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Are Live Events Actually Effective? Here’s What Top Marketers Think

The web is full of literature touting live events as a potent alternative to screen-served digital ads. They say it’s the right choice for a society that’s embracing “experiences” over “things,” and an opportunity to win over prospects and delight customers. But are live events actually worth all of the fuss? And more importantly, are they worth the cost?

To find out what top event marketers think, Bizzabo surveyed a pool of over 430 mid- to senior-level marketers in this year’s free Benchmarks and Trends Report. Here’s what that report found:

1. Live events eat up a lot of money.

According to Frost and Sullivan, B2B events account for $512 billion in annual spending. Forrester Research also tells us that the average Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) allocates 24% of their annual budget to live events. But do marketers actually plan to spend more on events in the coming years?

Bizzabo event marketing budget plans

Based on Bizzabo’s survey, a majority of the 430 marketers who responded plan on investing more in live events — both in budget and number of events (63% respectively). That same pool of respondents was also asked whether they were overperforming, underperforming or on pace with their business goals. For overperformers, Bizzabo discovered that:

  • 80% plan on increasing their event budgets in the coming years.
  • They are 26% more likely to demonstrate event ROI than other companies.
  • 91% place a greater emphasis on live events as a marketing channel than underperformers.
  • They plan to spend an average of $4,500 more toward events annually than other companies.
event marketing intended budget increases graph

Overperforming businesses invest more in live events and are better able to track event ROI. So while events may be eating up most of your organization’s marketing budget, they have the capacity to help you meet and exceed your business goals.

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2. The single most effective marketing channel?

As marketers, there’s no shortage of channels for getting out what we want to say: digital ads, email campaigns, video, print ads, billboards, etc. But out of all the marketers that we surveyed, 31% say that events are the single-most effective marketing channel. A whopping 90% believe that live events provide attendees with a valuable opportunity to form in-person connections in an increasingly digital world.

Bizzabo event marketing by channel

This is not to say that other marketing channels are ineffective. However, live events comprise the most effective marketing channel for achieving business goals such as educating prospects, delighting customers and building close partnerships with other brands. Just consider how Salesforce leveraged events to create Dreamforce: one of the largest and arguably most successful event series in the world.

Interestingly enough, it’s those at the top of org charts that place the most faith in live events. An overwhelming majority of surveyed C-Suite executives (87%) believe in the power of live events and plan on investing in them more in the future.

3. Events are getting easier with event technology.

The idea of using live events as a marketing channel is nothing new. In fact event promotion, event marketing, field marketing, experiential marketing — whatever you would like to call it — has been around for centuries. However, the last 30 years has seen the advent of a new event marketing era. Today’s events are enabled and empowered by technology that lets planners do their jobs like never before.

Recently, such event technology has seen a windfall of investment. Frost and Sullivan estimates that the event-management software industry is worth $28 billion dollars. In 2016 alone, $50 million was invested in modern event solutions like Social Tables and Bizzabo. Private equity firms continue to acquire event technology companies left and right.

It’s all because event marketers now demand the same level of precision, ease-of-use and interconnectivity that they experience with their CRMs (Salesforce) and marketing automation platforms (HubSpot). Which is also why 60% of marketers who organize events and conferences report using event management software. Not to mention that an overwhelming majority (86%) believe that technology can have a major positive impact on the success of their events.

perceptions of event marketing and planning technology

So go ahead. Join the chorus of marketers who are singing the benefits of live events. The data backs you up. Just make sure that when it comes to your own events, you’re using the right tools to set yourself up for success.

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Guide: How to Create an Event Planning Checklist