B2B marketers are putting their faith in sponsored virtual events in 2021: GDS research

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Spencer Green, founder & chairman of GDS Group
  • Sponsored virtual events are now the second most popular lead generation tactic for B2B marketers
  • 73% of B2B marketing professionals cite virtual events as highly effective
  • 79% of marketers plan to sponsor six or more virtual events in 2021
  • Access the report “The State of Marketing Acceleration”

B2B marketers are throwing their weight behind virtual events and summits in 2021, with over three quarters (79%) planning to sponsor six or more events this year. These are the latest findings in an independent research report commissioned by GDS Group, the global events, research and technology services company

The State of Marketing Acceleration” report, written on behalf of GDS Group by Insights for Professionals (IFP), is based on research with 200 senior B2B marketing professionals from large companies (1,000+ employees) in the USA during January 2021. The report, which looks at the top B2B marketing strategies needed to thrive in the post-COVID recovery, focused on three key areas; demand generation, revenue acceleration, and communicating in a post-COVID world.

Virtual events are the second most popular lead generation tactic for B2B marketers

The survey started by asking which sales and marketing channels are the most popular for lead generation. Email marketing automation is a core part of the marketing strategy for the survey respondents, with over 61% of B2B marketers using this in their demand generation campaigns. The more surprising result was that virtual events were the second most popular tactic, with 54% of respondents agreeing that they are vital to their success. This shows the rise in digital experiences, particularly in the time of the global pandemic where physical events are not feasible.

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While sponsored virtual events are not a brand-new tactic, they really exploded onto the scene at the start of the pandemic when physical events were no longer possible. 2021 will see this channel continue to grow, even as we move into the pandemic recovery phase. Digital natives and millennial buyers want slick productions that don’t require them to travel – and marketers are finally responding.

With many buyers now favouring the credibility, scalability and polished output of sponsoring a partner event, this trend looks set to continue. When asked how many virtual events they’ll be sponsoring in 2021, over three quarters (79%) are planning on six or more.

Virtual events are highly effective

When asked to score the effectiveness of virtual events out of 10, almost three quarters (73%) of B2B marketing professionals rank hosted/sponsored virtual event programmes as highly effective, giving a score of 7 or above. This demonstrates positive results with taking traditional event planning into the virtual landscape. Furthermore, nearly a third (32%) are strong advocates (NPS) of virtual events, ranking them 9 or 10 out of 10. This indicates a rising dominance of virtual events in demand generation when seeking to generate high quality leads.

These findings are reinforced by a Gartner 2020 study, which confirmed that hosted events are 2.3x more likely (than webinars) to accelerate conversion rate to over 40%.

Which challenges do you face in accelerating sales results?

The IFP survey also asked marketers which were their biggest challenges in accelerating sales results. The biggest problem, as cited by 68% of respondents, was building a repeatable process for continued growth. Virtual events have proven success, and are scalable in that sense. With ‘Zoom fatigue’ and the bad reputation of webinars, professionally produced events with high levels of interaction are the smarter way to communicate.

In a post-COVID world, it’s not just convenience that buyers need, but quality content that provides value and relevance to support their digital research. As the DMU (decision-making unit) navigates purchasing in this new online market, virtual events can be the reinforcement that they require to move forward

Shorten the sales cycle with virtual events

If you want to shorten the sales cycle, get qualified buyers in the pipeline, and use a repeatable process with proven results, sponsored virtual events are the way to accelerate your B2B marketing efforts. With the GDS Showcase “Events-as-a-Service” platform, marketers benefit from guaranteed attendees from an exclusive list of c-suite, director and VP-level buyers, as well as a guaranteed % response, all delivered on a hosted “as-a-service” basis with professional live hosts, customisable studio set and the highest production values.

Traditional digital marketing:

  • Typical time for MQL to move to SQL = 90 days
  • Typical time in SQL = 46 days

Virtual events with GDS:

  • Typical time from MQL to SQL = 1 day*
  • Typical time from SQL to pipeline revenue = 17 days*
  • Typical time from pipeline to close = 2x faster*

* Based on GDS client feedback

Spencer Green, founder & chairman of GDS Group comments on the results, “With leads and prospects being bombarded with messages all day and every day, it is important for Marketing and Sales to find a way to cut through the noise. When you throw in COVID-19 and the decline of face-to-face meetings as well, reaching the B2B decision-maker has never been more difficult. This is where the right technology and platforms are critical to the success of your virtual events.

GDS has proven to its clients again and again that highly interactive, broadcast-quality virtual events can completely redefine brand communication, giving marketers an engaging platform to talk to their buyers, product users and influencers that matter most. Furthermore, they provide a way to collect actionable data on the DMU (decision-making unit), helping marketers understand and truly connect with their audience.

Virtual events are the most sustainable and scalable option for growth in 2021, and since webinars may be considered “old hat” at this point, audiences can still be excited with well-produced virtual events such as summits and virtual roundtables. With 79% of B2B marketers planning to sponsor six or more virtual events this year, clearly this message is getting through. But remember, not all virtual events are created equal, so finding a trusted and proven platform is the first, and most important, step.”

Sam is the assistant content manager for Event Industry News (EIN). Sam is involved in publishing news stories, videos and podcasts. Sam also collates the latest stories for the EIN e-newsletter. If you have a press release or story you think we might be interested to know about please email editor@eventindustrynews.com

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