While the role of digital marketing grows more prominent, in-person events continue to receive a significant portion of overall B2B marketing budgets. According to Forrester, trade shows still constitute the biggest line item on a B2B marketers budget, with nearly 20% of spend being committed to live events.
While progressive B2B marketers are seeking to measure the overall return on their investment in events, the numbers can be elusive, according to Laura Cross, Research Director for Demand Generation Strategies at SiriusDecisions. “It's difficult because marketers are being asked to prove the value from more than just a marketer's point-of-view. There has to be less focus on how many people are there, and more focus on the overall experience of the event.”
As a result, B2B marketers are turning to tools and metrics to help them track and analyze audience social and other behavior before, during and after events.
“We are seeing a trend of increased technology and software implementation to gain information about event ROI,” said Kathleen Roberge, VP of Sales at etouches, an event management solutions provider, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “However as technology adoption is increasing, there is less integration — which ultimately makes ROI measurement more challenging.”
New Event Tools Target Behavioral Data
While demographic and firmographic data is available to marketers months prior to an event, there is a wide variety of behavioral data that can be collected during the event to help marketers understand a prospect’s topics of interest — and ultimately buying intent.
“There are a lot of different data metrics worth collecting at tradeshows and conferences,” said Lawrence Coburn, CEO of DoubleDutch, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “But the data on the show floor is the most valuable. It’s crucial for creating a highly personalized experience during these events.”
Tools such as DoubleDutch’s mobile/social solutions are designed with the intent of helping attendees get even more engaged while at an event, while also collecting information on what sessions they have attended, who they are interacting with and what they are saying about the event on social media.
Not every attendee will interact with the mobile app. To address this challenge, DoubleDutch, is experimenting with low emission beacons to analyze traffic patterns throughout the event. This data can then supplement other behavioral data collected throughout the event.
“Once you can measure movement patterns, it can make future events even better,” said Coburn. “There needs to be an explicit opt-in when thinking about beacons. Measuring without consent can cause you to lose your prospect’s trust; and if you lose their trust, you aren't going to get attendees to use this technology in the future.”
The Challenge Of Manual Integration
Many B2B organizations tap into several different event marketing solutions from multiple vendors, which can make it difficult to analyze the social and behavioral data. Some tools specialize in specific data metrics — meaning marketers have to manually configure these tools to obtain the data that is the most relevant to their business.
“You have to manually develop your marketing tools on your own in order to obtain the results you seek,” said Jim Lenskold, President of the Lenskold Group. “It's getting better, and people are getting better, but there are some gaps that make it difficult.”
This manual integration is crucial for deeper insights into how your audience is engaging with your brand, and can then be leveraged to aid in various other marketing decisions that requires knowledge on prospective behaviors.
“By combining CRM technologies with registration and on-site capabilities, organizations and exhibitors are gaining better insights into the value perceived by their attendees and insight on attendee behavior,” said Greg Malark, Chief Operating Officer of Helms Briscoe, a meeting procurement and site selection agency. “This goes for data collected both pre- and post-event.”
Start With Broad Goals
With marketing tools developing at a rapid rate, they are also adapting to collecting specific data sets that are often too explicit for traditional enterprise software. The growth in technology is also highlighting a change in focus for B2B companies and their event expectations.
“There is a significant shift happening away from simple awareness campaigns to building relationships with prospects and current clients,” said Scott Kellner, VP of Marketing at George P. Johnson, an event marketing firm. “A lot of very experienced marketers are leaning more toward event based marketing due to its ability to bring the relationship 1-to-1.”
Another challenge is that tracking attendee event behavior if fairly new and there isn’t much historical data, according to Lenskold. “Now it's there, but they are still learning the ropes. The more that companies know how to analyze a specific channel, marketing and sales teams will grow more productive from what they've learned.”
Oftentimes, reporting teams and event planners don't communicate regarding event metrics, observers noted.
“Sometimes it's a planning problem; and sometimes it's a people problem,” said Cross. “There are several different goals, and sometimes events only play a small piece of that puzzle. You have to look at the event holistically, and looking at it from a more broad point of view.”
Kellner noted three steps that B2B companies should take when planning and strategizing an event:
- Agree on the desired outcomes for the event;
- Understand the target audience you are aiming to have attend; and
- Research the tools that can be deployed in an event setting in order to get the needle moving for these decision makers.
“In the end, B2B companies will have a map of the flow for each persona that would be ideal for them,” Kellner added.