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HBR Study Reveals Attributes of Elite Event Marketers

Event marketers, it’s time to have a heart to heart: while we all know that in-person events work — evident by growth in event investment, budgets, and technology — it is now unacceptable to report on anecdotal event results.

It’s with much love I’m telling you this. 23% of your peers know it, and we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we weren’t educating and helping the other 77% get there.

Today, events are as measurable as digital marketing and they’re even more effective. We finally have the technology and integrated systems to track and prove it, and the fastest-growing enterprise brands have figured it out.

That’s why Splash partnered with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services to survey 739 enterprise leaders from all over the world. We wanted to better understand not only the state of event marketing today, but how the world’s top-performing companies — like Salesforce, Facebook, and MAC Cosmetics — are transforming their businesses with events.

When looking at the data, I was in awe of a specific group of respondents: the 23% that could truly measure event ROI. At Splash, we call this group of top performers “Event Optimizers,” because they are continually iterating, experimenting, and testing to maximize the most event ROI.

Looking closer at this top performing group, we found that they all shared these commonalities:

  1. They can measure event ROI

  2. They are shifting their event strategy from sponsored to hosted events

  3. They are investing in more events, with 30-50% of their marketing budgets being allocated to events and 25% of their marketing team in event roles

  4. They diversify their event types, and align specific goals to each type

  5. They adopt end-to-end event technology

  6. They’ve integrated their event technology and data to their core business systems

1. Event Optimizers measure event ROI

In addition to tracking top-of-funnel metrics like number of attendees or cost per attendee, Event Optimizers are also measuring bottom-funnel event metrics like sales pipeline, prospects accelerated down the funnel, and actual revenue generated.

measure retail events event type


2. Event Optimizers are shifting their focus from sponsored to hosted events

Salesforce, featured in the report, is one of the Event Optimizers that rigorously measures its event marketing. While the company tracks top-of-funnel metrics like number of attendees, it also leverages its own CRM products and third-party event-marketing software to dig deeper.

When you host your own events, you have full control of the  customer experience — and you’re more likely accomplish your specific intention and maximize the ROI of your events.

Event Optimizers have honed their hosted event strategy and will invest even more (four in 10 survey respondents say their organizations plan to spend more on hosting events next year).

However, sponsored events are still a part the strategy, with  85% of organizations prioritizing them (vs. 93% of orgs who prioritize hosted events). Event Optimizers know how to align their sponsored events with specific business objectives and are choosing sponsored events when driving net new leads or capitalizing on a key industry event are imperative.

3. Event Optimizers are investing in more events, higher budgets, bigger event teams

The fastest-growing companies — those who have grown 30+ in revenue in the last 2 years — are investing the most in events.

measure retail events customer

4. Event Optimizers diversify their event types, and align their goals to each type

Event Optimizers not only spend more on events, but also hire more dedicated event staff. More than a quarter say they have 11 or more full-time event planning and management employees, while one-third of say they spend between 21% and 50% of their marketing budgets on events. One in 10 allocate more than half their marketing budget to events.

On top of that, those who are tracking their event impact — Event Optimizers -- are the ones increasing their marketing budgets the most.

Event Optimizers aren’t just banking on one type of event — they use different events at different stages of the sales funnel because they know the different outcomes they can expect for expect for each event type.

For example: while VIP dinners are meant for pipeline acceleration, sponsored or partner events are meant for brand awareness or net-new leads.

5. Event Optimizers adopt end-to-end event technology
Event Optimizers use event technology and say it helps them track and measure events, improve event registration and attendance, increase productivity, provide a better attendee experience, and ensure better event planning and execution in line with their company’s goals.

With advancements in the latest generation of event technology, including the ability to track deep attendee data and automate many manual processes, the best tech adopters are better at measuring ROI (37% vs 23% of non-adopters) and 90% of tech adopters on average consider themselves “well-positioned for future success,” compared to only 65% of non-adopters.


6.Event Optimizers leverage powerful event data and have integrated systems

The most aggressive event tech adopters are tech companies, followed by business/professional services, consulting firms, and health care companies.

Capturing high-quality data from every touchpoint gives Event Optimizers the ability to continually optimize for better event outcomes by unlocking deep insights on event attendees’ preferences, enabling personalized event experiences, relevant post-event communications, supporting future personalized marketing efforts, and allowing for proper event measurement.

Integrating their event technology with their CRM software or the rest of the marketing stack provides easy access to the data needed to generate actionable intel, including real-time event insights at every stage of the event lifecycle—segmented by customer type—enabling better follow-up by the sales team.

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