Face-to-face events have always been a way for B2Bs to effectively reach and communicate with clients and prospects.
"Even with the rise of more measureable digital marketing tactics, in-person events continue to be a major avenue for building relationships, influencing attendees and sharing industry thought leadership," said eMarketer analyst Jillian Ryan and author of the new report "B2B Event Marketing 2017: How the Event Stack Bridges Offline and Online."
For events to retain the prominent place they have in savvy B2B marketers' toolkits, they need to bridge the offline/online disconnect. Data-driven intelligence can help show how these offline interactions affect the path to purchase, while an event technology stack can bridge that divide.
According to Alexandra Gibson, CMO of event marketing software company Event Farm, "Events are often a black box for marketers." Understanding how a face-to-face event is performing compared with digital channels can be very challenging for B2B companies because of the disconnect between these channels. "Events shouldn't just be a flash in the pan. They need to be part of a greater strategy that includes digital," Gibson said.
B2Bs that organize their events across the buying cycle tend to have the greatest success in closing the disconnect between offline and online touchpoints, according to Kurt Miller, senior vice president of strategy and planning at experience marketing agency George P. Johnson. "Integrating events into a wider marketing and communications cadence is essential. There is a single relationship with the customer or the prospect, and part of that relationship is online and part of it is offline. Events straddle both worlds," he said.
Before recent innovations, B2B marketers typically had to use Excel spreadsheets or something similar to organize their event data.
"In the past, insights coming from events had been isolated," Miller said. "They may have been manually batched into a spreadsheet and then exported and sent somewhere else, but they didn't quite match up with what was happening to the buyer online."
A typical event stack includes other assorted tools, such as an event mobile app, a CMS for the event website, on-site engagement tracking tools, networking capabilities, registration software, attendance scanners with RFID, beacons and perhaps even real-time polling systems, according to Alon Alroy, co-founder and chief of marketing at Bizzabo, an event marketing platform provider. "Then, there needs to be a whole suite of analytics, and insights to analyze data from all of these pieces and to digest that into something a B2B marketer can actually understand," he said.
Reporting and analytics were named as one of the most important event technologies by 62% of the event professionals in North America surveyed by Cvent and the Event Marketing Institute. Nearly as many—six in 10—named a smooth check-in and badging experience, while 54% cited event management and marketing.
As for adoption, just less than half of US marketing decision-makers used event management and automation software to manage in-person events, according to the April 2017 Certain survey. Some 43% of respondents said they utilized a mobile app, and 30.5% used lead capture.
Six in 10 event professionals polled by Cvent and the Event Marketing Institute said the ability to capture data is the most important criterion when selecting an event technology service provider.
In the latest episode of eMarketer's "Behind the Numbers" podcast, analyst Jillian Ryan walks us through an old-fashioned marketing format, the B2B event, and discusses ways that the analog channel links to digital, and how success is measured.