In the world of business marketing, B2B events offer a tried-and-true channel for wowing your target audience, meeting potential clients, and raising brand awareness.

Whether you’re a seasoned event organizer or just learning the ropes, planning and executing B2B events requires substantial effort. 

From designing event content to choosing the right speakers, B2B marketers have a lot of important decisions to make. As the person responsible for turning your company’s vision into a reality, achieving event success may seem like a daunting task. Where do you possibly begin?

We’re here to help! Read on for everything you need to know about hosting successful B2B events.

What is a B2B event?

Group of diverse people in business attire standing in front of large windows conversing at an event

B2B stands for business to business, which means any relationship between one company and another. Therefore, B2B events are any in-person, virtual, or hybrid gathering that brings two or more businesses together. Typically, these organizations share a common denominator, such as operating in a particular industry, sector, or profession.

B2B event marketing, by extension, refers to the discipline of leveraging B2B events for business marketing and promotional purposes. 

The differences between B2B marketing and B2C marketing

B2B event marketing concentrates on generating B2B sales and finalizing contracts, but it also includes fostering connections with fellow industry professionals. Networking opportunities lay the groundwork for potential clients and strategic partnerships that may be finalized further down the road. 

On the flip side, there’s business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing. B2C events have a much different target audience, as they’re focused on reaching ordinary consumers, not other organizations. Normally, B2C events are held to acquire on-the-spot sales and create brand awareness rather than nurture potential relationships. 

Another key difference is that B2B companies have a much longer sales cycle than their B2C counterparts. B2B sales have a greater barrier of entry because there are more stakeholders involved in the decision-making process. Plus, these deals happen on a larger scale, often rising into the five- or six-figure territory. Simply put, the stakes are much higher.

Here’s the overlap: Both B2B and B2C events aim to immerse the target audience into an experience they’ll never forget. Why? Because experiences drive event success. The happier, more engaged, and more satisfied your event attendees are, the more likely they are to feel positive about your brand. 

Benefits of B2B event marketing

Group of diverse people walking through B2B event hall with various booths in the background

According to the Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers rank events as the marketing channel that produced the best results in 2022. That’s why it’s not surprising that over half of the respondents also expect to invest more in event marketing this year. In fact, marketers rank B2B events in their top three leading investment areas in 2023.

So, why host a B2B event? Let’s consider the advantages:

  • Thought leadership: A marketing event is not only a great opportunity to promote your company but also to position it at the forefront of your industry. Plus, B2B companies hold thought leadership in high regard. According to Edelman, more than half of B2B decision-makers spend over an hour per week reading thought leadership content. Additionally, 47% said that thought leadership helped them discover a brand and led them to purchase.
  • Brand awareness: B2B events bring many B2B companies (and their decision-makers) to the same location, where they can easily see your brand name. By virtue of this extra visibility, you can more easily foster relationships and increase your company’s exposure among your target audience.
  • Lead generation: B2B events provide sales teams with high-quality leads. By directly meeting with a potential customer, businesses can generate leads and create a pipeline of future opportunities.
  • Sales acceleration: As mentioned, B2B companies typically have lengthy sales cycles. Event marketers can streamline the decision-making process by meeting with potential clients at a key point in their buyer’s journey, nurturing them down the B2B sales funnel, and maximizing the eventual return on investment (ROI). In fact, 86% of B2B companies see a positive ROI seven months after a hybrid event. So, even if the payoff isn’t immediate, B2B events are effective revenue generators.

Types of B2B events

B2B events come in all shapes, sizes, and formats. When deciding to host a marketing event, you have a choice of three format options:

  1. In-person: Your standard live event where people physically attend a venue. Click here to learn more about the return of in-person events.
  2. Virtual: A virtual event is a completely digital experience. Attendees tune into a live broadcast using event technology such as an event management platform. Virtual events offer the benefit of reaching a wider audience without the cost or complexity of arranging in-person details like catering, venues, or transportation.
  3. Hybrid: A hybrid event is the best of both worlds, offering a more flexible approach to B2B event marketing. Event attendees can watch at home or travel to the venue—either way, they (hopefully) get a fun, engaging experience.

No matter which format you choose, you have an endless array of B2B event types at your fingertips, each one serving a slightly different purpose. Let’s take a look at a few common types of B2B events:

Trade shows

trade show booth ideas that attract visitors

A trade show is a type of B2B marketing event where members of a particular industry get together to demonstrate and discuss their latest products and services. These events range from single-day gatherings of a few dozen businesses to hundreds of companies exhibiting over several days.

The purpose of a trade show is to share whatever your organization has to offer directly to your target audience. Through hands-on demonstrations, detailed conversations, and unique experiences, B2B marketers aim to connect with potential clients and reinforce relationships with existing partners. 

Take the Small Business Expo, for example. For more than a decade, small B2B companies around the U.S. have gathered at this trade show to generate leads, increase brand awareness, and connect with industry-leading vendors. To keep event attendees engaged, the Small Business Expo also features workshops, seminars, networking opportunities, and a fun, high-energy environment.

Networking events

Not all B2B events are squarely focused on product promotion. Some are much more interested in building relationships and facilitating conversations between B2B companies and their stakeholders. 

