The events space has changed dramatically in the last few years, and businesses and marketers are still trying to catch up. Across industries, leaders are trying to figure out how to keep people engaged, provide networking opportunities, and create events that people actually want to come to while not breaking their budget. In fact, some companies are cutting their B2B event marketing budgets by up to 48%. It’s a tricky equation because the pandemic transformed not only how we gather but also how we do business. Since 2020, consumers’ values have changed, companies have adjusted their missions or revamped their strategies, and everyone is trying to figure out how to prepare for the future of business.
Events are no different. B2B event marketing needs to be balanced between digital and physical engagements. Marketers need a strong message that threads through all content—no matter where someone engages with it. And, as with many trends for B2B event marketing in 2023, marketers will be challenged to attract, retain, and satisfy customers in a personalized—but not creepily personalized—engaging way.
Never fear. Our team of experts has plenty of experience designing, planning, and marketing events. We’ve had our eye on the trends shaping the event and event marketing industry. Let us clue you in on 13 tips about the future of events.
What is B2B event marketing?
B2B event marketing is a way to build brand awareness, generate leads, and strengthen sales relationships. It includes virtual, hybrid, and in-person events.
13 Tips for Event Marketing in 2023
1. You need two ingredients to make a good event: content and relevance.
This was true before the pandemic, but it bears repeating: if you want to create a good event, you need content and relevance. Attendees should leave the event with new insights applicable to their lives and businesses. You must offer something of value. Your event cannot consist entirely of networking sessions, activities, or games. Events should provide rich and relevant content that applies to the state of business at that time.
2. Don’t neglect the value of both in-person and virtual events.
Prior to the pandemic, virtual events were relatively unheard-of (or rather, they didn’t get much traction) in B2B event marketing. Now, companies and individuals can see the value that drives both types of events. For example, some companies with highly technical offerings—like B2B brands that sell mechanical tools or parts—will need in-person trade show events to showcase their products. The virtual element is still practical here, however, because it can help these same B2B brands reach a broader audience than they could with a solely in-person event.
Related read: 9 Best Practices for Hosting a Virtual Event in 2022
3. Offer remote and hybrid options because attendees expect them.
Hybrid and remote events are here to stay because attendees expect multiple offerings. People have become accustomed to flexibility and the freedom to take advantage of more options instead of having to choose between them. For example, working parents can pick their kids up from school and maintain a rigorous work schedule thanks to remote strategies. They don’t want to give this up. In the same way, attendees don’t want to choose between important events simply because of the cost of travel or the time they’d have to spend away. Every event should have a hybrid or remote option now because people expect them, opening the event to a wider range of attendees.
Related read: Hybrid, Physical, or Virtual: What Should Your Event Be?
4. Know that the bar for events is higher.
With more available events and ways to engage with them (remote, hybrid, and in-person), attendees have more options in front of them and will still have to narrow down to the best and most impactful choices. This has made B2B event marketing more competitive, especially in comparison to pre-pandemic levels. Event hosts need to create experiences that attendees want to have, hire speakers that attendees want to hear, and create incredible opportunities in the process. The bar for events is much, much higher.
5. Invest in pre-event and post-event marketing campaigns.
It’s not enough to promote your event ahead of time and stop once the event ends. Pre-event and post-event marketing are equally important in the modern corporate event space. Remember, your event isn’t only about the experience you’re creating in the moment but also the event’s lasting impact on attendees. Don’t let your event marketing strategy fizzle once you tear down the event space. Use the traction you gained during the event to win more earned media placements, grow your following, and get feedback from attendees.
Related read: How To Successfully Promote Pre- and Post-Event
6. You need third-party credibility to draw interest.
The pandemic made B2B buyers more skeptical across the board, including event ticket buyers. If you want your event to reach more attendees, you’ll need credibility. PR is essential for the future of events because it helps companies and hosts establish credibility and generate interest. Buyers aren’t going to purchase tickets based on your social media campaign alone. They want to see proven evidence that your event is worth attending. Your B2B event marketing campaign should include influencer (and micro-influencer) components—more on that later (#12).
7. Event planners prefer established speakers.
If events are more competitive, it follows that every planner will seek out the best, brightest, and biggest speakers to pull the interest of attendees. What does this mean for B2B companies and industry leaders? Double down on your thought leadership strategy. If part of your B2B marketing strategy is to position a company leader as an expert in the field, you must establish a following. No matter how great your keynote speaker is, they won’t get selected for events if they don’t have a built-in following. Event planners want to bring someone to the table who has an audience of their own and can capture attendees’ interest.
8. Tailor your event to your audience, don’t just throw experiences at them.
A corporate marketing event doesn’t also need to be a food and beverage event. Know your audience! Sure, it’s great to have good food, interesting entertainment, and a photo booth here and there, but not all audiences require the same experience. Tailor your event and your event marketing to the needs and interests of your attendees. If your event primarily serves executive-level marketing experts— whose lives are often busy, strained, and maybe even stressed—why don’t you schedule a meditation session or provide a group yoga class? Identify your audience’s needs and cater to them. Don’t throw experiences at them simply because the experience seems to be trending.
9. Experiential elements are an essential part of the program, so don’t be cheap.
Invest wisely in the experiences you provide for your attendees. Once you have identified your audience’s needs (see above), find the experiences that offer the best “wow” factor for your budget. If there’s a major influencer in your industry whose presence as an MC or featured guest would attract interest, invest there. Don’t waste dollars on standard event experiences like photo booths or merch. Invest in experiences that will cater to your audience’s unique interests.
10. Give attention to first-time attendees.
Many large-scale corporate events happen yearly and cater to attendees that come year after year. On this side of the pandemic, we’ll see more first-time attendees at large-scale events because hybrid and remote models have made events more accessible. With this in mind, remember to cater to your first-time attendees.
11. Strategic brand partnerships make for incredible events.
Leading brands know when to pull in a partner. Think of Squarespace’s partnerships with Zendaya or Klarna’s collaboration with Lady Gaga. These brands partnered with known figures to build interest even before the event launched. By the time the event marketing campaign was in full swing, the brands already had a strong audience ready to follow along. Event marketers should keep this in mind. Strategic partnerships can boost your event marketing strategy and help build interest before an event and get people through the door.
Related reading: The Zendaya Method: How to Take Your Strategy to the Tipping Point
12. Influencer marketing is critical.
In addition to strategic brand partnerships, influencer marketing is critical to effective event marketing. Invite industry B2B influencers to a VIP dinner or cocktail hour during your event (and have them share it on social). This is a great way to increase the appeal of your event and reach a wider audience of attendees.
13. Event optimization is the future.
Good marketers know how to optimize their online marketing tactics to get the most ROI. We do this for our content marketing clients here at Zen. When we create one piece of content, we repurpose it in multiple ways to get the maximum reward out of that initial time investment of content development. Event optimization is the future of event marketing. Marketers and event planners should squeeze as much juice as possible from the event. This will mean offering hybrid or remote options, recording content to repurpose it later, partnering with other industry leaders, and more.
Need help with your own event? Let’s talk.