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Where are B2B Event Dollars Going?

Where are B2B Event Dollars Going?

Events were central to B2B marketing prior to COVID-19. 

“The number one thing B2B companies spend money on is events,” explained VP and principal analyst of B2B marketing at Forrester Research Laura Ramos. “Now, some companies say they need to figure how to generate demand in other ways, but if we were good at using other methods, we wouldn’t have relied so much on events.”

‘Other methods’ translates to digital marketing (as B2B print publications face their own challenges amid the pandemic). The transition to digital marketing has not been simple for many B2B companies—but it is happening in several ways. 

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B2B Marketing Budgets Reallocated to Different Online Channels

Without events, B2B companies are reallocating budgets to digital channels. 

For example, Dell reinvested out-of-home and radio advertising into digital media channels to take advantage of increased engagement throughout April and May. 

“We were already in these spaces to a healthy degree, but we’ve significantly increased our attention and our investment,” explained Michael Lambert, senior director of small business marketing at Dell Technologies.

But there are several ways to do online marketing to increase demand and tighten up pipelines—where are B2B companies putting their dollars?


Many brands are taking their events and converting them into an online event or webinar. Since the beginning of the year, the number of companies advertising webinars has almost tripled.

Number of B2B Brands Running Webinar Ads 2020 YTD Chart

Because large gathering safety remains uncertain, 2021 events are already going online. For example, CES 2021, the large trade show that typically hosts about 182,000 people—will be hosted online in January. Events like these will change networking strategies, programming, roundtable discussions, and more. 

Digital Advertising

B2B ad dollars shifted strongly into digital advertising amid the pandemic, especially in the early days. As case counts seemed to decrease, digital advertising spend on B2B websites followed suit. However, with the recent increase in cases, digital ad spending rose again.

Weekly Ad Spend on B2B Websites vs. COVID-19 Case Counts

Comparing Q2 of last year to Q2 of this year, we see that the categories making up online B2B ad spending saw dramatic shifts.

Percent Change YoY In Digital Ad Spend on B2B Websites Chart Q2 2020 vs. Q2 2019

The largest jump came from Medical/Pharma brands, who dramatically increased ad spending on B2B websites as the pandemic took hold. 

Travel brands, on the other hand, cut ad spend dramatically—hurting B2B websites with content focused on the travel industry. Other B2B websites that are supported by business travel advertisers also feel the significant cuts.

Content Creation

Companies also reallocated budgets by investing in organic content creation and search engine optimization (SEO). 

Research conducted by Webbiquity LLC. found that the top spending categories for B2B marketers to reallocate event budgets to included:

  • Content creation
  • Hosted and sponsored webinars
  • SEO 
  • Industry vertical lead generation programs

“Marketing budget dollars originally slated for events are being shifted to content marketing and social media,” explained Tom Pick, founder and chief digital marketing consultant at Webbiquity LLC. 

While companies are creating free content to drive traffic to their websites, B2B magazines are being pushed online—navigating their own questions surrounding free and paid content. Many B2B magazines are currently seeing larger audiences online compared to their print editions, but they will have to create content that truly stands out to remain profitable. 

No matter the industry—B2B companies all seem to be finding new rhythms to drive lead generation, engagement, and sales. We will continue observing advertising trends to understand the reallocation of event dollars. 

For more updates like this, stay tuned. Subscribe to our blog for more updates on coronavirus and its mark on the economy.