Despite tightening marketing budgets, in-person events continue to be a core marketing channel for B2B SaaS companies. 

According to Sagefrog, in person trade shows and events are the leading area of marketing spend for 2024, with 38% percent of respondents saying that exhibiting or sponsoring in-person conferences will be a tactic they employ. 

It’s clear marketers understand the value but with budget pressures and a move towards efficient and sustainable growth, 41% say the pressure to prove the value of their marketing efforts is high.

For events in particular, justifying the spend and proving the ROI is more important than ever.

In this post, we look at the different ways to sponsor events, why events remain a core B2B SaaS marketing channel, and run through three ways to measure the ROI of your event marketing efforts.

What do we mean by event sponsorship?

Event sponsorship is a way for businesses to promote their brand, meet new and existing customers, establish market presence, and make powerful connections by partnering with and actively participating in industry events. 

In B2B SaaS, there are sponsorship opportunities at different types of events including but not limited to trade shows, conferences, networking meetups, social events, and webinars. 

Most events will have a range of sponsorship options that you can evaluate based on your budget and business goals. Some examples are: 

  • Having a booth on a show floor at a conference or trade show.
  • Hosting a networking event or content workshop.
  • Sponsoring an engaging activation. Some we’ve had at SaaStock include barista coffee stands, VR headsets, and lock boxes with incredible prizes.  
  • Hosting unique experiences or social events. Think lunches and dinners, 5k runs, yoga, and happy hours. 
  • Large scale brand visibility opportunities across event signage, welcome packs, and registration desks.
  • Speaking at an event as a keynote speaker, panel member, or moderator.

Why do B2B SaaS companies sponsor events?

B2B SaaS companies sponsor events for a number of reasons. The ones that matter most will depend on your company, business goals, and the opportunities at the event you’re working with. 

Broadly speaking, event sponsorship outcomes falls into these categories:

  • Pipeline expansion and revenue: Events offer a number of ways to get in front of and collect important data about decision makers from your ideal customer profile (ICP). This type of first-party data is crucial to marketing leaders and through in-person meetings, interactive booths & activations, and real time feedback, events provide opportunities to collect accurate and valuable information including preferences, behaviours, and contact details.
  • Brand awareness and thought leadership: Being present at events, showcasing your product and brand identity is a great way to increase awareness and build trust in the market. A survey by global events company Freeman, found that 77% of event attendees trusted brands more after interacting face-to-face with them at events. 
  • Customer relationships and feedback: As well as connecting with prospects, use events to connect with your existing customers. Speak to them and ask for feedback. You can then use these conversations to address any issues and identify cross selling opportunities. 
  • Networking and making new connections: Events are an unrivalled opportunity to make connections. This could be sharing challenges and learning from peers, meeting with founders who go on to become partners, or finding the lead investor for your next funding round. 
  • Product feedback and market intelligence: Events are an opportunity to get live feedback on your product. You can also use them to gather market intelligence, whether understanding what competitors are doing or seeing more broadly where SaaS companies are innovating and what’s driving their growth.

Why is measuring the ROI of event sponsorship difficult?

Despite the numerous benefits, without preparation, measuring the impact of events can be a challenge in the B2B space. For reasons including: 

  • Lack of clear goals for the event: To accurately track the ROI of an event, you need a clear goal.
  • Long sales cycles: B2B sales cycles can be long and include multiple touch points and contacts. Particularly with enterprise sales, closing a deal can take months or even years, making it hard to attribute event success directly. 
  • On and offline touch points: Some aspects of event marketing are difficult to attribute. For example, there could be an adhoc conversation or an attendee might read your flyer–neither of which would be tracked but that person might then search for your company later on when they are ready to buy.

How to measure ROI of event sponsorship

Successfully measuring the ROI of your event sponsorship starts with having specific goals for what you want to achieve. From there, you can choose the KPIs, quantitative, and qualitative data that will give you the clearest picture of whether or not you achieved them.

