Are you measuring event ROI? You should be.

Are you measuring event ROI? You should be.

Catherine Meng
Catherine Meng
July 18, 2021

With the right tools and a bit of planning, corporate event ROI is measurable and something every CMO should be flexing.

Don’t settle for just “getting our name out there”

The world of event marketing and experiential marketing will continue to grow and evolve as we move beyond 2021. “Meetings professionals are optimistic about their ability to make the most of technology in their 2021 meetings and events,” according to the Global Meeting and Event Forecast (GME). In this same report, 31% of event professionals claimed they would like to increase budgets to improve the use of technology.

If you’re an event marketer with a budget growing as fast as executive interest in your events, calculating return on investment rockets to the top of your priority list.

And if you’re like 31% of the respondents in the GME report and you have an increased budget to leverage technology, why wouldn’t you do everything you can to measure your true ROI?

And yet, more often than not when we speak to marketers they tell us, events are just something we do to get our name out there. If we had a dollar for every time we heard someone say they’re just participating in events for exposure, we’d give that dollar right back to them and say, there’s a better way.

Pre-Event Strategy:

The best time to make an event marketing plan is before you’re hurtling a million miles a minute toward an upcoming event (though the right kinds of tools can make that a much better logistical ride) because you can only track what you’re set up to track, after all.

Taking a moment to nail down four key data points in advance of an event can make measuring ROI afterwards a breeze and ultimately save you a boatload of time and energy in the long run.

Nothing is worse than realizing after the fact that you neglected to establish a baseline metric or forgot to give the prepared hashtag to your social media manager. #facepalm

1. What are your goals?

The goals you choose are secondary to having them in the first place. Your goals should exist in writing, and everyone who needs to agree on them should agree on them. Aim for 6-8 goals. 4 at minimum. These should be as concrete as possible, if there are questions or uncertainty from your team, you should take another pass with clarity in mind.

Your goals might be a mashup of any number of these:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Increase sales
  • Promote product knowledge
  • Customer education
  • New product launch
  • Lead generation
  • Media impressions and press coverage
  • Increase website traffic
  • Increase social media engagement
  • Develop influencers and brand ambassadors
  • Etc.

2. What do you need to measure?

If you put your goals on a hilltop (stay with me here…) and let them shine like a beacon, everything you do should be in service of cutting a clear and direct path to the top of that hill.
There will be peripheral concerns, of course, but your main focus should be on the items that will get you closer to those goals at the top of the hill.

With that analogy in mind: make a list of all the data you need to gather and define how it ties back to your goals. You should also start thinking about how you can accurately measure that data in relation to your goals.

Here’s a sampling of the types of data you might need:

  • Attendees
  • Leads
  • Qualified sales opportunities
  • Net promoter score
  • Registrations
  • Sales
  • Social mentions/likes
  • Survey responses
  • Event website referrals and conversions
  • Email clicks
  • Email opens
  • Search ad impressions and clicks
  • etc.

3. Tools you will use to acquire + measure data

Your CRM, analytics tools, social UI data and any survey platforms you utilize are good places to start when deciding which tools you will rely on to measure the data on your list.

You’ll want to be mindful of how to assess the validity of your tools, the accuracy of the data they provide and how they will integrate with your current systems (ie some platforms only show data for certain time periods or only in certain formats).

You should also take a moment to evaluate how you are acquiring your data. No shame, but it is officially time to move beyond clipboards full of paper forms for company reps to fill out in chicken scratch and forget in the hotel lobby! Or Excel spreadsheets full of leads that get lost on the company’s Sharepoint.

Make life easier on yourself and everyone on your team by taking a look at some modern solutions that can increase efficiency, accuracy and make the overall process a lot less complicated.

Identifying a single event marketing platform with robust integrations might be a consideration to help streamline an active event calendar, manage your event tech stack, as well as vendors, and budgets.

Post-event follow-through:

Phew - the event is over and was a screaming success! Now what?
Chances are you either:

  • a) breathe a huge sigh of relief, never think about that event again
  • b) barely have time to breathe at all as you’re swept up in planning for your next event that’s somehow already around the corner.

But remember: there’s another way! If you’ve taken some time to set-up a lil’ savvy strategy beforehand this is the moment to review event data, clarify your metrics and confidently determine your event’s ROI.

1. Surveys + NPS

Many marketers use post-event surveys or interviews to help gather data for calculating ROI. Surveys are one of the best ways to gather quantitative and qualitative info from participants, partners, and vendors. A mix of open- and closed-ended questions is best practice.
Don’t miss your chance to ask how likely people would be to recommend your product or service to a friend or coworker, on a scale of 0-10, because that's your event Net Promoter Score (eNPS) and one of the fastest way to know how to improve.

2. The Moment of Truth: Calculating ROI

You’ll need a few ingredients to calculate event ROI:

  • The baseline data you took before the event (related to those goals you set, remember?)
  • New data obtained after the event
  • Total and true cost of hosting or attending the event

If you followed the plan, the first two should be straight forward. The third can be a little tricky.

A note on budgets: Costs get buried in a lot of places, especially when you’re planning for big events or multiple events at a time. Did you buy a case of stickers and use them across 10 events? Does the line item for shipping the promotional materials live in one spreadsheet and the line item for renting the cheese truck live in another?

You’ll need to configure your accounting software or use an event planning platform with the right features to keep all your costs in one place. This will allow you to trace all the costs back to the event, have a  and more accurately calculate your ROI.

Here’s an example of what calculating ROI looks like in action:
Let’s say one of your event goals was to get beta signups for your new product release, specifically among developers.

  • Your pre-show measurement was zero signees
  • You focused a lot of your energy at the event on messaging related to the new product
  • You sponsored a developers’ luncheon where you got to give a 2-minute welcome speech where you talked about it
  • You exhibited in the vendor hall with sales reps. You sent out a pre-show email with info about where to find your booth and a new product fact sheet
  • Afterward, you’d signed up 65 developers to your beta. Go you!
  • It cost you exactly $9,235 to attend that conference, including the cost of sponsoring the luncheon, exhibiting, and travel and registration expenses. So each one of those signees cost you $142.07.

This kind of data also comes in handy for linking your event marketing ROI directly to your customer acquisition cost calculations. Later, you can factor your cost per signee into Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) if they become paying customers.

3. Planning Ahead

Calculating ROI and analyzing data will help you confidently evaluate how your latest event performed and easily allow you to compare it to all your past and future events. But most importantly: going forward this will empower you to make data-driven decisions when planning your events instead of guesstimating.

Should you buy the speaking engagement or just be an attendee? Do some of your sales reps perform better in person at a conference than they do on the phone? Should you host the event activity in-person or online? Should you go to the trade show or attend virtually?

Maybe the large-scale trade show in Vegas you go to every year that eats up a majority of your resources is actually a lot less effective than that small regional conference which is an unexpected goldmine of leads and relationships. Maybe being the most-recognized big fish at a smaller conference means a greater awareness boost than being an unknown little fish in a sea of mega names.

Once you start utilizing data not only will you know what makes sense and why, but you will also have the numbers to justify your decisions and the extra assurance your plan is sound. Calculating ROI lets you know what is worth your time AND what your time is worth.

So there you have it! Event marketing ROI can be as simple as creating a plan and using the right tools for analysis, giving you the insights you need to create effective, data-driven event marketing campaigns.

Circa makes ROI reports a breeze

Event marketing and experiential marketing are just like any other piece of the marketing mix.

Advertising, content, social--these all have goals, metrics, benchmarks and a clear role to play in the overall marketing strategy. They’re also repeatable, measurable and optimizable. Event marketing automation should and can be the same.

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