By Tom Pick, Independent B2B Digital Marketing Consultant
It’s fascinating that with all the attention being lavished on topics like artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality, and digital assistants, one of the most popular (and growing) forms of marketing is the oldest: face-to-face conversations at live events.
Verbal communication, of course, predates everything else in marketing: not just the internet and email but print, signage, even cave drawings. It’s possible the increasing amount of time we spend on our screens, consuming digital content, makes us value in-person experiences even more.
Of course, technological evolution is expanding the boundaries of what marketers can accomplish at live events. Logistical, execution-focused event technology—online registration, badge printing, getting people and things to the right place at the right time—is mature. Event marketers are pushing the envelope today with technology for personalizing at-event communications, creating immersive experiences, and collecting detailed data about the interests, activities, and real-time feedback of event attendees.
Here are four findings drawn from several research studies on the current state of event marketing.
Events are popular with marketers…
- 79 percent of U.S. marketers generate sales using event marketing. (Foxtail Marketing)
- 80 percent of marketers believe live events are critical to their company’s success. (Endless Events)
- Two-thirds of B2B marketers say live events are their most effective content marketing tool. (Marketing Insider Group)
- Event marketing is viewed as one of the most powerful content marketing tools used today. 58 percent of marketers consider conferences, trade shows, and other events important for improving the customer experience. (Marketing Insider Group)
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, conventions and events are expected to expand by 44 percent from 2010 to 2020, far beyond the average projected growth of other industries. (Skift)
- 65 percent of brands say that their event and experiential programs are directly related to sales. (BeCore)
- Conferences, exhibits and tradeshows, and “own events” are rated as among the most effective lead generation tactics by both B2B and B2C marketers. (TNW)
…and with attendees as well.
- 74 percent of event attendees say that they have a more positive opinion about the company, brand, product or service being promoted after the event. (Foxtail Marketing)
- Event attendees most commonly learn about work-related events/conferences through word-of-mouth, email, and search. Two-thirds of attendees say they learn about events/conferences from friends and acquaintances; 59 percent say they find out from email newsletters; and nearly half (49 percent) find out from online searches related to events they have heard about. (MarketingProfs)
- On the other hand, the top three channels marketers use to promote their corporate events are their own website (89 percent), email marketing (76 percent), and social media (73 percent). Traditional print advertising comes in at 47 percent, and SEO at just 28 percent. (MarketingProfs)
- Nearly half of consumers (49 percent) capture/create video with their mobile devices while at branded events, and most share it on social media. But only 35 percent of brands say they always capture or create content related to their experiential marketing programs. (Event Marketer)
Events are costly, but can provide a substantial return on investment….
- Event marketing expenses consume the largest portion of the typical B2B marketer’s budget at almost 20 percent. (Entrepreneur)
- Because event marketing works, it’s growing. Brands across the board report a return of $3-$5 for every dollar they invest in live events. (Marketing Insider Group)
- Across industries, most organizations allocate between 20 percent and 50 percent of their budget to in-person events. Yet nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of event marketers plan on investing more in live events in the future both in budget and number of events. (Endless Events)
…if the right event technology is used.
- 86 percent of event marketers believe that technology can have a major positive impact on the success of their events. (Endless Events)
- Event management technology can help increase event attendance 20 percent, increase productivity 27 percent, and decrease costs 20-30 percent. (Foxtail Marketing)
These findings suggest several courses of action for event marketers in the coming year. First, if your company is among the 63 percent planning to spend more on events this year, make sure to maximize the value of those investments. If trade shows and conferences are part of your plan, evaluate opportunities to assure you’re participating in the right gatherings. Set clear goals, have a plan and the technology in place to measure results, and take advantage of every opportunity to collect data.
If your company is not planning to allocate more funds to event marketing this year, figure out why. If the problem lies with event selection, strategy, technology, or measurement, it’s fixable. Event marketing works; don’t let competitors capitalize on your absence!
Second, make use of the data you collect, in both marketing and sales. From a marketing standpoint, understanding what worked (and what didn’t) in terms of communications, activities, and topics can help the team produce even better results at the next event. And the more that’s known about an individual’s journey map at an event, the better and more engaging the conversation sales can have with that customer or prospect.
Third, take advantage of advanced event technology to move beyond basic logistical, tactical functions. The right technology not only enables your company to capture more value from each event, but also enhances your brand image. For example, personalizing welcome messages on display screens at the event and providing event check-in using facial recognition technology not only improves the event experience for attendees, it positions your brand as leading edge and tech savvy.
Finally, use all the tools available (including social media and surveys) to understand how attendees are learning about your event and what content and opinions they are sharing it about it. Consider using gamification and/or social media display monitors to encourage social sharing.
The best events are those that create both memorable experiences for attendees and measurable value for the business.
Tom Pick is a B2B digital marketing consultant who helps clients increase their visibility and business success online. He also writes the Webbiquity blog, covering B2B lead generation, influencer relations, social media, content marketing, SEO, and search engine marketing. You can find him @TomPick on Twitter or visit tompick.com.