The Best Digital Marketing Strategies for B2B Events

clock iconMarch 4, 2020 Event Marketing

I’ve done hundreds of B2B events. My most successful events were the ones with a strong digital marketing strategy to support them. I’ve spent a lot of time trying and optimizing different strategies. I’m here to share the best of them with you today.

To get the most return of investment from a B2B event, you need digital marketing strategies for the 3 stages of an event. These stages are: before the event, during the event, and after the event. You need to be considering strategies such as landing pages, social media, video marketing, account enrichment, and marketing automation.

If you’re interested in getting the most ROI from a B2B event, you’re in luck! Recently, I published an article that focuses on 7 tips to get more ROI out of events

Let’s dive right into it. Watch the video or continue reading.

Digital Marketing Strategies Before the event

In B2B marketing, you will be dealing with 2 primary types of events.

  1. Events that you host yourself;
  2. Events that you sponsor or participate in.

Depending on which event you’re currently dealing with, your digital marketing strategy for events will be slightly different. 

The good news is that there will be some overlap. This means you can apply the best practices for both types of events.

Landing page

For events that you host yourself, this is a no-brainer. You will need a landing page. On this page, you can provide your audience with relevant information about the event. There will be a registration form and some sort of agenda at the very least.

For some external events, I create a landing page as well. Especially when we are participating in an event year-over-year. Here’s why.

If you already know that you will participate in an event many times, you can obtain many organic benefits.

For a large trade show in Europe, I’ve developed a landing page. It’s an event that we attend year-over-year. The result is that we were able to optimize it for SEO and now have loads of backlinks to that page. You can check the backlinks to your landing page through tools such as Semrush.

This means that when event attendees search for the event, our landing page is one of the top results. This leads to relevant organic traffic and our sales team is using that to scheduled one-to-one meetings before the event.

We also did a few keynote presentations in the past on that event. We’ve recorded this and uploaded it to the landing page. We use this as our pre-event promotion to attract people to our keynote presentations. By showing them what they can expect in terms of quality, it’s easier to get them to attend. This means more leads for us and a better event ROI.

A landing page is also an absolute must for virtual conferences. Here is how to set up a virtual conference.

Using Event Markup

You want to make it easy for people to understand which event you are hosting or participating in.

Through structured data, you can implement something called Event Markup. Basically, this tells search engines that some content on your website is related to an event. Implemented correctly, Google will show your event as a rich snippet.

Your event will be displayed on Google as below:

It makes it easy for people to see some relevant information about your event on Google such as tickets. This is something you don’t want to miss out on. 

Email Marketing

Email marketing will help you to promote events that you host. It allows you to send invitations so that people register for your event. Additionally, you can send people updates about the event. For B2B events this is critical, especially if your event is free to attend.

Here’s why. Business people have tight schedules and they might forget about your event. By constantly reminding them, you will keep the event top-of-mind. You can also share updates from the development of the agenda. After all, without a good agenda, people don’t attend your event. So the goal of email marketing is also to reduce no-shows.

For events that you sponsor, email marketing can be used for the following things:

  1. Trying to schedule one-to-one meetings during the event;
  2. Getting people to attend your keynote presentation;
  3. Getting people to register for a satellite event such as a breakfast session;
  4. Get people to visit your booth.

Programmatic advertising

Programmatic advertising is one of my secrets to fill events that I host. It allows you to place ads in front of highly targeted audiences.

Imagine that you are creating an event for the low-code industry. With programmatic advertising, you can target people that are currently researching low-code on third-party websites.

This is especially important when you are hosting a big user group event where you combine prospects, customers and partners.

But wait! There’s more!

Many B2B companies have a so-called target accounts strategy. This means that they have a select list of accounts to which they want to sell. Well, with programmatic advertising, you can select certain audiences of those target accounts.

Let’s say your ideal target persona is a CIO from companies over 5000 employees. Programmatic advertising allows you to place ads to those people on third-party websites.

Now, let’s look at external events.

Let’s say you attend a large trade show year-over-year. You will have accumulated a list of accounts that attend that event. Generally, you know what personas attend that event. For the sake of simplicity, let’s keep using CIOs.

Well, since you already have an account list, and you know what personas are attending; you can now place ads in front of those people to try to schedule one-to-one meetings or to get them to attend your keynote. 

