Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Metrics, Metrics, Everywhere (Which one(s) do you use?)

I recently read a thread of marketing executives’ input regarding which metrics they utilize to measure the success of events – and was struck by the variety cited. Part of this is perspective: pending your involvement and responsibility – whether your role is as an Event Organizer (driving attendance & sponsorship sales), or Event Sponsor (driving marketing/booth activities), ‘a successful event’ can intuitively have different marketing metrics. My take is that the metrics for “success” should align across both marketing roles (event organizer and sponsor) and functionalities to ensure delivering an event with a high-quality value proposition for all involved.

In the above-noted thread, there was a consensus from Event Sponsors that lead generation is the top metric. Which is understandable – investment and participation as an Event Sponsor is a business development activity. From this agreement, however, thoughts deviated: Event Sponsors noted tracking leads/qualified leads, conversion, information requests, booth visits, revenue, and, ultimately, ROI as metrics. These are interrelated, yet separate ways to measure and evaluate success at an event. (It should be noted that the format of event – whether a trade show, seminar, or Webinar, for example, comes into play regarding the metric used.)

Interestingly, there was nominal mention from these Event Sponsor marketers referencing pure event volume. This is a disconnect: volume is a key metric for an Event Organizers’ marketing team from a revenue perspective. The drive to volume is augmented, in general, by the Event Organizers perception that their Event Sponsors want volume, volume, volume. From the comments I read, however, this is simply not the case. Event Sponsors are looking for volume only as a numbers game – the more attendees, the more opportunities for qualified leads.

A couple of marketers noted using revenue (and/or ROI) as a metric. This is the truest consistent metric for both Event Sponsors and Organizers – but it is also the one requiring the most coordination and alignment to establish. As one person noted, “There can't be finger pointing about marketing giving sales good leads they don't follow up, or sales saying the leads were really no good.” In other words, a strong sales and marketing relationship is essential. (An additional challenge is how to factor re-sign revenue – a traditional Event Organization metric for sponsor sales – within ROI calculations. The thought here is that while it is a KPI for the current year, the revenue would count toward next year’s ROI.)

There were and are other metrics noted in the discussion – reputational/press activity, site activity pre/post event, word-of-mouth activity and measurement being some. While fluctuations in these factors can be indicative of participation in an event, these are softer measures – and more challenging to develop.

In short, metrics for a successful event are more than a numbers game – it is an activity, from the Event Organizers’ side, of generating quality attendee volume (with re-sign and cross sell potential) and sponsor revenue (with renewal potential) – with the measure being ROI (either against the marketing spend or all costs). From the attendees generated, the Event Sponsors’ metric is more than lead gen and conversion numbers – it is the revenue generated from these leads measured against investment in the event. Again, this all requires alignment and coordinated interdependencies – but will ultimate deliver positive results for all parties.

Feel free to add your thoughts, best practices (and things to avoid!) in establishing and measuring your mertics - keep the dialogue going!

Good luck!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Social Media & Events Marketing Part I: LinkedIn

How do effective events marketing professionals use - and choose – from the myriad of social media sites available today? How Event Marketing leaders manage these channels effectively –and keep current on the latest offerings - is a growing responsibility. Upcoming posts of The Event Marketing Insider will explore Social Media and examples of its effective use, and the challenges faced, by events organizations. Update: Visit Part II of this series detailing utilization of Facebook here.

LinkedIn is the granddaddy of professional social media sites, because of this it’s the main one to include in your marketing communications arsenal. The Events team at Gartner, for example, has utilized LinkedIn over the past two years, using both the Groups feature and the Events module to build community, engage prospects, and communicate germane content and event information.

The key benefit to establishing and managing an events-related Group is that it provides a channel and a core community of prospects - individuals who are engaged in, aware of, and/or curious about your offering - for Marketing communications. Two examples of Groups Gartner has established, the Gartner Business Process Management (Xchange) (900+ members), and the Gartner Information Security Summit (250+ members), employ the full functionality of this feature, particularly focusing on Group Discussions and News Items. Group owners Tracy Runko (Gartner Information Security Summit) and Juan Fernandez (Gartner Business Process Management (Xchange)) have used Groups to post discussion questions, deliver germane Gartner content, link blog postings from Gartner analysts and deliver content from other group members. (Another option both are exploring is using LinkedIn Polls both to engage and generate discussion points for the group - or on-site at the event.)

