Every year, without fail, the marketing world gears up for the annual smorgasbord that is the Super Bowl. Ostensibly, the event is about football, competition, the gridiron. But we all know what marketers tune in for—the ads.
It’s the biggest ad day of the year with major brands shelling out millions for 30 seconds—or even a whole minute!—of awareness. There’s been plenty of missives written about the actual value of these ads. (Joe Pulizzi provides a nice list of alternatives for all that dough.) But what I see happen, particularly in B2B marketing, is Super Bowl ad envy.
That envy manifests in two ways.
One, brands who have literally nothing to do with “The Big Game” scramble to find clever ways to associate themselves with the event, usually with disappointing results. The space is just so crowded, it’s nearly impossible to stand out from the field of competitors.
The other form of envy is the handwringing. B2B marketers wish for an opportunity for that kind of exposure, but see none when they work in such a “boring industry.”
There’s no reason to feel envious. Maybe you don’t have millions to spend on a super-sized ad. Perhaps your organization isn’t in a space that lines up well with pigskin. That just means you need to identify and play in your industry’s Super Bowl.
How to Find Your Super Bowl
The secret to figuring out exactly what your industry’s Super Bowl is understanding what really moves your buyers. A lot of this comes from your buyer personas. (If you have them but don’t use them, time to dust them off.) But it also comes from understanding what kinds of events get your buyers excited.
There are a couple ways to nail this down.
First, your can ask your customers. What are the events they plan to attend? What are the dates they mark on the calendar? The answers to these questions vary widely depending on the industry. For someone who works directly in the automotive industry, it might be the SEMA Show. Then again, maybe you serve the real estate market and so RECON is your big event. Or perhaps you sell to the firearms and hunting industry, in which case you plan every year for the the SHOT Show.
The point is that every industry has a big day (or entire week in Vegas). Sometimes all you have to do is ask.
The other place to look is your internal talent. If you sell a product or service, chances are the people designing and developing that product or service are as geeky as your customers. The event that gets them charged up is likely a great place to put resources, time, and attention.
And it’s not always a physical event. For instance, if you develop social media management software, community manager appreciation day might be an annual event you’ll want to target.
Every industry has its big game day. Your Super Bowl is likely to win you wider awareness and better conversations then any effort around the actual Super Bowl. But only if you plan ahead.
Planning for the Pre-Game, Game Day, and Post-Game
Let’s say you find your big event. Is the plan simply to print up some brochures and set up a demo table? Then you should expect a lackluster response.
The big game requires a lot of prep and follow up. You need to draw attendance, be prepared to give a good showing, and then keep the momentum going. This is where marketing content plays a major role.
Let’s take a specific scenario. Imagine you market to the natural products industry. You’ve identified Expo West as your Super Bowl, and you’re one of more than 2,000 vendors trying to impress retailers. It’s not going to be easy to stand out.
You can’t just rely on great booth space and location. You need to create compelling content that drives value to attendees. It could be as simple as a map of the space, a list of great eateries and bars nearby, or a rundown of the exclusive after parties. It could also be as intense as an infographic detailing all the big announcements that have come out of the event in previous years. Whatever creative concept you come up with, you need to get in front of your audience and give them reason to seek out your brand.
Then comes game day. If you’re “that natural product,” you need content that leaves a deep impression. Sure, you need the brochure or one-sheet breaking down why you’re healthier than the next booth over. But you also need something that gives the retailer something they want to hold onto. It could be a state of the industry report or even a visual breakdown of how to strategically stock the organic section shelves (a.k.a. a planogram). What’s important is that it pops.
Finally, you need follow up. You’ve collected the business cards and scanned the badges. Well before the expo kicks off, you should have a strategy for how marketing and sales will continue the conversation (be it through email, calls, etc.). That might include assets that explain your product’s selling points in more detail. Likely you’ll want them to be short and sweet, and relate back to the event while it’s still fresh.
Of course, this is just one scenario.—but the concept holds across industries. Marketing needs to think of every big event like a big game, where winning depends on both preparation and execution.
This year, sit back and enjoy the Super Bowl without envy. You don’t need a budget-breaking ad campaign. You simply need to identify your industry’s big event, and plan the right content so you stand in the spotlight.