Social Media advertising

Every event will have an event-specific hashtag. People attending that event will use that hashtag on social media to share their experiences.

It goes without saying that you also need to be sharing frequent posts and including that hashtag.

People who are attending events will look at what other people have to say about that event. This is an opportunity for you to create awareness about your brand. 

If you are hosting an event, you need to incentivize people to use that hashtag and post a lot of content to social media. You will create massive awareness and it will be easier to fill your event. 

Also, consider remarketing on social media. People who’ve been to your website, but maybe not registered for your event should be remarketed. Take into consideration that they didn’t register when visiting your website for the first time. So, you need to be providing high quality and value for that person. This can only be done by making the messages highly personable.

Chatbot

Through the use of a chatbot, you can make your website visitors aware of an event. This can be an internal or external event.

A chatbot allows you to place a chat message in front of a target audience. You can redirect people to the registration page of your B2B event.

This digital marketing strategy for events is powerful. Imagine that you are hosting an event year-over-year. Every year you will get more people to register for your event.

When people that attended your event in the past, you can now show them a message that registrations have opened for the next edition.

Account Enrichment through lead generation

As mentioned earlier, B2B companies often have a select list of target accounts. Well, as a marketer, it’s your job to enrich those accounts with the relevant personas.

You need to be generating loads of leads in those accounts which will make it easier for sales to sell your products or services to them.

Consider using strategies such as content syndication to generate targeted leads.

When you’ve generated those leads, you can now invite them to attend your event. Getting many people to attend your event is great. However, the most important thing is quality. It’s better to have 50 qualified leads attending than 100 unqualified leads.

At the end of the day, you want to have a great B2B event ROI. This can only be done by focusing on quality. This digital marketing strategy for my events has made a big impact on pipeline generation.

Content Marketing

Especially when hosting an event, you want to be creating relevant content to promote the event.

Think about creating videos and posting them on social media. Perhaps do a bunch of webinars to promote the event or have a call-to-action throughout existing webinars.

Consider writing blog posts about the event and letting people know what’s in it for them. What value do they get out of attending your event?

When you’ve created the content, now it’s time to promote that content. Not just on your website, but also on third-party websites.

Perhaps you’re hosting an event and you have companies sponsoring your event. Great! You can ask every sponsoring company to share your content on their channels.

Marketing automation tools

The next digital marketing strategy for B2B events is marketing automation tools. This is something you want to crystallize before the event.

After attending an event, you want the leads to be imported into your system as soon as possible. This way sales can make notes in your CRM and they can be follow-up immediately.

You don’t want to have to wait a few days before the leads generated are visible to your sales organization.

I’ve spoken to a bunch of CIO and they’ve told me that they expect companies to follow-up after they attended an event. CIO’s told me that when they attend an event, they book some space in their agendas the next day so they can talk to companies that they met at an event.

So it’s absolutely critical that your sales team is able to follow up the next day. You don’t want to be hindering them so make sure that all your marketing automation programs are set-up before the event!

Also, create a nurture flow for event leads. Create relevant content and again, this is something you want to be doing before the event. You don’t have the luxury to develop emails and the nurture flow after the event. You don’t have time to waste.

Do this before the event and send messages to generate leads the next day.

Use your partner ecosystem

Almost every B2B company has a partner ecosystem. These are companies that you work with to generate even more business.

Sometimes your partners might also be at external events so considering working together with them to get the most value out of the event. You can do joint promotion and use each other's resources effectively.

When you are hosting events yourself, consider doing it together with a partner. This way, you can invite your database and they can invite theirs. It’s all about scalability. The more quality companies you are partnering with, the easier it will be to generate business value.

Calendar invitations

This is just a little growth hack that I use. Whenever I host an event, I send people that have registered a calendar invitation. The goal is to reduce no-show and so far it has worked wonders for me.

However, I’ve also used this at external events. Whenever I sponsor a tradeshow and we have a keynote presentation scheduled, I will send event attendees a calendar invitation with our keynote slot. The goal is to get them to attend our keynote so that they will listen to our customer stories.

Digital Marketing Strategies During the event

So now, let’s focus on some digital marketing strategies during events. 

Social Media

During events, you should be posting a lot on social media.

For external B2B events, this is to create awareness and it tells people that you are there. The audience might see it and decide to visit your booth. This is a win!

