Measuring your Event ROI

When an average conference sponsorship could have you spending up to $60,000, you can be sure management will want to see some results. Events can be pricey and knowing where to spend and where to cut back can be difficult if you're not measuring your event ROI. Should you be spending $25K on a small booth on a crowded sponsor floor just to get access to an attendee list and have your name splashed on some signage? Don't look at me, I'm asking you. Are you gaining any value from that?

Measuring the success of your event certainly isn't rocket science, but it isn't super clear cut either and it does require some time and investigation. You'll want to take a look at your pipeline, assess your goals vs. the outcome, and chat with attendees to understand what worked for them and what you could do better next time. You may find that your event strategy is spot on or you may identify areas where you can save or shift budget. It may turn out that instead of sponsoring the conference, your audience is better served by a micro event around that larger event, or by something completely separate like a roadshow in their own backyard. And remember, events shouldn't just be used as revenue generators or for prospecting - they can help with customer retention, renewals, and customer happiness (that pesky NPS). 

Before you even get started, it's essential to understand your event goals: why this event and what do you hope to achieve. And then go ahead and jot those goals down. This will be the basis for your measurement. For example, if your goal is to educate customers on a new product, you'll want to track anecdotal feedback from those who attended, as well as product usage following the event to see if your training made a difference. If your goal is lead generation, you'll want to see who is attending the event, the % of warm vs. cold leads, and whether they end up converting. Events can be sliced and diced into a number of categories so when you're looking at the big picture and comparing events against one another, be sure to compare them in the buckets they belong to (i.e. small / medium / large or by category: conferences vs. field events vs. roadshows). 

So the question then is what to measure:

Attendee stats - Most of the data points you measure depend on your event goals and you can get pretty granular here. At a minimum, you'll want to track how many people you invited, how many ended up RSVPing, and how many actually showed up. You wouldn't expect the same number of attendees at your annual conference as you would a customer dinner, but you may start to see trends in attendance rate across event types. If you're inviting 300 people to your event, expecting 100, but only 25 people register and of that group only 10 attend, you'll want to identify why that's happening. 

Who showed up to your event? Are they your most active users, a prospect that is close to making a decision on your product, or a cold lead looking for a free lunch? Perhaps your agenda doesn't suit the people you're targeting, or maybe it's just that the timing of your event isn't ideal. The more you understand your target audience, the better you'll get at identifying the right mix to invite next time and ensure the group gets the most out of your agenda.

Integrating event marketing software (like EventFarm, Splash, or Bizzabo) with your CRM can really help you simplify the collection of these data points and easily collect this information. Additional data points may be collected outside of the CRM via your RSVP landing page, registration check-in, the mobile app, and post event survey. 

Campaign stats - Track opens, clicks, and unsubscribed. This can give you some insight on what messaging works and what doesn't. Don't be afraid to test different messages - A/B testing will help guide you to find the right voice for the right audience. 

Pipeline - If your company is new to running events or just beginning to track events, you may not have any historical metrics around leads / opportunities / revenue, and that's ok. You can still take an educated guess at the number of attendees you'd like to turn into leads in order to give your sales team a goal to strive towards. The more events you host, and the more consistent you are with tracking, the better off you'll be in the coming quarters in anticipating what these outcomes should be to make the event worthwhile. 

Perception - Measuring the overall attendee experience through a post-event survey or mobile app evaluations throughout your event will give you great insight on how your attendees perceived the event; what they thought about the content, agenda, speakers, and overall experience. Tracking brand engagement through social media is another way to get a feel for what attendees took away from the event. Create a unique landing page for your event to keep track of shares, and be sure to monitor your social networks to track hashtags and mentions related to your event. 

Depending on the type and size of event, you may have additional metrics to track around:

  1. Mobile app usage
  2. Social media interactions
  3. Sponsorships
  4. And if the event requires purchasing a ticket, you'll also want to track % paid vs. % free, as well as an average ticket price

Now that you have these data points collected, you can assess the success of the event and ROI. Holistically, you'll take a look at your goals vs. the data collected after the event and then compare that to the cost of putting on your event. The final assessment is not perfectly clear cut and requires a more creative, qualitative eye. Your ROI can be calculated as follows: (Revenue - Total Cost) / Total Cost, but your event may not always yield a clear-cut %. You may choose to represent ROI as the cost per acquired user so in that case: Total Cost / Acquired User (a user can be defined as a beta sign up, an interaction on social media, or new lead). You may even choose to adopt a grading system to rate your event's effectiveness including general feedback from attendees, speakers, vendors, and employees. ROI is not perfect and supplementing with qualitative analysis is crucial to presenting the big picture. That said, depending on your budget and how involved you want to be in the reporting process, you can avoid doing manual calculations by using event marketing software to pull your reports while maintaining a database of event details. 

Ultimately, whether you manually track your events in a spreadsheet or automate it with software, your event tracking will lead to more impactful events where you're better engaging with your prospects and customers. Don't host events to check a box off your marketing list. Host them because they provide real value for your business and your buyers. You may not hit it out of the park from the start, but you won't know what's needed or what to fix if you don't try.