Where Live Events Fit in the Marketing Funnel (Research)

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Event marketing has traditionally been viewed as primarily a top-of-the-funnel marketing channel. Trade shows and exhibitions, particularly, are places to generate leads. And maybe talk to a few active prospects and customers.

But events are increasingly recognized as valuable throughout the funnel, at the top, middle, and bottom stages--even if marketing teams don't always use them that way.

Those are among the key findings from a new report, Eliminating Friction in the Funnel 2019, published by GetResponse and Demand Metric.

Nearly 300 marketing and business executives--three-quarters of them from B2B or mixed B2B/B2C firms--shared their thoughts about the performance of a range of marketing tactics, points of friction in their marketing funnels, and the impacts of automation.

Here are three key takeaways from the report for event marketing professionals.


Event Marketing is Used Most at the Ends of the Funnel

Of ten common marketing tactics, event marketing was among the most heavily used throughout the funnel. Only email marketing and owned media scored higher in terms of cross-funnel use. Event marketing was among the top five tactics at all funnel stages:

Most Used Top-of-Funnel Tactics

Email marketing: 65%

Owned media: 64%

Events marketing: 61%

Social media marketing: 56%

Content marketing: 53%


Most Used Middle-of-Funnel Tactics

Email marketing: 64%

Owned media: 43%

Content marketing: 39%

Referral marketing: 38%

Events marketing: 34%


Most Used Bottom-of-Funnel Tactics

Email marketing: 46%

Events marketing: 30%

Referral marketing: 30%

Owned media: 28%

Content marketing: 20%


Live Events Are the Second-Most Highly Rated Tactic Across the Funnel

When asked to rate which marketing tactics are "better" and "best" at east stage of the funnel, event marketing trailed only referral marketing in terms of performance. The most highly regarded tactics across each stage of the funnel are:

Highest Rated Top-of-Funnel Tactics

Referral marketing: 76%

Events marketing: 73%

Content marketing: 64%

Email marketing: 63%

Search marketing: 59%


Highest Rated Middle-of-Funnel Tactics

Referral marketing: 69%

Email marketing: 69%

Events marketing: 59%

Content marketing: 54%

Owned media: 54%


Highest Rated Bottom-of-Funnel Tactics

Referral marketing: 80%

Events marketing: 65%

Video marketing: 61%

Email marketing: 56%

Content marketing: 53%


And Yet—Event Marketing is Under-Used

As the report notes, "Logic says that the best performing tactic should see the greatest use, but that is not the case in this study." Why?

Because event marketing is hard. Though event marketing scored high in terms of effectiveness, when asked to rate tactics based on ease of use, marketers put event marketing at the other end of the scale.

While tactics like email marketing and social media are viewed as easy to execute, only earned media and video marketing were rated as more difficult than managing events.


How Can Marketers Make Events Easier?

Live events will never be "easy." There are simply too many moving parts, too much complexity, and too many unique aspects of each event.

However, there are things that can be done to make event marketing at least somewhat less difficult. And given the value of events across the funnel, it's worth investigating these ideas:

Hire skilled staff: Large enterprises—which may not only host their own large customer events but also be involved in dozens or even hundreds (as in the case of automotive event marketers) of trade shows, conferences, road shows, and other experiential events each year—typically have an event marketing team.

But even mid-sized firms can benefit from having at least one marketing staff member focused on planning, managing, and building expertise in events marketing.


Hire outside help: Planning and hosting engaging corporate events is a complex undertaking and a bit of an art. Fortunately, there are specialized event marketing agencies and vendors with deep expertise and broad industry experience that can help.

There are also consortiums of providers, such as Creative Event Team, that bring together expert event planners, lighting and sound specialists, technology vendors, and entertainment-booking agencies to help coordinate multiple aspects of your events.


Document processes: Because every event and every venue is unique, it's not practical or even possible to document every event marketing process. But any processes that can be documented should be, for three key reasons:

Efficiency: Every documented process should capture the best, most productive way to complete a series of tasks. That doesn't mean the process is set in stone. When new ideas or technologies emerge that can improve a process, the document should be updated, so it always reflects the best thinking.

Consistency: Employees leave your company or move into different roles, and new employees are hired. Having documented processes ensures necessary tasks are nevertheless still consistently done in an effective, efficient manner.

Completeness: Documenting your processes helps ensure that no important aspects of your events are overlooked and no important steps are missed. Documentation helps keep your team focused and on schedule.


Use automation: A key focus of the report is the benefit of automating marketing processes. Though more than half of survey respondents said they use little or no automation, those that do showed improved results at every stage of the funnel. While automation is more challenging to apply in live events than to tactics like email marketing, what can be done is still beneficial.


Invest in event technology: An event management platform can help automate many common tasks from attendee registration to speaker management to session scheduling. It can also be integrated with other systems for tasks like marketing automation, hotel room block management, and facial recognition check in.

The Eliminating Friction in the Funnel 2019 report provides many more insights on reducing friction across the marketing funnel, relating to a range of common marketing tactics. But it makes clear that event marketing is one of the most effective tactics at every stage of the funnel, and though not easy, well worth the effort and investment.