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University of Southern California Event Marketing

Advancing Trojan Family Weekend campus engagement through effective event marketing. 

34%

increase in session offerings 

168%

increase in mobile app adoption since 2017

9%

increase in tailgate ticket revenue

At the University of Southern California’s annual Trojan Family Weekend, over 4,000 students and family members come together for an incredible four-day event. The self-funded event relies on marketed ticket sales and sponsorship opportunities, and is a prime opportunity to engage campus partners. In addition to meeting key KPI’s for Trojan Family Weekend, the Cultural Relations and University Events department manages over 300 additional events throughout the year. 

Using Technology to Scale Success

 After adopting integrated Cvent’s Event Management, OnArrival, and CrowdCompass solutions in 2017, the department saw impressive growth in both registration and attendance. Associate Event Producer Kim Sapone notes, “For 2017, we had a 29% increase in registration, and a lot of that was due to our move into Cvent.” For 2018, the team needed to refocus their KPI’s on new metrics. “We still wanted to achieve growth in registration and attendance, but we also wanted to look at things like our relationships with our campus partners,” Kim explains. They wanted to better target attendees through multichannel marketing strategies, improve the registration process, capture key data points, and create a more efficient abstract submission process. 

Leveraging Targeted Marketing Strategies to Support Growth

Using Cvent’s New Standard Registration (Flex) site designer, Kim’s team created a robust registration website with a streamlined user experience. She explains, “Because we were able to work backwards and ask specific questions through registration, that really helped us obtain the data we needed post-event to cater our attendee experience and better target specific people in our marketing.” Integrating this data into their marketing efforts increased registration by 2%, on top of the 29% growth achieved the previous year. “We attribute our growth in registration to the better website UX and registration process as well as our targeted marketing campaign using Cvent emails,” she adds.

Cvent’s e-marketing tools gives USC a host of capabilities that further enable their event marketing strategy. “One of the great factors that we get access to with Cvent is our ability to segment our email list,” notes Emma Suffridge, Programming Coordinator. “That’s something that in the past we've had a lot of difficulty with, collecting our email lists and cleaning them to make sure they’re all accurate.”  By segmenting contact groups based on registration data, her team is able to target specific groups with key offers, messaging, and CTA’s.  The department measured a 9% increase in total tailgate tickets purchased in 2018 due to more effective marketing strategies, thereby enhancing revenue streams for the event. 

Engaging Campus Partners with Abstract Management 

By integrating the registration platform with Cvent’s Abstract Management solution, Kim and Emma created a seamless submission process for their campus partners. “With Abstract Management, we were able to build a better website which engaged a lot more of our campus partners,” explains Kim. “We could target abandoned submissions via email, and we received a lot more submissions due to that.” The results were impressive, achieving 100% participation from campus schools for the first time. They were able to improve the scope of their content for attendees as a result, increasing session offerings by 34%.

After experiencing unprecedented efficiency at their 2017 event using Cvent’s OnArrival solution, Kim and Emma chose to leverage OnArrival Premium for their 2018 event. They were able to successfully move  attendees through check-in at record pace. “We use OnArrival to print all of our badges and to get everyone checked in. It makes it a really smooth and easy process for us,” explains Emma. With other departments also leveraging OnArrival, they can now see benefits of a smooth check-in process across the campus. 

Motivating Mobile App Engagement

With better data tracking and the ability to capture attendee emails during registration, Kim and Emma were able to market their award-winning CrowdCompass app to specific attendee groups. They saw 168% increase in mobile app adoption from 2017 as a result. “By being able to market the app to attendees, we about doubled our adoption rate and got a lot more people actively engaged in the app onsite,” says Kim. Using Q&A, push notifications, session feedback, and the social activity feeds encouraged higher levels of onsite engagement; attendees could also easily navigate the large campus using the interactive map function. With an integrated activity feed, they achieved an impressive 88% increase in organic social shares through the app since 2017. 

Further, attendees could easily build their agendas within the app, with detailed session information linked to the interactive map for easier scheduling. “It was really nice to have the integration between our website and our mobile app,” notes Emma. “I can't tell you how easy it is to just push a button and have all the sessions automatically downloaded. It's really one of the smoothest processes.”  The team saw 112% increase in number of users who built their schedules through the app. This led to key cost savings, as they eliminated onsite printers all together. These actions also helped support the campus’ sustainability initiatives. “We were able to collect data from Cvent and see that 60% of our attendees preferred the mobile app over printed programs,” notes Emma. “So by using that data, we’re able to print less programs and continue pushing our event towards being completely sustainable and green.” 

The team also measured significant increases in the number of surveys completed through the mobile app, helping to bolster their ROI in post-event reporting. “Through our survey, we found out that 72% of our registrants find out about our event from our email marketing,” adds Kim. “Prior to using Cvent, we were using our internal server. We find that a lot more people are registering this way, which is why we see our numbers increase annually.” They are also able to ensure key sponsorships with this data available in on-demand reports. “It’s very easy for us to get sponsors with the data that we collect on Cvent,” explains Emma. “When we put a banner up in our mobile app and see exactly how many people look at that banner and for how long, that's really great data that we can give to potential sponsors.” 

Elevating Event Value for Stakeholders

Kim and Emma were able to coalesce these valuable data points into on-demand reports that could be tailored to key stakeholders. They were able to prove the impact of their event marketing strategy on registration, tailgate ticket revenue, mobile app adoption, campus partner engagement, and much more. With 72.6% app adoption and a seamless check-in process, satisfaction ratings increased as well. They saw 71% of university schools increase their number of attendees by double or triple digits. Most importantly, they are able to better position Trojan Family Weekend as a vital contributor to the university’s success. “We’re able to raise awareness and put a brand on our event because of the data that's collected by Cvent and our ability to access it easily,” Emma notes. 

As a result of their targeted marketing efforts, Kim and Emma have elevated the overall value of Trojan Family Weekend. “Cvent has definitely helped us with scalability and visibility within our department and the university as a whole,” explains Kim. She credits their use of event technology with growing campus involvement by significant measures. “We’re able to promote what we’re doing with Cvent and pull real statistics, have real data, show that we’re bringing in revenue, and really show that it’s valuable to the university,” she adds. Kim also saw her career grow because of the event’s success over the last two years. “One of the ways it helped me personally is that I ended up getting a promotion,” she notes. “I think that this was a huge part of why, because it gave me a lot of visibility and showed how the changes we’ve made can actually translate into revenue.” 

For future Trojan Family Weekend events, the team wants to grow key engagement KPI’s to further enhance the attendee experience. Emma explains, “After having such a large growth in attendance over the past two years, one of our priorities is ensuring attendees have a great experience. So we’re looking for not just an increase in programming, but an increase in quality of programming and perceived value for our attendees.” By integrating event technology into their MarTech stack, the department created important efficiencies that continue to support year-over-year growth. “I think it’s really important that the event management software program does speak the marketing language, because a lot of the data that you're getting from your events will help you to market in the future,” explains Kim. By incorporating data-backed decision making into their marketing strategy, they can continue to successfully scale their program.