Events make up approximately 18% of program budgets, according to Forrester research, but the reality is they’re being treated completely wrong.
“Our research is still finding that B2B marketers—while they may spend a big slice of their marketing budget on events—they still treat them like a campaign tactic and not an overall customer experience,” said Laura Ramos, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester.
Industry experts state that events should be visualized as a step in a journey in a company’s relationship with the customer or prospect. In this digital era, B2B companies such as Microsoft, Splunk, G2 Crowd and IBM take unique approaches to their event marketing strategies to up the ante on the overall experience, including:
- Leveraging tools and technologies, such as mobile apps, to better engage with event attendees;
- Personalizing the event experience for different attendees by leveraging pre-event data and behaviors; and
- Tracking in-person engagement to nurture potential prospects.
B2B marketers strive to measure the impact of their event marketing efforts, but that is no easy feat to accomplish. “Companies are doing a good job of measuring online activity such as webinars, but they’re struggling with events and being asked to get the same sort of clarity that they’re getting with online,” said Victor Kippes, President and CEO of Validar, a lead management solutions provider.
Kippes added that it’s important to track attendee behavior at events across the whole spectrum, “not only if they showed up or where they want, but what they’re interested in or if they have questions. It’s about capturing all that and presenting it to your back-end lead management foundation so it can extend and treat them based on that overarching experience.”
Expand Event Engagement With Mobile Apps
Many event apps offer the basics for attendees, but there is much more engagement to gain than simply offering an agenda through a mobile app. Forrester uncovered that only 4% of marketers “believe that they are very advanced in their use of event-specific technology to manage and enhance the attendee experience.”
Marketers should use mobile apps to provide more personalized recommendations, which they can later measure for attendee engagement. “I’m seeing some folks do things around recommending sessions, exhibitors, topics or even other people that they should connect with at the event,” said Ramos.
“IBM, for example, is doing interesting things using their Watson technology to make recommendations as a result of [the attendees’] expressed interest,” Ramos continued. “The idea of delivering real-time suggestions and recommendations, such as where to go and what do do, and comparing attendee’s pre-event interests with what they engage with, and what is most valuable to them is where measuring the whole value of this space has got to go.”
Adding extra incentives inside the mobile app itself also allows for greater engagement. Some examples include:
- Only allowing event or session registration via the mobile app;
- Offering a points system to win prizes;
- Removing a physical, paper session agenda and making it only available on the app;
- Making specific content first available on the app that they can’t get anywhere else.
Forrester takes the latter approach to getting attendees to use their mobile apps at events. “When we have an event, we release new research that is only available on the app before we publish it on our website,” said Ramos.
Track The Attendee’s Entire Event Journey For Maximum Value
Experts agree that you simply can’t guarantee ROI before an event. But keeping tabs on attendee interactions and activities—as well as integrating the information into a marketing automation platform or CRM—can help determine potential for follow-up and overall success.
“If you have CRM data and invite people to attend with a fun incentive, and your digital marketing team is sending relevant information as a countdown before the show to build up excitement, you can ensure better, more informed traffic to the booth,” said Peter Gillett, CEO of Zuant, a mobile lead capture app. “It’s really more about optimization rather than saying you’ll guarantee ROI.”
Measuring the success of an event is all about generating interest and capturing that interest throughout the entire customer lifecycle, not just cutting it off when the event is over.
“You need to know how many people came to your event,” said Kippes. “What did they see at that event and what renewed interest was generated? You need to capture those hand-raisers—I call it renewed interest—and measure that renewed interest against a campaign in a [marketing automation system]. That’s when you start tying revenue back to the event.”
Splunk, an operational intelligence platform, works with Validar and Eloqua to drive activity to their lead management foundation to be able to extend the sales conversation based on what the attendee is doing at face to face events.
“[Splunk is] using Validar to track attendee behavior and then, through an integration with Eloqua, Validar automatically updates these records and actions in Eloqua, so that treatment is extended beyond all that activity,” said Kippes.
Marketers can also take pre-show contact outreach and real-time event activity, and sort it all into follow-up streams. Microsoft, for example, focuses on booth activity to sort attendees into who to contact right after the event, who they should nurture or send more information to and who they should leave alone.
Business software review platform G2 Crowd also tracks in-person engagement during the entire span of the event and transfers the information into its CRM. Kevin Benson, Event Specialist at G2 Crowd, keeps a log of anyone he meets with statuses such as “meeting requested,” “booth visit,” or “attended event.”
“By doing this, contacts are scored towards becoming an MQL, included in our reporting, and are tagged as contacts made through a trade show or some other avenue,” said Benson. “For meetings, our account executives create tasks within the CRM that will associate the contact with the tradeshow, allow notes to be taken and assign follow-up. A lot of these processes are manual, but we have seen that the opportunity to meet a contact face-to-face is an incredibly important step in the sales process.”