Both Fernandez and Runko agree that a main difficulty they face is engaging members participation in discussions. While they and Gartner analysts actively post discussion topics and news items, generating responses to these threads has been a slow going. There may be a number of reasons behind this – from concerns regarding sharing competitive information to bandwidth to participate to an individual’s comfort level – the lesson to be learned is that even while ensuring posts are content-based, engaging, and invite response/discussion, generating ongoing conversation is a challenge.

Fernandez notes “where do we go from here” is another question he wrestles with. Having built a respectable community (as he notes, the Group appears on the first page of search results due to its size), engaging members on an ongoing basis is important to avoid having the Group perceived as a pure push promotional tool. To that end, an additional thought: in establishing a LinkedIn Group, take the time to gain cross-functional buy-in and agreement to submit content – as you will need a team to continually contribute content to the Group. (The last thing you want is a group with no activity!)

LinkedIn also offers an Events module which can be added on the right rail. This module maps the user to relevant events and their details, including dates, location, pricing, event Web site, and target audience. While very template, the Event pages are searchable and, importantly, lists keywords (so in using this feature do, think keyword usage through.)

From a user perspective, one can indicate whether or not they are attending a listed Event, or if they are “interested” in attending. This information, posted to the user’s profile, but is also key intelligence and information for the Event Marketer. You need to ensure proper follow-up mechanisms: that users who indicate they are attending your event are registered in your system (lest they think clicking “attending” on LinkedIn signs them up), and that “interested” people are followed up with. Individuals who indicate they are not attending can also provide marketing intelligence. As a point of reference, view Events sites for Gartner Information Security Summit and the Gartner Business Process Management Summit. Of interest/note: the Gartner Information Security Summit offers a discount to people who register utilizing a marketing code; the BPM Summit page notes early bird pricing discounts – additional tactics to be considered when setting up a page.

In short – LinkedIn has prime features and modules to engage and build community among prospects – but take the time to plan and think through how these groups are used: this is not a tactic to undertake a month before and event, it is an increasingly important part of an event marketing strategy. Continued content, discussions and interaction year round will build brand equity around your event and content – and add an important asset to your marketing arsenal.

Please do share your thoughts and experiences on using Social Media for your event ... may be fodder for a new LinkedIn Group!

Good luck!


Monday, June 15, 2009

Readers Comment on "Summer's Here!"

I want to update everyone with some comments that were posted in last week’s blog post, Summer’s Here! (Now what?….)". I’d posted the article (as I do with all items) on relevant LinkedIn groups I belong to as a new item; one group in particular, the PM Forum Group, generated some insights and responses worth sharing.

In response to the post:

From David Gilroy, Sales &Marketing Director at Conscious Solutions:
“Does ANYONE run events over the summer? I made the mistake of running a drinks event at our offices in Bristol during the balloon fiesta last summer. We had more staff than guest turn up...and we only have 12 people based in our office ;-( Regs....David.”

This being the first response, it of course sent me into a panic (maybe I missed the boat??)…until Michelle Beynon, Business Development Manager at Irwin Mitchell replied:
“Hi David Tricky one....drinks receptions and seminar/conferences get pushed aside during July-August as attendance does drop during these months. However, we have held successful events during these months working with the summer theme. So for instance our rounders evening followed by a barbecue goes down a storm......you will be surprised at how much your contacts/guests will join in and it can also be promoted as a family affair should they wish to bring their partners and children. KR Michelle”

Steve Wright, Business Development Director at French Duncan LLP, added:
“Agree with Michelle's comments. Summer events to coincide with events like the World Cup always attract good numbers. The Lions are on tour at the moment so another opportunity to bring clients/potential clients into your offices to watch the games on a big screen. “

Nancy Schuman, Vice President Marketing at Lloyd Staffing wrote:
“We have held two successful movie days for 2 summers - a staff/family/client & client family event. We pick a family film premiering during the summer and get a local theater to give us a Sunday morning private showing. It becomes a Brunch-Red Carpet event and the parents & kids love it. Food/beverage costs are down (no liquor) and it's over early. If we have extra tickets we invite Big Brother/Big Sisters or another local charity. To attend, everyone must RSVP and get a ticket in advance and a tee shirt for every attendee - to be worn to the event. Be sure to get a big group photo. It's still business - but less formal and good relationships get built and solidified.”

