Live events don’t have to be budget drainers. They can actually be big money-makers for your organisation. Forrester research shows that successful organisations allocate nearly 25% of their B2B budgets on events, noting that these in-person events are the second most effective marketing tactic. This is normally quite an even split between events you attend (such as trade shows) and the events you host (such as product seminars or networking events).
The key thing to note here is that your events don’t stand alone as individual tactics to be measured and scrutinised out of context. They are just one part of the marketing mix that sit alongside your other tactic and should be measured according.
Why is this an important distinction to make? Well…put simply, the measure of success starts with beginning to understand what you are measuring. So before you start to think about whether or not your events are successful, you have to ask yourself and your business, what are the measures of success.
The Expectation for Success
You wouldn’t expect to build a website and as a direct result generate immediate sales. Nor would you expect to print a piece of collateral which results in 25 immediate post-print sales. There is a common understanding across your organisation that your organisation’s marketing tactics don’t generate automatic sales. But, possibly due to the amount of expenditure on B2B events, there is often the expectation that the events you attend and the events you run should generate more immediate results. If you’re part of the events team or the events manager, that’s a lot of pressure!
The thought process is understandable but flawed. The collateral your organisation produces will support prospects and customers at whatever stage they are in in your sales and marketing funnel. It will hopefully drive them down the funnel a little. Your B2B events are no different in this respect. Where the difference becomes apparent is the speed at which it takes to move people through the funnel.
As event organisers, it’s crucial for us to understand what we can do to assist the acceleration of sales and what we can do to prove the success of our events to the organisations in which we operate.
Event Marketing Success Revealed in 9 Steps
Secret #1 – Effective and Economical Invitations
The first element of a successful event is effective promotion through email invitations, automated online event registration and additional integrated marketing efforts such as direct mail, outbound phone calls and an informative event website.
Although there is a common belief that the email channel is overcrowded and doesn’t perform well, email invitations remain the most economical event marketing method and undoubtedly drive more attendance for planners than any other marketing medium.
Your email invitations should have a professional appearance, with eye-catching graphics, an effective subject line and relevant content. Building email invitations alongside online event registration and payment processing systems will dramatically increase attendance numbers, reduce manual data entry and simplify attendee tracking tasks.
Post-event data analysis of over 75,000 events shows that planners can achieve up to three times the standard response rate after implementing integrated email marketing, direct mail and outbound calling campaigns.
Secret #2 – Custom Communications
Now you’re confident that your email strategy can be effective, the second secret key to successful events is to ensure your event marketing emails are targeted and personalised. Each group of invitees should receive specific messaging tailored to their interests. Response rates for a one size fits all invitation can be 50% less than invitations for specific groups of attendees such as VIP clients, prospects, different levels of association members, etc.
Furthermore, “To Whom It May Concern” and “Dear Client” should be replaced with key fields like first name, title and company that are mail merged into the invitation. Our research shows that targeted messaging and personalisation are examples of fundamental marketing practices that can make or break an event.
Secret #3 – Comprehensive Campaign and Event Management
This is the third secret of great event marketing. Event organisers need to ensure that every aspect of your event is tied to your wider marketing strategy and event goals. Again, your event shouldn’t be made to go it alone. Even if you are not a marketing professional, there are a few questions you can ask yourself or your wider teams to help support and manage your events.
How are your digital tactics supporting the event? Did you last event promote or get prospective attendees excited about your next event? Did your internal communications do a great job of selling the event internally, thus encouraging your whole organisation to promote the event through their social channels, telephone calls and face-to-face engagements? Is your promotion working?
Tracking every tactic is important for understanding the success of your event before it’s event started. Perceived failure in any of these areas is not a loss, but instead an opportunity to course-correct before it’s too late. For example, there’s little point in sending out all those wonderfully personalised emails only to realise at the last minute that the subject lines failed to entice recipients to open them. Track those emails and if the first was unopened, change up that subject line and send the same copy out again.
If your recipients open but don’t register, maybe test a couple of calls to action (CTAs). Whilst you’re adjusting your emails, you should take a look at the performance of your digital ads and your event website (more about the website in secret #4). What do your heat maps say visitors are reading? How many are clicking on those digital ads?
Having a tool that can track all these elements will not only save you the time of manually connecting the dots but will also help you create a clear picture of the performance of your event. In turn, this will help you understand the journey your attendees take in order to reach your event. The right event management tools will also help you to continue tracking attendee behaviour at the event and post-event. You will discover what lured them, what they enjoyed and why they would come again. You’ll be able to better tailor future event promotion and content. Most importantly, you’ll understand WHY events are or aren’t meeting their goals.
