Alex Patriquin is the founder and CEO of Circa. He has more than a decade of executive-level marketing experience at leading technology companies, such as HubSpot and Squarespace. Prior to founding Circa, Patriquin was director of marketing at the EdTech platform Versal, where he led digital marketing and events. Patriquin grew up outside of Boston, working at his family’s business, which has been continuously owned and operated by women since 1945. He holds a B.A. from George Washington University in American History and Literature and an MBA from Cornell University.
The pandemic propelled the marketing and sales events into chaos — ushering in the emergence of virtual and hybrid events. The game has changed and created a new equation for event marketers to solve: How do their company’s events stand out amid the disruption and generate ROI? With no template and rapidly shifting conditions, there’s a critical need for marketers and sales teams to overhaul their event operations to meet key performance indicators (KPI) by measuring ROI amid the changing event landscape. Companies are now rethinking their entire event process— from planning and execution to post-event metrics, and event marketers need more advanced insight into outcomes.
Before the 2020 shake-up, teams had to collaborate after an event to determine the ROI with often only a handful of unstructured insights to try to determine whether it was worth the investment. Right now, with incomplete data and 18-plus months of lost patterning from prior events due to the pandemic, these calls are increasingly best guesses.
Gathering data is a critical part of hosting events, and it’s the single most challenging part of tracking ROI. Data generated from events often slips through the cracks in the hustle and bustle of live, offline interactions. Key information flies through the fast-paced streams of offline, face-to-face events, and unrecorded meetings. But, when captured, extrapolated data can measure success and inform tactical decision-making, allowing leaders to have crucial visibility into what is working.
Interpreting event analytics to help with decision making and post-event reporting starts with a platform that collects data at every corner and connects into existing customer relationship management (CRM). With data collection ingrained, and the ability to capture and aggregate event data in real-time, marketers create a map toward ROI. Today’s events need to be re-created from the ground up and measured at every point to boil up the value — and it starts with gathering data that, so far, has required inefficient manual tracking.
A recent survey of more than 1,500 event professionals found that 90% plan to use a digital event strategy even after in-person marketing events become popular again. But, with in-person, virtual and hybrid events, how will marketers know how to balance the mix or what is delivering the greatest returns?
While virtual events existed before 2020, they were usually contained to webinars and pre-recorded panel interviews. Fast forward to 2021, and virtual events have become the new norm with expansive and engaging virtual conferences and networking events. As marketers move into 2022, the equation is going to rebalance once again. Without objective metrics in place, many marketers will have to do their best to make strategic guesses on the initial best mix in the new year. By proactively leveraging a marketing platform designed to measure ROI from the beginning, marketers can immediately evaluate the best pipeline-winning event mixes — and course-correct early.
Before getting into the event’s logistics, event and field marketers first need to determine their goals, KPIs and ROI for each type of event. Once marketers have determined the initial mix of event formats, the next focus is ensuring that events are aligned with their goals to reach ROI. How many leads does the event need to generate to succeed in line with the marketing plan? What is the number of upsells that align with sales objectives? What numbers does the program need in top of funnel to have the right outcome at the bottom of the funnel?
Once those have been defined, it’s time to ensure they can measure the data. Data collection should span integrating a badge scanner at a conference with the company’s CRM platform or utilizing an integrated virtual event meeting solution that measures event engagement in real-time.
Data tracking must enable event marketers to be completely present during an event and able to pay attention to their other tasks, such as engaging with leads, running the webinar or executing the event behind the scenes, without insights being lost. Event and field marketers require a platform that tracks, and feeds information back into their existing CRMs and pipeline measurement platforms without heavy manual data entry between platforms.
To that end, marketers need to ensure their teams, and everyone involved in the event’s execution and data tracking, understand how to capture key unstructured data and when to use the tools mentioned above. This can be accomplished by sharing the event KPIs and creating customizable event briefs that automatically collect and store event information. Whether the data collection is for virtual, in-person or hybrid events, the platform should fully integrate with the team’s event marketing initiatives and comprehensive marketing strategies. This means the event data platform should also integrate into marketers’ existing tech stack, including Salesforce, Slack and Okta — seamlessly connecting the events channel to platforms leveraged for pipeline development.
Marketers can measure their event’s ROI by defining their KPIs based on sales conversion. The solution will combine the objectives and KPIs established before the event with the post-event data to estimate if the event met the set goals and generated a return on the team’s investment. This can include tracking the sales won on-site, leads from check-ins, survey results, social media mentions and impressions.
The data allows field and event marketers to draw smarter conclusions. For example, if the data shows that 48% of registrations were secured through email and 18% through social media, expanding the email database may be more efficient than throwing more dollars and effort toward social strategies. To truly track event ROI, event data needs to sync with records systems, like CRM or point of sale (POS) systems, so that marketers can measure and analyze opportunities created and closed downstream.
By capturing data and evaluating pipeline equations post-event — marketers can gain insights into what events produce the most productive leads that convert to sales. Are marketers driving existing top-of-funnel leads to the bottom of the funnel? Are they increasing pipeline depth, and by what factor through events versus traditional demand generation? And what is the interplay between demand generation and event registration?
A robust data profile allows event marketers to do more of what is working and invest less into lower returns. By leveraging a robust tech platform, companies can optimize the data garnered from events by connecting the analytics from the event’s registration, event briefs, CRM and calendars, and infusing it into one hub. The leads will be put into the system to track their journey through the pipeline, run campaigns and build an effective sales funnel — leaving time for marketers to follow the data to ROI presented by the platform and find their mix of what works for sales.
While COVID caused significant disruptions for the industry, having the right technology in place and the ability to utilize critical data analytics opens the door for companies to host and sponsor events while tracking their success for better decision-making. In 2022, as events reflect a mixture of virtual and in-person offerings, marketers need to build back their strategic and tactical approaches systematically, with data that enables them to drive KPIs and sales. C&IT