24 March 2015 Category: How to Guides
Events are one of the most effective ways to generate high quality leads and opportunities but they are also one most expensive, not just in financial terms, but in terms of the time and resource they require. Here are our top ten tips for securing your Event ROI
1. Plan for ROI from the outset
For that reason, it is essential to have ROI in mind and to plan for this from the very start of your campaign. Creating a clear brief with specific objectives and a defined target audience ensures the event you design is more likely to deliver the right outcomes. A good starting point for planning is to look back at what worked and what didn’t with previous events and make sure you learn from that experience.
To know if your event is a success and to measure ROI effectively, your objectives need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound - SMART.
Given the time-consuming and resource intense nature of events, attainable and time-bound are key requirements. If you don’t have the time and resources to pull together the necessary organisation for an event, it may be better to look at other options.
2. Is an Event the right activity for your goals?
Having defined your objectives, it makes sense to consider carefully if an event really is the most cost-effective route to achieving those goals. Whilst expensive, events provide many advantages over other media:
- The level of engagement can provide better quality leads and opportunities
- Prospects willing to spend time at an event are likely to be better qualified.
- Presenting a more in-depth proposition and introducing prospects to product specialists can accelerate conversion to sale.
- Face to face engagement is more effective in deepening customer relationships
- Networking with peers and industry experts, who independently endorse your proposition, can strongly influence prospects.
- Events provide the opportunity to educate customers around more complex propositions through product demonstrations and expert presentations.
- Events allow you to showcase your credentials and position yourself as industry experts.
3. What type of Event?
Having evaluated options, and decided on an event, each format should be considered for its own particular merits. For example
- Trade Show/External Conferences – can give you access to a new audience, and enable you to build a profile in a new industry. Exhibiting at someone else’s event can also be less work than organising your own event.
- Seminars – allow you to define and control your own agenda and tailor the message directly to your own objectives/audience. They also support geographical targeting; for example, choosing venues in the North, when you are based in the South of England.
- Conferences – create an impact on a bigger audience and can support a high profile agenda/key speakers. Organising your own Conference with targeted agenda and industry speakers, possibly over two days, can help consolidate market position and/or increase market penetration.
- On-site Events – it may be more cost effective to take your event to your customer if you are targeting key accounts, and this gives you a captive audience. Events at the customer’s site can attract high attendance and alleviate costs – if the customer offers their facilities free of charge, for example.
- Partner events – these can be a good way to introduce your products to a new audience/sector where a partner is already well established and can endorse your offer. It also enables you to share the cost of organising the event, whilst still retaining input on the agenda.
Once you have decided on the type of event, make sure you take advantage of every opportunity that format provides. For example, incorporate where possible:
In looking at format, always have your target audience and objectives in mind and, importantly, convenience for the customer. Whatever you can do to get the right people to attend and engage with you, will help improve your ROI.
A well attended breakfast seminar, which minimises impact on the customer’s time, may be more effective than an elaborate and expensive, but poorly attended two day event.
Whilst you are clear on what you want to achieve, before you start to promote the event, it is important to identify clearly what value you are offering your audience – what are the benefits of them attending? A strong proposition which clearly expresses who should attend and why, needs to feature in all promotion to ensure you get the right people to the event.
4. Budgeting and Project Management
Attention to detail and keeping actions and budget on track is critical to a successful event. A project manager with strong project management and communications skills will manage a task list and coordinate responsibilities across a cross-functional team. The project manager should take advantage of tools and checklists and create a process template, which can be used over time. Unless you have a well-managed budget, you cannot secure ROI.
Unfortunately with events, small details can have a major impact. For example, if you don’t give your caterer the correct number of attendees and there is insufficient food, your event will be remembered for the wrong reasons.
The only way you can ensure ROI is to keep to the budget you specify. However, it is not a case of running the event for as little as possible; it is important to invest in the right areas as the event represents your brand and your company and may be one of very few opportunities to leave the right impression with your customer.
Once you have defined the set of activities required and assigned responsibilities across the team, you can work out costs associated and finalise your budget.
Having pinned down costs, this is a good opportunity for a sanity check. Do the objectives and outcomes you outlined in your brief warrant the budget required?
5. Effective Promotion
A dedicated online events page, with a compelling proposition specifying who should attend and why, will facilitate promotion. Ideally this would include online registration, and support email confirmations and reminders.
Bore you start designing and printing invites, review ways you can promote your event through existing communications. If targeting existing customers, for example, it is worth reviewing touch points in the customer journey where events could be highlighted.
- Add event information to literature sent out following information requests.
- Add details of the event to all email signatures particularly for customer facing staff – sales, customer service, technical support
- Include a link to your event page in auto-response emails, which are sent out by your system.
- Brief all customer-facing staff about the event so they can mention this during phone conversations if relevant.
