Business-to-business marketing events have changed a lot in just a few years and they’re still in flux, influenced by constantly changing factors like budget constraints, labor shortages, travel upheavals — and yes, ongoing safety concerns. 

But B2B event marketing continues to play a vital role in networking, prospecting, and sales, especially for complex industrials. 

While most event planners and attendees are looking forward to more in-person trade shows and B2B marketing conferences in years to come, a return to the ways of 2019 is increasingly unlikely. Many conference and seminar participants have grown to appreciate the convenience of virtual and hybrid options. In some cases, folks can now participate in events that were out of reach before pandemic concerns normalized virtual events.

Even though it’s now an expectation for large-scale events to include an online component, just 25% of event organizers surveyed considered their virtual sponsorships “successful” or “very successful.” The online option isn’t going away, so it’s definitely time to start making the most of your next webinar or virtual event.

Whether your next big thing is an in-person, virtual, or hybrid occasion, consider using these purpose-driven B2B event marketing ideas before, during, and after the occasion to help achieve your objectives and optimize ROI.

First Determine Your Event Goals & Objectives

What are you trying to achieve by hosting a corporate event? 

Before you think, “That’s a silly question,” consider your possibilities. A B2B event marketing strategy helps your teams plan an event that achieves your goals, including:

  • Demonstrating your competitive advantage
  • Strengthening your position as an industry thought leader
  • Spotlighting a product launch or new service
  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Networking, prospecting, and lead generation
  • Community building
  • Client retention and customer delight

No matter which key objectives you focus on, the important thing is to identify, prioritize, and agree on those goals in advance, so they can help guide your event planning process.

It’s also important to recognize that your event’s ROI is rarely immediately apparent. Outcomes depend on what you do with the engagement and leads you generate and how you follow up with attendees. Your post-event actions connect your event with business results, so include robust post-event marketing and follow-up in your event plan.

Optimize Your Event Plan for Efficiency & Impact

Depending on your industry, you can probably name a few thinkers, leaders, influencers, and innovators people want to hear from. Maybe members of your own team are among those key thinkers. The point is this: by curating more and creating less on your own, you can reduce your own team’s workload and still host a valuable, in-demand event.

Partner with vendors or top companies in your industry to present some of their content during your event. You may have resources available to you like customizable presentation decks, resource guides, and even branded swag to distribute among participants.

Another great option is to use alternative, conversational session formats like “Ask Me Anything” or panel discussions, where the content is truly audience-driven and a formal presentation deck isn’t needed. A session like this can be great for interaction, bringing together participants and multiple talents to answer interesting questions that arise out of your industry’s hot topics.

And be sure to practice and test all of your technology! Whether you’re organizing an in-person event, live streaming a webinar or virtual gathering, or hosting a hybrid of the two, technology can make or break the experience for everyone involved. When everything runs smoothly, the big ideas and overall experience are more memorable.

Set Realistic Expectations for Attendance

Understanding the post-pandemic reality of event attendance can help you figure out a plan to go after your results. One key consideration to prepare for is this: virtual attendance has changed the meaning and weight of your RSVPs. Many would-be participants now RSVP for virtual events in hopes of receiving the recording to watch at their convenience (often at 1.5x speed).

It’s true. It’s fair to anticipate about 50% of virtual RSVPs will actually attend. (According to this source, the average virtual no-show rate is 35%, which is a little higher than in-person no-shows.)

That higher nonattendance rate underscores the importance of pre-event promotion and post-event engagement strategies, like curated workflows for those who actually attended versus those who wanted the recording. By the way, that’s not to suggest the latter group isn’t valuable — but those folks are likely to be on a longer buying journey.

Use Event Momentum to Maximize Results

After the crowd clears and/or the last virtual attendee exits your online meeting room, you’ll probably breathe a sigh of relief. Go ahead and take a moment to rest and recharge — because your work is far from over. (And that’s a good thing!)

Now it’s time to capitalize on the sense of community connection your event has engendered by fostering ongoing engagement with your audiences. That means more than just a recap email sent to attendees. A smarter plan is to enroll your leads in targeted nurturing workflows to help them continue learning what they came for by interacting with your relevant content.

You might consider connecting on social media by launching a LinkedIn group or starting a discussion thread on an industry group’s community page (for example, HubSpot users connect and share knowledge on the HubSpot Community). Online venues offer a natural-feeling way to keep networking, continue conversations, and lend a helping hand.

After all, at its best, an effective inbound marketing strategy serves up relevant, helpful content to visitors, prospects, and leads, no matter where they are on their journey. Click the link below to start learning how to craft your own inbound marketing program.

Step-by-Step Guide to Inbound Marketing