For years, the payoff for event marketing spend was fuzzy. Companies held events because they knew events were probably valuable and worthy of a sizable chunk of the annual marketing budget, but they couldn't precisely back up those beliefs with solid data.
Not so any longer.
Having a strong feeling about a marketing spend doesn't fly anymore -- executives want assurances that they are making smart bets in the right places. For event marketers, that means facing three common questions following any event: Was the event successful? What impact did it have on our business goals? What was the event ROI?
These are simple questions that, historically, have had not-so-simple answers due to a lack of reliable data. The good news is that by connecting the physical and digital worlds at their events, data-driven event marketers can defend their event marketing spend.
Keep reading for tips on how you can find answers to these questions with reliable, defensible insights from your events.
Question 1: Was the Event a Success?
This is a tricky question to answer. Asking whether the event was a success is really asking deeper questions about attendees' satisfaction. Did the event meet attendees expectations? Were they glad they made the effort to attend? Did they like the keynote speaker on the first day better than the second day? Did your promotion efforts work in driving registrations? Did people actually show up? Would they attend again next year (and recommend their colleagues do the same)?
How to Measure Success
There are several metrics that, when pulled from your marketing and event tools, indicate the event's success (or failure):
- Promotion Results:
- Conversion rate: total number of registrations/total number of invites
- Attendee Experience:
- Percentage of engaged attendees
- Session Attendance
- Session Ratings
- Speaker Ratings
- Survey Results
- Poll Responses
- Number of Connections made
The execution and production team responsible for attendee experience, content planning and promotion can use these "success" metrics to evaluate which strategies, tactics and initiatives worked for your audience — and which ones fell flat. But don't just put these metrics in a report and forget them. Refer back when planning the next event to learn from past mistakes and successes.
Question 2: What Impact Did the Event Have?
While the first question focuses on whether the event was successful from attendees' perspective, this question flips that around to the business perspective. By measuring impact, you're really measuring the deals and opportunities that the event generated. How many open opportunities — and how much total pipeline — were represented at your event? What stage in the funnel were those opportunities? How many customers attended?
How to Measure Impact
Evaluate metrics that measure attendee intention, interest and networking:
- Value and number of opportunities: How many did the event influence? How many did the event source?
- Average Contract Value: Is the ACV of the opportunities your event influenced higher or lower than your company norm?
- Velocity: What stages were your opportunities in pre-event, compared to what they are post event. Are you seeing shorter sales cycles?
- Conversion Rate: Out of all the opportunities your event influenced & sourced, how many of them turned to “closed won” versus “closed lost”?
Your CEO, CMO and sales executives should see these numbers regularly. I suggest reporting at least once per quarter to show the direct impact your events have on sales pipeline. Before you report, though, it's important to set expectations for how long you will calculate event influence following every event. It could run for three months, six months or even a year after the event. Whatever you decide, stay consistent. These numbers will also allow the sales team to set goals for future events by how many prospects or outstanding sales opportunities each team member will influence at the event.
Question 3: What Was the Event ROI?
You might be thinking that this question is redundant. Don't success and impact, viewed from both attendees' and business executives' perspectives, measure ROI? That's partly true, but I think of ROI as purely transactional — a comparison of money spent to produce the event vs. revenue generated. Did you take a loss on the event? If so, how much? Did sponsorships or ticket sales mitigate any of those losses? Did any prospects convert to customers, or did any customers buy more products after attending?
How to Measure ROI
Put on your finance hat and run the numbers to determine how much money the event made (or lost) the company. Some simple equations should do the trick:
- Calculating Event Spend: (money earned) - (money spent) = event spend
- Calculating ROI: (closed pipeline) - (event spend) / (event spend) = ROI
These figures are relevant to your C-suite executives — the CMO, CFO and possibly even the CEO — who want straightforward answers to complex financial questions. Did the marketing department spend $1 million but get $10 million in return? Great! You've just made your case for increasing the events budget. Did you break even or even lose money? Don't fret. You still might be able to make a compelling case for events based on the success or impact figures. Or you might uncover something to do differently next time, perhaps selling more sponsorships.
The ROI figure is also helpful when creating budgets and financial goals for your next event. But it's important to establish a consistent reporting process to calculate event ROI. Will your team report after every event? Quarterly? At the end of the year following your big user conference?
And there you have it! These are the three key questions I answer and report on after all of my events, and some of the metrics I need to know to answer those questions. You need some reliable event data to calculate these metrics, and we have some tips on capturing that information here.