Budgeting can make or break companies. Few things induce a sense of dread like realizing you’ve squandered your marketing funds on ineffective activities.
You need to invest your resources in the right strategies to drive good business results. Failing to sustain a specific action, such as distribution, while investing your budget into creating content will lead to unbalanced and poor results.
So being careful about how you allocate your marketing budget is crucial to growing your company.
According to Gartner, “Companies with revenue of under $500 million reported the highest allocation to marketing with an average budget of 8.6% of revenue.”
The below graphic shows how companies distribute the 8.6% of marketing revenue across operations. Although brands transitioned almost entirely to purely digital channels, a part of the marketing budget was allocated to offline and two-way communication with leads, prospects, and customers. As the graphic reveals, investment in events rose from 9% to 9.4% from 2020 to 2021, indicating the perceived impact events can have on company goals.
Next, we’ll discuss how you can follow the footsteps of these organizations and take advantage of events to achieve your business goals.
What Is Event Marketing?
According to Gartner, “Event marketing is a strategy that includes live and/or virtual promotional events where audiences interact with a product or brand face-to-face or they engage with a meeting solutions platform via polls, chat boxes, social networking and discussion features.”
See this related resource for a holistic approach to creating engaging events with —The Engagement Marketer's Guide to Hosting Virtual Events.
Marketing channels such as gated content, SEO, ads, and email are one-way communication portals. They’re a foundational element of every marketing playbook. However, you also need a two-way communication platform to build long-lasting relationships and engagements that drive sales.
Building meaningful connections with your target group is one of the strongest strategies to increase your sales opportunities. Our experience has shown events are the best two-way communication platform marketers can use to generate real relationships and sales with prospects.
The 2022 B2B Events Industry Outlook from Emerald shows companies derive three main benefits from running events:
- Engagement from new accounts
- High-quality leads
- Events-attributed revenue
Event marketing works by running virtual, in-person, and hybrid events to attract, engage, and nurture your brand’s audience. These events can take various forms, such as:
- Executive summits
- Networking events
- Customer affinity events
- Trade Shows
- Fireside chats
- Product launches
- VIP experiences
- Social events
- Awards events
Unlike other strategies, event marketing is based on building and supporting meaningful connections with your attendees throughout their buying journey.
The Benefits of Event Marketing
Event marketing supports the goals of each stage in the buyer’s journey. Let’s break them down one by one:
Buyer’s Journey Stage: Attract
- Build brand awareness – Promoting your event gets people’s eyes on your brand. Even if one out of 10 individuals registers to attend your event, the other nine (or more) will become acquainted with your business.
- Engage with industry stakeholders – Think about the industry influencers you’ll invite as guest speakers. For some of them, your invitation will be their first interaction with your brand. Familiarizing them with your brand will open up more business opportunities for you.
- Access the audiences of your event speakers – Some of your event speakers will have large audiences, so take advantage. In most cases, if you ask them to promote your event to their network, they’re happy to do it. This exposes your brand to audiences you didn’t have access to before.
Buyer’s Journey Stage: Convert
- Convert high-quality leads – Events that feature product launches and demonstrations or customer success stories, are great for converting high-quality leads into attendees and, later, customers. According to EventMarketer, “In the new EventTrack survey of consumers conducted in the first half of 2021, 91% said, assuming the product/service demonstrated was one they were interested in, that participating in events and experiences makes them more inclined to purchase the brand.”
- Engage in two-way communication – Events showcase engagement marketing at its best. Running events helps you form and nurture relationships with your audience. As one Gartner article highlights, “Keep customers engaged throughout their purchase journey to develop customer loyalty and collect valuable customer information. More customer interactions lead buyers to find your brand more valuable and provide you with customer insights.” 78% of marketers agree, asserting that customer engagement translates into increased revenue in the middle and later strategies of the classic funnel. Moreover, 63% believe engagement manifests in customer renewals, retention, and repeat purchases. Think about the number of networking sessions and conversations your sales reps can have with your event attendees.
- Experiment with different event types to drive conversion – Plan events such as case study webinars, product presentations, or launches to identify what works best for your brand in terms of conversion.
Buyer’s Journey Stage: Close
- Drive sales with event marketing – According to Emerald’s 2022 B2B Events Industry Outlook companies expect a 50% increase in event-attributed sales pipeline in 2022.
