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How to Maximise the Benefits of Event Marketing

February 20th, 2020 Madeleine Bergquist

As a marketing professional, I hate events. That is a bold statement from someone who personally loves a good tradeshow and walking away with six bags full of free stuff I will probably never use. As a marketing professional, however, they are stressful, time-consuming, pressure-cooker situations that I am happy to do without.

So, is the answer to never do physical events? Of course not. We have to do events as part of the marketing mix, both virtual and physical. People do business with people, and the benefits of solid event marketing are incalculable as a result. It is human nature to like face-to-face interactions and get a feel for the person you are about to do business with.

There are of course some great events out there, such as Webinar World, where you go because you know the people you want to meet are going to be there and it will be well organised. If done right, good events can generate new leads, new business or strengthen existing relationships. So, to correct myself, I love events done right.

Here’s exactly how to maximise the benefits of event marketing, and make an event worthwhile.

Madeleine Bergquist is the Nordics Marketing Manager for Marketo, an Adobe Company and a speaker at Webinar World Stockholm.

Build The Case for an Event


I try to manage my budget so that it never takes up more than 40% of the total. That usually makes it the top or second-most costly activity in my budget, depending on digital media spend. This is still fairly conservative, especially if I look at the B2C side, which often spends up to 70% of budget on events.

But I still want to keep events in check, because contrary to what people outside of marketing think, the event does not start at 9 am on the day of the event and finish by 5 pm that afternoon. It started weeks earlier, and, done well, there will be 4-5 days of follow-up to make sure you get value out of your investment. Putting on a good show does not drive business in itself, the event marketing does.

While there are differences between the various types of events, whether virtual or physical, there is one uniting principle behind them all: if they are not measurable don’t do them! If you can’t show the return, it basically didn’t happen. You put on a show, you spent lots of money, you had a great time, but after the event, when Finance wants to know what the return was, you will struggle. Indeed, one of the benefits of a robust event marketing scheme are the actionable leads and investment that will be generated afterwards.

On the flip side, if you are in a situation — like many are these days — where you are being asked to do more with less money, and you are able to bring numbers to the table proving the value of your activities, it will lead to a completely different discussion.

Be clear on why you are going, every event should be measurable

You must start by asking “Why are we going and what are we getting out of it. Be clear on the aim of the event. ‘Because we did it last year’, ‘Sales wants us to go’, or ‘our competitors are there’ are not good reasons to attend an event.

Instead, a good reason would be ‘I am going to meet new people to expand my current database by adding new names in a GDPR compliant manner so that I can market to them, and grow our business’, or ‘I am going to meet my customers and work on our retention, cross-sell and upsell opportunities’.

Establish goals and ROI estimates before the event

Set clear business goals and expected ROI – all events should have a finance metric against it relating to cost, pipeline and/or revenue. Educated guesses are ok when you start out, you have to start with something, but as you go you will be able to be more and more accurate.

If your goal is to increase the size of your database, you can calculate cost-per-new-name-acquired and compare that to other methods of acquiring new names. If your goal is to work on customer retention, upsell or cross-sell, you will be able to calculate the reduction in churn, or added revenue to existing accounts.

Focus on the decisions that improve ROI

Find out what works, what doesn’t work and what you can improve on. The numbers will not tell you the entire story. There is a difference between doing an event that you should never have done in the first place if you had done your research, versus a good event but you executed it badly. It could be for any reason, you got the time zone wrong on your webinar, or your physical booth was not placed where the people you wanted to talk to were. Sometimes, your event marketing just misses the mark when it comes to current interests, leaving you unable to maximise the benefits of good event marketing and engagement. 

Yet, all are easily solved if you were to do it again.

Have a post-Event follow-up strategy in place

A webinerd and her coworkers discuss optimization

Maximise your marketing activities before, during AND after; this is the secret to reaping the many benefits of event marketing. It is easy to forget to do the work after an event, whether it is physical or virtual. You need to establish clear post-event processes ahead of the event so that everyone knows who is doing what as part of the follow-up.

Plan your lead allocations ahead of time and prioritise them together with sales. You do not want a hot lead ignored for a week because your SDR’s did not have it as a priority. Timeframes and service level agreements need to be in place with sales as well so all know when the follow-up work should be done. You also need sales plays in place to drive high-quality conversations. Finally, you must force the pipeline conversation – the era of blind faith is over!

Putting Event Prep Into Practise

A webinerd and her community dancing happily in a virtual circle

So how do we do this in practise? Up until Adobe recently bought Marketo, we were a very lean organisation of around 1,000 people. We had to be crystal clear on what our returns were as we did not have the budget to get it wrong.

As a result, we evaluate all our activities based on the following criteria:

  • Our investment
  • The multi-touch pipeline we created (no one will buy your product on the back of one single touchpoint with you)
  • How many opportunities it generated
  • The ratio between investment and pipeline
  • The percentage of activities within each channel that perform above the minimum ratio that we have deemed as a success (At Marketo, the ratio for very successful is above 15, good is 10-15 and less than 10 is seen as unsuccessful)

The last bullet one is perhaps the most important metric. This means, as in the example below from a few years ago, that we can have tradeshows that on average come in above 10, but only 49% of them were above the 10 minimum. That means that we had a few great ones and a few that we should definitely not do again.

If you compare with webinars, they are more cost-efficient and the return for us is very high at around 25 with 70% of webinars performing above the 1:10 threshold.

 

Program Channel Investment (MT) Pipeline Created (MT) Opportunities (MT) Ratio % Above Min (MT) Ratio*
Tradeshow $2,896,619 $30,619,242 644 10.6 49%
Webinar $634,610 $16,095,792 362 25.4 70%

Once you have this level of detail, you can then drill down and identify the specific activities that did not reach your targets.

This information gives you a completely different level of bargaining when you go into your budget discussions with Finance or activity discussions with Sales. You will be armed with all the ammunition you need in order to drive your agenda. Just remember to be clear on why you are going, ensure every event is measurable, establish goals and ROI estimates before the event, focus on the decisions that improve ROI, and have a post-event follow-up strategy in place. The result will be a budget well spent, a marketing department not overstretched, and your company flush with the benefits of tried-and-tested, solid event marketing.

Register now for Webinar World Stockholm and learn how you can get more out of your events — both physical and digital. For more details on how to run a successful event campaign, download Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Event Marketing.