Ep14. Cross-Pollinating B-to-B and B-to-C Events: Combining the Best of Both Worlds

September 6, 2016 Daniel Hilbert

Every B2B event is attended by consumers—and all consumers are buyers who need to be informed about products and services. The line between B2B and B2C events is dissolving as marketers use the best of each to influence the other. Today’s B2B events are being created with the flair and excitement of consumer engagement. And more and more consumer events are being designed with the content focus and sales-driving principles of B2B programs.

Video Transcript

Hey there event marketers, Jessica Heasley here. Welcome to another episode of EM All Access. Where we connect you with some of the industry's most innovative events and the marketers behind them.

Today's episode focuses on cross-pollinating B2B and B2C. The line between the two types of events is dissolving as marketers use the best of each, to influence each other. Today's B2B events are created with the flare and excitement of consumer engagement. More and more consumer programs are being designed with the content focus and sales driving principles of B2B programs.

I spoke with GES’ Chief Creative Officer, Eddie Newquist and Senior Vice President, Dan Hilbert about the trend. Let's listen in…

B2B events and B2C events, traditionally, have been very disconnected. Why do you think that is?

Dan: Long before we all sat here, the idea of being a brand manager was really the gold standard. Being a brand manager at its core, was consumer-facing, but you still had this B2B environment that was happening on the side.Naturally, there was nobody really thinking about the two so the industry just continued to go that way over years and decades. Now we know that imagination and inspiration can come from anywhere… there are only a few organizations, brands and agencies that have really understood and gotten that the two should never be separated.

Eddie: In today's age, we are all consumers and have our own broadcasting networks in our pockets, so it's probably safe, because we are all consumers, treat everybody almost like a consumer. Even if it's a business relationship you've had for a long time or it’s a B2B event—still treat them with the same care and make sure that your event is entertaining, educational and engaging and if you do that, whether it's a B2C event or a B2B event, then then you'll be much better off than if you don't do these things.

Are there some B2B experiences or elements that can be injected into B2C and vice versa? What comes to mind when you think about things that they can borrow from one another?

Dan: I mean the idea of play between the two is very natural. The idea of engaging and having fun and experiencing either a brand's product or a customer's product—whatever it may be, play and the idea of having fun is absolutely one idea and emotionally very powerful that crosses the two areas.

Eddie: Yeah, it's cool today to be a fanatic about something. Whether it's your iPhone or another phone, your favorite TV show,a brand or a company that you follow—that's cool. It wasn't always cool to be that nerdy, I know ‘cause I grew up that way. The bottom line is that if you're in business, you want fans, you want fanatics. Just like Apple, just like Disney, just like some of the major consumer products that most people think of. If you can instill that sort of fanaticism into your attendees, then you are going to have a home run and you are going to absolutely memorable to the people who attend. And if all goes well, they will be blogging and posting pics and talking about how great the event was and what's new and exciting about your company or your offering. That really is the ultimate goal of these types of live experiences. It's very different, it's very unique and you really want to maximize that time.

Dan: The reason that Eddie and I are sitting here is for GES in particular, we have the advantage of having both sides of the brain. Let's not divide it between consumer and B2B, but it is both sides of the brain and there is a very pragmatic, when it comes to execution, budget management and a very creative side that both bring. We sit with clients and we share—not our corporate event piece, even though they are corporate event clients—everything and they are blown away. They are blown away by the inspiration and our availability to access all of this other imagination that we do with Harry Potter and Avatar, and they understand very, very, very quickly that all that inspiration can be applied to their events. You don't have to do a lot of selling when it comes to that, they get it. Because at the end of the day, it's all about the engagement piece and being very emotional.

Eddie: The results show it. People who are treated that way, come out more inspired about a company or product, if you do a little storytelling, if you sprinkle a little magic on some things. Everybody doesn't have to be a theme park and everything doesn't have to be an attraction, but you have got to treat people great and we learned how to do that… we've learned how to create memorable experiences and we love what we do.

When you sit down for a discovery or when you sit down to put that strategy together for your clients, does it involve just releasing that whole idea of there being a B2B and a B2C side altogether or just thinking about it as one human experience? How do you go into that, how do you approach it?

Eddie: When we have visiting sessions, I like to try to get the raw emotion of why you are doing an event in the first place? What are you really trying to achieve? What does it mean to the attendees? I remember one particular, very buttoned up event with a lot of senior business people, that we turned it into a superhero party. It dawned on us and the client, all these people kind of feel like they're superheroes, so let's just go all the way, put them on a pedestal, celebrate their achievements, have a lot of fun and give them something to talk about. And it worked beautifully. You have to ban the bazookas and be able to throw out a lot of ideas, but you also have to get to the emotional context of what this truly means. Everybody's busy, and if you're going to get in a car or plane and travel a great distance and commit your time to go to an event and perhaps sit through sessions—you want to make sure you're going to get something out of it and that's where we can really help.

Dan: Eddies example, we know there was some selling to it because it took them out of the comfort zone, etcetera. And we get the question a lot, “how do you convince your clients to change the way they think with these creative ideas?” Well usually what has happened is we forgot, they forgot, together we forgot who the guest was at the end of the day. Whenever that question comes up and you find yourself in that situation where we can’t transform, what is a static, binary event to something truly awesome, it's usually when you forget about the guest who is actually attending. In that case, it's as simple as reminding the team about who that guest is.

Every B2B event is attended by consumers and all consumer event attendees are buyers who need to be informed about products and services. It just makes sense that the industry would begin to fuse the two types of formerly disconnected events, into one more powerful model.

Learn more about the hottest event trends and explore our library of All Access conversations here.

About the Author

Daniel Hilbert

Dan is the Senior Vice President of the Corporate and Consumer Event Planning and Activation team at GES. He has more than 25 years of experience across a diverse range of marketing industries and disciplines. Having held senior-level roles on both the client and agency sides of the business, Dan’s passion is in live events where inspiring environments and personal connections drive business forward.

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