Event Marketing Strategies: Complete Guide with Campaign Ideas & Examples

Event marketing is a birthday party writ large, and event marketing strategies mean running a birthday party for thousands of people at once. Businesses run live events to give themselves influence, both on other companies and, most importantly, consumers.

Events, however, have a lot of moving parts that need management and direction. Not to mention, it’s a significant drain on resources and time, which would be wasted if you don’t plan for it accordingly. This means using all the help you can get is a significant boost to your event goals.

In this article, we discuss all things event marketing—an overview of this form of marketing, what it can do, and how to set up your own. We’ll also talk about the tools to make your event marketing stack, such as using event management software, and event marketing examples that you can draw inspiration from.

event marketing guide

Live events are undeniable proof that people are emotional creatures. This is why 84% of C-suite executives think they’re worth the investment. The reason is simple—events connect people with the business, which is increasingly more important as our lives become more intertwined within the digital world.

Ironically, events won’t get off the ground without these solutions. Marketers spend at least 21% of their company’s annual budgets on live events, and part of this is finding the right tools to plan, coordinate, and manage the event. The same study cites that businesses using software are 24% more likely to net event ROI than those that didn’t.

Software solutions, however, are but tools. What matters is the experience. After all, most people won’t remember the finer details of the event, but how that event made them feel. Crafting an event that will stay as memories for years to come—and positively painting your brand as the purveyor of that experience—is not only an art but a science. And profitable, too. Studies show that 65% of brands that leverage experience, including events, in their marketing strategy note a positive correlation with sales.

Source: Bizzabo

The question is—how effective is event marketing? The numbers may offer some insights. Nearly two-thirds of attendees surveyed after industry events reported that they understood a certain product or service much better. 70% also became regular customers after the event, while 84% say they have a more positive opinion of the brand. The last is especially true for experiential marketing, of which event marketing is a part of.

Today’s post will show you what you need to know about an event marketing plan, how to set it up, and how to best streamline your resources—whether technological, material, or manpower—to make an event to remember.

Customer experience in event marketing

Most industry insiders often use experiential marketing to refer to event marketing (and vice versa). This is a misnomer, as, strictly speaking, event marketing is a subset of experiential marketing. All events are experiential, but not all experiential marketing efforts are events.

The main difference is how people experience either event. In experiential marketing, people’s experience with the business is both personalized and subjective, and it relies on the guest’s inputs and interactions. On the other hand, events are a one-way street. Guests receive the same experience across the board, similar to attending a concert. For example, you get the same experience from an onstage Bono as the attendee next to you.

Differing goals, differing results

It’s worth noting how they differ because their goals vary as well. Experiential marketing focuses on the experience (hence the name). Events do so too but to a lesser extent. Brands usually tap the power of event marketing when they want to create a buzz for a new product or service. This makes creating an event great for when something is happening with your brand, and you want to get maximum press coverage and audience reach for it.

On the other hand, experiential marketing is more concerned with creating exceptional experiences so customers would view the brand in a more positive light. The key objective is to make a connection with consumers, especially one that would put the brand more favorably. While leads (and often sales) likewise result from these efforts, the more immediate goal is to shape a discussion about the brand. Experiential marketing often looks at long-term customer retention and interest.

Facebook IQ Live, an example of experiential marketing.

Differentiating between experiential and event marketing is essential because it allows you to tailor your approach to your goals to what you want to do. If you want to generate leads and conversions, an event is right for you. Events can also be done regularly, without much variation in goal. An experiential marketing campaign, however, is often a one-off affair and will require pulling resources that would typically be very difficult to obtain for the company.

When you want to create a memorable event for a B2B industry, you can try one of the following event marketing ideas.

Types of events

You can host (or sponsor) different kinds of events, but you need to know what type of event is more appropriate for the occasion. Some types of events are more suited to a particular goal. These include when you want to educate or to show off a new product line to the industry.

Here are four common event marketing ideas you may want to look at.

Conferences and seminars

A conference is a large-scale event, often the most common type of event. Most marketers equate an event marketing effort to a conference. A conference’s primary goal is to educate consumers or business partners and will usually have an engaging roster of speakers or thought leaders. Some conferences, however, are also about celebrating past milestones and can be used to offer a sneak peek of the brand’s new direction or to set goals for the next cycle.

Some conferences also have workshops and sessions to build a network with one another, especially in a B2B setting. Note that conferences can be both for B2C and B2B industries.