Perhaps you have a keynote presentation. Well, with social media you can make people aware of this fact and promote it. People who are following the event hashtag will see it and come to your presentation if it provides value. 

For events that you host, you want people to post about the event and use the hashtag that you’ve defined for the event. This generates tremendous awareness. Even if people didn’t attend your event this time, they might consider joining for the next one.

Consider creating a social media competition. My goal is always to provide value. In my competitions, I award the most valuable post instead of the people who posted the most.

I’ve learned from my mistakes! The audience is smart and once someone created a bot that kept posting a lot of tweets about my event… You want to avoid this! 

No matter what B2B event, social media is a digital marketing strategy that you must include.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is very powerful for external events during the event! This might come as a surprise to some people.

I’ve done it many times and it works! Especially at trade shows that span across multiple days.

Let’s say you’re attending an event that is 3 days long. Generally, you have some sort of booth and a keynote presentation.

What I do is email all the people that have visited our booth on the first day and invite them to our keynote presentation. 

Alternatively, at many events, you have real-time visibility in who is attending your keynote presentation. During the keynote, I get my marketing operations team to upload the attendees to our marketing automation platform.

5 minutes before the end of the presentation, I send all the keynote attendees an email. The call-to-action of the email is to meet the keynote speaker at our booth!

Try this out, and you will see that your booth traffic will increase minutes after your keynote presentation.

Here is an email I used. I had to remove some personally identifiable info.

Email After Keynote Presentation at Event
Email After a Keynote Presentation.

Chatbot

Chatbots are a powerful digital marketing strategy for B2B events. We generally use Drift or Intercom.

Especially for multi-day events, there is a huge chance that event attendees will visit your website. This is a chance for your chatbot to convert these people!

You can create a personalized message for every person based on the meeting notes that you’ve taken at the event.

If the person replies to your chatbot, you can now hand the conversation over to your sales team.

The same goes for people who are attending your keynote presentation at an event. If you have real-time visibility into who is in your session, you can load this information into your chatbot. 

Again, you can provide relevant information based on the keynote that a person is watching. Alternatively, you can invite those people to your booth and have a real conversation.

Video Marketing and Live Streaming

Especially for events that you host, it might be possible to live stream keynote presentations.

Perhaps some people can’t make it due to travel restrictions. This is a great way to include those people in the event remotely. Here are some free tools to live stream events

Of course, you should always record your presentations. This way you can cut the presentation up into smaller pieces and make powerful videos from it. Consequently, you can use this to promote the event for the next edition.

Also, consider doing interviews at the event. It’s not often that you get to speak to your audience live, so make the most of it.  

Digital Marketing Strategies After the Event

This is where the magic happens! B2B events are fun, but now it’s time to get the real value out of it. After all, you need to be proving the ROI of your event. Your digital marketing strategies post-event need to be on-point!

Programmatic Advertising! 

So the event is done, and you know the accounts that you’ve engaged with and the people you spoke to. This was an important touch-point in generating business value. 

Let’s say you met the CIO of a large prospective customer. This person is now aware of your company. If your team delivered great work, this person might be interested in your solutions.

Well, oftentimes in B2B transactions, there is a buying team. You have the person that will make the decision, but there are also many influencers. You need to warm up both personas. This is called a top-down, bottom-up approach.

So with programmatic advertising, you can target all the employees of a certain company. In some cases, you are able to target a specific department in a company as they might be using a different IP address.

So now, you have the possibility to place ads in front of the decision-makers and the influencers. This will generate a lot of awareness and it will make the sales cycle easier.

Email marketing

I can’t imagine that B2B companies aren’t using this digital marketing strategy for events. However, I will put it here anyway as it’s a must.

So your event is done and you’ve collected email addresses. The first email you send to this person should be your best converting email. If you haven’t already done so, the goal is to book a follow-up meeting.

Additionally, you want to keep the newly generated leads warm. So you need to have a dedicated nurture program that’s relevant to the event.

Consider promoting analyst reports from Forrester or Gartner. I’ve found that they work brilliantly. However, be cautious to not spam this person. Your sales team will be reaching out as well.

No matter what you do, always provide value to that person! If you don’t, the first thing they do is unsubscribe.

Here is an email that I've used in the past.

Email After Event digital marketing strategy
An email to follow-up after an event.