- Upsell and cross-sell at your events – When running events that engage existing customers, you have the opportunity to upsell or cross-sell your products. A study by Constellation Research found companies who improve engagement can increase cross-sell revenue by 22%, up-sell revenue by 38%, and order size by 5%–85%.
- Monetize your event – This benefit may feel counterintuitive, especially when you rely on event marketing to attract and convert leads. However, if you run unique industry events focused on insights people can’t find anywhere else, you can justify monetizing the attendance.
Considering event marketing alone is enough to design and support every step on the buyer’s journey, it seems only natural to add it to your marketing playbook.
How Much of Your Marketing Budget Should You Allocate to Events?
Gartner conveniently has the answer to this question:
- Companies making under $500M annually allocate an average budget of 8.6% of revenue to marketing.
- From this budget, marketing spends 9.4% on events.
A company with $100M in revenue will have a marketing budget of roughly $10M a year. Of this $10M, the company will spend approximately $1M a year on planning and running events.
You can use the same formula to identify how much of your marketing budget should be allocated to events.
How To Budget for a Single Event
Next, you have to determine how much of your budget goes to each event. Let’s say you have a $1M annual budget for running events and your marketing team decided to run four events this year.
Logically, you’d split your $1M evenly between all four events, and that may be a good option. However, if you want to increase the efficiency of your event marketing strategy, you’ll have to calculate the ROI of each event.
For example, you may discover your second event has the potential to produce the highest ROI based on goals, attendee demographics, and networking meetings with the sales team.
So, instead of giving the second event 25% of your yearly budget, you may decide to invest more and give it 40%, which would be $400K. After these calculations, you’ll be left with $600K, which you could then divide evenly among the other events. Here’s how your new event budget allocation would look:
- Event 1: $200K
- Event 2: $400K
- Event 3: $200K
- Event 4: $200K
In other words, your event goals and ROI should dictate your budget allocation strategy.
How To Make a Budget for an Event
Once you’ve decided how much money you’ll allocate per event, you can then identify the elements that will have the greatest impact on your event budget:
Your budget will vary considerably depending on the event format, whether it’s a virtual, in-person, or hybrid event. Which one you choose depends on multiple factors:
- Is it safe to run in-person and hybrid events?
- How much are you willing to invest in running an event? (Usually, virtual events are less expensive than in-person and hybrid events.)
- Do you want to connect locally or globally with your audience?
To answer these questions, analyze your business and marketing objectives. This will help you identify the format that suits your current situation and your immediate goals.
- Type: Each format has its own costs (e.g., running a full-fledged conference versus a small workshop).
- Duration: Your budget will depend significantly on the event’s duration. You’ll pay less for a one-day event than a three-day, for example.
- The number of attendees: How many attendees do you want to attract? When running a virtual event, the number of attendees may impact the price of the online infrastructure. For example, some event technology platforms offer different price plans depending on the number of attendees you host. With in-person and hybrid events, the number of attendees will help decide the type of venue you’ll rent, the catering services, and more.
- Speakers: Will you pay your speakers or search for industry experts who’ll present for free?
- Networking: Will you offer networking opportunities for attendees? Will it require you to set up a special place for it?
- Entertainment: Are you planning a concert for your attendees? Or maybe you’ll host a cocktail mixology class to entertain your guests. The type of entertainment will dictate your event budget.
- Venue: Your venue will depend on the number of attendees you want to attract. For example, if you aim to keep the number low, you can rent a smaller venue.
- Furniture and decoration: In some cases, you’ll have to rent furniture and decorate the venue according to your event concept. This element will take up more of your event budget.
- On-site branding: Incorporating branding materials into your venue will add to your event budget.
- Signage: When running in-person events, signage is a must. Otherwise, people may get lost while searching for the event rooms.
- Maintenance: Services such as cleaning aren’t always included in the venue pricing, so double-check and be prepared to include that in your budget.
- Biosafety: With the gradual return to in-person events, consider adding things such as hand sanitizer stations to your budget.
- Transportation: In some cases, you may want to provide transportation for your speakers or special guests.
- On-site staff: Consider hiring additional staff to assist your marketing team during the event.
- Equipment: For virtual events, equipment entails streaming platforms, event technology software, studios for recording the sessions, and more. For in-person and hybrid events, this means AV equipment.
- AV staff: You may need to hire AV staff to assist you and your speakers during the event. They can make sure the equipment and programs operate without hassle.
- Simultaneous interpretation: Think about accommodations for people with hearing or visual impairments. This service will cost additional money however.
