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Event marketing | 23 May 2018

What is B2B Event Marketing?

Stephen Kim

Looking to create an event strategy but not sure where to start? Read this guide to learn how to best implement live events into your overall B2B marketing strategy.

When it comes to B2B marketing, there are countless tactics and strategies available to the modern-day marketer. Event marketing continues to be a tried-and-true solution for B2B companies and it’s only continuing to grow.

According to Forrester Research, the average CMO allocates 24% of their overall budget towards live events in order to connect with customers, educate attendees, and generate leads. Given its versatility as a marketing tactic, live events can do a lot for B2B companies.


What is B2B Event Marketing?

B2B event marketing is an offline marketing channel where real-life experiences are leveraged to facilitate in-person interactions that result in actualized business goals, such as customer retention, increased event revenue, sales acceleration, investor relations or brand awareness.

Whereas as B2C event marketing is often centered around activating new customers, delighting current customers, or building awareness—B2B event marketing strictly focuses on the relationships between organizations.

As made evident in the aforementioned statistic, event marketing is continuing to grow not only as a marketing channel but as its own industry. A 2014 report from Frost and Sullivan indicates that B2B events account for $512 billion in annual spend. These real-life experiences can range from small customer dinners to large scale user conferences.

How Do Different Organizations Implement B2B Event Marketing?

B2B companies can include events in their overall marketing strategy in a number of different ways. The implementation will depend on the stage of your company as well as the desired outcomes. There are generally two ways that companies can practice event marketing – by attending or hosting.

These two broad categories each include more specific ways for companies to get creative with different B2B event marketing ideas. Let’s take a look at some of the ways companies can implement a B2B event marketing strategy.

1) Exhibiting

Perhaps the most common form of B2B event marketing is attending an event as an exhibitor. Companies use this opportunity to create a standout booth and to connect with prospects who are interested in their product.

Exhibiting at an event can be a strong B2B lead generation strategy that will prove its ROI once the leads close as customers. Additionally, event exhibitions are great for brand awareness because companies can talk to contacts who’ve never come across their product or brand.

While there is often a fee for exhibiting at events, marketers will use this tactic as a lower cost alternative to hosting an event.

2) VIP Dinners

While exhibiting at an events is meant for generating early stage leads, intimate dinners are ideal for pushing later stage leads down the funnel. Inviting these prospects to a VIP dinner may be the kind of individualized attention they need to become a client. Often times organizations will also invite existing customers to these dinners to mingle with the prospects and give positive endorsements on an organization’s behalf. VIP dinners can also present a valuable opportunity to pamper your current clients, helping to maintain a high rate of customer retention. 

Radius' B2B event marketing dinner

(Source: Radius)

Radius, a B2B business intelligence platform, hosted a VIP dinner  during the week of Dreamforce, one of the largest software conferences in the world. The guest list was invite-only and gave key prospects access to C-level executives to help accelerate the pipeline.

3) Conference

Once your company has reached a certain level of growth with a large enough customer base, consider hosting your own large scale event. In addition to building brand awareness and generating leads, hosting a conference will establish your presence in the industry and force others to view your company as a thought leader in the space. 

Example of a conference, Namely's HR Redefined
 
(Source: Namely)
 
Namely, an all-in-one HR and benefits cloud, launched its HR Redefined user conference in 2017 as a means of educating, delighting and retaining customers. The event gives Namely customers access to keynotes, interactive presentations, professional coaching, and networking opportunities.
 

4) Roadshows

Another effective form of B2B event marketing that can achieve multiple business goals is the event roadshow. This strategy consists of hosting one-day events at multiple locations to promote your product while simultaneously building your event brand. These localized events combine the brand-building of a conference with the intimate networking of a VIP dinner. Roadshows serve multiple purposes and can help bring your brand to life for customers and prospects who may be unfamiliar.

Example of event roadshow at Marketo's Innovation Nation(Source: Marketo)

Back in 2014, the marketing software giant Marketo launched their “Innovation in the Nation” roadshow in Paris and London. The event series served multiple purposes including brand awareness, customer and prospect engagement, and market research. It seemed that by the end of it, Marketo had learned as much as the attendees had taken away.

3 B2B Event Marketing Best Practices

A common trap that first time event marketers fall into is that simply having the event is enough to call it a success. While executing an event is no small feat, the main objectives should be rooted in proving event ROI. Here are some tips to help you gain the greatest return from your events.

1) Assemble a team specialized for events

Whether your team will be attending an event or hosting one, all members should be specialized for their specific roles. For example, if your company is exhibiting at a trade show, have sales development reps talk to prospects at the booth while the marketing team creates the collateral to promote the booth location.

Also make sure that well before the event date, all team members are properly trained on their specific objectives. The objective is to be as effective and as strategic as possible and this all starts with a specialized events team.

The company InsightSquared holds cross-team trainings where the marketing team supports the sales team members who will actually be attending an event. During these “Blitz Days”, marketers will help run mock pitches and networking encounters.

2) Specify, justify, and align the objectives

It’ll be important to articulate and align on the KPIs used to measure event success. These metrics should not only be specific but also significant. In other words, you should be able to easily justify why it is important to keep track of these stats because team members will feel more encouraged to focus on the KPIs.

For instance, will your team primarily be measuring:

  • Sales pipeline created
  • Leads generated
  • Planned demos
  • Occured meetings
  • Or attendee satisfaction? 

All of these metrics may be important, but each must be prioritized.

Once these objectives are set, make sure to align incentives between team members so that everyone is on the same page. 

3) Launch a lead-up content marketing strategy

Event promotion is key to planning a successful event. One way to build anticipation for an event is to create original content that drives interest. Perhaps a blog post series on tips and tricks to get the most out of the event will be a good way to build up momentum. Additionally, sending segmented email campaigns with relevant messaging will help bring the right people to your booth or attendees to your event.

Key Takeaways

There are plenty of ways to plan and execute on a B2B event marketing strategy. In summary, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Choose an event marketing solution that aligns most closely with the stage of your company as well as your desired objectives.
  • All event goals should be specific and measurable. Make sure all team members are aligned on these goals well before the event start date.
  • Standardize processes throughout the event marketing timeline to simplify efforts for future event initiatives.

With the right combination of strategy, creativity, and accurate reporting, event marketing could easily become one your most effective marketing solutions.  

Interested in more event marketing content? Click below to access more event resources.

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