Why events are your highest-payback channel

Mini Mighty ABM

This article is part of the Mini Mighty ABM series where we ask top experts in ABM to share one actionable idea that you can use at work today. These tips are mini, but mighty. For more, visit ABM Revealed.

I do my best thinking outside the office. Traveling to an event, I get breaks I’d never otherwise take. I see things. I talk to people. I have unstructured moments between car and plane where I experience bursts of creativity that send me scrambling to jot down notes, and I am not alone in this.

Every time you host an event, you facilitate a small reset for each attendee, who then arrives primed to see, learn, and connect. It’s a respite from the onslaught of daily email and puts people in a receptive state and leaves them open—finally—to hear you.

Out of all the marketing tactics you can adopt, events are the most labor-intensive, resource-demanding, and occasionally, the priciest. But events are also the highest-payback channel and deserve at least 24 percent of your budget because they make that money back.

There are four reasons why events convert:

Higher-quality contacts

Events help accelerate your sales cycle by connecting you to higher levels of leadership within the account. Instead of playing phone tag and hoping end-users watch a webinar, you reach executives and buyers who will come to a relevant in-person event to network and learn for several consecutive hours. You get them more engaged earlier in the cycle.

Once at the event, you have their attention. They often feel obligated to get their time’s worth and it’s harder to get distracted browsing the internet or Slack when they’re surrounded by others who set a focused tone.

Events are powerful partly because the good ones aren’t about your product. (Unless it’s a customer training.) They’re about connections with other people, and how you can help prospects accomplish what they need to accomplish. I think of events as pollination grounds. When I’m there, I hear the questions others ask, sense their reactions, and consider their perspectives. Over lunch, I often debrief with other marketing executives I’ve met to hear their post-game commentary: What’d they like? What’d they not believe? What’s top of mind for them?

More insightful data

Events can be a choose-your-own-adventure book and each decision reveals a lot about that attendee’s interests, situation, and challenges. For each contact, events can tell you:

  • Why they came
  • What topics they engaged with
  • Who they networked with
  • Which sessions they selected but didn’t attend
  • What vendors they liked
  • What content they liked

    If you have an event platform, you can use that data to score those contacts and personalize your outreach, ads, emails, and importantly, future events. Nothing hits home like an invitation to an executive dinner series sent to someone whose behavior suggests that they’re interested in networking.

    Events change people’s minds

    Events are where people go to transform themselves. You may read articles about doing your job, but when you’re a director who wants to become a vice president, you attend an event with other vice presidents. You go to learn how to be a hero at what you do. The brand hosting that event becomes associated with your aspiration and builds up an inexhaustible stock of goodwill. It’s part of why 41 percent of respondents consider events their most critical marketing channel, according to Bizzabo research.

    They inspire strategic thinking

    When people get out of the building, they can’t stop thinking. Inside, everyone has their head down focused on a screen, but outside, the blinders are off. You get new inputs. Research from the University of Illinois shows that breaks and travel restore people’s motivation for long-term goals and ability to accept new ideas. Run an event and you invite people out of their defensive posture and into an open one where they’re ready to consider you and your service. It’s an increasingly important opportunity in a world of digital-only outreach: 95 percent of professionals say events provide an invaluable opportunity to form connections, up 12 percent from the year before.

    I do my best thinking outside the office, and I am not alone. By running events, you give your prospects an opportunity to do their best thinking, and to do some high-quality, conversion-ensuring thinking about you.

    My actionable takeaway:

    Events are your highest-payback channel. Reserve at least 24 percent of your budget for hosted events and trade shows.