Live events remain one of the largest line items in corporate marketing budgets, and most companies plan to maintain or increase spending levels this year.
But business leaders are taking a hard look not only at how much they are spending, but on how they are spending those event marketing dollars, between agencies, technology vendors, and different types of events.
Event planners need to spend their budget dollars creatively, evaluate opportunities to optimize choices, and measure results to demonstrate ROI for event spending.
To help with that planning, here are eight key findings from the 2019 State of IT Marketing Report from Spiceworks. The survey was conducted in late 2018 and includes responses from more than 350 B2B marketers in technology organizations across North America and Europe.
Top-Line Marketing Budgets are (Generally) Increasing
Overall, roughly 80% of companies in the survey will hold marketing budgets steady or increase spending this year. Just 8% plan significant decreases.
Answers vary by company size and region, however. North American businesses are more likely to increase budgets than their European counterparts, and just 28% of large companies (compared to 37% overall) plan budget increases.
Smaller businesses may be more aggressively focused on growth, while their larger competitors seek to optimize spending decisions.
This reinforces the importance to corporate event marketing professionals to be able to monitor and report on operational, soft benefit, and financial metrics from their live events.
Events are the Second Largest Budget Item (Sort of)
Per the Spiceworks report, on average, marketing budgets will allocated this way in 2019:
- Paid media (30%)
- Trade shows and other events (22%)
- Marketing technology (martech) (21%)
- External agencies and contractors (19%)
- Other marketing activities (9%)
This breakout may be a bit misleading, however, and live events may actually get the largest budget allocation given that some of the paid media spend is devoted to supporting live events; some of the martech spend is for event technology; and a portion of the money spent on agencies and contractors (think public relations professionals lining up event speaking opportunities, and photographers / videographers whose efforts include live events) also goes toward events.
Event Marketing Budgets are Growing
More than 80% of marketers plan to maintain or grow their spending on events this year. Just 17% plan to spend less than in 2018.
In addition, more than half of companies plan to invest more in martech (which includes event technology) this year than last.
Event Technology is (Probably) Among Pieces of Martech Spend
Unfortunately, the Spiceworks study doesn't break out spending on event tech specifically, but these investments are part of "content and experience technology," which consumes the largest share of maretch budgets on average. Here are the top technology spending areas:
- Content & experience technology (28%)
- Social & relationships technology (20%)
- Advertising & promotional technology (16%)
- Data & analytics technology (14%)
- Commerce & sales technology (11%)
It's also likely that a portion of the budgets for social technology and analytics supports event marketing efforts, even if these investments aren't specifically for event technology.
Event Partners Represent a Small Share of All Agencies and Contractors (Maybe)
Budgets for external agencies and contractors, on average, broke down like this:
- Creative partners (30%)
- Adverting / digital marketing partners (27%)
- Brand / public relations (PR) partners (17%)
- Research partners (11%)
- Event partners (11%)
Though it appears live events account for only about one of every nine dollars spent on outside help, again keep in mind that some of the other agency and contractor spending—particularly in areas like creative/design, PR, and social media management—also goes toward supporting event marketing.
B2B Marketing is About Lead Gen. And Brand Awareness. But Mostly Lead Gen.
Consistently, year after year, the top two objectives and challenges for B2B marketers are generating leads and increasing brand awareness. That was the case in this study as well, though a bit more skewed than is typical.
73% of respondents ranked lead generation among their top priorities for 2019; 39% put brand awareness near the top of their list. And 32% put "upselling existing customers" in their top priorities.
Event marketing can help on all fronts, though different types of events are most effective at different stages in the funnel. Trade shows and industry conferences are primarily focused on lead generation, though they can also help with brand building, as well as providing opportunities to meet with existing and prospective customers.
Road shows and roundtable dinners are most productive for helping to move known sales prospects further along through the sales funnel, with perhaps a small amount of lead generation and upselling. And customer events are best for upselling and for converting clients into brand advocates.
Event marketing professionals know all of this, but need to be able to articulate the distinctions to company leaders, and report on the right set of success metrics for each type of event.
Event Marketing Supports Multiple Priorities
Drilling into the priorities noted above in a bit more detail, here are the channels marketers view as most effective in achieving their goals this year:
- Email (66%)
- Events (61%)
- Paid Search (57%)
- Paid Social (47%)
- Organic Social (56%)
- PR (47%)
- Events (42%)
- Paid Social (39%)
- Email (44%)
- Organic Social (43%)
- Events (39%)
- Paid Social (36%)
Webinars Viewed as Effective for Lead Generation
When asked what types of content they would produce in order to achieve their objectives, webinars topped the list for lead generation, at 50%. These were followed by white papers (48%), case studies (45%), and blog posts (39%). This seems somewhat unusual as webinars are generally viewed as more of a mid-funnel tactic, though they can be effective at helping to convert mere contacts into actual warm leads.
For increasing product awareness, the top content types are:
- Blogging (62%)
- Online videos (52%)
- Infographics (51%)
- Case studies (51%)
White papers (50%)
- Webinars (47%)
Wrapping It Up
As the 2019 State of IT Marketing Report shows, overall corporate marketing budgets are generally holding steady or increasing this year, and events remain one of the biggest components. In addition to having its own budget allocation, event marketing is also supported by a portion of the efforts and dollars in other areas such as creative/design, PR, paid media, social media, and martech.
Events consume a significant share of marketing budgets because they can support multiple priorities, from lead generation to increasing brand and product awareness to upselling existing customers. Event marketing professionals need to be able to articulate and demonstrate the value of different types of events for achieving each type of objective.