Secret #4 – Leverage the Event Website
So let’s dive into that all-important event website. Creating a compelling event website is the fourth key to successful event marketing. It is critical for an event website to allow attendees to register and pay for an event online (if fees apply for the event). There are various website oriented marketing initiatives that can be used to promote registration and attendance, such as early bird discounts, group rates and promotion codes. Offering online event registration via an event website is key because it allows planners to measure if they will have the right amount of space, food, seats and materials at the event. Without a solid online registration solution and the capability to track these metrics, organisers often overbook a venue or undersell the space they have bought.
Online registration systems can offer much more than simple web forms that collect data through email or excel. These systems can pre-populate attendee data into registration forms and provide a simple three-click registration process proven to dramatically increase response rates. No one likes to fill out long forms. You can utilise system features to allow attendees to register only for the event sessions they find relevant.
In addition, you can take segmented registration a step further by presenting various registration paths on the websites for different types of attendees. For example, VIP attendees would be invited to participate in an exclusive networking outing while others would only see the educational sessions during the registration process.
A quality event website should present attendees with an event agenda and streamline the registration process for all parties. Our Inside the Mind of the Event Attendee research showed the 3rd highest event stressor globally is attendees having to choose between sessions at events. One of the key reasons for this stress point could be that overall, 75% of attendees rely on the session descriptions to decide which sessions to attend. If you haven’t given enough information on your event website, you could be causing your attendees stress at your events or could fail to entice them to even attend.
Secret #5 – Let Attendees Do the Planning
The fifth key to planning successful events is to qualify your attendees with pre-event surveying via the event website. It is important to understand the event objectives and determine from your attendees how these goals can best be achieved. It is also crucial to discover why an invitee has decided not to be an event attendee. We call that “monetising the 'no'.”
Organisers need to understand the reasons affecting event attendance. Invitees could have scheduling conflicts, lack of interest in the education topics or location issues. Following up with the RSVPs could change future event strategy and prevent future revenue generators from slipping through the cracks.
More importantly, assessing attendee expectations provides customised information necessary to execute a top-quality event. You can ask attendees key questions about their organisation, what topics they would like the keynote speaker to discuss, what they would like to gain from the event, what food allergies they have, etc. Customisation in every facet of event planning is a proven secret to attendee satisfaction and overall success.
Secret #6 – Embrace Technology
The sixth key to successful event marketing and management is the automation of all administrative tasks. Data entry, stuffing envelopes, manual payment processing, creating reports manually, completing telephone registrations, telephone surveying and other tasks consume a tremendous amount of time and resources. Again, software systems can automate all of these tedious functions and enable one planner to execute more events, improve the quality of events, focus on higher-level responsibilities, make informed decisions and leave the office at a reasonable time every day.
Event campaigns will become more strategic and automation can yield cost savings up to 92%. In today’s fast-paced business environment, it is time for event planners to embrace 21st century technology tools and use them to their full advantage for maximum return on investment.
Secret #7 – Optimise Every Opportunity
This one is a biggie. The seventh key to successful events is through post-event follow-up. The responsibility to follow up after your events does not only lie with your account management or sales team. It also lies with you. By now, with the data you collected before and during your event, you are in the best position to follow up with the attendees. But how do you do that?
So you can start with the basics. Issue attendees a post-event survey to evaluate the performance of each event. Use this data to improve your next event. Attendees will take notice that their needs have been met and their opinions are put into action. Continue the relationship and keep in contact with attendees with valuable communications such as the content you delivered during the event, event recaps of things they may have missed, opt-in email newsletters or other content that you think they may find interesting. Attention to detail and prompt follow up will encourage loyalty to your brand, organisation and events.
Secret #9 – Get Clear Insight, Get Clear Results
The final key to successful events is to manage your success and strive for improvement with data analysis. Measure all aspects of event performance from attendance to revenue. Compare metrics across multiple events to determine trends among your attendees. Cross reporting can highlight the areas of improvement. For example, you could evaluate metrics and determine that a breakfast event draws more of the target audience than a lunchtime affair. However, this conclusion could change over time. Be sure to monitor marketing campaign trends over the long term.
It is critical to measure and analyse metrics like attendance, attrition rates, payments, cancellations, refunds and return on investment for the continued success of your events. Event technology has become a fundamental tool for today’s event planner. There are many event technology solutions to automate and streamline your event planning process. In order for events to perform up to or surpass expectations, the right event marketing and management software are critical.
Unlock More Event Marketing Success
Events are an important part of a holistic marketing strategy and are uniquely capable of delivering incredible returns when integrated as part of a multichannel marketing strategy. Listen to our Modern Event Marketing 101 Podcast and learn from Cvent’s CMO Patrick Smith how you can use this multichannel strategy to better prove the overall value of your events programs.