A small conference is usually called a seminar. Unlike conferences, whose goals can be more varied, seminars are more educational. They also often require fewer resources.

An example of a massive conference is the TED Talks conference. The annual event is the gold standard on how to deliver an outstanding conference with a panel of speakers that are the authorities in their chosen field.

Host Chris Anderson at TED2016 – Dream, February 15-19, 2016, Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

Trade shows

Trade shows, also called trade expos or trade fairs, are events that present, demonstrate, and discuss products and services from related brands in one single location. These supercharged events are held in large convention centers, usually in big cities, and may last anywhere from three days to a week. A car show, such as the Tokyo Motor Show, is an example of a trade show renowned the world over.

A trade show’s primary purpose is to bring together the vendors of a single trade, which is why it’s often used for B2B. Trade shows gather members of the industry to connect with other brands or leads. However, some trade shows allow public entry, but these are often limited to trade shows that have a B2C aspect.


Ceremonies (or galas) are elegant ways to promote the brand and are usually used for social good, like charities or fundraising. These events are “higher class” than other events because it wants to portray the brand as a socially responsible and sensitive business. Unlike the first two types of events, galas are geared toward investors or for lobbyists to look for political advantages. This is why it’s normally off-limits to consumers.

One of the most (if not the most) famous example of a fundraising event is the annual Met Gala. The ball benefits the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in NYC. While nominally independently run, it’s a good way for designers to flaunt their brand by extension due to the personalities that wear their designs. Also, Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, is the chairman of the institute and runs the gala. This means the publication and its publisher, Conde Nast, enjoy some degree of exposure.

Virtual events

Some tech companies leverage virtual events not only to save money but to show off their sophisticated tech. Virtual events allow companies to stream their event, for example, a conference or a trade show, to people who have signed up for a virtual ticket. Some companies offer a virtual-only attendance, but others provide a mix of both live and virtual experiences. An example is Blizzard Entertainment’s annual Blizzcon, held every November, where there are both live and virtual attendees.

Virtual events enable interested people, such as consumers, to access an event that would otherwise be restricted to industry partners. The rise of virtual and augmented reality will likely make virtual events more commonplace. Future virtual events would offer an expanded experience even for in-person ones.

Choosing an event type is just the start of your journey. What comes next is how to make a timeline for your event marketing plan.

Event marketing guide

You can easily set up an event marketing campaign by following a timeline. In this guide, we’ll detail the steps you need to take when planning an event, from up to a year before the event down to the last seven days before the gates open. We’ll categorize each step to 8-12 months out, 2-3 months out, and finally the last week before your event.

Note that this guide is for a business that’s looking to host an event, not merely sponsor one.

T-minus 8-12 months: laying the foundations

This is where you conceptualize your event and lay the foundations of what your event should be like. Note that this is barebones and only meant to prepare for the real work ahead, and is thus mostly on paper—at the moment.

  • Decide what kind of event you would like to hold (see preceding section for ideas).
  • Ascertain your audience—for whom the event is for. After fixing this, make a theme that resonates with your core audience.
  • Establish goals. This may involve things like the number of attendees (in-person or virtual), ticket prices, and if you want to turn an ROI (and how much).
  • Determine your budget. Use previous events as a baseline, but if this is not possible, look for events similar to yours in your industry.
  • Select a date and venue. Have plans A, B, and C for both.
  • Research speakers and sponsors (also called vendors). For the last two, compile speakers and sponsors who have participated in events similar to yours. For sponsors, determine how to best activate them and the rate of your sponsorship packages.

T-minus 2-3 months: putting it all together

Most B2B event planners now get all the information they’ve gathered in the last few months and act on it. Bizzabo cites that the 5-8 weeks (1-2 months) before the event as the most crucial, as this is where the bulk of the planning gets done.

  • Finalize your speakers, sponsors, and planned entertainment.
  • Arrange for their travel and accommodations. Make sure you have bio and photos of the sponsors so you’d know who’s who.
  • Secure the financial side of your event. Do this by finalizing your ticketing scheme and technology and organize the funds from your contributors.
  • Build your event website, if it’s the first event you do, or update your main website if it’s recurring. Website building rules apply, including mobile responsiveness and beefing up network infrastructure to handle increased loads for online registrations.
  • Promote your event. Create an event branding and disseminate event copy to your staff. Work with social media and email marketers to create interest, or reach a hitherto inaccessible audience with paid ads. You can also create content (like blog posts or video) about the event or the theme of the event and add your event on third-party event calendars. Use retargeting tools to push your agenda to past guests.
  • Fix venue details, such as the caterer and the menu, audiovisual equipment, WiFi connection, security, signages and communication, and permits (if any).
  • Create a sensible schedule that will keep the audience engaged. For example, don’t front-load speakers or put panels one after another, as you need breaks in between. Think about letting panels flow contextually into one another, and the times of day attendees tend to get tired.

