What is B2B Event Marketing? Types, Examples and Best Practices
In the past few years, there have been plenty of occasions where virtual meetings, meetups and events have proven that there’s a lot you can achieve and enjoy even when you’re not attending something in-person. That being said, being able to host events in ‘real life’ once again has been a cause for celebration for many, especially in the B2B industry.
B2B event marketing allows for creative collaboration and inspiration and provides opportunities for companies to showcase their offering to their target market. It’s an approach that can be daunting if you’ve never organised or even attended an event before, but it’s a fantastic opportunity that can yield impressive results.
Whether you’re new to the world of B2B event marketing or you’re looking for some inspiration to shake up your current approach, this article explores the different types of B2B events, why they’re important, and shares advice for successfully using this marketing technique.
In this article:
An Introduction to Event Marketing
Event marketing is an approach that involves planning, organising and running an event with the purpose of promoting a brand, a service or a product. Events can also be used to facilitate connection and collaboration, providing an environment where business relationships are formed and attendees can get an idea of the other figures and companies in their industry sector.
Brands can organise and host their own events or they can attend others, either as a guest, an exhibitor or a sponsor. Each of these approaches can contribute to an event marketing strategy and each has different benefits in how it can impact your brand image and create new opportunities.
B2B event marketing specifically involves companies or organisations that offer products or services to other businesses. We’re not talking about how to market B2B events, although that is an important part of this approach. We’re talking about the method of promoting your B2B brand by hosting or attending events.
Types of B2B Event Marketing
Event marketing is a very versatile strategy for promoting your B2B brand because there are so many different ways that you can do it. Below are some of the most common types of B2B event marketing and the kinds of businesses each of them works best for.
Trade shows are a classic type of B2B event that allows businesses to promote their products and services to potential customers and clients. They are usually held to promote a particular industry or sector and may take place over several days, usually hosted in a central location.
B2B events, like IBTM World, are a fantastic option for businesses looking to grow their client/customer base and establish themselves more firmly in their industry. They can also be a great opportunity to assess the competition in your sector and refine your offering, along with creating situations to meet other business owners and share insight and advice.
It depends on the scale of the event, but exhibiting at a trade show can be expensive. This is an option better suited to more established companies, but the investment in attending is definitely worth the business opportunities and leads you’ll get through the event.
Conferences are another incredibly popular type of B2B event. Instead of creating an environment to promote business offerings, conferences instead tend to revolve around a lineup of speakers, workshops and panels that provide learning opportunities and bring together business owners and employees from a particular industry to learn from the big names in their sector.
From a marketing perspective, attending a conference as a speaker or guest on a panel is a fantastic way to promote your business and really establish yourself as a brand that other businesses should want to work with or buy from. It can have a huge impact on your image as well, helping more people to learn your name and start associating you with other industry thought leaders.
Attending a conference as an attendee is still a useful B2B event marketing approach however, as there is a lot you can learn from interacting with others in your sector. The networking opportunities at conferences are great, and since they are usually attended by people from the same industry, there may be other business owners that could benefit from your brand offering who you can start to build relationships with.
A roadshow is a kind of event that takes place in several locations, usually only promoting one brand. The concept behind this approach to B2B marketing is to build hype around your brand by hosting exciting and engaging events in different cities to reach as many other businesses as possible and draw attention to your offering.
Roadshows are quite a large-scale event so you definitely need a fair amount of budget to pull this off. They also require a lot more planning than other events as you’ll be setting up and then taking down the event multiple times, requiring a lot of logistical organisation.
This is a great approach to B2B event marketing if you have an existing customer base that is geographically spread out, as you bring the event to them instead of other businesses having to travel. If you already have a successful event marketing strategy, roadshows are also a great way to scale this up and take the approach to the next level.
Networking events focus much less on businesses promoting their offering to other businesses and instead are held to facilitate conversation and connection between people working in a similar industry. These can be anything from small, invite-only events with maybe 30 people to huge gatherings of individuals from all over.
