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Enabling corporate event sponsors and managers to demonstrate success

Building A Balanced Corporate Event

We came across an excellent whitepaper from the Aberdeen Group entitled Web Analytics: Marketing Beyond Online Customer Data. The whitepaper suggested a number of ideas that are equally applicable to measuring the impact of corporate events.

One comment that caught our attention was the statement that “Best-in-Class marketers are keen on getting granular with the specific impact of each marketing channel and campaign…”

Thinking about an event as a marketing channel which presents a collection of individual marketing campaigns is a powerful and useful idea. Especially as the one thing that events and web marketing have in common is an emphasis (and reliance) on delivering valuable content.

Events remain hugely popular and highly effective because they offer a branded, immersive environment. In many ways they are everything that every other form of paid media strives to be… a venue for conducting multi-dimensional campaigns using a combination of messages, messengers and experiences. Again this is increasingly true of the kinds of experiences that the web at its best can deliver.

The abundance (perhaps plethora?) of options leads to the quandary that corporate event sponsors often find themselves in: the need to stimulate demand for their shiny new objects, versus the need to meet attendee’s needs for information to help them to maximize the return on their investment.

This division is not as much of a dichotomy as it might seem. In fact, it reflects our experience with technology conferences, tradeshows and events of all stripes and flavors… There is a simple value proposition at work: one cannot attract an audience, and thus build a sustainable marketing channel, without providing content that addresses the needs and interests of each attendee.

These motivations are no more self-serving than the corporate goal of hosting what a recent survey respondent termed “a three day marketing brochure.” Targeted, relevant content is the quid pro quo that defines the success of the channel and the campaign(s). When this agreement is not honored, the result is usually a drop in attendance, followed by a slow fade from the competitive landscape.

Balancing these two different types of initiatives – stimulating demand (i.e. pipeline) versus supporting customers (i.e. creating loyalty and evangelists) – requires that the sponsor have a clear vision of the role of the event as a marketing channel. That is why it is a worthwhile exercise to go back and revisit the original objectives, which first brought the event to life. It also suggests that current event objectives need to be considered in terms of the current audience – often a change in event objectives must be matched by a change in audience acquisition strategy.

With the channel defined – or redefined – and more often than not, it is a moving target, one can then move on to campaign development. How many “things” is a particular conference going to be about? Each “thing” can be developed as a separate campaign built on attendee relevant content and experiences. By ordering the many initiatives competing for attention, the event can support multiple campaigns simultaneously.

As in any medium, the key to assessing the success of this approach is an event measurement program that defines ways to specifically measure each ‘event campaign’ and establish associated KPI’s. Or as the old truism goes, don’t expect what you don’t inspect.

Since no audience is not totally homogeneous, the measurements need to be assessed based on how they relate to each key audience segment.  Both campaign ‘pushes’ and attendee content ‘pulls’ need to be evaluated in this fashion to provide a balanced and ‘attendee POV’ perspective on what the event actually accomplished and, just as importantly, where it fell short.

One of the areas that our Event Measurement Best Practices Survey explores is the role that setting objectives and defining metrics play in the overall content development process.

How does your team go about balancing the need to drive sales and the need to provide product content? What challenges are unique to your company?

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