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How to create an effective event marketing strategy in 2020

Discover the five main components of an effective event marketing strategy designed to drive meaningful and measurable results that will impact your bottom line.

An effective event marketing strategy involves months of behind-the-scenes planning that takes place long before the first event of the year. Putting off the preparations or not carefully aligning the event marketing strategy with your goals are two major mistakes businesses often make. 

EventGeek mapped out the five main components that field marketing managers should consider when planning their event marketing strategy for 2020. By focusing on these components, businesses will be able to drive meaningful and measurable results that will impact their bottom line.

Establish event marketing objectives and KPIs.

Event marketing can drive high returns for your business, but not without a price. It’s an investment for a lot of companies and a large portion of marketing budgets continue to be allocated for event marketing. In fact, recent surveys show that CMOs are reserving nearly one-fourth of their marketing budgets for live events. 

With such a substantial portion of marketing budgets devoted to event marketing, CMOs and CSOs are going to want to make sure every dollar is spent wisely. By considering the following questions, teams can evaluate if an event marketing plan will be effective for their business:

  • Does the value of face-to-face meetings with prospects outweigh digital communication that could be done at a lower cost (email, PPC ads, etc.)?
  • Are there events for your industry? Do your target accounts actively attend them? 
  • What have other businesses of similar sizes and industries gotten out of the events you’re considering attending? (You can look at past sponsors and contact the businesses for their honest feedback.)
  • Will your company be able to allocate enough resources (employee time, travel costs, etc.) to execute the event marketing strategy thoroughly?
  • How many repeat events does your company attend year over year? Why? 
  • Does it make sense to upgrade/downgrade sponsorship levels?
  • How many event-sourced leads were generated from last year’s event? How many of those event-sourced leads closed? What about event-influenced leads?
  • Do you need awareness, net-new contacts or to re-engage existing clients?

Once you evaluate and decide if event marketing is the best strategy to deploy, you should start to think about how you are going to measure your success at the different events you attend. This all depends on which KPIs you are looking to track. 

Networking at Adweek's NexTech event.
Photo Courtesy of Sean T. Smith for
Adweek.


Below are some examples of the most common objectives that businesses and a few different ways to measure them:

  • Awareness. Businesses can count the number of people that come up and interact with your booth or deploy a pre-event and post-event survey to gauge awareness levels.
  • Lead Generation and Pipeline Acceleration. Employees should collect business cards at the event and manually enter them into the business’s CRM after the event or have a tablet to input prospects’ information into a form that integrates with the CRM. Additionally, they should update in their CRM status reports on any cold leads that they reengaged while at the event.
  • Prospect Meetings. Events are great for in-person meetings with gatekeepers at target accounts. Attendees should keep track of the number of demos or meetings had at an event.
  • Customer Engagement. Bolster your relationship with an existing customer by inviting them to the event to share a case study, speak on a panel or even talk with prospects at your booth. An in-person testimonial from an existing client is extremely valuable for prospects to hear first-hand how your product or service is being implemented and utilized in similar businesses.
  • Closed Deals/Total Revenue. In the end, it’s all about sales. Tag all the accounts you met and engaged with at the event in your CRM, so you can look back and track how many deals and much revenue resulted from it.

When you understand why you need to attend an event and what you’re hoping to get out of it, you can put together a plan to achieve your objectives and execute thoroughly while you are on the conference room floor.

Set your event marketing budget.

It is no secret that marketers are finding success at events. In fact, 62% of marketers planned to increase their event budgets in 2019. But how much should you allot? If you’re going all-in on event marketing as a primary marketing tactic in your marketing plan, work backwards from your KPIs. 

For example, if your quarterly revenue goal is $1MM, your average deal size is $50K and your lead conversion rate is 0.01%, then you would need 2,000 leads per quarter. Assuming the average conference has 500 attendees, this would mean you should attend 4-5 conferences per quarter to acquire those leads. That number would shrink dramatically if your business leveraged additional marketing channels like digital, email, social and others to drive leads and complement your event strategy.

When budgeting and preparing to register for conferences or book booth space, don’t just focus on the registration or sponsorship fee. Events can quickly rack up hidden costs if the process isn’t managed correctly. Some of the various expenses to consider when planning include:

  • Registration Fees - individual ticket fee for each employee attending the event
  • Exhibit Booth - the design, production, installation and dismantling costs as well as the utility and A/V costs needed to make the booth come to life
  • Marketing Collateral - business cards, one-pagers, giveaway prize, SWAG items, demo screens
  • Travel - employee flights, rideshare trips, airport parking, rental cars, per diem
  • Activation Expenses - sponsor packages, prospect/client dinners and happy hours 

Prior to registering for any event, you should have your event marketing budget finalized to ensure that you can achieve a positive ROI for your marketing efforts.

