B2B marketers spend 20-30% of their budget on event marketing every year. According to a Gartner CMO report, it’s one of the top four spending areas — ahead of social media, customer intelligence, and email marketing. Between tradeshow sponsorships, seminars, and company-hosted events, this can be a great way to find new prospects, build customer relationships, and conduct face-to-face meetings.
But, while 67% of B2B marketers cite event marketing as their most effective strategy, organizations are struggling to leverage their significant investments post-event. In fact, several companies that I’ve worked with are putting renewed focus on understanding how to leverage event sponsorship well beyond the live event. And why not? Done right, in-person events can work brilliantly as a launching pad to build a platform for future marketing content and sales conversations. If you’re wondering how to maximize your event marketing spend, here’s how you can do it.
Make the most out of your event marketing budget
- Set your objectives
This is so obvious, I feel like I almost don’t need to include it. But you’d be surprised by how many marketers start planning events without truly understanding what they want to get out of it and how the event aligns to their broader marketing and organization goals. Before you start thinking about event logistics, decide why you want to host or participate in an event in the first place. Set measurable goals such as the number of attendees, number of follow-up meetings, new sales, etc. This ensures that you have objective criteria to rate the effectiveness of your participation after the event.
- Create a consistent & compelling message
Whether you are hosting your own event or sponsoring a tradeshow, realize that attendees are there to learn. They didn’t sign up to hear a sales pitch. Study the agenda and determine how your company adds value to the conversation. Get sales involved to help craft the message. But don’t forget that your customers need to hear a consistent story from your organization — one that explains why they would choose to engage with your business.
- Get prepared with a value-added content plan
One of the crucial aspects of any successful event is having a content strategy that can help bring value to your customers so they keep coming back. Break down your content strategy for the event in a step-by-step manner. While this may not be an overnight job, once you have it all laid out, you’ll be better prepared with the right content along the event life cycle. Here’s how you can create a content strategy at every step of the event.
Before the event — Promote event attendance. Content such as a compelling invite, agenda descriptions, a sample presentation, a sample video of the featured speaker, a designated landing page etc. are great resources to capture the attention of your target attendees and pique their interest.
During the event — Provide relevant content throughout the course of the event. It is obvious that you’ll need to develop presentation materials for any sessions you’ll be delivering. But also think about complementary content that helps establish your company as a thought leader. I recommend you have at least one piece of content available to help buyers at each stage of the event marketing funnel. Here’s a sample plan of what type of content will be helpful during each stage.
- Awareness: Content such as white paper, eBooks, and educational content builds relevance by explaining the problems the attendees may be challenged with.
- Comparison: Buying guides, checklists, and articles that discuss different options for solving those problems will help your audience decide whether they can draw any value from your event. If your content is able to strike a chord, your attendees will view you as someone who understands their problems and can help them with the right solutions.
- Selection: Help your attendees make an informed choice at this stage by offering product collateral, fact sheets, and customer case studies.
After the event — Put your communications plan into action. The days following the event are the best time to keep the conversation flowing by providing more value-added content, such as —
- A summary of the key takeaways at the event
- Your company’s perspective on one or two of the main topics discussed at the event
- Tailored content to further educate your prospective buyers based on what they discussed with you and your team at the event
- A white paper or article written by your featured speaker
- An invite to a follow-up event or webinar around a relevant topic
- A special offer, promotion or demonstration for attendees only
- Go digital
Today, events are more than just traditional meet-and-greets. There’s a whole gamut of technology available to help you make the most out of your event spending. One of the best benefits of involving technology in your event marketing strategy is excellent brand communication — far more effective and cheaper than what traditional channels can offer.
But in order to make it work, you need to have a detailed digital strategy that covers pre-, during and post-event communications. Develop a list of potential people you’d like to meet at the event, then reach out to introduce yourself. Use social media to learn more about the individual and make arrangements to connect prior to the event.
While 88% of marketers are using social media to promote awareness for their events, only 54% are using social media to engage participants after an event. Keep the discussion going by posting quotes from featured speakers/ sessions, stats, photos and key takeaways from the event.
If you’re sponsoring an industry tradeshow or seminar, use common event hashtags, repost articles/ information about the event and share your enthusiasm for participating.
Not just brand communications; from event promotion, pre-event registrations to tracking post-event ROI— investing in the right technology can help throw light on most grey areas that continue to evade brands and event marketers.
- Follow up
80% of trade show exhibitors don’t follow up with their ‘leads’. This is a startling stat considering the fact that marketers cite ‘lead generation’ as one of their primary event objectives. But follow-up doesn’t solely rest on the shoulders of marketing.
It’s important to work with your sales team to design a follow-up program that includes both marketing and sales touch points. Inside sales can also help play a critical role here to further qualify individuals who engaged with you at an event. Our advice is to map out your follow-up plan before the event so that your email, phone call, and in-person meeting strategy is designed and ready to go.
- Get feedback
According to a recent report, marketers are measuring the success of events based on attendance, followed by revenue, attendee engagement, and registrations. While typical event marketing feedback sheets ask questions like “How was the food?” and “How was the venue?”, there are more important answers you should focus on extracting from the attendees.
But if there’s one question that adequately measures the success of an event, it is this — “Were the event objectives met?” You should get in the habit of looking at your events from this standpoint. And then, dive into whether the speakers were effective, whether attendees found the event a good use of their time, and whether the message was on target.
The feedback you get is critical in that it will help you identify the loopholes (if any) in your event and provide a stronger foundation to build your next event with greater success.
The benefits of event marketing are irrefutable. But too many organizations fail to reap all that a great event has to offer. They mismanage their event spending and end up losing touch with their bottom lines and ROI milestones. With a solid strategy, you are not only able to overcome these challenges but also create events that pay dividends far into the future.