Event marketing is an incredibly useful way to generate buzz and brand awareness. However, during COVID-19 almost all in-person events were shut down and virtual events took center stage. Today, virtual and hybrid events remain effective marketing tools—and can even provide a greater ROI than in-person events do. Learning how to measure your ROI (and boost it) is essential for understanding the effectiveness of your events.

In a survey recently conducted by Marketing Charts, B2B companies reported that events help generate more leads than any other strategy. Even with that reassurance, event investment can feel counterintuitive when measured against other digital marketing methods that can reach thousands of target buyers with a single, often less expensive campaign. However, the prevalence of virtual events still makes them a valuable tool for your company. In fact, 72% of event managers plan to continue hosting virtual events in the future.

Though modern digital marketing offers a multitude of ways to connect with buyers across channels and platforms, events allow you to engage with your prospects face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) in high quality interactions. Whether you’re speaking at a thought leadership conference or highlighting the features of your product or service at a trade show, events are a valuable way to personalize your company and establish a strong presence with your target audience.

However, realizing the full return on investment for your next event requires more than an in-depth presentation or a flashy online set-up. To fully leverage your attendance, it’s critical to develop a sound marketing strategy for before, during and after your next event.

Pre-Event Marketing

Prior to attending any conference, trade show or summit, events should be scheduled and incorporated into your organization’s marketing plan. Doing so creates opportunities to make these events into more than just a one-day occurrence and enables engagement with those who may not be able to attend live. Planning well in advance ensures you’ll have the time and resources prepared to get the most out of each event.

Once you’ve crafted a viable event planning timeline, be sure to broadcast your attendance across multiple marketing channels. As each event approaches, take advantage of your website and social media channels to share that you will be exhibiting, attending, sponsoring or speaking at the event. Include your involvement in content like a company newsletter and consider leveraging existing online communities where prospects are already gathering and interacting. Finding channels where potential attendees are actively seeking information about events can help boost attendance with minimal cost. Additionally, encourage your sales team to mention the event when they’re interacting with prospects. This can act as a touchpoint in the buyer’s journey.

The engagement you drive beforehand is critical for attracting relevant leads to the event and ultimately, to your company. Even if everyone you contact isn’t attending, it’s a great chance to drive awareness for your next event, showcase the creative elements and strategies developed and to offer other means of connecting outside of the event.

Marketing During the Event

When attending the event, you should interact with both your in-person audience (if the event is a hybrid event) as well as your digital audience. This dual strategy allows you to broaden the reach of your attendance beyond just the in-person prospects. Use multi-media tactics such as live tweets and video highlights to create an immersive experience that your social followers can engage with. Share your involvement on LinkedIn and look for relevant LinkedIn Groups tied to the event that you can join. This is a perfect way to spark initial conversations with top of the funnel leads and establish yourself as a knowledgeable thought leader in your industry.

To make the most out of your attendance, talk to everyone and always exchange contact information. Although it’s difficult to create a space for conversation in an online format, creating a deeper connection through break-out rooms, chat boxes and interactive content can result in future leads. On average, 67% of all attendees represent a new prospect and potential customer for exhibiting companies. Be it a presenter or fellow exhibitor, you never know who you may want to stay in touch with after the show. Consider bringing subject matter experts from your team along in case attendees or media experts want to dive deeper into certain aspects of your business. Regardless of who you bring, ensure everyone has pre-planned talking points so that key messages can be consistently reinforced.

Finally, events are a great opportunity to survey your industry and competitive landscape. Polish up your understanding of who your competitors are in the marketplace and look for new industry developments to capitalize on. As you engage with a variety of attendees, this is also a perfect time to hone your buyer personas and their individual needs. These findings will translate to key insights for your messaging strategy, content development processes and can even be leveraged post-show for high-value thought leadership content.

Post-Event Marketing

After the event has completed, your immediate priority is to follow up with any leads captured from the event. Your follow-up approach can be as simple as sharing keynote speakers’ slides or articles relevant to the event via email or monthly newsletter. Connecting with prospects on LinkedIn is another simple yet effective strategy for sparking early-funnel conversations. Be sure to track any follow-ups as they progress through your sales cycle to glean further insight on your event ROI and the effectiveness of your lead conversion. Follow-ups can help you determine what to alter or improve upon for the next event you plan.

When following up, consider including thought leadership content from your company or industry updates from the event in your content marketing efforts. Craft a mix of sales collateral as well as high-value gated assets, like eBooks and B2B marketing coaching sessions, that drive traffic and downloads on your site. This approach simultaneously boosts your lead generation efforts and builds a reputable brand image for your company.

Lastly, invest in the time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Request feedback from any employees that attended, as well as from your sales team, as they begin moving leads through the funnel. The important takeaway is that there are opportunities to capitalize on at every stage of the event process. Regardless of the individual tactics your company employs, they should ultimately support your lead generation goals and boost revenue for your business.