5 Ways To Make Event Marketing A Measurable Channel
Last week, Lawrence Coburn, CEO of DoubleDutch, joined us in the Bowery Capital studio this week to discuss “Data-Driven Event Management: The MQL Motherlode.” DoubleDutch is a SaaS platform for live engagement and event marketing, empowering users to manage events of all types and collect and analyze critical data that teams can use to drive marketing and sales. In that episode, we discussed the history and current state of event management, and how technology is finally enabling its evolution into a true marketing channel. Take a listen here if you missed it and make sure to subscribe for a new episodes weekly.
Event marketing has been stuck in the past for the last 100 years. While recent event marketing software solutions are changing the game, the vast majority of events remain poorly measured. If you’re a founder or head of marketing at a SaaS startup, you’ve probably either done or considered organizing a meeting, lead dinner, or summit. Or you’ve at the least exhibited in or attended a popular startup or SaaS conference like Dreamforce or SaaStr. But do you know exactly what your investment or participation in that event netted you? If you’re savvier than most, you track event-related customer touches in your CRM that can give you a good start on event marketing’s contribution to your funnel. But think about all the other signals an event can provide that would be useful to a salesperson or marketer: which customers didn’t show, and did they share any traits? What did prospects do while onsite: stay for only 10 minutes, attend breakout A vs. B, or sign up for a follow-up demo? The core challenge here is really data collection. Next-generation event marketing solutions like DoubleDutch, SplashThat, Cvent, SocialTables, Pigeonhole, Slido, etc., all have ways to bring that capability to the next level. There are a few tips, however, you can start with as a young company to begin at least treating event marketing as a channel in it’s own right, with hard Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) and sales impact requirements. The truth is, event marketing is already a measurable channel in it’s own right, though emerging technologies (geolocation / mobile, social, VR / AR, etc.) show great promise to continue the evolution. In order to cash in on the opportunity, however, a founder or CMO needs to put work in upfront to ensure they’ll get the data they need. Without further adieu, here are 5 ways you can begin, inspired by our latest podcast with guest Lawrence Coburn, CEO of DoubleDutch:
1) Begin with your CRM and marketing automation platforms: If your CRM isn’t structured to capture key event marketing data, your salespeople won’t be able to leverage it and the bottom half of your funnel won’t benefit from key learnings. If your marketing automation platform isn’t aligned with your event marketing strategy, you won’t gain much insight around leads impact, or be able to act on them from qualification and beyond. Ensure these two core solutions are properly setup to capture event data. Salesforce, HubSpot, Marketo, etc. and their ecosystem partners all publish plenty of guides on how to do so, so I won’t elaborate. But this is your first step, no exceptions.
2) Identify “data exhaust” of value: Events have the potential to generate more valuable prospect signals than you likely think. I learned a few new ones during last week’s episode with Lawrence to be sure. Think about something as basic as attendance. You may have already measured sales closed that included an events-related touch. But are you tracking the ones that didn’t attend? What did the show and no-show groups, if anything, have in common? Did you provide a choice of what information to consume onsite at the event (e.g. different breakouts, or the ability to mingle vs. see a talk)? This is another signal that speaks to intent and interest that can help you better define that Unique Value Proposition (UVP) that your buyers identify with (assuming you’ve invited the right folks to begin with). Have a white-boarding session with your marketing team to think about all the “data exhaust” that an event could generate and maximize the amount you’re able to collect.
3) Collect said “data exhaust”: This is often the hard part. As I mentioned above, there are some great SaaS solutions out there that not only work with your CRM / marketing automation platform, but also that can extend your ability to collect new types of data (e.g. DoubleDutch, SplashThat, Cvent, SocialTables, Pigeonhole, Slido). If you’re a young startup and you don’t have budget for an event marketing-specific platform yet, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck though. Pre-event registration forms and post-event surveys can help you identify particular interests. As mentioned above, simply looking for correlations between attendance or no-shows with other prospect attributes you already track in your CRM can yield insights. Finally, you can already collection information onsite; even if you don’t have a complex event setup (e.g. multiple rooms / tracks / breakouts) you can still track stay times and types of engagement by lead; though the process is going to be a bit more subjective, it’s the same lift as entering CRM information after a sales call.
4) Perform efficacy retrospectives: In order to properly measure ROMI, you’re going to need to host multiple events of the same type over time, or host a relatively large event. Like any other analysis based on real-world data, small sample sizes can’t always tell you much. That said, you can start with tracking how event attendance (and engagement, stay time, follow-up questions, post-event NPS-type surveys, etc.) impacts close (or funnel conversion) rates. As you gather more data, you’ll start to understand what event marketing returns to your business, and you can begin treating it like a marketing channel in its own right.
5) Recognize your CRM can’t do everything: If you’re involved in the world of tech startups in any way, you know well that there are too many events out there to count, even in highly niche spaces. Especially if you count meetups and webinars (which are still events, remember). If you throw boring, uninspired events, no one will make time to come, and you won’t have to analyze anything to know your event was a waste of resources. Instead, make use of interesting technologies, do in-depth and interesting onsite demos, and cover topics no one else does. And importantly, plan your events as if you were your own prospect. Does she have time for a 2-hour demo? Does he want to hear about current solutions, or solutions 5 years down the road? Does she want to network or learn? Though marketing has increasingly become a science over the last decade, you can’t completely remove the art when it comes to event marketing as a channel.