Launching your first B2B marketing event can be a challenge, but the rewards can be worthwhile. Whether you are using your event as a marketing tool for your main product or service, or intending to turn the event into a revenue source for your company, here are some tips on making it work.
The first thing to do is to establish exactly why you are planning to launch this new event. Have you seen a competitor runs a similar event and you think you can do it better? Have you had a query from a customer asking why you don’t already do this event?
Whatever the reason it’s important to establish whether the event is actually feasible by determining factors like the total possible attendee size, whether you can viably compete with an event already being run by a competitor and whether other events will conflict with yours in terms of the date or location.
If you intend to charge people to attend the event, be sure to determine the likely costs customers are willing to pay. You could run a survey, focus group and look at competitive events to establish the most feasible route.
So you have an idea for a great event. Next, you need to ensure you are offering something of value through the event that will hit the goal you want to achieve. If you are intending to bring on new clients, you need to create an event these potential clients will actually want to attend.
Even if you have the fanciest venue with a top-notch five-course meal, unless there are going to be networking opportunities or the potential for the attendee to make some money for their business, they may not wish to attend. Whilst your CEO may say a few words on stage about how great your platform is and why these attendees should sign up as soon as they leave the event, for a B2B event it’s all about the networking. Create an environment where this is possible.
For example, at our company, we run an annual awards ceremony which celebrates journalistic talent. We have a celebrity host who announces the winners, and the journalists collect their awards from the stage.
Why do professionals, PRs, and brands attend our event? And why is it so popular with sponsors? The answer is one hour before and one hour after the Awards ceremony, there is a champagne and canape networking reception. This is the ultimate opportunity for brands and sponsors to network directly with key journalists who are in attendance, creating a high amount of value for them.
Your approach will vary based on the type of event you have, but whether it’s a gala dinner or a meetup in the local pub, be sure to create value for those who will be attending, and make your own business promotion secondary.
Once you have your idea for your event set in stone and have figured out how the event is going to be beneficial to your existing customers - or help to obtain new ones - you need to work out how the event will generate revenue for your company. If you are using your event as a marketing tool to encourage people to take part in your primary product or service, you’ll want to aim for revenue that covers the costs.
One of the most common ways for events to earn revenue is to find a sponsor or multiple sponsors. These companies would pay you in order to be showcased in some way throughout their involvement in the event.
For headline sponsorship, the brand would be heavily showcased throughout all marketing collateral including the website, any brochures or leaflets you create, as well as plenty of mentions and coverage on the day of the event itself.
Other sponsors would be showcased depending on the type of sponsorship they are paying for, for example, they might sponsor the catering or bar, the tote bags people are given when they arrive or leave the event, or even the badges/lanyards attendees wear during their time at the event.
Depending on the type of event you are hosting, you may allow free access for attendees or charge a ticket price. You may wish to provide a discount for group ticket pricing. A common practice at events such as gala dinners would give a special price to someone purchasing a table instead of just one ticket, which would give 8-10 seats for people to sit at, as well as some table benefits such as a free bottle of champagne.
If you are hosting some form of Awards then you may also want to charge entry prices, but do your research first to make sure entrants would be willing to pay, as you may risk losing out on high-quality entries if you create this barrier too early. This approach is usually reserved for more established events running for multiple years and have become well known in their respective industry.
Next, it’s important to look at what costs you will incur by running this event. Common costs include:
This is where you will be hosting the event, which may be a dedicated event space, a museum, gallery, or even a bar! More on the venue below.
This includes costs for drinks, canapés, or meals you may be providing, depending on the type of event you are hosting. Catering may also bundle other costs such as a cloakroom.
This includes the design work of your event website, landing pages, brochure, leaflets, awards if applicable, and banners at the event.
This includes costs for your TVs and sound technology to be used at your event, including any video playback on big screens, PA system, microphones, or autocues if a script is being read by a host.
You may pay for transport to ensure VIP guests arrive safely and on time to the event to avoid any mishaps.
You may need to provide staff with accommodation if the event is taking place away from home or over multiple days. You may also host VIP guests in accommodation if they are traveling from overseas and you want to ensure they arrive safely at the event.
Plenty of other costs may come into play depending on the type of event you are running, so be sure to do your research beforehand.
So you have your idea, you’ve worked out how the event will make money and you’ve established what your likely costs are going to be. The next step is to get a venue secured. It’s important this is done first so you can get a venue secured, a date agreed and a contract written up and signed.
Once this is done you know you are safe to work on all the other aspects of the event without risk of it falling through, plus you can market the venue and event date as part of your launch.
There are some really cool venues available for hire these days which were previously unavailable such as museums, historic sites, and business HQs. A good venue makes the event memorable and depending on the type of event you are running you may want to change the venue each year to keep it fresh. Other events will maintain a relationship with a venue space and return each year to the same place.
Once a venue is secured, the next step is to build a relationship with a caterer for the event. As mentioned, this will vary depending on your event type. You may just offer a welcome drink when guests arrive or you may also provide canapes if it’s an evening event. It might be a full sit-down meal for lunch at an all-day event, or three-course delight at an evening gala.
Be careful to keep an eye on costs as this can quickly escalate if you have high attendee numbers.
Some catering companies may offer a tasting session so you can try their food before you commit.
You may also find - depending on the venue you have chosen - you need to use a “preferred supplier” with whom that venue already has a pre-existing relationship, so double-check beforehand.
AV and Technology
It’s a good idea to figure out how AV and technology will play a part at your event. Do you require a big TV screen you will display a high-quality video on? Will you be making announcements over a PA system? Will a host be giving a presentation and need an autocue for their script as well as a decent microphone set up?
Most venues have an in-house AV department who’ll be able to provide quotes based on your requirements. However, if the venue is for example a bar or something smaller, you may need to source the AV yourself from a third-party supplier.
Preparing your Marketing
Before you launch, you will want to prepare all of your marketing assets and create a content calendar so you can send out emails, social posts, and announcements at the right time. This is especially important if your event is awards-based, as you’ll need to make important announcements in the run-up to the event such as the venue, entry deadlines, host, longlist, and shortlist.
If you are running an event with exhibitor stands, for example, you may wish to make a social announcement for each one and schedule them out accordingly.
Work out which social platforms you’ll be making use of for the announcement and all the different types of marketing emails you plan on sending.
You may also have a content strategy in place to promote your event, such as articles on “Top reasons to attend” or perhaps a press release you plan to distribute. The content you create will again depend on the type of event you are running and should focus on the value proposition you outlined at the beginning of this process.
If you are clever enough, you can use this content as a lead generation tool back to your main product, platform, or service while you are promoting your event by using call-to-actions at the right time.
Once everything is in place you are ready to announce your B2B event to your target audience. Most B2B events have a dedicated page or micro-site specifically for their event which includes what the event is, why it’s beneficial to your target audience (attendees), and also why it’s beneficial to potential sponsors if you haven’t already secured sponsorship or some opportunities are still available.
It’s a good idea to synchronize with some form of calendar functionality so when people register for your event they can quickly add it to their calendar. This means they won’t forget to turn up!
Then, depending on your set-up you may wish to push the announcement out via an email marketing campaign, your business social media profiles or if beneficial, focus efforts on a paid advertising route.
Your new event is now launched and your potential attendees can see the awesome venue you chose, the date at which the event is taking place, and understand why it’s a no-brainer for them to attend.
Take note of everything you learn from your first event and have a meeting afterward with all stakeholders to go over your key learnings. This will help you make decisions as a company on what needs to change or improve when you run this event next time. Repeat this process every time you run it and eventually you may have an industry-recognized event on your hands everyone is craving to go to each and every year.