Stop settling for just “getting our name out there”
If we had a dollar for every time we heard a marketer or company leader say, “Events are just something we do to get our name out there,” we wouldn’t have to…
Well, okay, we would still work at EventGeek. We love building the platform that’s the answer to event marketers’ fervent, stressed-out wishes.
So let’s say instead: If we had a dollar for every time we heard someone say they’re just looking for “exposure” at events, we’d give that dollar right back to them and say, “There’s a better way.”
The world of event marketing and experiential marketing has and will continue to grow. Just from 2014 to 2015, budgets for this slice of the marketing pie went up 6%, according to the Event Marketing Institute’s EventTrack 2015 brand survey report.
Even crazier, 58% of that growing budget came directly from corporate in 2015, as opposed to coming from other parts of the marketing mix. Compare that to 35% of budgets directly funded by corporate in 2014, and it’s clear that event marketing is steadily on the rise.
If you’re an event marketer with a budget growing as fast as executive interest in your events (or if you are that interested exec...hi!), calculating return on investment rockets to the top of your priority list.
If you’re like 37% of the respondents in the EMI survey and you have a marketing budget of more than $10 million (including 11% at more than $50 million), why wouldn’t you do everything you can to measure your true ROI?
Engage in a little savvy marketing strategy
Measuring ROI starts as soon as you decide you’re hosting, managing or attending an event. You can only track what you’re set up to track, after all.
You know where we’re going with this: you need a strategy!
The best time to make an event marketing plan is before you’re hurtling a million miles an hour toward the day of the event (though we like to think the right kinds of tools can make that a much better logistical ride).
If you’re always moving fast toward the next event, even taking time to map out four major pieces can save you when you circle back around to measure ROI afterwards.
Nothing is worse than realizing after the fact you never measured a baseline metric or forgot to give the prepared hashtag to your social media manager.
1. What are your goals?
“Because it’s in Hawaii” or “because everyone else does it” aren’t good enough reasons to do it.
The goals you choose aren’t as important as actually having them in the first place. Preferably, solid and non-fluffy ones. They should exist in writing, and everyone who needs to agree on them should agree on them.
Your goals might be a mashup of any number of these:
Increase brand awareness
Promote product knowledge
New product launch
Media impressions and press coverage
Increase website traffic
Increase social media engagement
Develop influencers and brand ambassadors
Brands conducting event and experiential marketing reported to EMI’s EventTrack 2015 report their top corporate event ROI priorities:
2. What do you need to measure?
Figure out what data points you need to accurately measure in relation to the goals for your event.
In your mind, put your goals on a hilltop and let them shine like a beacon. Everything you do should be part of building your road toward your goals on that hill. Take care of everything, of course, but focus most of your energy on the things that lead toward those goals.
Make a list of all the data you need to gather and how it ties back to your goals.
Here’s a sampling of the types of data you might need:
Qualified sales opportunities
Net promoter score
Event website referrals and conversions
Search ad impressions and clicks
3. How will you measure?
Figure out how to measure all the data on your list. Your existing CRMs, analytics tools, social platforms and survey tools should have ways for you to see those statistics, but be aware of quirks! Some platforms only show data for certain time periods or only in certain formats.
The “how” should also include “how to get accurate data.” This means no clipboards full of paper forms for company reps to fill out in chicken scratch and forget in the hotel lobby! We all know that info will never make it into your CRM.
Make life easier on you and everyone whose job includes collecting event data. Use modern tools and technology to make the whole process a lot less complicated.
Using a single platform with integrations can also make it easier to manage your app stack.
4. Set it up!
Take a baseline measurement of every metric you plan to measure. For example, if you’re measuring Facebook engagement, you should know what your average engagement numbers are for a non-event time period.
Going it alone is no fun, and impossible when it comes to measuring data at events. Make sure your team understands your goals and what you’re measuring too, and that everyone on your team is prepared.
Phew! Glad that event went smoothly and all your data-gathering, glad-handing, and nerve-soothing went well!
Now what? What do you do after an event? Chances are you either:
Breathe a huge sigh of relief and never think about that event again, or
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.
Either way, it’s hard to focus on what you should be doing when events are over. The immediate aftermath is a prime time to take some measurements and bring your ROI efforts home.
1. Post-event surveys and NPS
64% of marketers reported to EMI that they used 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.
Don’t miss your chance to ask how likely people would be to recommend your product to a friend or coworker, on a scale of 0-10, that's your event Net Promoter Score (eNPS) and the fastest way to know how to improve.
2. Calculating ROI
You’ll need a few ingredients to calculate your ROI:
The baseline data you took before the event (related to those goals you set, remember?)
Your new data after the event, and
The total and true cost of hosting or attending the event
If you followed the plan, the first two should be no problem. The third can be a little tricky.
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?
Configure your accounting software or use an event planning platform with the right features to keep all your costs in one place. You’ll be able to trace all the costs back to the event and be able to calculate your ROI.
As a simplified example, let’s say one of your 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. Huzzah!
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. You can factor your cost per signee into CAC if they later become paying customers.
3. Planning Ahead
Calculating ROI and analyzing data helps you understand how you performed at your latest event and how it stacks up to all of your events. Now put it into action.
You’ll be able to plan your future events with a lot more confidence and less 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 go to the trade show or the conference?
Maybe the big event you thought was a “must” is really a “bust.” Maybe that small regional conference 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.
The point is, if you have the data you’ll know what makes sense and why. If you’ve been calculating your ROI, you’ll know what’s worth your time, and what your time is even worth.
Event marketing and experiential marketing should be treated 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 should and can be the same.
Pssst...guess what? EventGeek can do everything we talked about in this post! If you want to witness it for yourself, you can get started for free.