How Event Marketing Will Evolve in 2019, Part 1: Focus on Quality

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Event marketing remains one of the most commonly used and most effective channels in B2B marketing. But the way marketers view and use events is evolving in some important ways.

Those are among the conclusions from the new How B2B Marketing is Changing report from B2B Marketing Zone.

While much of the report focused on content marketing, it revealed a number of interesting trends in how event marketing is approached as well. Among the key high-level findings from the report: 

  • Along with content marketing, social media, and email, events are a top area for increased spending in 2018 and 2019.
  • Among more than a dozen categories of lead generation tactics identified in the report, only content marketing, social media, and live events are used pretty much universally.
  • Content, social, and events were also cited as the most effective lead generation tactics.
  • Content marketing, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and event marketing were identified as the biggest areas for change in the coming year.

Although two-thirds of respondents said event marketing is "working well" in terms of helping to meet their marketing objectives, most of the remaining respondents placed it in the "less focus" category for next year.

While on the surface that finding suggests that nearly a third of these marketers view live events as ineffective and an area for budget cuts, a closer look at the responses reveals it isn't event marketing itself that was viewed as unproductive.

Rather, it was the specific event marketing tactics those companies had been using that weren't delivering the desired results. This group or marketers doesn't plan to do less event marketing in the coming year but rather to approach events differently. 

This is the first of three posts detailing big changes planned for B2B event marketing this year and next. 

More Focus on Quality 

Several respondents said they plan to cut down on the number of events they participate in, but to put more effort and budget and into the remaining events.

The first tactical shift here is a greater effort on event selection. Marketers are looking not only at past results but also trying to evaluate likely future performance. Is the audience for a particular event getting smaller? Does it seem to be attracting more "tire-kickers" or fewer C-level executives? Trends matter.

The second shift regards level of investment. Rather than go with bronze-level sponsorship at five or six different trade shows, a company may opt for the gold or platinum level at just one or two of their best shows. 

One respondent, the VP of marketing at an human resources (HR) software company, went as far as saying, "There's really only one event that we go to every single year where everybody in the room is in our buyer persona." 

Two other quotes supporting this trend:

"I'd much rather be at a more targeted conference that has our true buyer audience there, and maybe we get fewer leads, but they're good quality leads. We're not trying to drive numbers. We're looking for quality." — VP Marketing

"While we may have gone to seven events last year, this year we've picked three that make the most sense; that we know have that targeted audience we want to attract from a new client perspective. And we've made sure that our messaging is clean, clear, and crisp." — Marketing Communications Specialist