4 Steps to Become an Event Optimizer
What is an event optimizer? According to recent research sponsored by Splash and carried out by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, they are a new class of elite event marketers capable of accurately capturing event ROI, surpassing business goals, and achieving critical market share. From the study, “When looking at high-growth companies, we saw the same three attributes again and again: an investment in integrated, event technology; the ability to measure from top- to bottom-funnel; and a shift in strategy from sponsored to hosted and owned experiences.”
After surveying more than 700 business executives, the research found that 93 percent of the respondents say their organizations place a priority on hosting events, and 57 percent give it a high priority. Almost as many (85 percent) stated that their organizations prioritize sponsoring events, as well.
Ability to Accurately Measure ROI
The majority of respondents came from large companies; organizations host an average of 73 events each year and sponsor another 62. Yet, when asked about their ability to measure their return of investment for these activities, only 23 percent said they could truly measure event ROI.
According to the report, that is the primary difference-maker for an event optimizer: the ability to measure event ROI. Interestingly, the companies that have cracked the ROI code also utilize their analytics to evaluate multiple facets of their events, such as number of attendees, number of qualified leads, brand awareness, amount of sales pipeline, and customer retention and loyalty.
“In short, best adopters are better able to measure further down the sales funnel, tracking things like sales leads, sales pipeline, prospects moved down the funnel, and customer loyalty, rather than just top-of-funnel metrics like number of attendees or cost per attendee,” according to the report.
Investment in the Newest Generation of Event Marketing Technology
The primary reason these event optimizers can delve deeply into the analytics of their event is that the majority have invested in the latest generation of event marketing technology. With these tools, they can integrate with other information systems within their company to improve cross-department collaboration, conceptualize and deliver events with better speed and reliability.
“Among those who have adopted the technology, the most commonly cited benefit is an improved ability to track and measure events, followed by improved event registration and attendance, increased productivity for their event staff, a better attendee experience, and better event planning and execution that is more in line with the company’s goals and strategy,” according to the report.
These businesses find it easy to demonstrate an event’s impact on their business, which makes them more likely to achieve value from events. Also, when it comes to their view of future success, 90 percent of these technology adopters consider themselves well-positioned (compared to 65 percent of non-adopters).
Dedicated to Hosting Events
Companies that have grown 30 percent or more in revenue in the last two years are also the ones investing the most in events. This is true across industries, including companies like Yelp and Facebook, whose bread and butter are online consumers.
Yelp, for example, has more than tripled its revenue over the past five years. It also coordinates and hosts hundreds of events each month for its core users. “Events definitely work,” Abby Schwarz, a Regional Marketing Director for Yelp, was quoted in the report. “I don’t imagine we would do anything but accelerate the number of events we’re hosting.”
Another example from the report is Salesforce, which makes the eponymous customer relationship management software. Salesforce is very supportive of its online community of approximately three million dedicated users, who are known as Trailblazers. Currently, there are more than 840 Trailblazer groups organized by location, the vertical in which they compete, or some special interest. Salesforce gives these groups additional support in both tools and financial support to enable them to meet in person regularly.
“I’m a firm believer that you can’t just have an online community without an off-line presence, as well,” Erica Kuhl, Vice President of Community at Salesforce, was quoted in the report. “That’s where a lot of people go wrong; they forget there’s magic in seeing people’s faces.”
Kuhl started the Trailblazer Community more than a decade ago. Today, she and her nine-person team continue to oversee it and keep these groups engaged through innovative methods. This March, Salesforce held its TrailheaDX Developer Conference for about 7,000 customers. When the event concluded, Kuhl and her team sent some of the best presentations to community members who signed up to run local events. Over the following months, 266 Trailblazer Community groups hosted local events for a total of approximately 8,000 members. This single inventive, yet simple, step extended the reach of the conference cemented brand loyalty by going a step beyond to support the extended community.
Salesforce has realized that it can utilize live events to maximize its current customer retention. Research by Bain & Company found that increasing customer retention rates by 5 percent can increase profits by 25 percent to 95 percent (depending on the industry). Additionally, returning customers are 50 percent more likely to try new products and spend 31 percent more than new customers.
“For people who are active community members, meaning they’ve logged into our community and either posted or voted on comments, asked or answered questions, or gone to events, we look at four metrics: the amount of money they’re bringing into Salesforce, the number of deals they’re bringing to us, how extensively they’re adopting our products, and their attrition rate. And we’ve been able to document that this group closes 2.5 times more deals than other customers, delivers twice as much pipeline, adopts our products at a 35 percent higher rate, and is four times less likely to leave. That’s a pretty extraordinary return,” said Kuhl.
“Because we have these huge, robust, and active ecosystems, our community has become a strategic differentiator for sales. People are choosing to go with Salesforce in part because of that ecosystem, knowing they will have access to this community of experts who can answer their questions and share ideas with them.”
The report concludes with some best practices that could benefit marketing executives.
Invest in event technology that can easily connect with your company’s pre-existing systems. This will enable information to be easily and quickly disseminated throughout your organization. You will be able to easily and quickly generate actionable intelligence and real-time event insights.
Event insights don’t end when the event does. Top-of-the-funnel metrics are extremely important. However, to understand sales and purchasing decisions that were a direct result of your event, you need to measure bottom-of-the-funnel metrics, as well.
Events offer a wealth of information. Identify the metrics that are most valuable to your company and utilize all of them to create events personalized to your specific audience.
You also need to identify the best metrics to analyze your specific event. For example, while measuring lead generation is appropriate for a partner event, you would not use this metric to evaluate a VIP dinner.
Sponsoring an event is beneficial for your brand, but hosting is where companies will make the most significant impact. When you host, you alone control the customer experience.
For the events you do sponsor, try to discover as many ways to engage the audience as possible. This means finding opportunities beyond your booth to create an emotional connection, such as an experiential activation.
In this time of pervasive digital engagement, face-to-face interaction is more important than ever. That’s why event marketing is an essential component of successful businesses and why it is necessary to measure the ROI of these events accurately.