Chatbots

So you know who's visited your event. Upload this information to your chatbot.

Once they visit your website, you can now place relevant messages in front of this person. People in B2B markets love content that’s relevant to their industry.

So a powerful redirect that you can do, is to industry-relevant case studies. What does that mean?

Well, if you generated a lead from the finance industry, this person wants to see what other companies in finance have done with your product or services.

Case studies are great but think outside the box. Perhaps you have a relevant webinar that you can show. 

Another goal of the chatbot can be to get this person to talk to you. It’s called conversational marketing.

Basically, you ask questions and hope that this person will reply in the chat. The chat will then be handed over to a real person. I’ve done this many times and the lead to MQL conversion rate with this is over 35%! This is huge.

Landing page

If you have a landing page for the event, you should update it with content presented throughout the event.

At a large trade show that I sponsored, we recorded our keynote presentation. We then uploaded the recordings to the landing page. Sales used this in their follow-up and the results were amazing.

It gave us the ability to show the keynote to people that weren’t able to attend. We also used the recordings to provide a short video to people in the same industry.

Especially if you’re hosting an event year-over-year, it’s critical to upload videos and recordings. This will help you to market the event better and will increase the registrations. If you are hosting an event again, consider implementing a form so that people can pre-register for the next edition.

Create a high converting landing page and you’ll be able to pick the fruits.

Reporting

Reporting! It’s absolutely critical.

I’ve recently posted an article on how to create the perfect B2B event dashboard.

As a B2B marketer, it’s your responsibility to get the most value out of an event. However, in order to do so, you need proper reporting. 

Your reporting requirements will vary per company and per event. However, you should always report on things such as the leads generated, pipeline generated, and business won.

Many B2B companies maintain a target account strategy. This naturally means that account-based reporting is required. We personally use Engagio for this purpose.

Imagine you are talking to a c-level person at an event. Well, chances are that this person will instruct his team to research your company.

So through tools such as this, you can see the web traffic from those accounts on your website. Generally, after an event, you should see an uplift of accounts that you engaged with. By analyzing this, you can tell sales which accounts are most active on your website. This is a great indicator for sales to start talking to this account. 

Of course, it will also show you which people from the event are researching your company. Hello, buying intent!

Social Media

When it comes to social media, an event doesn’t end when it does. You’ve invested a lot of money in a B2B event so you better be getting the most out of it. 

Through social media, you can keep creating awareness. This is especially true for events that you host yourself and plan to host again. By showing people the success of your event through social media, they may register for the next edition.

Of course, throughout the event, a lot of content will be shared that is valuable for lead generation. You can take videos from this event and share it on social media. Organically but also through paid social media.

It goes without saying that your sales team should be connecting with leads generated on LinkedIn. Make sure to be sending a personal note and provide value in that note.

The first characters of such note are most important. After about 70 characters, LinkedIn will show a “see more” button. So the value should be within the first 70 characters.

Remarketing

Another great digital marketing strategy for events is remarketing. This is possible after the leads generated have visited your website. So, in all your outreach campaigns, one goal is to drive people to your website. This way you can plant remarketing cookies.

Once they have visited your website, you are now able to target them on certain display networks and social media platforms. Remember that for people to remember your brand, they need to see your logo about 10 times.

You need a multi-touch campaign. So any single digital marketing strategy in this list will not work. You need to be implementing digital marketing strategies for events before seeing success.

With remarketing, drive people to your highest converting landing pages. Create messages that are highly relevant to them. When his colleagues are visiting your website, consider remarketing them too to increase your success potential.

Fast Marketing Automation and Attribution

After a marketing event, you need to get the leads through your marketing automation platform as fast as possible.

Remember, people expect to be follow-up fast. Your marketing automation system should never be holding your sales team back.

So get the leads through your system as fast as possible and apply the relevant attributes and scores.

Make sure that the leads are routed to the right account owners. The last thing you want is that leads are falling in the bucket of the wrong salespeople. If you are wasting time on routing leads effectively, then you are missing out on potential deals.

Well, that’s it! These are some digital marketing strategies for B2B events that will help you to get more value out of events.

Bonus: 6 Digital Marketing Strategies to Increase Revenue during a Recession

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Ricky Wolff
Ricky's North Star is growth. He is the founder of Markletic, a blog about growth hacking and demand generation in marketing.