Thursday, October 14, 2010

Never Stop Experimenting: Pushing the B2B Event Envelope with Geo-Location

CiscoLive 2010. Another year, another planning cycle. “How can we push the boundaries of last year’s show? How can we do something new? How can we increase traffic on the show floor?” were the questions on the Cisco Events team’s mind as they started flushing out their strategy and tactics for this year’s CiscoLive event. After some deliberation, the team landed on geo-location. Today the use of geo-location tools is without a doubt more popular in the B2C market and among consumers in general. This blog post aims at giving you an example of how geo-location can work in the B2B environment. This is the story of Elizabeth Houston (@elhoust), Kathleen Mudge (@KathleenMudge) and Staci Clark on Cisco’s Corporate Events team.

1. Set Clear Objectives.

The CiscoLive 2010 team wanted to find new ways to drive traffic to the live event, increase participation, and attract a new audience segment that was not their typical market. They knew that the first time using geo-location had to be about experimentation. Their objective was to use this event to prove the concept of geo-location for B2Bs.

2. Turn Geo-Location Into a Game.

While geo-location is a relatively low-hanging fruit for consumer-centric companies, it is not an easy sell for B2B companies. The secret lies in finding the right environment and right format for B2B geo-location offers. Having realized the potential of geo-location integration into the biggest Cisco event, the Cisco Events team just needed to vet their format options. The winning combination was a hybrid online and offline scavenger hunt-like game that rewarded people for checking in to and participating in certain online and offline activities. Or, as the team put it: “The CiscoLive planning team was able to create a unique social media "passport"-type program for attendees. Participants were able to "check in" at different CiscoLive locations, earn points, and win prizes. There were benefits for both attendees and Cisco: 1) attendees were rewarded for their participation efforts in a fun "gaming" way and 2) Cisco was able to broaden awareness and drive traffic to different onsite activities and to different social media channels for the daily game clues.”

3. Build Awareness of Tools and Communication Channels With Your Audience In Advance.

As is the case with anything new (well, new to your internal and external audiences), you need to invest in awareness and education ahead of time. The more comfortable people get, the more widespread the usage is going to be – assuming they have access to the enabling technology.

4. Provide a Platform for Questions. Be Available to Respond.

To help increase their audience’s comfort level, the Cisco Events team created an online platform for people to ask questions about the game and geo-location in general. They staffed this channel to respond in a timely fashion. Not only did this help enable the team to educate people about this social media tool but it also allowed them to create a dialog and engage with their attendees in a more casual, fun setting than would be possible in an official environment.

5. Tie Geo-Location to Your Overall Marketing Plan to Increase Impact.

This last point is true for all social media, not just geo-location. Social media should not be done in a vacuum. The greater the integration with your overall efforts, the greater the impact. Case in point, when I asked Elizabeth what piece of advice she would give to marketers, she said: “Start early, create a clear plan, map back to the overall program goals, integrate with the marketing communications strategy and promote heavily!”

On a personal note, I think that as an increasing number of B2B companies are moving to or just incorporating virtual events into their event repertoire, new ways will open up for corporations to leverage geo-location services. There will be a growing interest in checking in to online events and participating in activities together (e.g., watching something) instead of just checking in to a physical location. Obviously, rewards in the future will need to reflect this evolution.

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