You have two options when it comes to networking events; attending as a guest or hosting them yourself.
The former is a great option if you’re part of or own a smaller business that is starting to grow, as networking will allow you to make useful industry connections that might lead to partnerships in the future, or at least just offer support and a place to share ideas.
Hosting a networking event yourself requires you to already have a network of other businesses that you can invite, but is a great way to grow brand recognition, make connections with newer members of your industry and also establish yourself as a leader in your sector.
VIP dinners are a type of event marketing that is tailored toward nurturing leads. Once you’ve connected with another business and they've started showing interest in your offering, hosting a VIP dinner is a great way to pitch your company in an informal setting and encourage your guest(s) to become customers by treating them to a meal or experience.
A VIP dinner doesn't necessarily have to be a meal; you could offer the invited attendees a chance to try a new experience or watch an entertainment event. The exclusivity of these events makes attendees feel special and grateful to your business, which bodes well when it comes to properly pitching your offering.
Finally, a webinar is a virtual event that is often used to showcase a speaker or idea. It can be a great way to boost your image if you’re the one hosting the webinar to share insight or educate your audience, and the virtual elements mean that people can attend no matter where they live.
Webinars are a great first step into B2B event marketing because they’re quite simple to run and not very expensive. If you want to attract more of an audience, consider hosting a Q+A with another industry figure that can invite their network as well.
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Why is B2B Event Marketing Important?
Perhaps the most important reason to try B2B event marketing is that it’s a fantastic lead generation strategy. Directly meeting and pitching to other businesses can be much more effective than more subtle marketing approaches, and events also often give you plenty more opportunities to pitch your offering in a short space of time.
Events are also one of the best ways to boost engagement and help your target audience to feel particularly connected to you. High levels of engagement from the beginning tend to lead to happier customers and longer relationships, and you can also directly encourage and gather feedback from the people you meet, demonstrating a commitment to listening and responding to suggestions.
Exhibiting at events is also a great way to increase brand awareness, as by simply having your name displayed or being seen by other members of the industry, people will start to recognise and even recommend you. This works particularly well if you’re the one hosting the event.
B2B event marketing can also be an incredibly useful educational tool, whether you’re attending talks and workshops or just speaking with other people in your industry. Not only can you learn more about how to thrive in your sector, but attending events also gives you a better understanding of the market, your competition and how best to stand out.
3 Tips for Successful B2B Event Marketing
Now you’ve got your head around just how impactful a B2B event marketing strategy can be and the kinds of events that it might involve, here are three top tips to ensure your success with this approach.
Work with a Goal
No matter how you decide to approach B2B event marketing, always begin with a goal. This will make it much easier to choose what kind of event you want to run or attend, what you need to achieve whilst it’s happening, and how you’re going to measure your success afterwards. Being a passive attendee is a waste of time, and you’ll get much more out of events if you approach each of them with a specific set of goals.
Promote in Advance
Whether you’re organising and hosting an industry event or just attending as an exhibitor, you need to promote this as much as possible in advance. Create a cross-channel strategy to engage as much of your audience as possible, consider an email marketing campaign for attendees if you’re running the event, and plan all of your promotional material in advance so you can set up a regular schedule to start building excitement.
Chase Leads and Connections Quickly
A B2B event marketing strategy doesn’t end when the event does. You need to chase up any leads you generated at an event as soon as possible afterwards to capitalise on the success of your conversations and get the ball rolling towards converting these into sales. The same approach applies to connections you’ve made; follow up with a LinkedIn message or an email and ensure that you lay the groundwork for productive and fruitful industry connections that you can develop over time.
B2B event marketing can be a fantastic way for a business to achieve multiple goals, whether that’s growing their audience, creating partnerships or simply increasing sales. That’s a lot to be gained from both organising and attending events, so we strongly recommend you start brainstorming B2B event marketing ideas and see where this takes you.
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