OrangeDoor’s head of growth Edward Low gives the lowdown on how rising inflation is impacting event costs, and what you need to take into account when planning your strategy and budget for 2023…
As 2022 comes to a close, your attention is likely turning to strategies and budgets for the new year ahead. If you’re a B2B marketer, a big part of that will be your events strategy.
Of course, budget setting is a bit more difficult than usual this year, given the unprecedented inflation rates and nationwide cost-of-living crisis we’re currently facing. In fact, it was recently reported that inflation rates in the UK are the highest they’ve been in 40 years, and the Eurozone inflation rate has soared by over 5% since January. Something that many people still aren’t quite recognising yet is how this cost-of-living crisis has a knock-on effect for companies operating in the B2B space.
While the main source of concern for most of us is sky-rocketing energy prices and our huge weekly shopping bill, inflation is also having an impact on supplier costs for all industries, particularly with activities like events. For example, our rent costs and mortgage rates on our homes are increasing. That means those same costs are increasing for event venues too, which makes hiring them more expensive than last year. Similarly, things like catering services are also now more expensive due to the steep inflation on the cost of food and beverages having a domino effect on the cost for agencies and their clients.
Good examples of these cost increases are; the price of chicken – a staple of the events catering menu – has increased by 28% since April 2022, and energy prices in the UK have jumped by a whopping 65% in the last 12 months
This trend is almost certain to affect the events budget you’re currently planning for 2023. However, there’s still a common disconnect between the rising costs that people are (reluctantly) accepting as consumers and what they’re preparing for in business.
When it comes to inflation on energy prices and other daily necessities, there’s the sense that we’re all in it together with an “us against them” mentality. It’s also important to realise that we all need to take that same attitude into the B2B events sector in 2023, especially if you want to achieve your objectives while sticking to your budget.
So, what can we do to ease these problems? How should you plan your events strategy and budget for 2023 in ways that reduce the impact of inflation?
In this article, we’ll explore this problem in more depth, highlight some key considerations to make for your events, and suggest some steps you can take to help you achieve your marketing goals in 2023.
Advice to Ensure Your Events Strategy is Successful in 2023
It’s worth mentioning here that the purpose of this article isn’t to suggest you simply increase your events budget without asking any questions. The intention here is to alert you to these issues now, so you can adjust your expectations, prepare accordingly, and make 2023 a successful year.
Before increasing your budget, there are a number of resourceful, creative things you can do to adjust your plans, while still setting yourself up to achieve your objectives. So, let’s look at some ways to manage these rising costs:
1 – Plan Ahead Now, Act Early
It’s more necessary than ever to get a head-start on your events in 2023.
As touched on earlier, that strategy and budget you’re setting for next year should be something you’re ready to put into motion as early as possible. The more notice and lead-time you give your events partner, the further they’ll be able to take your budget.
For example, printing all paper assets for your event several weeks in advance will minimise your costs for printing and remove premiums on last-minute delivery. Choosing a venue for your event earlier will allow you to maximise your options and find better deals with more flexibility.
Working with your events partner earlier will also give you more time to adjust your plans if you find that certain things you’ve had in the past no longer fit within your budget. The key to managing inflation is to be realistic and adaptable with your expectations when compared to previous years.
2 – Collaborate More with Your Events Partner
To build on the previous point, if you’re able to be more collaborative with your events partner, you’ll also improve the value for money they can deliver for you.
Talk about your overall marketing objectives with your partner, or what you need to achieve from your events, and get their perspective on what the priorities should be.
Use their experience and guidance to help you develop your plans, because they’ll have useful insights into the outcomes of similar events they’ve run in the past.
For example, you could have a three-day event in mind that could easily be reduced down to two days. Or, similarly, they may help you realise that you can reach all your goals with a virtual event when you thought you’d need to do everything in-person.
3 – Collaborate More Internally
One intelligent way to increase your events budget is to collaborate across departments internally and gain more resources to help you. Work with other departments within your organisation to plan events that are seen as joint initiatives and you’ll gain the support of other teams.
To do this, propose a business case for our event that demonstrates the “holy trinity” of:
Thought leadership and credibility
Face-to-face customer engagement.
