Event marketing and content marketing are typically the two biggest line items in B2B marketing budgets. Too often, companies don’t capitalize on the synergies between these two practices. Those who can see a significant boost to ROI. Here’s how.
Most B2B enterprises allocate 30% or more of their total marketing budgets to events; more than a quarter (26%) spend 50% or more in that area. Meanwhile, the average B2B company spends 29% of its overall marketing budget on content marketing, with the best-performing firms spending upwards of 40%.
Netting that out, most companies are spending between 60% and 70% of all marketing dollars on these two tactics. There is tremendous leverage to be gained by optimizing the use of both channels together.
Virtual event platform provider VII Events recently hosted a global virtual event dedicated to event marketing, A2Z Virtual 2021. Visit the event site and click on Roundtable 9 to see my full presentation on how to maximize ROI from your event marketing content.
How to Maximize Event Marketing Content ROI
Next is a quick look at how these two areas of marketing differ as well as how they overlap.
And finally, it presents a deep dive into what type of content to create at each stage of your event and what channels to use to maximize the impact of that content.
But first, before getting into all of that…
It’s important to acknowledge a few leaders in the event tech space. For multi-session, multi-virtual-location online events like trade shows and expos, check out what Stas Zaslavsky and his team at VII Events have built. If you take a look around the virtual space they created for A2Z Virtual 2021, you’ll see this is a really amazing tool.
For individual events focused on audience engagement, one of the best options is Shindig. Its key strength is how it enables event participants to mingle and network as naturally and spontaneously online, using private or small-group video chat, as they can at in-person gatherings.
Large, in-person events should be happening again by this fall, and for large, complex live event production, G2Planet offers a superior combination of functionality and service.
At the lower end of the market, there are lots of options. There’s Zoom of course, though people are getting fatigued with it. Eventbrite is pretty solid—there are even counties in the U.S. that are using Eventbrite to help schedule appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Setting the Stage
Companies do event marketing because it works. But because it’s also an expensive tactic, most companies spend at least 20% of their total marketing budgets on events, and many spend half or more of all their marketing budgets there.
Content production is a big part of that expense, as noted here.
Bu too often, once the event is over, its content sort of fades away as well. That’s a missed opportunity.
So how can you generate a higher return on the money spent creating event-related content?
How can you make events and content work together, strategically, to make a more lasting and valuable impact?
Event Marketing vs. Content Marketing
These two tactics are often viewed very differently. Event marketers are thought of as extroverts, as people people, as being focused on business outcomes but also on creating memorable experiences.
Content marketers, on the other hand, are focused on understanding customer questions, doing research, developing content like blog posts and ebooks that answers those questions, and optimizing that content for organic search. They’re viewed as more technical and introverted.
But are they really so different?
Events Vs. Content: Differences
Events, particularly live events, are about getting out of the office, getting away, having memorable and unique experiences, and of course—the networking. Other than the educational value, the key reason people attend events—whether online or in person—is to reconnect with industry contacts and meet new people, to make new acquaintances.
Content marketing, on the other hand, is about making the brand more visible in search. Unlike a presentation at an event, a really solid blog post or article can generate interest and results for years after it is produced.
And content doesn’t rely on the consumer being in a specific place at a specific time. If your company is hosting an event on July 31st, people can’t show up on August 15th and hear your message. But they can read your blogs posts a day later, a week later, a month later, a year later…there are no constraints in space or time.
Events Vs. Content: Commonality
Both can help you reach new buyers, educate them about your solutions, and generate leads.
Both help build new relationships and trust. At events, trust is established through face-to-face contact. Online, trust is established based on the originality and expertise demonstrated by your content.
Events produce socially sharable moments, while content provides socially sharable knowledge and insights.
And both can be valuable in connecting with industry influencers, enhancing those relationships, and encouraging brand advocacy.
Pre-Event Content Types and Distribution Channels
It helps to think about this in three stages: before during, and after the event. And in two dimensions: the types of content that will be produced, and the channels or tactics that will be used to distribute and promote that content, to get the word out.
Prior to you event, the content is primarily your promotional materials, and—very importantly—your session schedule. This shows potential attendees who will be speaking and what topics will be covered, and is a key piece in helping the people in your prospective audience decide that this is something they just have to be part of…or something they can skip.