The above all reference smaller events, but point to success (in most cases) for events that are thought through re: timing, location and amenities. Some of the above strategies could certainly be incorporated into larger content-based events (i.e. a scheduling an event in vacation location with a sponsored attendee/family/sponsor outing as a sponsor premium?) or in conjunction with other events. For example, Gartner ran a very successful event in Las Vegas immediately following the Super Bowl with premium incentives tied into the event – although this is a winter example, such could be applied to summer events).

In short, again, the point is the summer months are largely untapped territory for organizing events; I would again argue making an initial investment into holding events during these months. The window in which events can logistically be scheduled is challenging enough – taking action to try to open the window may be a valuable effort.

Good luck!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Is Testing Part of Your Email Campaigns? Survey Says "No"

In April I blogged about utilizing legacy marketing practices - particularly testing - in online marketing campaigns. This subject was recently highlighted in B2B Magazine’s online edition, which detailed a white paper published by Experian Marketing Services, A guide to effective email testing. In its introductory remarks, the paper cited research published by Forrester Research last October, Benchmark your Email Organization, noting that 20% of respondents surveyed for the report did not test email at all, and 55% reported limited or ad hoc testing.

Quick math: that leaves 25% of the organizations responding reporting a continued email testing program. And that’s across industries – I would venture to guess, unfortunately, that in the Events arena those numbers are lower. Given the constant churn of events and campaigns, event marketers historically overall have focused on developing and managing ongoing testing strategies. Which is a lost opportunity to gather some hard intelligence on your prospect base.

To that end, given the challenges the economy and the events industry is facing, I’m stressing to you, the reader, that you need to take the time to establish and execute a testing strategy for your upcoming email marketing efforts. This does not need to be a complex, multivariate test; gaining quick, actionable data on elements that can be rolled out across a portfolio of events should ultimately be the goal.

Suggestions in the Experian paper, and their applicability to the Events industry, include:

Timing Tests: There is always debate over what information prospects need and when – add to that optimal timing (and promotion) of early bird deadlines and this is an area ripe for testing. The reality is timing will vary pending segment – but gaining insight on when to best send each communication is a key piece of knowledge – the potential for increased view/clicks is invaluable. This test can be time of day, day of week, weeks from event – or a combinations of these (as long as a large enough sample exists.) You can also drill down into what list segments respond best at what times.

Subject Line Tests: These should be done across a spectrum of events and over time to gain aggregate results. There are a variety of elements that can be tested: Experian suggestions include personalized vs. non-personalized, offer vs. no offer, short vs. long and branded vs. non-branded. One important facet I would include is push vs. pull – an ‘announcing XYZ event’ vs. ‘learn about XYZ’ – logic would dictate the second would pull better – but you won’t know until you test!

Creative Tests: An opportunity to test different creative schemes – but also to test HTML vs. text/non-image HTML. As the world moves toward mobile devices, images are blocked, etc. you may find that plan text messaging is the most effective for either the audience overall or certain segments of the audience. (Note: The metric for creative testing is clicks, not opens.)

Offer Tests: Test Early Bird price points, group price tests, testing premiums, etc. – send offers with various price breaks – and some with no price breaks – and see if discounts have an impact – if the answer is ‘no’ think of the retained revenue!

And again, test one element at a time (or two – i.e. testing four datasets and testing subject line and creative) – beyond that you are in the arena of multivariate testing – not impossible, but not to be tried without input from a third party or colleague versed in statistics to validate this scheme.

So take the time, set up your tests – and become a better marketer with the results!

Good luck!

John Gibb