As the biggest expense in B2B marketing budgets, events are an integral part of the go-to-market strategy for most companies. While many marketing teams use events, strategies vary widely from company to company. The term “event marketing” is used to describe everything from promoting a huge conference to hosting a customer dinner, making it tough to pin down what event marketing should mean for B2B marketers. To get a better picture of what your event strategy should look like, it helps to look at the definition, goals, and types of B2B event marketing.
What is B2B Event Marketing?
To understand what event marketing means to B2B marketers, let’s look at a couple definitions of the term:
“Event marketing is the activity of designing or developing a themed activity, occasion, display, or exhibit…to promote a product, cause, or organization. Also called event creation.” –Business Dictionary
That definition is pretty broad and can apply to any type of event marketing. It zeros in on the design or development of events instead of just the marketing of an event. Beyond that, we know that B2B events require more than just the creation of the event itself. There is a lot more strategy involved.
“Event marketing describes the process of developing a themed exhibit, display, or presentation to promote a product, service, cause, or organization leveraging in-person engagement.” –Marketo
The “in-person engagement” part of that description is important. B2B event marketing is most successful when it takes full advantage of the opportunity to connect with customers and prospects in-person.
At Attend, we’ve defined a new type of event marketing specifically for B2B called Revenue Event Marketing (check out our Complete Guide To Revenue Event Marketing), which focuses on using in-person events to build and accelerate pipeline and ultimately drive revenue. It’s all about getting the right people to attend, maximizing the opportunity for in-person interactions with your sales team, following up and tracking ROI.
What are the major goals of B2B event marketing?
Here are six common event goals for B2B marketers:
- Customer engagement
- Events are a great way to connect with customers and strengthen relationships that boost retention, upsells, and advocacy. Whether you are providing education on your product, thought leadership in the your industry, or simply showing appreciation to your customers with a VIP event experience.
- Lead Generation
- While 80% of marketers list lead generation as the primary objective of their event programs (Regalix), new research from Forrester suggests that using events to “find buyers” isn’t the most effective strategy
- Brand awareness
- Sponsoring a big booth at a conference or hosting a big party filled with attendees from your target accounts can definitely help you raise awareness of your brand, but remember that it’s ultimately face-to-face interactions that will help you drive revenue!
- Events have been ranked as the #1 Content Marketing tactic by CMI for the past 5 years. They give you a chance to get your message across to a highly engaged audience without the usual online distractions.
- Pipeline Creation and Acceleration
- Event marketing has the biggest potential to help companies build and accelerate sales pipeline. Focusing on creating opportunities with your target accounts will help you boost your ROI. Events are also an excellent tactic for moving deals deals forward that are stuck in your pipeline.
What Types Events Do B2B Marketers Use?
There are a lot of options for types of events to include in your strategy, but here are five popular options:
Tradeshow and conference sponsorships
While tradeshow sponsorships may not be the most effective event marketing tactic, they aren’t going anywhere. There will always be tradeshows that your company needs to sponsor since you are expected to have a presence there.
The biggest takeaway for effective tradeshow sponsorship is that they require just as much strategic planning as hosting your own event. You need to make sure you are only sponsoring the tradeshows that your target audience actually attends and develop a strategy for getting the most face time possible with your top prospects.
Dinner / lunch / breakfast events
Inviting a select group of customers and/or prospects to restaurant for a meal is an excellent way to strengthen relationships and accelerate deals. This can work well around larger events as an opportunity get more face time.
Depending on the size of the group you want to be there, you can have a presentation during the meal or just give sales time to talk with their contacts. Either way, it’s important to arrange seating so you have people from your company spread out to maximize your ability to chat with attendees.
Hosting one event is great, but you need a full strategy to scale it. Developing a roadshow strategy is the perfect way to scale your hosted event strategy and engage your target accounts across the country. A series of roadshows reaches a large group of high quality prospects and customers.
A roadshow that takes place in your prospect’s own city is a much lower level of commitment than traveling to your annual conference, but still a huge form of engagement. Investing even two hours to attend an event in-person is a LOT of engagement.
Hosting an annual customer conference provides a great way to keep your customers educated on industry best practices and your product. Many B2B companies have transformed their customer events into industry events that provide thought leadership in addition to customer-specific content.
These events can vary a lot in size. Some have over ten thousand attendees (HubSpot’s INBOUND) while other aim to attract numbers in the hundreds (Wistia’s Wistiafest). No matter what size your event is, what matters is that you provide useful content relevant to your audience and give your sales team the time to engage with attendees in-person.
Industry events are still a great place to find a high concentration of your target audience in one place, but it’s hard to predict booth traffic and even harder to have an in depth sales conversation on the trade show floor. Hosting your own micro event is a great way to engage directly with your target prospects and customers around a conference. Check out this story of two different types of micro events around marketing conferences in Las Vegas.
You’re often better off cutting back on your conference sponsorship to focus on a targeted micro event like a cocktail hour, dinner,or after party to get more face time with the prospects and customers that matter most.
Events should be a key part of your B2B marketing strategy. To make sure you are getting the most out of them, download our free Event ROI Handbook. Are there other types of events you include in your marketing strategy? Let us know!