How did your latest marketing activation go? Does it seem like it went really well or did it go poorly?  Did you meet your objectives?  How do you know? In many cases it’s just a feeling or a hunch.  The hardest part of measuring event marketing ROI is gathering accurate, meaningful, and plentiful data.  In fact, Only 6 percent of marketers are confident in their ability to establish ROI for experiential marketing.

ROI.  Three big letters that are nonchalantly tossed around in the world of marketing but hard to measure, especially with insufficient, incomplete, or inaccurate data.  ROI is much easier to measure in sales.  (How much time and money was spent to acquire and execute the final sale?) However, in marketing, it’s usually difficult to measure how many customers were gained and who purchased what (or how many) as a result of a marketing effort.  The direct correlation between a marketing activation and the increase in customer acquisition specifically connected to that event is almost impossible to ascertain.

This is especially true when you have an activation where you give away promotional items (swag) to attendees with whom you may not have even had a meaningful conversation.  Or perhaps you have collected information from them (via a survey, form, etc.) only to find out later that it’s an invalid (or illegible) email address or phone number.  Let’s face it, people aren’t readily willing to give out their (accurate) contact information unless there is something in it for them. And what if the event is an unstaffed one??  It’s no wonder that 50% of executives say data analytics is a critical skills gap necessary for mapping and improving customers’ journeys, according to Forrester.

So now you have spent a ton of marketing time and money and have little or nothing to show for it.  You can keep doing the same thing expecting different results, or you can learn how to enhance your data capture process so as to better measure ROI.  How else can you make an educated decision as to whether or not you should repeat that activation?  How can you measure, monitor, adjust, and control when you don’t know what or how to measure?

Sure you may capture some business cards planning to get back to them later.  (Haven’t we ALL done that at one point or another?)  You may even scribble some key points to remember on the back of the card so that when you enter the information into your CRM, you won’t have forgotten what set that person apart.  But it’s hard to capture the nuances and the finer details of the interaction on the space available on the back of a business card.  On top of that, you are limited by the time constraints present in a fast-paced environment where you are trying to interact with as many people as possible within the confines of the event hours.  Although it’s imperative to capture as much reliable, pertinent, and useful information as possible in such a short window, it is nearly impossible.

So let’s say you have gathered what you believe to be some great information.  Now what?  Someone must document and organize the data into meaningful and actionable information so that you can make data-driven decisions. Surely your CRM system (or even a spreadsheet) is a start, but it requires a lot of time and effort as well as individual assessment and judgement to collect, categorize, and comprehend the data.  In fact, for that reason, it’s frequently not executed, at least not entirely or effectively. 

“Your ability to collect, categorize, comprehend and make decisions based off of collected data is what sets you apart from your competition.”

What should you do with all this data?  

  • Send out tailored marketing communications to opted-in users for promotional purposes
  • Acquire new customers by responding to their stated preferences and communicate the availability of products or services in which they have expressed interest
  • Reassess your current offerings in response to consistent overwhelming customer feedback
  • Adjust your marketing message if the consumer isn’t responding

Event ROI – what to measure:  

Revenue-generating potential:

  • Sales from opportunities gained onsite
  • Follow-up meetings scheduled from events introductions
  • Website visits from attendees and online visitors on which you can follow-up 
  • Social media likes/follows/mentions/shares with event hashtags (therefore identifying the source of the social media activity as coming from the event)
  • Any event PR that included your company due to your creative and entertaining event experience

Costs:

  • All event costs (venue, physical components of activation, labor, travel costs, giveaways, shipping both ways, etc.)
  • Time spent compiling, analyzing, delivering and following up on data collected
  • Lost opportunity costs by not following up on leads

According to a recent Circa article, “Understanding and calculating event ROI isn’t impossible. Actually, it is quite simple – IF you have the data readily available. The real challenge lies not with the decision modeling, but with capturing the data in the first place.” 

The secret is to A) make your attendees WANT to provide their invaluable opinions, desires, needs, and contact information and B) automate data capture, and, C) customize the way in which you receive the ready-made event reports. 

So how do you do that?  Optimal Station, an experiential technology and service provider, offers advanced tools, systems, processes, and services to help marketers most effectively execute a unique and customized activation that makes it FUN and REWARDING to engage and provide VERIFIED metrics so that brands can maximize their marketing dollar. Why not get a return on investment on each and every swag item you give away?  Want to know what the consumer wants or needs?  Ask them to use custom surveys that trigger the dispense of swag.  Then follow up after the event using the consumer’s already-verified email and or phone number. Want to expand your social media reach?  Use a social media contest, displayed in real-time, to entice consumers to use your carefully selected event hashtag(s). Optimal has endless ways for your brand to gain a competitive advantage by engaging and interacting with consumers.

If you’re a marketing event professional, it is vitally important to use data to create an effective and engaging event, whether that be an unstaffed pop-up or a full-fledged activation. The data you capture (and act upon) will not only help your brand grow, but will help you reach your goals for the next event, and so on.

If done correctly, your events will generate brand magic which you will be able to systematically recreate again and again and actually have fun in the process!