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What to Do with Budgets for B2B Trade Shows and Conferences?

Thoughts for SaaS marketers on digital events and content development as we push through the pandemic.

While some live event organizers are hoping to hold events again beginning in the fourth quarter, there’s a lot of time and marketing to be done before then. And this optimistic view is based on people being willing and able to travel and congregate in meaningful numbers. That said, there was a lot of money allocated to live events at many SaaS and B2B organizations, and attached to those budgets were expectations on leads and revenue to be generated. How should B2B marketing leaders adapt to the new landscape? This blog post makes specific recommendations.

Hold more webinars. We all know this, but you need to make it possible to scale. Use as much automation as possible to reduce the workload to create the ecosystem around the webinar itself. Webinars can create very qualified leads as, especially for those who attend and remain for most or all of the session, they’re interested in the content and solution. This arms the sales team with context and other resources you have related to the subject of the webinar itself.

Use as much automation as possible. If your webinar platform integrates with your marketing automation, you gain efficiencies and capabilities not possible with standalone solutions: insights into other activities (integrated within the contact record in HubSpot as example), participation including answers to poll questions and other site pages and downloads. This allows the sales team to prepare fully before reaching out. Also, you can and should enroll these participants in workflows to nurture them further.

Test different formats that might not require so much content to be developed in advance, including panel discussion and “ask me anything” events that can actually be more engaging than webinars with too many slides. Death by PowerPoint is still a thing.

Do webinars with partners to enhance content and recruitment and share costs. You can even create a mini virtual trade show with platforms like ON24, Glisser and WorkCast. Don’t be afraid to fall short of an idealized version of a virtual conference your first time. Just commit to continuous improvement.

Participate in online events held by traditional trade show and conference organizers and trade publications. Given the high demand you can miss out if you don’t act swiftly to new opportunities, even with new events being brought online weekly.

Build educational content. Web behavior during the pandemic is different. People are converting less but reading more. By offering content that educates, you can help people to do their jobs better and create affinity for you brand and product. And you don’t need to be a giant to do this. Think in terms of mini courses of four to six weeks, with each session 30 to 45 minutes.

Don’t abandon lead generation content. This new focus on education doesn’t mean that you’ll forsake lead generation altogether, but I would recommend that you focus more on the bottom of the funnel with offers like the model RFP, selection guides for your product area, etc. You might also get some great ideas from impromptu calls with SDRs and AEs as to what would help them get prospects to the next level of commitment or a closed deal. Building this kind of content now will not only help online lead generation near the bottom of the funnel, but also ingratiate you to the sales team, who are likely feeling quite stressed at the moment and will appreciate your support.

Test new media. This is the time to test new strategies and tactics. Maybe it’s time to advertise your B2B solution on Facebook. Or start that podcast – but use it as a business development exercise vs a media and audience building tool… if you only target high-value prospects as potential guests, you’ll get meetings you wouldn’t be able to get with dead-ahead sales activity, and in addition to the relationships you develop with your guests, you’ll get content their peers will deem worthy as well.

Focus on existing customers. It’s harder than ever to generate new revenue but if your solution is important to your customers and many of them remain viable entities, you should still be able to retain and upsell. The upsell might require more nuance and value than before, especially if your customers have procurement teams, but software that is strategically relevant, tactically important and shows a quick time to value should be able to be sold. And this will be especially true as you release new capabilities that help your customers adapt to the new normal of doing business post-pandemic.

The pandemic has upended life for all of us and SaaS marketers are no different. Please watch our recent webinar What’s the Mission as We Recover from the Pandemic? which addresses this topic in a little more depth and offers additional strategies and tactics to help you to thrive – not just survive – the months ahead as we dig out of this deep recession.

Feel free to reach out to me at or book a complimentary 30-minute meeting with me to talk about any topic related to this post. I sincerely want to help and hope that I’ll hear from you.

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TAGS b2b, Webinar, events

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