Has there ever been a salesperson who closed a million-dollar deal via an outbound email blast? My guess is that the chances this has happened range from slim to none.
Author Thom Singer summed it up best in The ABC’s of Networking, when he noted that, “When we shortchange the face-to-face, we shortchange the relationship.”
Singer was right, and businesses are following his advice: Despite the proliferation of digital-communication tools in business, in-person events have experienced a renaissance in recent years. In 2015 alone, companies poured $572 billion into experiential marketing initiatives.
Marketo declared live events a “critical component” of every outbound marketing strategy. And in-person events once again topped the list as the most effective tactic for B2B content marketers.
The reason is a no-brainer: As Ben Hindman, CEO of event marketing company Splash, told me: “Cold emailing with nothing else to offer [other] than a discount or a demo is tough. The best sales and marketing teams in the world know there’s no replacement for face to face, especially when it comes to opening a relationship or closing a deal.”
Hindman is a master at throwing successful events, building relationships and using both to help grow a business. By many accounts, Splash stole the show at South by Southwest this year, and the company continues to crush its competition. In a recent New York Post interview, Alex Taub opined that, “Eventbrite is 'Microsoft.' Splash is 'Apple.'”
Clearly, Hindman did not build this reputation by sending emails. Here are the seven reasons he shared with me why you should stop cold emailing and dive into planning instead:
1. Emails don’t always inspire action. Events tap into the power of reciprocity.
When someone gives you something great, it’s natural to want to return the favor. As it turns out, this feeling of “indebtedness” is a phenomenon that can help companies gain a fiercely loyal following. (Gary Vaynerchuk built an empire around it.)
There's even a name for the phenomenon: reciprocity marketing. When a brand delivers a compelling experience, people naturally feel inclined to do something good for that business: a shout-out on social media, for instance, the posting of a positive review, the decision to become a first-time customer: You get the point.
Email pitches? They simply do not have this superpower. Unforgettable events embody it.
2. Events shorten the sales cycle. Emails are funnel filler.
Gathering RSVPs to an event is the same as collecting responses from a pitch email or survey. Guests are pre-qualifying themselves for targeting before the event even takes place.
Attending an event is like getting an extremely personal sales call. And opening the post-event “thank you for coming” email? It's one of the best ways to deepen the relationship and move the sales process forward.
3. Events are news. Cold pitch emails are not.
The media can be your friend. But this can happen only if you build something that will make it easier for media outlets to do their job. (You know, like reporting actual news.) Throwing an event is often the perfect solution.
For one, events offer a perfect time peg, which is exactly what journalists need to convince their editors that there is indeed a timely reason to write about your company.
Second, events are news in and of themselves. Be they launch parties, demo events or speaker series, events are where things happen. (Just make sure that those "things" are something you want to appear in the press.)
4. Events can make a huge impression very quickly. Emails take time.
Drafting 400 custom email pitches versus sending one compelling event invitation to 400 loyal and prospective customers is a selling point in itself. And showcasing your product or service to a live, engaged audience that has already expressed interest in your brand? It doesn’t get any better than that.
The beauty of an event is that it offers dozens of opportunities to connect with a target customer. From the initial "save the date" notice to the morning-after email, events have a natural built-in mechanism for engaging an audience.
Don’t disregard no-shows, either. Someone who has engaged with your event emails is still a valuable person to your business -- even if he or she didn’t attend the actual event -- and should be treated as such.
5. Events allow you to build real connections. You can’t do that solely through email.
There is so much competition for your attention these days. After all, we live in a world of digital distractions.
But it's really hard to build trust and intimacy over the phone or email. Events are by far the easiest way to get someone to really experience your brand up close and personal, without the distractions. Events also provide immersion and, done well, demand your customers' full and complete attention.
Even when you're multitasking at an event, you're usually posting pictures, video or content from the event itself -- further extending the life of the event.
6. Events command attention. Most cold pitch emails aren’t even opened.
What’s your open-rate look like these days? More important, what kind of reason are you giving your prospects or customers to open those emails?
The traditional email pitch has a few paragraphs and some flat imagery, if you’re lucky. But an invite to an event? That has power. In fact, a recent study found that 78 percent of decision-makers surveyed reported having attended an event that came from an email or cold call.
An event delivers sound, sight, touch, taste and emotional connections that build memories. And every business leader knows that emotions play a big role in decision-making. But you can’t make an emotional connection without first having captured someone’s attention. Events make that task easy.
7. Events are hard work that pay in full. Emails are easy work, but may not always pay off.
Sure, the elephant in the room here is expense: Clearly, sending emails is free and easy. But when you think about the return on investment, emails can’t hold a tea light to the blast of illumination at an event. Sure, an event will cost you more, but it will deliver more, too.
And that "more" is the difference between a casual connection versus an immersive one. Email can support your overall campaign strategy. But events will deliver the lasting impact you need to succeed.