Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Event Marketing Shouldn’t Overlook Onsite Surveys

I’ve been involved with some onsite event evaluations of late. It’s absolutely not the most exciting or engaging topic but one worth revisiting, as I’d suggest it’s an avenue too often overlooked in gathering marketing intelligence.

As I think about it, I do not recall seeing an organization which engaged the Marketing Department in developing these surveys – they are seen much more something to be handled by event producers focused on content and operations teams’ looking for feedback on the physical attributes itself. Which is fair enough, there is an inarguable need for these as feedback channels. However, marketing needs to be proactively involved in the formulation of the survey as well.

For example (and not to be critical of it), the survey I refer to above was multiple pages. The attendee was only required to answer one or two questions on many of the pages, the fact is that as an attendee, I would have been daunted by the size of it. And many people who responded were – reviewing these particular surveys, few were complete. In addition, within the context of the questions – which drilled down on food, venue, whether attendees preferred standing microphone, roving microphone, written question, etc. for Q&A did not ask the simple question: “What was the most valuable aspect of this event for you?” Again, this is not to be critical of this particular survey, I’ve seen many which have, in not having marketing input, have missed out on a chance to gain key insight.

And as Marketing Departments get more involved in the onsite survey development, a few thoughts to leverage their effectiveness: 
  • Vet the survey prior to printing: Onsite surveys are, by definition, an inward-looking document, and it is too easy to get involved in internal thought/process in formulating questions. Give the survey to an outsider – spouse, friend, etc. – and ask “does this make sense to you?” The input from an outsider can be eye-opening.
  • Ask actionable questions: drill-down questions are fine, but ask and include questions you can influence or provides insight to help you deliver a better product. In some form (graded scale, Yes/No, etc.) questions like “what is the value add?,” “why did you attend?,” “how did you first hear about this event?” (Even more important as the influence of social media grows) are invaluable.
  • Think through formatting: This can be tricky, but make sure responses to questions all receive equal treatment in layout. I recently saw a survey with a fairly benign question with response heavily weighted towards one answer – and I could not help think it was because the response was positioned at the end of the question, with the remaining dropping down to the next line.
  • Think green!: There are a multitude of online survey tools available; if you have not already considered it, think about using these as opposed to paper surveys. Outside of saving forests, this presents quicker response time, better ability to analyze responses, etc. I was at an event where a colleague with a hand-held got his Survey during the event’s evening reception. Certainly made the survey front-of-mind for him!
So again, as 2009 winds down and 2010 ramps up, one small “to do” for event marketing leaders to add to their list of New Year’s Resolutions is go get pro-actively involved in the onsite survey development and dissemination processes.

Good luck! And Happy Thanksgiving to those stateside!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nothing Succeeds Like Success

I recently had the opportunity to observe the development and execution of a successful event (yes, there are still successful events to be held!), Econsultancy's Peer Summit. Held in New York City on October 8, the event was invitation only, and ended up first selling out attendance prior to the event, and secondly seeing very little attrition on-site (quite a coup, given the event was complimentary).

Some background: the Peer Summit was the introduction/launch event for Econsultancy in the U.S.; Econsultancy, headquartered in the UK, is a community-based publisher, focused on best practice digital marketing and ecommerce. With an office in the U.S. opening earlier this year, the event was a vehicle to deliver its value proposition through the event's content a roundtable-discussion based format.

So why did the event succeed? It was essentially a lesson in back-to-basics – the ground-floor underpinnings that have traditionally driven event marketing success. But it's a lesson worth reviewing as the events calendar wraps up the 2009 season and moves into 2010:

1. Keeping goals and objectives reasonable: One of Econsultancy’s challenges at the outset was that it was a launch event. To that end, they set reasonable expectations and goals regarding attendance. Econsultancy has run several Peer Summit-type events in Europe; rather than assuming they could replicate their success in the US immediately, Econsultancy planned and budgeted a more reasonable attendee number. As importantly, this audience quantity (and quality) was communicated to event sponsors, so expectations were aligned across the board.
2. Defining the product (event): The Peer Summit was not meant to be – nor communicated as – an “all things to all people” endeavor. It had a defined target audience and communication plan geared to attracting client-side digital marketing executives. Being a one-day event in New York City, marketing was targeted to local executives. There were no delusions that individuals would flock from across the US to attend. And as an invitation-only event, the audience was specific. This admittedly can’t be as controlled at a paid event – but it does speak to ensuring that in whichever event scenario is being planned that key audiences and correlating outreach is identified.
3. Having a contingency plan in place: The event did not necessitate a last-minute scramble for delegates, as there were specific tactics in place and executed upon to drive and retain attendees. Secondary plans were also in place – so if there was a need for ancillary activity, these were defined.

While this is an over-simplification of what produces a successful event, it is certainly the components at the core. If any of these elements are missing in the strategic marketing and execution of an event, said event is certainly inviting itself to challenges … ones that can make the difference between struggles and … success!

Good luck!