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Scope individual events and register.

Next, you begin the tactical planning phase. You have your objectives. You have your budget. Now you need to consider which events are going to be the most impactful. 

You want to make sure you’re investing in the right events that will move the needle for your business. There are several factors you should consider before selecting an event. Here are a few of the main ones we believe are most important:

  • Event Attendees. Who actually goes to the event? Don’t be swindled by conference organizers who tout inflated numbers of attendees for advertisers. Ask to see an anonymized list of the attendees from last year’s event. Most organizers will strip the names and contact information from the list and share with you the titles and companies of all who attended last year. Cross-reference those names against a target account list to see how close the attendees are aligning with your marketing objectives. This will help you evaluate the event based on the likelihood of meeting your event lead gen objectives.
  • Agenda Topics and Speakers. Evaluate the schedule and overall “focus” of the conference. How relevant is it for your business? The more closely aligned it is with your business expertise, the more likely your target prospects will be interested in the same subject matter. Don’t only attend large, global conferences. Be sure to have a healthy mix in your strategy; niche conferences with concentrated topics/focuses can prove to be impactful for businesses.
  • Format. Is there an exhibit floor? What about a cocktail hour? Off-site events? Look for different ways that you can natively integrate your brand into the event. Additionally, check the schedule to see if there are opportunities for small group events. Roundtables and coffee hours are often great times to interact with executives or schedule meetings.

After examining all options and formulating a short-list, you can begin to plan out your activation strategy for each event.

Outline your activation strategy for each event. 

The big question for each event is how are you going to activate to achieve your objectives. Is is sponsoring the event? Is it showcasing your product at a booth? Maybe just sending your sales team to prospect on the conference floor? There are numerous tactics to use.

Sponsoring the Event

A lot of businesses vie for the presenting sponsor position to get signage at the event and their logo included on most advertisements for the event as well. However, it isn’t always feasible. If there is a package that fits your budget, definitely consider it, but make sure you aren’t merely paying for signage. Ask if there are opportunities to program a small group discussion or be included as a keynote speaker for the event.

Showcase on the Exhibit Floor

Setting up shop on the exhibit floor is a great way to garner awareness for your brand. In addition, it can serve as a headquarters for your team to meet with potential clients or congregate with each other. However, just simply setting up a great booth and backdrop isn’t enough. You need to have team members there that will engage with prospects walking by and lure them in. In addition, you should have a product demo, SWAG items or even some giveaway in exchange for business cards to make your booth stand out from the crowd.

Magento’s Exhibit at a Las Vegas Conference. Photo Courtesy of Structured Exhibits.

Hosting a Social Event

Sometimes it’s great to break away from the event and host a social event for prospects and existing clients at a nearby restaurant, bar or even entertainment venue. This is a great tactic to complement an existing on-site activation such as a conference sponsorship or a booth. The intimacy of a social event can help people unwind and engage in casual, unrestricted conversations in a relaxed environment. 

Attending the Event

Perhaps you don’t want to invest all of the money that is needed to sponsor or activate at the event and instead want to send your top sales team members to prospect. This can be another effective and cost-efficient way to engage prospects at events.

Get results with individual event execution.

An event marketing strategy falls flat without proper execution. Ensure your team is set up for success with an on-site plan—specifically an outline of everything that needs to happen once the team gets to the event. 

Everyone who is attending the event should be aligned on what your businesses’ overall marketing objectives are at the event, as well as what their individual assignments are for that event. 

The actual execution and implementation of the event marketing strategy is the most critical component. Yet, a recent study highlighted that 80% of leaders feel their company is good at crafting an event marketing strategy but only 44% felt confident in executing it. This reinforces the idea that businesses should invest as much time as they do planning an event in training and communicating with employees who are attending the event as well. 

Bringing It All Together

Event marketing can be a truly effective form of marketing for businesses. Events can be many companies’ most effective channel to get the word out about a new product, meet new prospects or even get ideas to improve your business operations. 

By planning properly and executing thoroughly, your company can use events to raise awareness and drive revenue in the focus areas where it matters most.