In terms of channels, depending on the type of event you’re hosting, online advertising, organic search, and media / influencer outreach may or may not play a role. Pre-event social media is almost always part of the mix, unless you’re hosting a closed, by-invitation-only event. Email is the one tactic or channel that’s used almost universally to get your promotional messages out.
At-Event Content Types and Distribution Channels
But there is also video and photography—at a live event, this means the professionals you’ve hired to document the sessions as well as interview attendees and customers, and capture candid moments. At virtual events, these are your session recordings and screen captures of key moments and content points.
Big events are often used as the platform for major announcements, like new product releases or partnerships. Not always, of course. But if that’s the case, then the news release, video of the live announcement, and subsequent media coverage are all part of the event-generated content.
Finally, there is the content that attendees generate on their own: social media posts, video, photos, even blog posts. Everything positive is share-worthy. Social media walls—large video monitors which display a real-time feed of attendee social media posts using the event hashtag—are now common at large live events.
Speaking of which—your event should, of course, have a hashtag. Preferably only one. Promote this everywhere, encouraging your attendees to use it.
Other ways to incorporate social media into your event include:
- Encouraging your employees working the event, sponsors, partners, and speakers to share photos and other content.
- Creating ” Instagrammable” spaces and moments.
- Recording short testimonial videos to share on social media and use on your event website to promote your next year’s event (if applicable).
If you have industry influencers at your event, whether as presenters or just attendees, their social media output becomes another key channel. Encourage and make it easy for them to post event-related content.
Depending on the nature of the event, you may want to livestream select sessions on Facebook and YouTube.
Digital centerpieces, which are essentially purpose-specific tablets, can be used for livestreaming (make the speaker easier to see in the back of the room), audience-presenter interaction / Q&A, sponsorship messages…these have lots of creative applications.
Post-Event Content Types and Distribution Channels
In terms of the content you can use post-event, one of the most valuable pieces is your session videos: recordings of talks by your internal experts, your customers, your partners, and outside speakers.
Regarding outside speakers, it’s imperative to negotiate usage rights before your event. Some presenters—especially keynote speakers, top influencers, and industry analysts—may insist on tight control over how their content can be shared.
Make sure you clarify beforehand whether and how you can use all or any part of their presentations. Even if you can’t re-use the entire talk, you may be able to use short snippets in your highlight videos.
Content like the highlight videos, testimonials, and your photo gallery can be combined both as a “look back” and as promotion for future events.
Regarding blog posts and ebooks: Evaluate every session for use as a blog post (or possibly several blog posts), or even as an ebook. Customer stories, use cases, research-based presentations and how-to sessions all make great digital content. The presentation slide deck and video transcript provide a great starting point, simplifying and speeding up the work of repurposing session content.
Also consider topic-focused posts, where maybe there were multiple sessions focused on a similar topic and you can write a “lessons learned” post, as well as event highlights and photo-collage posts where you drop names: key customers, sponsors, partner, media, or influencers.
For the summary report: Use text, video and photos to create an interactive online event summary report, highlighting popular sessions and key information shared.
This is especially appealing to people who were invited to the event but didn’t respond, or who registered but weren’t able to attend. It may also be of interest to attendees as well, especially at multi-track events where attendees may not have been able to sit in on every session of interest.
As for getting all that great content out into the world, obviously many of these formats work great in social media posts. If you’ve created an ebook based on your event content, that can used for lead generation, so you can look at search marketing and paid social media to promote that.
Blog posts and videos should of course be optimized for search; it’s a widely reported fact but worth repeating here that YouTube is actually the second-largest search engine. Use video editing tools to break up long videos and re-mix them in different ways.
And, finally, email: Send follow-up email messages to all of your attendees pointing them to event-related resources (such as presentation decks posted online and videos of sessions they may have missed), thanking them for attending, and (if applicable) inviting them to save the date for your next event or next year’s event.
Again, events are a big investment, and creating event-related content is a significant component of that expense.
Event marketing and content marketing are each powerful tactics on their own, but they’re even more powerful, and much more valuable, when used together.
Thinking about your event-related content in terms of those three timeframes—before, during, and after the event—and the different tactics, or different channels you can use to push that content out into the world will enable you to maximize the impact and the ROI of both your events and your content.