2020 saw B2B marketers increase their use of online events and webinars. But as face-to-face contact resumes, more are planning a blended approach. Three-quarters (74%) of those surveyed for The Future of Events Report [download page] by ON24, Market2Marketers and Heinz Marketing say they have a hybrid event planned for the next 12 months, a figure higher than the proportion planning a physical-only event (70%).
Furthermore, the overwhelming majority (95%) of respondents agree that a hybrid approach will become more widely used in the coming years. This trend towards hybrid events has also been seen in other studies, with the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) finding that nearly 7 in 10 B2B exhibitors agree that virtual will be a bigger component of physical events moving forward.
However, given that many B2B marketers might not have yet produced a hybrid event before, there are a number of challenges that might come up.
B2B Marketers Care About the Attendee Experience
Some 9 in 10 (92% of) respondents agreed that the attendee experience is critical to the success of an event. As attending virtually is different to attending an in-person event, this appears to be a potential issue. Indeed, the most common perceived barrier to the success of a hybrid event is making the physical and digital experience equally good, with about half (49%) stating as such.
The next most common barrier to success is the issue of managing logistics, such as setting up cameras or a livestream (42%) and convincing attendees to come in-person when invited (36%).
Around one-third (35%) also see getting physical attendees to engage digitally as a potential challenge. This aligns with what B2B marketers want to achieve with their events as a whole. When asked to choose their top three goals and objectives, half (51%) cited customer engagement, putting it at the top of the list and even above revenue growth (43%).
That being said, B2B marketers appear to be confident that hybrid events will pay off, as 88% agree that they will contribute significantly to pipeline.
What B2B Marketers Plan to Incorporate into Hybrid Events
As marketers now spend significantly on technology, it should come as no surprise that the most popular element for marketers planning on running hybrid events is to connect the event with their own technology such as CRM or marketing automation system (64%).
The objective of driving engagement is also seen in this wish list, with the second and third most frequent elements being the ability to connect in real-time with attendees (57%) and that attendee engagement data is made available (56%).
In addition, many are looking to incorporate peer-to-peer networking (49%). As well as helping meet the human need for connection, this may also help with sales, given that buyers often turn to peers and colleagues when researching solutions.
The report can be downloaded here.
About the Data: Figures are based on a May 2021 survey of 200 B2B marketing professionals, 70% of whom work at companies with more than 250 employees. All respondents work for organizations that produce or sponsor events.