The B2B marketing world requires different methods than those we rely on for B2C. You’re operating on a more even playing field, reaching out to people with stories comparable to yours and sales agendas of their own. With opportunities harder to come by, it’s all the more important to take full advantage of any chance you get to make an impression.

That’s why events bring so much pressure for B2B marketers. One afternoon drinking coffee and loitering around a buffet at a substantial gathering can win or lose big business— the kind of work that can make or break careers.

Preparation is the key to nailing your B2B event appearances, so let’s start right away. Here’s what every B2B marketer needs to do when attending a business event:

Monitor Relevant Social Media

No, I’m not saying you should live-Tweet the whole event. That’s not a good idea at all. Rather, I’m saying you should identify all the main hashtags and event identifiers before the event begins, then keep an eye on the activity both before, during, and after the event.

Through reviewing that information, you can learn valuable things about where particular attendees are, what topics people are talking about, and how you can reach everyone online. That way, if you don’t happen to get someone’s details, you can use the event hashtag to hunt down their Twitter handle and reach them that way afterwards.

You can also prime people for your pitch by sharing interesting and/or entertaining content that you can bring up when you start talking to them. It’s a clever way of positioning yourself as an authority in your industry at short notice.

Give a Snappy Elevator Pitch

You walk up to someone, shake their hand, and exchange some pleasantries. After that, their feeling of polite obligation is over, and their curiosity is up for grabs from anyone. This is precisely why you’ll get nowhere with a B2B prospect if you can’t quickly describe what you do and why it’s worth their time.

Gather up all of your main value propositions, and condense them, then condense them again, and again, until you’ve stripped away everything unnecessary. Your final pitch should be smooth, effortless, and easy to understand. It should also feel natural and fit seamlessly in your overall discussion.

Have business cards with you and any documentation that might help, though nothing complex. You can hook someone with a great elevator pitch only to lose them upon handing them a thick booklet about your services. All you have to do at this stage is get them curious to know more so you can follow up on that curiosity at a later time.

Distribute Your Efforts for Maximum Value

Assuming you’re at an event with a reasonable number of attendees, there’s little point in spending a large amount of time chatting
with someone who isn’t showing all that much interest in what you’re offering unless they’re really worth the effort.

Use event information, leaflets, and name labels to pick out the most powerful and influential figures in the crowd, then focus your attention on them. It’s a matter of minnows versus whales. Landing a solid lead with a massive business will be worth considerably more than winning interest from a relatively modest company.

If it makes the most sense to make the rounds and get a lot of networking done, then by all means go for it— but when things start to wind down and the activity subsides, gravitate towards the whales. The more time you can spend around them, the more chance you’ll have to pique their interest.

Provide a Clear Next Step

You’re very unlikely to sign a new client or win a new customer at the event itself, no matter how business-oriented the attendees are. The best you can do is get people to take the next step in your sales funnel— book a free demo, arrange a meeting, try a sample, etc.

If your business type allows it, take samples or demonstrations with you to provide upon request. A printing company should take printing samples, and a caterer should take food samples. This is especially effective because people like having free things to try, and they’ll readily queue up just to get a free cupcake each.

If you can’t offer a demonstration, have an easy signup to get one later, then get as many email addresses or telephone numbers as possible. The goal is to leave the event with a variety of new contacts and the confidence that a good number of them will follow up your offer.

Be Confident and Personable

It’s perfectly natural to be nervous under pressure, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that showing a lack of assurance and confidence will hugely undermine your marketing efforts. If you really believe that you’re offering something people should want to learn more about, then demonstrate that belief in your attitude.

Avoid coming on too strong or being overly casual. Find a comfortable middle ground, promotional and conversational, showing urgency through enthusiasm but making it clear through your body language and tone of voice that it’s no problem at all if they’re not buying what you’re selling. You’re a person, not a corporation.

If they’re skeptical, address their objections without getting defensive. Acknowledge that you’re being promotional— a salesperson being honest about their goals is quite disarming. And know when to be give a hard sell, a soft sell, or pause marketing entirely, because accidentally following up a sad personal anecdote with a renewed pitch for your product will drive that person away forever.

Don’t Get Into (Too Many) Details

One of the biggest differences between B2B and B2C marketing is that B2C marketing generally puts customers on the same level while B2B relationships can differ enormously based on company size, revenue yields, and the value each party gets from associating with the other.

A standard ecommerce store might list a selection of fixed-price products that can be purchased by anyone. A custom-built B2B store (or a simple fast-build retail site extended with a suitable B2B add-on), on the other hand, will have varying rates and discounts based on different logins and levels (retail, wholesale, VIP, etc.).

For this reason, don’t mention financial details at this stage! If you’re asked about pricing, play your response by ear. You can be cagey if you don’t think it will annoy them, or give a little more information if they demand it, but don’t confirm anything about your services and/or products that you’re not entirely willing to deliver. (Mentioning your most basic service rate to the representative of a billion-dollar company isn’t exactly the best approach, for example.)

Keep Succinct Notes

Since the event is all about laying the groundwork for future efforts, you need to keep records of the people you talk to, the companies they represent, and how they react to your suggestions. Once the event is over, leave a grace period and then start reaching out to the contacts you made to thank them for their time and find something you can offer them.

Sure, some people will be annoyed by the contact, but most will find it flattering and appreciate the effort. Invite them for coffee or some other kind of informal meetup. There are few people in the business world who’ll pass up the opportunity to get out of the office for a drink.

If you can grow the seed of first contact into an ongoing association, you can have all the time you’ll need to learn more about them and identify the best approach you can take to eventually secure their business.

There you have it: my simple formula for engaging in effective B2B marketing at an event. Choose your targets, nail an actionable pitch, keep things high-level, and note the new contacts so you can chase the leads later. See how it works for you!