5 min read

How to create a powerful B2B event marketing strategy (+ examples)

How to create a powerful B2B event marketing strategy (+ examples)


Look, I'm not rockin' any B2B marketer's world by pointing to an event strategy as a powerful way to level-up your marketing plan. However, I want to challenge you all today to think about it through a completely different lens. 

When I talk to a lot of B2B folks about events they've put on in the past, rarely do they refer to those investments as "revenue-drivers." Sure, they see them as valuable in driving brand awareness, or setting the stage for deals to take place in person. But, in many cases, they're talked about as hefty expenses, if not as outright losses.

πŸ”Ž Related: Demystifying your company's buyer's journey (HubHeroes Podcast)

Then, there's the COVID of it all, right? The pandemic wreaked havoc (to put it mildly) on events across every single industry, not just you B2B companies who suddenly had to figure out whether or not you were taking everything virtual or calling it a day permanently on your events strategy.

Here we are, though, in 2023. 

We're starting to see events make a comeback, albeit in an evolved and still somewhat cautious capacity. But what does that mean for your B2B events marketing strategy?

This is where I want you to see things differently, my friends. Not too long ago, I had a mind-blowing B2B events conversation with Airmeet CMO Mark Kilens β€” former VP of content and community at Drift, former HubSpot VP of marketing, and founder of HubSpot Academy β€” over on the Marketing Smarts Podcast for Marketing Profs. (That's right, your boy hosts another podcast on top of HubHeroes!)

And all it took was three little words to make me realize all of us need to rethink how we look at our B2B event marketing strategy going forward. 

Event-led growth is the key to B2B event marketing

What the heck is "event-led growth," and what does that mean for you?

Well, while I'm going to strongly encourage you to check out the full episode over on Marketing Profs, I am going to answer that here with a few of my favorite takeaways from my conversation with Mark.

1. "When I say, 'What is an event?' what comes to your mind?"

This is the first question Mark asked me during our chat. My mind immediately started mulling over other questions β€” what kind of events are we talking about here? Virtual? Small? Big? Massive conferences? Little networking gatherings?

Before I fell too far down the rabbit hole, Mark pulled me back out. 

He shared that a lot of us get hung up on the tactics and the wide range of definitions out there that exist, particularly in the event marketing space. But the definition of an event is simply a thing that happens. And when you put that in the context of what we're talking about here, it's any way that you purposefully bring together other people to connect in a way that has true meaning.

Sure, it could be a multi-day event or a big, ol' fashioned conference. But it could also be as simple as a small, 30-minute virtual gathering of like-minded folks to knowledge-share and talk about current challenges.

This subtle shift in thinking is key before you dive into the idea of event-led growth. Because if you are trying to put together a B2B event marketing strategy where every single event you put together is wildly complex and costly, you're going to miss out on scores of more effective, engaging, and cost-efficient opportunities.

2. Content isn't enough, which is why events matter

If traditional written content is the only drum you're banging on to drive growth for your business, Mark says you're going to struggle:

"You can’t stand out with content anymore. I’m just going to say that right now. I’m a huge content guy. (But) you just can't stand out with content anymore."

And he's not wrong. 

Creating content isn't the new fangled idea that it used to be. I'd wager most of your competitors are in the content business. That means it's likely also getting harder and harder to break through the noise in your space with content, because the market is so freakin' saturated. 

Does that mean you should stop creating content? Certainly not! 

But event-led growth can be a great way to freshen up your content game. You can leverage events as a new and more dynamic way to amplify ideas. You can also take content from events and repurpose it for other channels. 

More importantly, however, let's keep in mind what great content does. Yes, it serves, it engages, it solves real problems, and answers questions in meaningful ways that make your buyers feel seen and supported. 

πŸ”Ž Related: You need to write (and market) like a human (+ buyer statistics)

As Mark put it, "What is one of core things that marketing is trying to do? It's trying to create some type of belief within someone." And one of the most powerful ways to do that is with events. Even virtually or in a hybrid environment, regardless of size, fostering human-to-human connections is one of the most impactful ways to create "Ah ha!" moments where someone experiences a true mindset shift.

That's why events aren't going anywhere, and you need to be paying attention. Have they shifted and changed due to global events? Sure.

But as we talked about before, the more human you can make your marketing, the better. It's what your buyers want from you most of all nowadays.

3. But is now the right time to test with B2B events?

Given the uncertainty in the market right now, you might be thinking the answer to that is now, but you'd be wrong.

Remember, again, we're not talking about you creating a packed calendar of costly, multi-day, in-person events like in the pre-pandemic era. Plus, those are one-time, annual events at most β€” and they're still a heck of a good time. 

You need to think creatively and more in-line with what our preferences are now, in a post-COVID reality. Then you need go beyond how we used to think about events and realize there are so many different ways you could create micro and macro virtual event opportunities. 

πŸ”Ž Related: Demystifying your company's buyer's journey (HubHeroes Podcast)

Now, of course, virtual events are not without their challenges β€” they feel empty, they often don't maximize their potential, etc. β€” and these are challenges we all need to continue to solve. 

That being said, event-led growth is still worth leaning into as a priority for a few reasons, particularly in a virtual setting:

  • They're more inclusive, involve less traveling, and are usually less costly to put on than a massive conference, particularly if you explore virtual events at a micro scale. 
  • Also, given that it now takes 27 touch points or engagements (!) before a customer will actually become a customer. It used to only be 17, by the way. 

Why do these two points matter?

The buyer's journey now has more stops along the way, and your potential customers are hungry for more human contact from brands they can actually trust. So yes, events are a very, very smart way to supercharge your buyer's journey with more human interactions.

4. Virtual events aren't the only path though

Mark pointed out that while virtual events are a massive opportunity for a B2B event marketing strategy, it shouldn't be your only focus. 

"That's why it's so valuable probably to do some events throughout the year that are both in person and online," Mark noted. "An event gives you three acts ...":

  • Creating excitement
  • The main event
  • What happens afterward

With written content, you only get one act, one note β€” "the main event" of someone reading it, downloading it, and experiencing it in the moment they discover it. But you don't get to build excitement leading up to a piece of content, and (other than some nurturing), you don't really have the ability to truly create an "after the content" experience that's meaningful in the way you do with an event.

πŸ”Ž Related: What does great content look like? (HubHeroes Podcast)

With an event, you need to embrace "content confetti," as Mark put it:

"Turning your content into confetti is what you want to do after the event. Using all of those engagements, all of those things that are said in the chat, the answers from the games you played, the quizzes, the discussions that happened, that’s just a wealth of knowledge for you, your product team, your marketing."

I want you to start thinking about your events like a content goldmine ... and before you clap your hands together and call it a day on your event, look around you and ask yourself:

  • What content opportunities (like the ones Mark shared above) are laying around waiting for you to scoop them up and repurpose them?
  • Are there any questions, answers, stories, or discussions that would be of genuine value to the folks in your audience who weren't able to attend?

When you start looking at your events as more than just an event, that's when you start harvesting a steady stream of new content ideas β€” without having to generate new content ideas. 

And that's only the beginning of our conversation, friends. Again, I encourage you to check out this episode of Marketing Smarts, because there isn't enough space here for me to unpack all of the goodness Mark shared with me. 

Marketing Smarts Podcast

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