We’re firmly in the ‘you can never have too much of a good thing’ camp, especially when it comes to events - and marketing conferences in particular.
Getting together with marketing peers and experts, learning from each other, and making useful professional connections can be energizing, exciting, and dare we say it ‘fun’?) It’s why we’ve put together a list of top B2B marketing conferences that one can attend in 2023.
But let’s be honest. The list we’ve put together will only grow longer and longer.
However, there’s only so many marketing conferences you can attend in a year before your manager looks askance at your time off requests and your expenditure slips. So how, out of hundreds of events, do you choose the ones that will be the best value for your time and money?
The ones that help you prove ROI to your managers (ie. those that help you achieve your goals within your budget).
Here’s how to figure this out/what to take into account when making a case to management:
1. Your goals
Why do you want to attend this conference? Is it to drive brand awareness? To drive pipeline for your sales team? To get insights and new ideas in your field, and upskill? The answer will determine what type of audience you want to reach and interact with whilst attending the conference.
To this end, do not hesitate to email conference organizers for any information they can share about the attendee profile - industry, company size and location for example, or any other factors that are important to your ICP. At a minimum, ask for a previous year’s attendee list.
2. Location, location, location
In 2022, the event ecosystem evolved to see a co-existence of all formats, so this year you’ll find marketing conferences in a variety of shapes, sizes and formats. For example, while Salesforce’s Dreamforce will be held in-person at San Francisco this year, Adobe’s Summit will be hybrid, with attendees able to join virtually or at the venue in Las Vegas.
So the essential question a la Hamlet is: to travel or not to travel.
Pros: An in-person B2B marketing conference is great for marketers who are hungry to feel part of a crowd, to socialize, collaborate and network via spontaneous watercooler conversations - and thrive from it. Yes, most things can be accomplished virtually, but there is still no substitute for some in-person intangible experiences: a new relationship forged over a drink at a bar near the venue, or a level of trust that’s built from a casual conversation about sports teams or Netflix shows and a handshake for instance.
Cons: However, putting people on planes is not cheap. And spending that extra dollar for fuel, hotels, food, and drink at the event all adds up. (Plus, for eco-conscious organizations, there’s the environmental cost of transportation to reckon with). Consider whether that amount would be better spent attending a conference or marketing summit that have virtual components.
3. Opportunity cost
Very simply, this is the marketer’s equivalence of FOMO. If you don’t go to the marketing conferences you’ve picked out, what connections or partnerships would be lost? Or what knowledge or skill set would you miss out on?
For instance, in this age of AI and ChatGPT, marketers who don’t already know how best to leverage these tools are already a step behind the competition. Wouldn’t it be invaluable to hear experts share their successes and cautionary tales? Keep in mind that the average impact for a single cost-saving improvement idea is around $31,043.
It’s not always just a question of, “Is this event worth the money” but also “What would be the qualitative cost to your team? or “Which option gives me the comparative advantage?” which leads us neatly to our next point.
4. Competitors and competitive advantages
Checking to see whether your competitors, or other successful companies that you may look up to attended the marketing conference last year, and whether they were able to drive engagement from it can help you better understand the potential ROI for your business.
5. Speaking opportunities
If you plan to attend a marketing summit as an attendee, well and good. If you can attend as a speaker, even better. To this end, check the conference website to see if they’ve put out a call for speakers, or send organizers an email explaining your interest leading a session or joining a panel.
This contributes to ROI in many ways:
- You can establish yourself and your business as an expert in the industry
- You can reach cross sections of people who are likely to use your products or services an increase brand awareness.
- It's a great PR opportunity
- While compensation for speaking at conferences varies, at the least organizers will usually waive attendance fee. As they say, a dollar saved is a dollar earned.
6. Exhibiting and sponsorship
Check to see what the exhibition and sponsorship package prices are for any conferences you plan to go to as an attendee. If you’re going to fly halfway around the world to attend the conference, you might as well make the most out of it.
Pros: Exhibiting enables you to increase exposure and connect with prospects on a personal level by letting them experience the product firsthand.
Cons: However, it’s expensive. Booths are priced as per size and placement so the better options can be pricey, and you’ll also have to pay for add-ons like an internet connection at the booth (yep!). And you need to factor in the costs required for booth design such as banners, standees and swag. These add up, so you should figure them out in advance.
Pros: Based on the sponsorship opportunities available - eg. gift drops at attendee hotel rooms, branding at venue touchpoints, sponsored sessions - you’ll be able to reach and connect with the audience in a way you normally would not be able to.
Additionally, as a sponsor you usually will receive an attendee mailing list aka the motherlode.
Cons: There is no guaranteed return on investments because of the complexity involved in attribution; the results of sponsorship are more tenuous than the effect of an ad campaign. The conference audience may or may not remember your brand after the event, and consequently may not follow up on a CTA from an email or a phone call.
7. How much content can you create by attending
You’ve got to be able to squeeze every drop of ROI you can.
So evaluate what kinds of content you can generate from going to the conference, for instance can you write a blog post recapping your experience and learnings from the event (we did this after attending IMEX 2022 - read our piece here). Whilst at the event, can you interview some of the speakers or other leaders of companies attending the conference for your podcast?
The more opportunities you identify to create content from the event that can be used to generate awareness, traffic and pull leads into your funnel, the more compelling the argument to attend.
A short recap/TLDR
As you’ve seen, when evaluating which conferences to attend this year, you’ll need to check the expenses vs. the benefits of attending. While some factors are qualitative and some quantitative, when you get down to the brass tacks, it all comes down to how much pipeline (or how many opportunities) you should be able to generate, and therefore how much you can afford to spend.
The factors that we think should go into your decision-making is not exhaustive, but it's a good start.
Zuddl is a unified platform for events and webinars that helps event marketers plan and execute events that drive growth. The platform has clients across the globe, such as the United Nations, Kellogg’s, Microsoft, HSBC, VMware, Google, StackCommerce and Cipla amongst others. In January 2022, Zuddl announced that it closed $13.35 mn in Series A funding.