- Menu: You may have to pay for menu design.
- Furniture: The venue you rent may lack a designated space for catering. In this instance, you’ll have to rent special furniture and pay your catering provider for decoration services (tablecloths, flowers, table centerpieces, balloons, greenery, and more).
- Catering equipment: This includes supplies related to serving food, keeping it warm or cold, silverware and dishes, and more.
- Catering staff: Whether you offer a buffet or table service, you’ll have to hire catering staff.
- Coffee breaks: The number of coffee breaks you include throughout your event will impact the catering pricing.
- Lunch breaks: The number of lunch breaks (depending on how many days the event is) will affect the catering pricing as well.
- Other catering experiences: For example, if you’re planning a cocktail dinner for your VIP guests, you’ll have to add it to your event budget.
- Printed visual assets: Banners, stickers, event programs, brochures, leaflets — all these elements will increase the cost of your event.
- Ads: Whether you run virtual, in-person, or hybrid events, you’ll want to run ads to increase your outreach.
- PR campaigns: Don’t forget to include these in your event budget.
- Swag and handouts: In some cases, you may decide to offer small handouts to your attendees.
- Attendee management
- Badge management
- Lead generation
- Online registration
- Content library
- Survey/Poll management
- Virtual lobby
- Email campaigns
- Live chat
- Live Q&A
Luckily, technology democratized access to all-in-one event planning tools. When building your event budget, think about adopting one event planning tool to gain all the features mentioned above.
Budgeting For a Single Event
We understand how overwhelmed you must feel after reading about all those costs. Planning an event has many budgeting elements to consider.
To make things easier, though, we put together a quick event budget template that maps all the planning elements.
Choose an event type and identify the elements you want to include. (For example, you won’t need to factor “Transportation” as part of your event budget if you hold a virtual event.) The final decision depends on your event goals and purpose.
Event Budgeting Tips
Tip #1: Build strategic partnerships with media brands
Join efforts with industry media brands in mutually beneficial co-marketing programs. You can offer perks such as invitations to speak at the event, brand visibility, and exclusive access to cover the event.
Tip #2: Sell sponsorship packs to industry-related brands
Create a list of potential partners and offer them sponsorship packs. These packs may include perks such as lead list sharing, one-on-one networking sessions with your audience, an invitation to be a speaker, virtual or physical space to display branding assets, shared advertisement, and more.
Tip #3: Start small
You don’t have to launch your event marketing strategy with a big conference; you can start by running a short virtual event. This way, you’ll save money and gradually grow accustomed to the event budgeting and planning logistics.
Tip #4: Get quotes from multiple vendors
Evaluate multiple vendors and compare prices when building your event budget.
Tip #5: Monetize your event
As we previously said, it may seem counterintuitive, but if you host an expert-level event for VIP leads and industry thought leaders, you can always monetize your event. This will cover a part of your planning costs.
Tip #6: Leverage your marketing efforts with event tech
There’s no point in holding events if you can’t reach your ideal attendees. To justify your event budget, partner with powerful event technology providers that will help you attract and engage your ideal audience. With Reach, for example, you’ll have a database of more than 475 million contacts right at your fingertips. Give it a try and elevate your event attendance to reach customers you’ve otherwise been unable to engage.
- Companies of under $500M allocate 8.6% of their revenue to marketing.
- Marketing teams allocate 9.4% from their total spendings to event marketing.
- Events are one of the best methods of two-way communication marketers can use to generate meaningful connections with leads and customers.
- You can adapt event marketing to any stage of the buyer journey. Events are great for attracting high-quality leads, converting prospects into buyers, and delighting existing customers.
- Your business goals and predicted ROI should determine your event budget.
- If you predict generating a six-figure pipeline with one event, it’s definitely worth investing a five-figure budget into planning it.
- When forming your event budget, consider important elements like the event format, its characteristics, the program, the event location, AV equipment, catering, your marketing strategy, and your tech stack.
Your event budget greatly relies on your predicted ROI. In turn, your actual ROI depends on how well you run the event. Check out our Event Planning Workbook to make the most of your budget and achieve your desired results. 👇
* Gartner Press Release, “Gartner Says Marketing Budgets Have Plummeted to 6.4% of Overall Company Revenue in 2021”, July 14, 2021
** Gartner IT Glossary, Event Marketing, 7 March 2022. https://www.gartner.com/en/marketing/glossary/event-marketing
GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.