Event Marketing in the Digital Age
If you want to rub elbows with influencers, customers and prospects simultaneously, few marketing channels provide better access than events. Attending and/or sponsoring the right industry event(s) allows your organization rare face time with every member of your buying committee. Unfortunately, over the past few years, event marketing has lost favor with marketers. Instead of investing time and money in events, digital channels have won large portions of the marketing budget.
Certainly some experts would say it’s attribution’s fault. B2B marketers’ feet are getting hot being held so closely to the fire. And certainly the chaos and pressure around attribution has led to not-so-brilliant marketing strategies (you can see our CEO and leaders from Path Factory, Allocadia and Engagio weigh in on that here), but from our experience with thousands of marketers in just about every industry selling via just about every model, we find another challenge is truly at the heart of why event marketing feels like a waste of money.
Post event activities are rarely ideated, planned and executed flawlessly.
We mentioned the importance of event marketing in our recent webinar (view it on-demand here), but we also wanted to provide detailed steps to take to recognize ROI on event marketing.
Begin at the End: Event Marketing KPIs
We mention often in our blogs the importance of ensuring you not only have KPIs for your campaigns, but also that you align those KPIs to your organization’s KPIs. To that end, here are some examples of common event KPIs:
- New names (we’ll come back to this)
- Meetings booked leading up to events
- Meetings booked ahead of the event to happen during the event
- Ad hoc meetings happening during event
- Post event meetings
- Pipeline creation
- Opportunity influence (what existing deals can you reduce your average days-to-close or influence down the funnel?)
- Closed won business
The category of event marketing can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different marketers. Some may think of huge user conferences like Salesforce’s Dreamforce. While others may think of executive roundtables discussing industry trends and threats. I aim to be generic enough here to get through everything without writing 5,000 words, yet specific enough to provide value. For a full listing of all the elements we coach our clients to consider, download our event planning template here.
Here are few items you want to consider as you prep for the event:
- Build your tracking mechanism
- If you’re a Marketo and Salesforce shop, that means programs and campaigns, respectively. For more on how those elements connect, check out this infographic
- Establish the pre, during and post-event strategy and budget
- Receive/research event attendees
A Short Aside on How to Obtain Event Attendee Lists
One of my personal pet peeves with event marketing is the lack of sharing that now happens due to privacy. Now, listen. I appreciate privacy as much as the next person, but I would actually argue that by not providing attendee lists, event organizers are doing an injustice to the rest of us with titles that look like we should be attending events. Before every major event (Dreamforce, I’m talking to you!), my inbox floods with messages that start, “Will you be at Dreamforce?” Or tips for attending Dreamforce. Or booth numbers to stop by at an event I’m not going to. It hurts everyone, not just my fellow marketers just trying to rise above the noise.
So, how can you obtain event attendee lists?
- Create a separate event with registration. If you do a fancy executive dinner, or even a low-class, get-too-drunk-to-stand party, sidecaring your event sponsorship with your own event that requires registration is a great way to know who will be there. If you do this partners, it’s even better, because you’ll all amplify each other – and share the data.
- NOTE: If you can get the event to help promote this, even better! They know who’s registered and will likely only send to those people.
- Many shows will provide company name and title. You can plug this into DiscoverOrg and at least get a shortened list. BEWARE: Any generic titles, like BDR or Account Executive, should be removed before the match or you’ll get a ton of people you don’t really want.
- Past attendees. Not the best, but you can troll the prospectus for previous attendees, speakers and sponsors
- Current speakers and sponsors.
Defining Roles for Event Marketing
Once you have your strategy and the full checklist of all the actions you’ll take leading up to the event (again, I’m not going to go over all of them), it’s time to be very clear about roles and responsibilities. We like to use the RACI framework, outlined here.
During Event Tips
Once you’ve done all the work before the event, it’s time to put all that prep into action. Obviously, your goal is to network with prospects and customers. And yes, the dinners and happy hours are great relationship building. But how do you know if they were actually valuable? Every day that you attend the event you should:
- Capture new information from new prospects and current customers
- Discuss details with known opportunities
These conversations are the foundation of the post event strategy. The gathering of this data is important to make the follow up personal and strategic. No one likes getting the canned “great to meet you at the event” that isn’t even personally addressed, nor from the actual person they met.
Post-Event Marketing and Selling
Take all that valuable data you captured and feed it into your post-event strategy. These steps could include:
- Giving AEs and/or business development folks insights into the highlights of the good conversations and connections that are worth following up on.
- Adding the additional contacts into CRM*
- Having clear agreement on who is going to reach out and follow up plan (RACI)
- Starting IMMEDIATELY. Seriously. The event will only be top of mind for a short window. Take advantage of it
- Clear communication on what support is needed and the responses from outreach. Nothing is more motivating when the team sees success from the efforts. Share what is happening and how the leads are moving through the funnel.
A Note on Adding Contacts to Your CRM Post-Event
This is the #1 area we see clients fall down on. As I touched on previously, obtaining a complete list of registrants is practically impossible given the state of privacy and compliance. Therefore, it’s as important for your team that attends the event to be diligent here. They must collect business cards. They must make notes in a CRM realtime. They must do all these things to operationalize getting that data back into your CRM when they get back.
This has not changed from two decades ago, except that sellers and marketers aren’t bringing back cards to put in a Rolodex and therefore it’s ceased to be top of mind.
Last Rant: Often sellers will ask if they can simply add connections to LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a core platform to assist sellers and so, my answer is always, “Yes, add them to LinkedIn AND put them in the spreadsheet (or CRM, or email them, or take a picture of the business card, or send me smoke signals).” I don’t care how else you get me the data, but simply adding them in LinkedIn does me no good. I, as a marketer, don’t have their cell phone, email or address in my database, so it’s essentially useless to me.
You’re Gonna Do Great Event Marketing
In summary, a successful event marketing strategy, plan and execution can have huge impact on the business. And, at the very least, maintaining a consistent plan and executing to it will give you marketing ROI metrics to learn from and grow year over year. I leave you with what our event rules of engagement journey looks like.
Do you have any good tips? We’d love to hear them. Comment below or reach out on LinkedIn or Twitter. Please do… we have some events coming up!
Meet Andrea Lechner-Becker
Andrea Lechner-Becker’s bio reads like someone who filled out a what-should-I-be-when-I-grow-up quiz and decided to try every option. Fueled by endless curiosity, Andrea has never met a problem she didn’t want to solve. This led her to managing sales and marketing at an art gallery, then loyalty and email marketing strategy for an NBA team and arena, then the delivery team at LeadMD, followed by a stint as a novelist and culminating with her current role as CMO of LeadMD. With a decade of experience in dynamic marketing roles, Andrea has had the opportunity to work with the most brilliant marketing minds at the best companies in the world. #hugemarketingdork