T-minus one week: applying the finishing touches

  • Finalize your schedule and script. Make sure your event staff has a copy and have them memorized, if possible.
  • Determine communication channels and that everyone knows what to do for unforeseen circumstances. Rehearse emergencies.
  • Update venue details with the caterer for final registration of attendees, and how much leeway you’re expecting.
  • Double-check all equipment.
  • Confirm schedule with your sponsors/vendors. This includes details on ingress and egress times, setting up, and so on.

When you’re done with everything, the only thing left to do is to open the gates and welcome your guests!

Building an event marketing stack

A technology stack is a set of solutions that make an event work. This includes both software and hardware, and—to a limited extent—the people who manage the event. In marketing parlance, however, “stack” often means the supporting software that run the event, from pre-registration, website building, and gathering feedback from attendees. Building a technology stack may ask that marketers procure additional software support. Otherwise, take stock of your current software inventory.

In event marketing, a technology stack isn’t as simple as finding a ticketing or an all-in-one CRM software. Solutions will usually encompass several aspects of the event, including (but not limited to):

  • Event website
  • Registration
  • Mobile app
  • WiFi access
  • Survey and polling
  • Wearable support
  • Matchmaking

When looking at the tools you need for a particular event, remember that an event stack is usually categorized into four: pre-event, event management, engagement, and review. Find a solution that’s optimal for each category.

Doing it all

Ideally, you should find a program that does it all. Wrike and ProjectManager, for example, are versatile tools with robust planning and scheduling functionalities.

Wrike can handle events as projects, too—here’s an example of an event template that this software supports.

Wrike is also a project management and collaboration software, but it can do much more than simply making a scrum or a kanban board. It can adapt to any project you require, such as an event, with its customizable templates and scalable functionalities. If you’re interested in what Wrike can do for you, you can sign up for Wrike free trial and experience it firsthand.

Also, consider expenditures. Ask yourself: if you don’t have the solution you need, do you really need it? Or would it become an unnecessary expense? Does forgoing a software means forgoing the critical needs of those who will attend? If the answer to the second question is yes, the solution is a requirement and should be acquired.

In addition, building an event stack—and how it integrates with the experience itself—is in itself a statement of the grand strategy of the brand. For example, issuing wearable beacons is a subtle reminder that the attendee is attending a tech-centered event, and checking in using VR and AR is a nudge as well. It wouldn’t do, then, for a tech brand to resort to outdated check-in procedures and modes and fail to utilize cutting-edge software integration in the event.

Event stacks match the goals of the event itself. While it may be challenging to find the best solutions for your event stack, reviewing a curated list of event management software is an excellent place to start.

Event marketing: the last word

Event marketing is one of the best ways to reach and build a more positive relationship with an audience. Most marketers and executives agree—which is why businesses are pouring more money into live events. As human beings are emotional creatures and naturally crave social connection, an event allows brands to “humanize” themselves and forge a bond with their audience. Chasing leads and converting them to sales are great, true. All of these, however, come from a more profound and more emotional attachment with your consumers and partners.

Planning an event, however, is a painstaking process that requires oiling all its moving parts. It will take a highly focused team from several disciplines to pool their talents together for several months of planning—only for an event that will last, at best, a week. Any misstep during the planning phase will likely be a huge factor during the event itself. Thus, you should minimize them by utilizing the technology available to you.

A technology stack can help you automate and manage your event and leave you and your staff free for more creative decisions. Wrike—again, you can sign up for Wrike free trial here—is a good example of just what a powerful utility can bring to your event planning and direction.

Otherwise, you can also try collaborative software that can enhance how your team communications during the event. Take a look at our collaboration software tools for starters.

Astrid Eira

By Astrid Eira

Astrid Eira is a resident B2B expert of FinancesOnline, focusing on the SaaS niche. She specializes in accounting and human resource management software, writing honest and straightforward reviews of some of the most popular systems around. Being a small business owner herself, Astrid uses her expertise to help educate business owners and entrepreneurs on how new technology can help them run their operations. She's an avid fan of the outdoors, where you'll find her when she's not crunching numbers or testing out new software.

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