Get your content team, your brand team, or your digital team involved, and combine your resources for more budget towards a strategy that will return value for everyone.
Don’t forget that events are an excellent source of long-term marketing content as well, from post-event reports and blog articles, to interviews with speakers, to recordings of important sessions published as videos online.
4 – Consider Virtual Events
Virtual events became a necessity during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. In that short space of time, there were some fantastic advances made with the capabilities of both events agencies and technology providers.
Unfortunately, when lockdown ended last year, most businesses were quick to abandon that virtual model before even getting close to realising the full potential of online events. Admittedly, the return to face-to-face events was a cause for celebration, but that in-person aspect also brings tremendous cost increases on the digital alternative. For example, when adding the cost of components that are exclusive to face-to-face events, such as food, travel, and venue hire, the value of virtual events becomes much clearer.
And while the great experience of an in-person event is undeniable, there are also a range of other benefits virtual events can deliver – from global reach and greater sharing of information to convenience, accessibility, and sustainability. Using virtual events, you can achieve tremendous things on a significantly smaller budget in 2023.
5 – Choose Your Location Wisely
If you do need plan in-person events, choose your location wisely to save costs. Identify an area where most of the people involved are based, or at least have easy access to. Run your event in that location to minimise costs on travel and transportation.
Of course, for some businesses, some events will need to take place outside the UK. If that applies to you, choose your locations carefully to be as cost-efficient as possible. Consider locations like Zurich or Copenhagen, where transportation can be free if it’s tied into destination travel. Places like this also have incredibly sustainable venues and infrastructure, so there’s less environmental cost.
6 – Fewer Attendees, More Relevance
The size of your event, or number of attendees, is another aspect that will have a big impact on the total cost, but this one is under your control.
This should be seen as an opportunity rather than a compromise. It’s common to achieve greater results from an event that has a smaller – but more relevant – number of attendees who were chosen with a targeted approach.
For instance, in digital marketing, you’ll gain a greater conversion rate from 50 highly relevant leads than you will from 300 cold leads. The key difference in the context of an event is that 300 attendees will cost you five times more than 50 attendees will.
It’s also worth mentioning that smaller events, with fewer people invited, will often create an air of exclusivity and prestige that large-scale events rarely have.
7 – Be Strategic with Your Event Selection
To build on the previous point, you should be careful when deciding what type of events you’re going to run, or participate in, based on what you’re trying to achieve. Remember that different events will be more effective at different stage of your customers’ buyer journey.
For example, if you’re targeting a large segment of customers who are being brought into the top of your marketing or sales funnel, you’ll probably find sponsoring a third-party event more cost-effective and useful. When taking this approach, make sure you don’t book a space that’s any larger than absolutely necessary. The larger the space, the more material and higher the costs. Work with an events partner to create better experiences rather than bigger exhibition stands.
Conversely, if you’re targeting a small group of prospects lower down the funnel – perhaps to convert them into customers, or even nurture existing customers to renew their contracts – a smaller, more intimate event would be far more beneficial.
8 – Reuse and Recycle Whenever Possible
Think about your entire marketing strategy, including your events, across the whole year, and identify opportunities to be more economical with your use of resources. Much like people are exploring new ways to save money by reusing and recycling at home, it’s also very cost-effective to reuse as much as possible over multiple events.
A bigger investment in materials and resources initially – such as printing, signage, staging, and so on – will deliver significant cost savings over the year. That could free up more of your budget for things like nicer venues or better experiences.
If you take our earlier suggestion of making events a cross-departmental collaboration on board, there will be even more opportunities to reuse and repurpose assets after your event has taken place.
Getting Ready for 2023
It looks like 2023 could be a difficult year for us all as the cost-of-living crisis is far from over. Inflation will continue to pose challenges for everyone, across almost every industry, for the foreseeable future. The best way to manage this issue is to work together to find practical solutions.
When it comes to B2B events, it’s important to be aware of how inflation will affect your budget. Try to be flexible with the expectations you have for that in 2023 and be open to working more closely your events partner. It’s also wise to get your events strategy in motion as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
To ensure that strategy will succeed, you need to clearly understand your objectives, prioritise the aspects of your events that will help you achieve those, be realistic about your budget, then start to put everything else together.