Developing A B2B Event Strategy
Event marketing can take many forms, and setting an event strategy can be especially daunting. Do we build our own proprietary event? Do we host around “The Big Game”? The options are vast for event marketing and there are many paths a brand can travel down. Good thing at Advantage (a sponsorship and brand experience agency), building event marketing strategies is our passion!
While every situation differs, here are our keys to setting a B2B event strategy:
STEP 1: Outline Needs
An important first step in setting an event strategy is to outline the needs that will be impacted by these events. The needs are divided into three main categories:
List of key organizational and marketing objectives that will be impacted through an event marketing strategy. Key objectives may include solidifying existing client retention, generating new client leads, driving mass awareness, or even increasing employee morale.
Primary and secondary target audiences
Through events, are you looking to foster deeper relationships with current customers, impact new targets, or both? Key audiences may include:
- Current clients
- Known prospects
- Unknown prospects
- Internal sales teams
- Outside sales reps
- Business partners
Measurable, business-specific KPIs
Objectives should drive your KPIs, but it’s important that your KPIs are also measurable and achievable. It’s ok to be ambitious and set hard to reach goals, but the programs that you develop must set you up to successfully reach those KPIs. KPIs may include leads, sales goal metrics, retention goal metrics, participation rates, web traffic and impressions.
STEP 2: Establish Event Criteria
With needs in place, establishing event criteria helps to further define how events can help you address those needs. Use the following factors to shape the event marketing outputs best suited to reach your brand’s objectives:
Are there key focus markets, or is there one primary DMA to impact? If you’re looking to have a presence in multiple markets, consider potentially creating a travel program where prospects fly in, or the ability to activate events in each of those core markets.
Timing / Frequency
If applicable, do you need to aim for specific timing (e.g. the sales decision period happens in the Spring)? How frequently or infrequently are you comfortable executing? Are there other internal moments you should avoid to ensure proper internal resources (e.g. social, PR, etc.) have bandwidth to support your event(s)?
Budget and resources
While budgets may not be fully approved at this point, understanding expected budgets early is important to determining the best path to achieve your objectives. Costs of event outputs can vary widely and it’s also important to start understanding whether events can be produced in-house or an event marketing agency is needed to support producing experiences to the expected level.
Within your target audiences, are there specific sub-criteria to prioritize (industry, title, age, etc.)? When aligning with existing events or building your own, it’s important to start understanding the demographics and psychographics of your audiences early on, to understand what will resonate best.
STEP 3: Hone In On The Strategic Approach
With the needs and criteria in place, it’s time to determine the strategic approach that will most successfully meet your goals. Your event strategy may include a single approach, or a combination of the following components, each with the ability to impact the objectives and targets defined earlier in the process. There are several key strategic approaches:
Participation in large, existing flagship events
Typically used as hosting opportunities for current clients and prospects; large, existing events include the Super Bowl, the NCAA Final Four and the Masters. These events are often dubbed “once-in-a-lifetime” and therefore help drive a high participation rate regardless of location. On a more localized level, professional sports games and entertainment events can drive higher participation rates from current clients and prospects in the immediate area.
Participation in industry events
Often used to drive industry leads and awareness, participation in tradeshows and conferences is part of many companies’ event strategies, offering extensive means of impacting key objectives. Breaking through the clutter to standing out amongst other brands can be a challenge…but that’s why our Event Studio exists!
Creation of owned events
Developing a re-occurring, proprietary event can take a lot of work, and often takes a few years to work out the kinks and truly get it off the ground. Depending on the scale, it can also require significant investment (even after avoiding costly property rights fees). But through owned events, a brand can fully control the attendee experience and the narrative being communicated. The result is an immersive experience solely dedicated to telling your unique story and achieving your brand’s objectives.
Design and execution of grassroots initiatives
On the flip side, owned events can be smaller, more intimate, and focused on driving press coverage. While these events are smaller in scale and involve fewer attendees, a series of small, owned events have the ability to achieve varying objectives and provide more customization than one large event.
Vast other possibilities
B2B decision makers are people too; they have varying passions and interests. Luckily, research can show us what they are interested in.
While there may be overlap with non-targeted audiences, other event strategies include mobile tour experiences, activations at non-industry events, product demonstrations, speaking engagements or simple awareness activations. Sometimes showing up in unexpected places helps breakthrough the clutter!