- The sales team in particular should be calling customers and prospects to promote the event and securing product demos or meetings on the day with those that register.
Use cost effective media options before costly print or advertising
- Emails are cost effective and work well with an online event/registration page
- Online banner ads on relevant sites will help bring in new contacts, not already in your database.
- Social Media – post the event to your company pages and to any sector related groups on LinkedIn and Twitter
- PR – for high profile events, invite press to interview speakers and ask local press to include the event in their calendars
- For partner events, ensure partner companies actively promote the event to their own database and push traffic to your events pages.
- If your objective is account penetration, ask existing customers to promote the event internally, and forward invites on to senior staff in departments you have not yet reached.
- Telemarketing is a particularly effective way to promote an event and persuasively sell the benefits of attending. Unlike emails, a phone call is hard to ignore and can provide the opportunity to nurture interest and gain insight that can be further developed at the event.
Whilst you don’t want to spam your audience, to secure registrations, you do need to build activity leading up to the event. It is useful to set up a timeline and a communications process around promotions to maximise results. Email can be supplemented by phone calls at key stages leading into the event, giving a late boost if registrations are flagging, or firming up registrations from key individuals.
As content becomes available, this can provide the trigger for a push on promotion eg: agenda finalised, speakers assigned, synopsis of presentations available. Use these milestones to keep your audience interested.
6. No Show Rates
A robust system confirming registration and sending out reminders via email near to the event will minimise the number of registrants that don’t show up ‘No Shows’.
If resource allows, it is particularly effective to call customers who have registered to firm up their attendance. The call can also be used to understand customer interests and ensure these are developed through meetings with specialists or product demonstrations on the day.
With non-paid events, the ‘No Show’ rate can be 50% or more. It is worth keeping this in mind when you are confirming final numbers with the venue so you don’t pay for food that isn’t required.
If you do have a significant number of registrants who don’t turn up on the day, you can still use those contacts to bring value for the event. Continue to nurture interest, send links to the event materials, or invites to other relevant seminars/webinars you hold. If key individuals are in your ‘No Show’ list, it may make sense for the sales team to call and arrange a face to face meeting.
7. Measure and Refine
Having clearly defined your objectives, it should be possible after the event to quantify the value and deduct costs to calculate your ROI. It is worth holding a ‘post mortem’ meeting with the staff involved to capture what went well and what didn’t, so you know what you would do differently next time.
Follow Up Activity
It is important that the event is not forgotten as soon as it is over. Any follow up activity needs to be progressed and leads chased to ensure a full return on the investment. It will take time for leads to move through the pipeline and convert to opportunities or sales, and it will also take time to process invoices from the event. Aside from the post event review, it is important to hold a meeting later in the calendar when outcomes and costs are clearer and you can begin to see true ROI.
Feedback from attendees/speakers and other participants should be part of any review. A feedback form covering all aspects of the event, not only the quality of the content, but also the venue, catering and organisational aspects, should be a standard part of the process. Whilst these can be sent out after the event, or completed online, you may get a higher completion rate by handing forms out during the event and collecting them at the end of the day. Incentivise attendees to complete forms with a prize draw or free gift offer, or in exchange for a memory stick containing materials from the event.
8. Materials Re-use
Given the amount of work required to produce an event, it makes sense to reuse materials over time to minimise future effort and re-work content for future events, rather than starting from scratch. Consider other options
- Post content as a web download offer or as an email offer to generate leads.
- Speakers who gained permission to present their material at the event, may be happy for their input/presentations to be used in other ways:
- developed as customer testimonial
- to support PR activity
- video presentations for use on your website.
- Any checklists/process documents used in organising the event should be maintained as templates for future events.
9. Utilise your Team
A strong project manager can manage the event plan and keep tasks on track and on budget, but any event requires the support of a whole team. Whilst marketing may lead in organising the event, it is important to have input and support from other functions, particularly sales. Depending on the event focus, you may want to assign a ‘sales’ lead to champion the event and ensure key prospects are personally invited, to maximise the return on effort. Technical and product specialists are also important to provide input into the agenda, content and materials. A cross functional team, which draws on the different skills across the organisation, led by a strong project manager, will ensure the success of your event.
10. Outsource Options
If you have a small team, you may feel organising events is beyond your resource or expertise, and it may be more cost effective to look at outsourcing option. Event marketing companies have tools and expertise to handle specialist tasks with less time and effort than you may need in-house.
- Event Management Companies – can handle one or all elements from the registration process only to a complete outsourced solution.
- Free Venue Sourcing – agencies will provide a free service whereby they identify venues based on your specification. As well as doing the leg work for you, they can also often negotiate preferential rates.
- Event Marketing Companies – if you need to boost your registrations, or don’t have the resource or expertise in-house, there are many companies that can assist.