Online communication via email and mobile devices may be on the rise, but face-to-face engagement with customers and prospects at live events is far from fading away. In fact, the 2018 Event Marketing Benchmarks and Trends report from Bizzabo reveals that more than 80% of marketers view live events as a critical factor to company success and 63% plan to hold more live events and increase budget spending in the future. Marketers from companies such as WorkWave, Marketo and HubSpot are looking ahead and investing in live events as a tool to build communities around their brands and collect better leads more quickly.
Yet, despite the growing demand for event marketing, many marketers still struggle to prove event success and calculate ROI. New research from Certain and Heinz Marketing shows that nearly half of marketers spend up to 25% of their budget on events. Another quarter said they spend between 26% and 50%. But of the marketers surveyed, only 30% said they find their spending to be effective.
“I think the disconnect is due to a lack of maturity in how companies measure and track ROI from events,” said James Huddleston, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Certain, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “Because events are a physical channel, many companies don’t have the right tools or processes to convert physical buying signals from events into quantifiable ROI.”
Validar CEO Victor Kippes agrees, saying incomplete or irrelevant event data was a constant struggle in his previous marketing roles and was the reason he started Validar as an event marketing software company.
“I was on the receiving end of event data for many years and it was a big frustration of mine,” said Kippes. “When my company went to an event, they’d come back and give me 100 leads or 500 leads and say, ‘call these; there’s some good ones in there.’ I didn’t call them. You may as well have ripped six pages out of the Yellowbook. Those leads weren’t qualified or categorized at all.”
Just as content is becoming more personalized and authentic, marketers are taking their strategies up a notch by doing the same for event experiences.
WorkWave, a cloud-based field services and fleet management solutions provider, is doubling its event marketing efforts in 2018 and focusing its efforts on developing valuable events that are tailored to the target audience. According to CMO Ken Wincko, the company held less than 100 live events last year and will hold around 150 this year.
“We are trying to create exceptional experiences at our events,” said Wincko. “We are tailoring events and event content based on industry, company and role. [Attendees] are put in different rooms based on the type of company they’re in and their level of proficiency. So, we’re providing different content for the small business owner because they have different challenges than the enterprise-level companies.”
In addition to its own branded events, WorkWave does roadshows and participates in third-party sponsor events. Wincko said live events comprise between 20%-25% of the company’s marketing budget for 2018.
According to Wincko, the company conducted focus groups and surveys to better gauge what their attendees want out of events and catered their approach accordingly. As a result of this feedback, WorkWave shifted its events to focus to how to’s and product optimization which is tailored to different industries, companies and roles.
B2B companies have also found success by creating memorable event experiences and building year-long communities around the event.
“We have found that giving the attendees an experience along with information is the most successful,” said Simon McPherson, Director of Global Events at Marketo, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “Our theme [this year] was ‘The Fearless Marketer.’ We used that in messaging and content, as well as in experiences at the show.”
According to McPherson, the conference included a zip line, as well as a “Swallow Your Fears” booth with scorpions and other insects. The experiences allowed attendees to fully embrace the theme of fearlessness and guaranteed that the conference would not soon be forgotten.
The INBOUND event itself is centered on the idea of communities and puts attendee needs at the forefront.
“INBOUND is not a traditional B2B conference,” said Kimberley Darling, Senior Director of INBOUND, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “We actually banned the word conference because it has that user group connotation within the B2B tech world. We think of INBOUND as a community. We want people to have a place where they believe in doing things in a better way in order to grow their business, grow their careers, grow their teams and grow themselves.”
The company aims to continue the conversation post-event via the INBOUND Studio, a series of video interviews that are published to Facebook, YouTube and Instagram throughout the year.
“We have enough content where we’re putting out videos each month,” said Darling. “Really, it comes back to how you think like a marketer. You have this property, which is your event, and you want to be able to leverage your social channels to keep the conversation going year-round.”
When done right, live events can serve as a shortcut for marketers to gather more qualified leads. In-person events give marketers a direct platform to engage with current and prospective customers, promote and demo new products, answer questions and more.
“I think in the digital age, the people-to-people aspect of marketing has become even more important,” said Wincko. “When people come to your events, they’ve committed time, so they’re more serious about it. It shows that you have more interest than just a casual exploration phase.”
But better leads are futile without the right technology to support them. Progressive marketers are turning to mobile event apps, such as Doubledutch and Attendify, to gather qualified leads and collect data for informed follow-up.
“It's all about how you collect and utilize data,” said Jared Bodnar, VP of Marketing at Attendify, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “When the technology is used correctly, it’s [also] used to enhance the attendee experience and move them through the event in a very delightful way.”
But according to the 2018 State of B2B Event Marketing report, only about 30% of marketers are using mobile event apps, which James Huddleston, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Certain, an event automation and management software provider, said is a surprising statistic.
“Given the importance and ubiquity of mobile phones, companies who are hosting events should absolutely utilize a powerful event app to foster greater engagement and provide a personalized experience for their attendees,” he said.
In addition to doubling its marketing efforts, WorkWave is prioritizing mobile event apps as a strategy for success. According to Wincko, the company recently changed its event software to Cvent, in part because it offers a mobile component.
“We’re investing more in our events and in mobile apps because that’s where everyone is,” said Wincko. “Even in events, people are sitting at a session and they’re on their mobile phones. They’re recording you, taking pictures, tweeting or they’re looking at some other content on their phone.”
In addition to collecting attendee data for lead generation and nurturing, mobile event apps can also serve as a useful tool for B2B companies to share content and connect with attendees post-event.
“Some of our clients use apps as sort of community apps throughout the year,” said Bodnar. “They don’t want the momentum to slow down after the event is over, so they use the apps throughout the year to keep people engaged, to keep people posting, to keep sharing information and sharing content.”
Events management platform Bizzabo has raised $15 million in equity funding led by Pilot Growth Equity, with additional participation from Maor and others. The round will help support the company’s goals to expand its cloud-based event platform and support its growing customer base.