Planning5 Min Read

How to Track Event ROI in the Digital Age

Demonstrating B2B event ROI isn’t impossible. Our current systems and processes just aren’t set up for it.

The average B2B company spends around 22 percent of its marketing budget on events. Yet somehow, tracking and showing event ROI (return on investment) remains a serious blind spot in marketing analytics.

That means measuring event ROI is a marketing function ripe for improvement. As a marketer or event professional, you invest far too many resources to not have visibility into the metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators) that prove your ROI.

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Vengreso‘s CMO, Bernie Borges, about the difficulties marketers have bringing event data into their tech stack in a meaningful way. Below is a link to the podcast as well as a few key points we feel will help marketers maximize the impact of events.

Hear more of Corey’s event ROI insights on Vengreso’s Modern Marketing Engine Podcast.

Why Measuring Event ROI Is a Consistent Pain Point

The Sales Cycle Problem

Savvy marketers know that high-level events are often the source of large deals. Why? Because senior decision-makers are likely to either attend or speak. Getting face-to-face time with these decision-makers is a necessary step to closing big deals.

But justifying event ROI this way presents a challenge: Event leads tend to have longer sales cycles. Throw in Salesforce Training’s estimate that 80% of trade show exhibitors don’t follow up with their event leads, and we see that tracing ROI back to events is more of an art than science.

But that’s not the only dilemma for showing event ROI.

The Brand Awareness Problem

Most marketers also understand the impact events can have on brand awareness in a targeted industry. Unfortunately, brand awareness is often considered fluffy. It’s hard to prove, let alone justify to a CEO. 

That is, until brand positioning slips and starts impacting digital efforts, at which point you can show a negative impact on ROI. 

So, how can event marketers make sure we’re able to advocate for events and successfully show results? Here are three strategies to make tracking event ROI much easier.

3 Insights to Help You Master the Art of Tracking Event ROI

1. Pre-Event Planning With Your Sales, Marketing & Customer Teams Is Key

Events heavily rely on the sales team establishing relationships with attendees that generate demos and revenue. Therefore, getting everyone on the same page is imperative.

This usually requires sales and marketing leaders to agree on event KPIs, expected roles, and and at-event performance. It also includes developing a comprehensive post-event plan where leads don’t go cold or fall through the cracks.

Starting at least three months before an event, marketers should:

  • Project the number of leads and align with sales around meeting and lead KPIs.
  • Coordinate who from the sales, marketing, and customer teams will attend.
  • What the expectations will be from each team member.

These can easily be accomplished through the production of a detailed run of show. Create one and share it with everyone attending. Include sponsorship levels, activation plans, event swag, evening events, and a booth schedule.

Assuming you can acquire a list pre-event or use one from last year, SDRs should begin heavy outreach 3–4 weeks before the event to book meetings and demos for AEs who will be on site.

Coordinate that sales outreach with marketing emails that invite attendees to visit your company’s panel session, your trade show booth, and to book an in-person meeting. Retargeting is also a great way to supplement pre-event marketing efforts so attendees are aware of your company before they get to the event.

Leading up to the event, ameetings should become weekly occurrences. Add one more deep dive on travel and logistical details in the days before the team sets off on their adventure.

2. Understand That On-Site Activations Make or Break Your Event Experience

Even on a scrappy budget, you can do fun and creative things to drive traffic to your booth, inspire people to connect with your team, or increase your brand visibility.

Knowing the attendees’ preferences and behaviors makes it easier to come up with meaningful ideas to land on everyone’s radar. For example, don’t have enough budget to throw a big after-hours party? Rent a bus that connects the parties.

Have attendees fill out “permission slips” (think lead gen) and put a sticker on their badge that becomes their “bus pass.” Other attendees will likely see the sticker, ask what it is, and stop by your booth or table for a bus pass of their own. On the bus, have a few beverages available, and your team ready to connect with partygoers.

By getting creative with your on-site activations, you’ll rise above the majority of organizations who struggle to accurately track and rank touch points with attendees. Apply that energy to asking what event software and technology you can upgrade, too, for even greater impact.

Consider, for instance, how many traditional on-site lead retrieval systems are basic at best. They don’t let you score, flag, or sync leads in a way that ensures proper delivery of the data to the right AE or SDR.

But a mobile lead retrieval app that connects to your CRM does. It lets you qualify, rate, and even take notes on each lead right from your phone. SDRs and BDRs back at the office can begin sending thoughtful follow-up emails the same day.

3. Post-Event Follow-Up Matters Most to Your Event ROI

Everyone comes home from an event with an elated feeling, attendees and vendors alike. But as mentioned above, a staggering number of exhibitors never follow up with new leads to capitalize on those good vibes. The days after your event are critical for follow-up, so have your sales and marketing drip emails ready before your team sets sail.

To keep the momentum going, key relationships and hot leads should always receive a personalized note from their sales contact with a request for next steps. The worst thing that can happen is we all get back to the office and into our routines. That almost never allows for enough time to entertain new conversations.

Here’s another common occurrence: A big lead has a hot and heavy conversation with someone outside that rep’s territory. The likelihood of that rep passing on the lead, and the territory rep understanding the amazing conversation and urgency of consistent follow-up, is almost always lost in translation.

This is where a tight SLA (service-level agreement) and relationship between sales and marketing is money—literally. So make sure your post-event process is so tight that there isn’t room for sales or marketing to drop the ball.

Proving Event ROI Is a Challenge, But the Impact Makes it Worth the Effort

Data and tracking are challenging to keep clean, and is therefore something you should prioritize in the SLA between your marketing and sales teams. Tracing events to a multi-touch attribution system will bring more visibility into the true impact of events, as well as on-site lead scoring.

In an ideal world, your event management system would do more than track granular data. It would also integrate with sales and marketing tools to ensure the loop is not only closed, but fully visible across every system used to store and track data within your organization.

As you embark on your next event, we would love to hear what you and your teams are doing to find and track event success. And if you have a chance, swing by the www.socio.events site to learn more about what we are doing to help power event success.

Corey McCarthy
Corey McCarthy
Award-winning B2B and B2C marketing executive. Fueled by chocolate chip cookies. Signature catchphrases include "Watch this" and "I got you."