Generating leads is not enough anymore for event marketers in the current economy. Now marketers need to prove that those leads are high-quality customers and business partners that will champion a company long after the event booths have closed. One way to do that is to measure something that seems more conceptual then physical: engagement.
Measuring engagement can ultimately assist marketers in building more sincere relationships between event attendees and a brand. According to Elizabeth Pinkham, senior VP-events at Salesforce.com, a company that builds online programs for customer relationship management, it has become more important for marketers to understand the impact and value of dollars being spent. Knowing how attendees are inspired by an event—how they are engaged—is critical.
“The event is not a stand-alone program; it's just one chapter in the overall journey for that attendee. A complete marketing cycle is in play,” she said. “Ensuring the event delivers highly relevant information is essential for [attendees] to justify attendance and invest their time to engage with your company.”
According to Laura Ramos, VP-principal analyst at Forrester Research, measuring engagement is especially important in b-to-b. “It's really resonating with [b-to-b marketers],” she said. “The thing that's challenging them is what does it mean to be engaged and what does it mean in terms of the value that goes to the relationship-building process.”
Ramos said that there are four main objectives when it comes to measuring engagement:
—Is the attendee participating in the event, going to the marketing touch points such as the event's Web site and Twitter page, or simply spectating?
—Are they taking action once they are there, exploring the event, downloading information and commenting?
—Is the attendee de-monstrating affection or aversion for your brand?
—What is the likelihood that, after an event, attendees will advocate on behalf of the brand?
Though engagement seems more conceptual rather than physical, there are ways to measure it—especially in the virtual world. According to Jeorg Rathenberg, senior director of marketing at Unisfair, a virtual event company, the best way to think about engagement is “the level of activity that your attendees are showing.”
Engagement is simple to measure online: “How many chats did attendees have and with whom? How many and which white papers were downloaded? Did attendees fill out a survey? How long did they stay at a certain place? It's a complex metric that includes time, activity and content,” he said.
Because every single aspect of a virtual event can be measured, event marketers can be very detailed in ascertaining engagement.
Creating an engagement metric does not seem quite as simple when transferred to the live event. However, at Salesforce.com measuring engagement takes place pre-, during and postevent.
“We look at many key metrics for defining engagement—starting with defining the target audience for the event, and the full suite of communications (e-mails, Web sites, demand generation, telemarketing, referral campaigns, etc.) that promote the event program,” said Salesforce's Pinkham. “Response to the invitation communications are closely measured—everything from click-through, to the open rate and to registration percentages.”
According to Forrester's Ramos, as event marketers begin to scale back on the events they're attending and running, the level of engagement will become more important. “If you're not being engaging, you don't know who your audience is. You're either too broad in the net you're trying to cast or you're not talking about things they want to hear about. You're not thinking about a conversation.” Building relationships, she said, and differentiating yourself are the ultimate goals. M