The page boasted a 32% submit rate and afforded us an additional channel to support the narrative while also collecting qualified top-of-funnel leads.
5. Make it festive, don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t be afraid to take a risk
The most frequent question that was raised as we planned this stunt was, “What if this doesn’t work?”
You need to be prepared for that to be a possibility, because if you’ve made it this far you need to be ready to fail big. The fact is, that will give you the biggest chance for success. Your strategy needs to be all-in, otherwise it will feel exactly as you approached it — half baked.
Your goal should be to be disruptive without being obtrusive. Be additive to the environment of the event, not subtractive.
But best feedback we received throughout the week was from the people who said, “I’ve never seen a vendor doing anything like this before.”
If nothing else, we should all aim to change that sentiment.