The hardest part of tracking event ROI? Data capture.

The hardest part of tracking event ROI? Data capture.

Alex Patriquin
Alex Patriquin
July 26, 2021

Every year, marketers create a budget and events calendar and, every year, they ask the same questions. “What was the ROI on that event? How can we be sure? Should we sponsor it again?”

Unfortunately, for far too many marketers at organizations of all sizes, this question is difficult or, even worse, impossible to answer. The challenge isn’t the question itself, which is just a matter of comparing costs and benefits. The hard part is that event marketers have to answer the question with patchy, incomplete data.

Events & meetings move fast

The events in question were fast-paced, with multiple activity streams, and they’ve also long since ended. There is no practical way to go back and recapture that lost data. How did this happen? Most tools just aren’t designed to capture event ROI data in the moment. That data simply flies through the fast-paced, multiple activity streams of offline, face-to-face events and meetings unrecorded.

When it comes to managing and executing events – from trade shows to sponsorships to corporate meetings – there are multiple activity streams and pockets of relevant data, which makes it hard to aggregate and collect the numbers in a single spreadsheet.

Data capture is the most difficult in the field, where vendors and reps add complexity to the process and new lines of communication. Here’s just few examples of the different types of cost and benefit data points you need to evaluate an event’s true ROI.

The R in event ROI

  • Sales from opportunities won onsite, usually smaller sized deals
  • Customer Meetings that move deals forward, both on the schedule and impromptu hallway conversations
  • Leads from check-ins, badge scans, business cards or even conversations at Starbucks
  • Attendees from registration lists and private party RSVPs
  • Survey Results from attendees and staff
  • Website Visits from attendees and online visitors
  • Impressions from experiences, product samples, collateral and signage
  • Mentions from the press and social media

The I in event ROI

  • Invoices from venues, contractors, exhibitor/sponsor sales and setup
  • Credit Card charges from printing and shipping collateral and swag
  • Expense Reports from sales rep travel, hotels and dining
  • Opportunity Cost… is this event the best use of everyone’s time?

While it’s theoretically possible for marketers to go back and manually compile all this data retroactively, in practice, it never happens.

For active field marketers especially, there’s always another event around the corner, another speaker or sales rep who needs a hotel booking or to be reminded of a confirmation number. And the show must go on, whether or not the data capture was complete, or even sufficient, from the last event.

Event marketers need a way to collect and store all this concrete data, both costs and benefits, closer to the source, closer to whoever created or modified it and when they did so. Ideally a way to compile all this data with those collaborators, but easy enough that they will actually do it.

Wait a minute... what about sales opps after the event?

Many marketers struggle with the basics, just getting all the leads and meetings from the event into their CRM.

Meanwhile some of the biggest ROI from events are later conversions. To truly track event ROI, event data needs to sync with systems of records, like CRM or POS systems, so that marketers can track and analyze opportunities created and closed downstream.

In Salesforce CRM, marketers should set up Campaigns for every event and track the Influence of each event and meeting in closing the deal. Calculating Influence isn't hard (Salesforce does it out-of-the-box), but you will need the data captured and categorized correctly.

With all the event costs and benefits tracked, and the delayed conversions attributed correctly, event marketers know how to make the right decisions – based on true event ROI, not guesses.

The hidden cost of poor data capture

Understanding and calculating event ROI isn’t impossible. Actually, it is quite simple – IF you have the data readily available. The real challenge lies not with the decision modeling, but with capturing the data in the first place.

The cost of poor data capture is huge. A single sponsorship or exhibit can cost a high percentage of a small company's marketing budget or run into the millions for an enterprise. Poor data capture is typically an organizational issue, not just isolated to a single event. The more events a team does, the greater the risk that data capture issues are leading to suboptimal marketing outcomes and wasting resources, from direct costs to executive time.

Fortunately, executives are starting to see the hidden cost of poor data capture and empower marketing teams with the right tools. Truly innovative marketing teams can leverage a holistic, collaborative event marketing platform to automate data capture for all the costs and benefits.

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