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Companies pour millions of dollars into throwing events. Why? Because they know they work.
The crazy part? Very few CMOs track whether their events actually impact the bottom line.
Today, marketers have to know exactly how to arm and incentivize their teams for event success, optimize each touch-point in the event lifecycle, collect and interpret event data, and recognize ways to optimize the next event for even greater success.
Here are five best practices for marketers to get better ROI from events:
1. Understand that events aren't just about who is in the room.
If executed and marketed correctly, events present at least 10 to 15 opportunities to connect with your audience before and after the event: The save-the-date; the invitation; the reminder email; the event itself; the follow-up email; the social interactions; the owned and earned media. Each stage in the event lifecycle is an opportunity to pique someone's interest in your brand. Make sure you have a targeted strategy for each.
Take the reminder email, for example. Most marketers see it as a one-trick pony: Get more people to RSVP. That's missing the whole point. Smart organizations frame their reminder emails as mini-campaigns. They'll offer up engaging content -- like an exclusive piece of video content that only invitees can see.
2. Think cross-departmentally.
Events should be at the center of every marketing strategy. Why? Because events are easy ways to naturally tackle multiple KPIs at the same time.
For example, recruiting events may inadvertently drive sales leads. Sales events may also result in a few great job candidate leads. That's the beauty of events. They generate immediate, actionable results that the entire company can utilize -- not just the department they were intended to serve.
The best marketers step out of their silos and make event planning a company-wide initiative. If you're throwing a recruiting event, don't hesitate to involve the sales team in a few meetings. The key is to diligently track the residual value and opportunities that each event generates.
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Senior leaders want to throw an event to generate new leads. Then, they pass it off to their PR or marketing teams to handle everything, including the guest list.
This is a mistake. The guest list, which is arguably the most important part of the entire event, is the responsibility of everyone at the company. Make it a priority for everyone to participate in the process, and pay attention to the results. If you're not getting the RSVPs you want, it's not your marketing team's fault -- it's yours.
Here's an easy trick: Four weeks before your next sales event, try incentivizing your team to get quality attendees in the door. If they manage to meet a set goal -- like 10 attendees that equal $300K in revenue associated in the sales pipeline -- they get $300 each. This kind of incentive works.
4. Establish your event CPA.
Most marketers calculate an event cost-per-acquisition very simply: "If I get 100 people into a room, and the event costs $20K, then my CPA is $200." That's a red herring. What you should be thinking about is this: How can I create an unmissable event where every single guest is dying to invite a plus-one?
Consider this scenario: If you invite 100 people, and those 100 people pass your invite along to 100 more important people, your $20K event is delivering a CPA at around $100/person. If the event is so good that people are willing to talk about it on social, then you've just cut your CPA down significantly.
5. Use events to open doors.
Having a hard time getting potential customers to answer your cold calls or open your emails? Throw an event. The reason they're not opening that cold email is because they don't know who you are yet. To me, the best cold email pitch is to invite someone to your event.
But remember -- it has to be something they want to do. They're not interested in your new marketing software or shiny new app or new drink flavor. What they are interested in is this: an invite to an exclusive dinner series, a couture breakfast event or a 70s-themed roller disco. Something they can brag to their friends about.
Events are where deals get closed -- when you're standing face-to-face, looking eye-to-eye. But the best part about throwing one is that you really don't need someone to attend. If someone clicks on two emails in your event marketing sequence, for example, that's as valuable a lead as someone who actually showed up.
Marketers who approach events with a strategic, integrated marketing mindset are already way ahead of the game.