6 Tips for Planning Your 2016 B2B Marketing Events Strategy

November 19, 2015 Caitlin Kowalchuk

B2B Event Planning

Did you know that B2B marketers use an average of 13 tactics to create and distribute their content? Of these tactics, it might surprise you to learn that in-person events were rated the most effective content marketing tactic for the sixth year in a row, according to Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Report.

This is largely due to the countless marketing opportunities that come out of event sponsorships, as well as the fact that they tend to provide the best touchpoint for many customers throughout their buying journey — nothing like the power of a face-to-face conversation!

As we enter the holiday season, the last thing you want to do is think about next year’s events schedule, but in reality, it’s probably the first thing you should be thinking about. I know, I get it. 2015 isn’t even over yet and 2016 feels like it’s eons away, but trust me, it will sneak up on you like a cheetah. And take it from someone who knows: the key to getting better results out of the B2B marketing events you choose to sponsor or attend is to plan ahead.

Here’s my list of tips and things to consider to help you get more from your 2016 event sponsorships.

1. Book a post-mortem review

One of the best ways to decide on which events to attend or sponsor in 2016 is to take a look back and figure out what worked (and didn’t work) in 2015.

Schedule a team discussion where you figure out which events generated the most leads, which events completely tanked, and your average cost per lead at events. One of the best ways to do this is to compare the previous year's events in a chart (like the one below) that can help guide your discussion and inform your decisions for the new year. Plus, you'll have an easy point of reference when someone asks, "How may leads did we generate at x event last year?".B2B Event Post-Mortem

You can use a similarly structured table to set up your event planning and forecasting for the new year.

2. Determine your budget

Now that you've documented your success at last year's events, it’s time to talk about everyone’s favorite topic: Budgeting!

Have I lost you? 

Are you still with me?!

All jokes aside, it’s important to finalize your 2016 budget before committing to any events so you can plan everything else (promotions, swag, etc.) accordingly.

Based on conversations I’ve had with other B2B event managers, approximately one-third of marketing budgets are typically allocated to events. That’s a lot of dough (and also probably why the accounting team runs in the opposite direction every time they see me coming).

With this in mind, I also add a 15% buffer for extra events and event-related costs that inevitably pop up throughout the year.

3. Create an event sponsorship request form or template

I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly receiving requests to sponsor events. While I’d love to say yes to everything, the reality is, not all of these opportunities make sense when considering Uberflip’s marketing goals.

So, how do you determine which events to sponsor? The criteria will obviously differ from company to company, but outlining what you need to know about an event opportunity in a formalized sponsorship request form or template can help you easily filter out events that don’t align with your company’s goals.

An easy way to set up such a template is through Google Forms. Your sponsorship request form could look something like this:

4. Set targets

Events are marketing tactics, and should be treated as such. You should be setting targets for each event early on so that your event goals are aligned with your other marketing goals, and so that everyone involved with the event is working to achieve a specific set of results. 

For B2B events, the main target number is usually a specific number of leads. In a perfect world, your organization would receive the attendee list after every event, which makes setting targets a lot easier (not to mention easier to achieve), but this doesn’t always happen.

There are a couple of considerations you should take into account when setting your B2B event goals:

  • Historical data from previous attendance at events (your post-mortem will help with this).
  • Your monthly lead target goals. For example, if your team has planned to reach 75% of their target through other marketing initiatives, you’ll know that you need to find a way to make up the remaining 25% at that month's events.

It’s also important to share these targets. Before every event, I debrief both the marketing and sales teams about our targets and goals to ensure that we’re all on the same page.

5. Prepare your messaging

If you've ever had to set up an event booth at the last-minute, you can probably relate to the stress of getting all of the assets and brand messaging submitted on time. A good way to eliminate that stress is to have everything planned out beforehand.

The calm before the storm of marketing event season is a great time to choose a theme and develop your brand’s event messaging, which you can use throughout the entire year. This includes designing all of your digital assets like booth graphics, handouts, social media assets, and email templates around this new messaging.

Not only will this make your marketing team’s life a lot easier, but consistent brand messaging is also important when targeting customers at multiple touchpoints.

Here are a few things you should think about when creating your theme and messaging:

  • Keep it short and simple — Pre-designed booth graphics often have limited space for brand messaging. Plus, no one walking around a trade show wants to read an entire paragraph on a booth sign. Like a snack, your messaging should be "portable" and easy to spread.
  • Don't rely on buzzwords — Ninjas, 10x, disrupt... While it might seem like buzzwords would help your brand, I'd proceed with caution. If everyone else is using them, how is it going to help your brand differentiate itself?
  • Make it memorable — Everyone is vying for attention at events. If you want to reach your targets and continue the conversation outside of events, you're going to have to stand out.

An example of a company that nailed their brand messaging is SnapApp. This past year, SnapApp’s theme was “Rocket Fuel for Your Marketing Engine”. From pre-event email headers to rocketship stress ball swag, their theme and messaging was consistent across the board (and, obviously memorable!).

SnapApp Rocket Fuel

6. Set up your events calendar

An events calendar is a necessity for any marketing events manager. You'll save yourself tons of time (and keep your sanity in check) if you set it up as far in advance as possible.

While there are lots of tools out there to help organize and manage your events, I prefer the simplicity of Trello. My Trello method is pretty straightforward: I'll set up a Trello board for each month, and assign each event to its own card. As you can see below, it’s easy to view upcoming events at a glance.

Trello Event Planning
A few more features I like about Trello:

Trello Event Planning

Avoid eventual event planning

Phew — that's a lot to do, and we're still months away from event season!

You might still be finalizing your budget or determining which B2B marketing events you'll be attending in 2016, and that's okay. Like I said, the key to getting better results from your B2B event sponsorships or attendance is to check off as many items on your pre-planning checklist as possible.

Also, don't forget to plan for what happens after the event. Our friends over at agencyEA made a great B2B event wrap up infographic for the steps you should be taking – be sure to check it out!

Happy planning!

Are you taking a data-driven approach to your B2B marketing efforts? Learn more in our eBook, Data-Driven Content Marketing.

About the Author

Caitlin Kowalchuk

Caitlin is Uberflip’s Events & Communications Manager. When not planning events, she enjoys rap bingo, and her drink of choice is a double gin and soda in a tall glass with extra limes.

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