The 2020 State of Event Marketing
2020, right? When we take stock of all the disruption and adaptation that businesses have experienced this year, there is no doubt that the events industry and community are forever changed.
This summer, Certain conducted a survey in order to better understand and identify the current state of B2B event marketing, and to inform our 2020 State of Event Marketing report. The survey responses came from over 265 B2B professionals who possess a level of decision-making in their company’s hosted events, from organizations ranging from SMBs to large enterprises. The results of the survey demonstrate the impact of COVID-19 on corporate events – offering a glimpse into what the future of events will look like in 2020 and beyond.
The full findings of the survey can be found in The 2020 State of B2B Event Marketing report, but here are a few of the key findings to come out of our research:
Event marketers face a common challenge
Industry trends show that event marketers continue to struggle with attendee engagement during online events, with more than half of participants indicating this as the biggest challenge in hosting digital/virtual events. For many, 2020 brought the brand-new experience hosting fully-digital events programs. As a result, the focus shifted to how to better engage virtual attendees to ultimately deliver greater ROI from events.
“There is a maturity curve to hosting an engaging virtual event,” says Wendy Phillips, head of corporate sales at Certain. “Early on, it’s all about just pulling off the digital experience – choose a provider, learn how to use it, make sure your speakers know what they are doing and hope for the best. But once that proficiency develops, then the next stop on the maturity curve is layering in more engagement. Then you have data. Then you can focus on ROI.”
Despite an uncertain future, the importance of enterprise events remains
While many large enterprise companies are still evaluating the impact of COVID-19 on their event strategies (23%), the majority are continuing to invest in events in 2020 and beyond, with 50% of those companies noting that events are as or more important to their marketing strategies in the second half of the year.
The shift to fully digital events programs in 2020 has touched companies of all sizes, with 86% of respondents currently hosting online events. Even companies who noted events as moderately or not important to their marketing strategies have reported that they are hosting digital events in 2020. Regardless of the level of importance that events play in their marketing strategies, companies are still turning to digital events to get their message out to their audience.
“There is a maturity curve to hosting an engaging virtual event. Early on, it’s all about just pulling off the digital experience – choose a provider, learn how to use it, make sure your speakers know what they are doing and hope for the best. But once that proficiency develops, then the next stop on the maturity curve is layering in more engagement. Then you have data. Then you can focus on ROI.”
– Wendy Phillips, VP of Corporate Sales at Certain
New skills for 2020
As events go virtual, marketers are becoming more aware of the new skills required to thrive in a digital environment. 76% of respondents noted virtual engagement ideas and execution as the greatest area for upskilling in 2020 and beyond.
Increasing skills around web streaming technologies for large-scale audiences (49%) and video production and editing (27%) point to an expectation of digital events continuing to play a larger role in companies’ future event strategies. And as companies look to re-introduce the in-person element to their events programs, 44% are looking to planning and executing hybrid events as a focus for upleveling in 2020.
Success requires a new way of thinking
Second to attendee engagement, 41% of respondents noted that finding unique/creative ways to make their events stand out is their greatest challenge when it comes to digital events. Event marketing budgets have taken a hit, with only 22% of respondents indicating no decrease to their event marketing budget in 2020. As a result, marketers are forced to be more creative than ever to deliver quality content and stand out in a hyper-competitive digital environment.
“Audiences are inundated with content right now – there is so much noise to break through. And while new strategies and techniques are being developed, many marketing and event professionals realize that to stand out, they need to fundamentally change how to think about events.”
– James Huddleston, Head of Marketing at Certain
Before the development of this report, we anticipated seeing a significant difference between how larger versus smaller companies have been impacted and are managing events in 2020. However, this report will show that the events community as a whole are experiencing very similar trends in the importance of events to their marketing strategies, how reduced budgets are affecting their events programs, the challenges that they are facing in hosting virtual events, and the solutions they are using to address their events programs in 2020 and beyond.