Networking events are designed to do exactly that. These can be anything from intimate, invite-only events to enormous gatherings at a full-scale convention center. Hosting a networking event is a great way to grow brand recognition and plant a seed that may eventually blossom into a big win for your company. 

Here’s an example: Content Marketing World is an annual networking event for content marketing professionals from around the world to connect, collaborate, and share ideas. Networking events provide a great opportunity for companies to expand their network and practice thought leadership.


Image of a conference that takes place in a large conference room

A B2B conference is an event where organizations gather to discuss topics relevant to their specific industry. Typically, this type of B2B marketing event includes a wide range of activities and sessions, including presentations, keynotes, workshops, and live entertainment.

More than an event, B2B conferences are a platform. In other words, it’s a stage on which your company can shine in front of its target audience, whether that means interacting with event attendees, showcasing a new product, or discussing the latest industry trends. As a forum of like-minded professionals, B2B conferences prove key to strengthening current and future partnerships. 

Want to learn more about B2B conferences? Check out how MAD//Fest took its marketing festival to the next level with Webex Events.

Product launches

A product launch is exactly like it sounds—the unveiling of a brand-new product or service to the public. The point of a product launch is to generate buzz and excitement around the new offering, hopefully leading to an influx of sales. 

Much like a trade show, this event creates a chance to showcase the product in front of an interested crowd. That’s why event marketers invite potential clients to attend the launch, where they get the first opportunity to use the new product to their advantage. 

Apple Special Events is a classic example. As one of the world’s leading tech companies, Apple regularly hosts product launches to highlight its latest innovations. 

Charity events

Of course, B2B companies are normally focused on lead generation and revenue. But, as more organizations venture into the world of event marketing, some are realizing the power of hosting a B2B charity event.

First and foremost, charity events are an opportunity to give back to the community or raise funds for a worthy cause. However, they’re also a great way to build brand affinity. By associating your company with acts of kindness and charity, you can generate more positive sentiments toward the brand, shining your business in a more positive light. 

Qualities of a successful B2B event

No two B2B events are the same. That said, there are a few shared elements to consider that can increase your chances of event success:

  • Networking opportunities: We’ve already discussed how important networking is to your business, but it’s also essential to your attendees. According to Skift, networking is the top factor B2B attendees use when determining an in-person event’s value. Almost two-thirds of event-goers report a higher interest in networking sessions in 2022 compared to 2019.
  • Engaging speakers: Skift also notes that only 25% of event planners are less focused on speakers than they were before the pandemic. Why? Because organizers know people still want to hear what keynote speakers have to say, especially if they’re big-name presenters. Increase attendance and energize audiences by booking exciting, noteworthy guests.
  • Entertainment: Breaks are important to an event. Quite simply, attendees grow tired of talking business at a certain point, which is exactly when you should swoop in and keep them engaged with something exciting. Whether it be a comedian, concert, or contest, there are countless ways to entertain a corporate audience.
  • Event technology: Today’s B2B events embrace innovation like never before. In fact, Skift says that 78% of event marketers are using more tech at their events than in the pre-pandemic era. From registration software and breakout rooms to mobile apps and gamification, event tech stacks take audience engagement to the next level.

How to organize a B2B event

Calendar Planner Organization Management Remind Concept

Now that you know more about the various B2B events you can plan, let’s talk about setting things in motion. Get started on the right foot with these event planning best practices.

Keep event goals in mind

Every event has a purpose. Are you focusing on thought leadership, brand awareness, B2B sales, or a combination of all three? No matter your goals, it’s best to establish them early and let them guide your decision-making. That way, everything about your event will tie back to your objectives and ensure you host a successful event.

Consider your target audience

Next, think about your demographic. Who are you targeting? Are you aiming for influencers or decision-makers? Consider your industry and the type of stakeholders you need to reach. This will help tailor your messaging/planning and deliver an event that meets their specific needs.

Promote the event before, during, and after

What good is a B2B event if nobody shows up? The short answer: none at all. Avoid this nightmare by promoting the event as much as you can leading up to the big day. Use email and social media to reach your target audience and make sure they’re aware of your event in the first place. After the event, repurpose event content to continuously engage clients and convert them into repeat attendees.

Optimize the digital experience

If you’re hosting a virtual or hybrid event, don’t let your online audience down. Even though they’re not in person, they expect just as fun and engaging an experience as anyone else. Incorporate technology wherever possible to encourage virtual engagement. Interactive tools like live Q&A, polling, and more can help bridge the gap between both audiences.

Capture ROI

Gather analytics in real-time before, during, and after the event. This allows you to proactively measure performance and make adjustments as the hours pass. Better yet, ensure you’re capturing metrics that tie back to your event goals so that you can calculate ROI for you and your sponsors.

Think beyond revenue. Consider other metrics that influence ROI, such as opened opportunities or marketing qualified meetings (MQMs) your sales team holds during the event.

Partner with the right technology provider

Most importantly, work with a technology partner that doesn’t just provide you with the tools you need to succeed, but actually empowers you to make the most of them. 

With Webex Events, you gain more than an end-to-end event management platform. You get the ability to capture real-time ROI, engage hybrid audiences, wow sponsors, and connect with prospects—all with the support of a professional services team.