3 ways to measure conference ROI

In its simplest form, the ROI of any event is the revenue or pipeline generated, compared to the overall sponsorship cost. 

But there are multiple other ways to measure the business impact of event sponsorship. Here a some of the most common: 

1. Pipeline expansion and revenue

  • Meetings booked: Calculate how many meaningful meetings were booked because of the event. This can include meetings booked in advance, during, or after the event. 
  • Leads generated: The number of contacts you have to follow up with at the end of the event. Depending on your approach to gathering these leads, there may be work to do to qualify the leads post event.
  • Cost per lead: The total cost of the event, divided by the number of leads generated. You can compare this with the cost per lead of other marketing activities to see which channels are most effective.
  • Lead to opportunity conversion rate: Measure the quality of the leads you generate by looking at the percentage that go on to become opportunities. For product-led companies, this could be how many go on to sign up, either to a free trial or as paying customers.
  • Event attributable revenue: How much revenue was generated as a result of the event sponsorship. Depending on your attribution model, it can be difficult to see how much the event was involved in the deal getting closed but the important thing is to understand where the event was part of the sales journey.  

2. Brand awareness and engagement 

  • Website visits:  Track your website visits during and after the event. If you have collateral at the event or are running an offer or discount, use QR codes and tracking links so you can easily attribute visitors to your event activity. 
  • Social engagement and following: Particularly useful if you’re running an activation or experience, make it easy for people to share on it social and track your engagement metrics. 
  • Follow-up engagement: Tracking the open and click through rates of any follow up comms you do can be a good indicator of how well your brand has stuck with people. This also goes for performance of post event content marketing and social posts. 
  • Talent acquisition: Events can be a great way to attract talent to your business, track the number of applications to your open roles in the weeks following the event.
  • Marketing attribution: Ask how people discovered your brand at points of conversion in your marketing, and include the event on the list. This can help you uncover some of those ad hoc, untracked interactions mentioned earlier.

3. Customer engagement

  • Number of conversations: Look at the number of customers you engaged with at the event. 
  • Cross-sell and upsell opportunities: The number of expansion revenue opportunities identified from those conversations.
  • Expansion revenue: Report on how many of those opportunities become closed won deals. From here, you can see how much expansion revenue can you attribute to the event.
  • Feedback: Analyse the feedback you received and use it to make decisions about where to focus your efforts going forward.

How to maximise event sponsorship ROI

Being in the room with your ICP, your brand on display, and a demo at hand is a great start but there are other things you can do to get the most out of your sponsorship. 

Here are our top tips: 

  1. Do some of the work up front: Take a look at who’s attending, who’s speaking, or even which companies are local to the event and reach out to get meetings booked in advance. This could be prospects, opportunities in the pipeline, customers or investors.
  2. Brief your team and align on the goal: Make sure everyone attending is clear on the goal. Train them on your lead generation practices, encourage them to network and approach people, rather than waiting for people to approach them.
  3. Follow up after the event: Whether it’s booking a meeting, nurturing leads with relevant content, or getting a coffee in with one of your peers, don’t let those connections go cold.

Kick start your event marketing with SaaStock 

At SaaStock, we’ve spent eight years working with partners to make sure our events deliver impactful return on investment. 

This year, we’ve launched a number of new partner initiatives for our Dublin conference that take this a step further – making it easier for you to build your pipeline, generate brand awareness, and grow your revenue. 

  • SaaStock Saloon: A content space for curated discussions and keynotes to help you find practical solutions to your challenges.
  • SaaStock Concierge: Facilitated meetings, coordinated by SaaStock, focused on bringing together Partners and key decision makers.
  • SaaStock Boardroom: A closed-door boardroom for C-Suite leaders centred around peer-to-peer conversations, lessons learnt, and insights for addressing business challenges.

Find out more about our partnership opportunities or download the prospectus

We look forward to hearing from you!