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Events hog a large portion of marketing budgets for B2B exhibitors, and a new Splash-sponsored survey from Harvard Business Review (HBR) Analytics Services [download page] confirms their budget influence, with B2B respondents allocating 29% of their budgets and B2C respondents 19% of their budgets on average to events. The report indicates that educational events are among the most popular types, and also the ones for which respondents typically spend the most money.

The survey was fielded among 739 members of HBR’s audience, half of whom are from companies with more than $1 billion in revenues. Respondents most commonly reported hosting one-day conferences or seminars for marketing purposes, with 54% doing so at least annually. Product trainings (46%), business or channel partner events (45%), thought-leadership workshops (44%) and VIP meals (43%) also figure prominently as hosted events for marketing purposes.

As for sponsored events, industry trade shows and conventions are the most popular, sponsored by 54% of respondents at least annually. One-day conferences or seminars (43%) are next, followed by business or channel partner events (41%) and multiple-day conferences (40%).

4 in 10 to Increase Spend on Hosted Events. On What?

Enterprise organizations have touted events’ effectiveness, which likely explains why respondents to this latest study are increasing their event activities.

A slight majority (54%) report having boosted their event activity over the past 3 years, 3 times more than have cut back (17%). Furthermore, 4 in 10 plan to spend more on hosting events in the next year, and 3 in 10 will spend more sponsoring events.

What will they be spending on? The report details the event types for which respondents spend the most money. They break out as follows:

  • For B2B firms, respondents most commonly said they spend the most hosting multiple-day conferences (24% share of respondents), industry trade shows/conventions (23%), on-day conferences or seminars (22%) and business or demand channel partner events (19%);
  • For B2B firms, respondents most commonly said they spend the most sponsoring industry trade shows/conventions (44%) and multiple-day conferences (26%);
  • For B2C firms, respondents most commonly said they spend the most hosting one-day conferences or seminars (16%), product launches (15%) and in-store events (15%); and
  • For B2C firms, respondents most commonly said they spend the most sponsoring entertainment events such as sporting events and concerts (21%), one-day conferences or seminars (17%), industry trade shows/conventions (15%) and multiple-day conferences (15%).

The differences likely relate to events having different purposes and strategic considerations for B2B and B2C companies.

ROI Proof Still Elusive

Although the survey’s respondents are enthusiastic about the effectiveness of events, it’s also true that few are able to accurately measure ROI. In fact, just 23% said they’re able to track the ROI on events, dwarfed by the number who can’t (55%), with the rest (22%) not knowing.

This has been an issue for some time: a 2015 study found, for example, that most marketers engaged in event initiatives claimed a positive ROI from their efforts, but that ROI was only sparingly used as an event success metric, and a sizable proportion didn’t know what it was.

As for metrics, the HBR study indicates that respondents typically track the number of attendees (64%) and the number of qualified sales leads (56%), while close to half measure brand awareness (48%) and about 4 in 10 social press mentions (41%) and amount of sales pipeline generated (40%).

The full report is available for download here.

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