What Is Data-Driven Marketing and How Does It Improve Your Event ROI?

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A New Definition of Data-Driven Marketing

What is data-driven marketing, how can event marketers effectively use it to drive conversions, and why does it matter? For decades marketers were forced to launch campaigns while blindly relying on gut instinct and hoping for the best. That all changed with the digitization of business and an increasingly demanding and digitally connected consumer. Now more than ever, there is a greater urgency to develop data-driven marketing campaigns as organizations have come under increasing pressure to deliver results or ROI for their marketing spend. To be successful in this landscape, a modern marketing campaign must integrate a range of intelligent approaches to identify customers, segment, measure results, analyze data and build upon feedback in real time.

While almost every area in marketing has been folded into the digital marketing ecosystem, in-person events have remained elusive to today’s modern marketer. In fact, when it comes to tracking your marketing efforts and determining which channels provide the best return on investment (ROI), most marketers will agree that results from in-person events are still difficult to track:

  • 69% of marketers say that tracking ROI for events is their primary challenge. (Aberdeen Group)
  • Only 48% of marketers report having any event ROI metric in place (Regalix)
  • 82% of marketers cannot quantify the data received from attendee interactions at their corporate events (Kissmetrics)

Indeed, events often lag behind other marketing methods by a significant gap, with the success or failure of many events based solely on anecdotal evidence instead of quantitative measurement and logic.

Furthermore, because data-driven marketing produces highly personalized, engagement-focused campaigns for everything from enterprise servers to event apps, consumers are now beginning to expect a high level of personalization with each transaction. Events are no different. Prospects attending events expect the same level of personalization and engagement they receive in everyday life, which many marketers find difficult to deliver.

So, how do you close that gap to collect real-world data at your events, create engaging campaigns that reach your audience effectively, and determine the effect it’s having on your company’s ROI at the same time?

The answer lies in data-driven marketing. Let’s take a look at what is data-driven marketing, how it impacts the ROI of your event and ways to get the best out of your data to optimize your events.

What is data-driven marketing?

Let’s start out by trying to develop a simple definition for a relatively complex concept and practice. Data-driven marketing captures insights and data from a prospect, analyzes and scores the prospect’s data and behavior, and then subsequently triggers marketing actions and campaigns based upon marketing analysis. An appropriate analogy is to think of data-driven marketing from the consumer side in the average online shopping experience. When you purchase an item online, data-driven marketing strategies provide recommendations of complementary products to provide a better overall experience. If you’re looking at airfare rates for your next vacation to Hawaii, a data-driven marketing approach will focus on restaurants around the island with cuisine you regularly Google, potential places to stay based on positive reviews on Facebook, visitor’s guides that reflect your online budget-hunting practices and local activities such as scuba diving, listed on your LinkedIn profile.

By comparison, when you look at data-driven marketing from the marketer’s side, you’ll find a much more complex process. As you are able to obtain and update information on the customer from secondary sources, such as social media sites and web search data, you can create an approach that is customized to their buying behavior, interests, past purchases, web searches, social media posts and similar information. In other words, this approach allows you to optimize your funnel and customize your buyer journey to that particular prospect’s needs. You can also survey prospects to obtain primary sources of data, but be aware that there is often a bias between what individuals or groups claim versus their actual behavior. For example, an event attendee who was ranting about poor service at the luncheon one day may be raving about the closing keynote, leaving you with plenty of praise on the keynote but failing to mention the luncheon on the exit survey. Once you’ve obtained the data you need to make a comprehensive group, you can divide your prospects up into the personas they fit into best. This allows you to customize and personalize your approach, timing, channel and subject matter to optimize the results for each persona group.

The problem many marketers run into at in-person events is that they often don’t have the information they need to determine how to best engage each prospect. The closest option currently available are scans that provide contact information and basic registration information. But scans don’t provide the data you need to track that prospect’s engagement before, during, and after the event to prove the event ROI that particular group of prospects has generated for your company. As an example, at a recent conference, my badge was scanned by a gentleman from a company that prints promotional items. I was looking through the items in his booth to determine if there was anything I could use for our company’s next event. Though the exhibitor could have collected further data from me at the time, it would have been at the cost of other prospects that he could not help while gathering my information. When I returned home from the event, I had several recommendations for items that didn’t meet our needs because the minimum quantity was much too high, the quality wasn’t good enough and the prices were too expensive. The company had my contact information, but didn’t know enough about me or my organization to make appropriate recommendations. A data-driven marketing approach to this in-person event would have drastically improved my experience while increasing the marketer’s Event ROI.

How does data-driven marketing improve your ROI?

If you’re still wondering how data-driven marketing can make a difference to your company, you’re not alone. Though there was a 14% increase in confidence in putting big data to work in marketing departments from 2013 to 2014, with expectations for additional growth, many marketers still don’t know how the additional data provides a solid improvement in ROI or how to use the data to their company’s best advantage. In fact, companies that have implemented data-driven marketing into their marketing toolbox and recorded the results have often seen a 10-20% improvement on their ROI. Like any tool, it must be used correctly and implemented with other tools in your kit, such as using social media data, search analytics, SEO, content targeting and developing better buyer personas.

Why does data-driven marketing make such a big difference? Using the marketing convention example above, if the company had used data-driven marketing techniques to track my information, they would have known my organization was operating on a modest budget. All these factors made their special offer on a tri-fold brochure with a minimum order of 5,000 a very bad fit. Instead of learning more about the client, the company made a suggestion based on what was popular with their clients in general, few of whom had the needs of our organization, and lost a prospective sale. A targeted campaign based on data-driven marketing would have recommended a small-minimum product order that was inexpensive, while offering additional items that would have fit well with our company’s mission.

What steps are needed to get the most out of data-driven marketing for events?

But how do you implement best practices for data-driven marketing, especially for an event where it is hard to keep up with so many attendees and their activities? Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when planning your event from beginning to end:

  1. Create Targeted Email Campaigns– You can use the information you’re gathering to segment and target your invitation list. Who is your audience? Can you tell the difference between a manager who is attending to check off a box on their continuing education list versus one who is a real decision maker at company you are currently targeting? If you want to develop your event as a thought leader, you need to determine who are the most important attendees and who will enhance your event by attending and participating.
  2. Personalize Prospect Emails- Beyond targeting who you’re inviting, don’t assume that a one-size-fits-all approach to your marketing will work either. When you collect rich data on your prospects, you can take a different approach instead of producing a campaign that focuses on a single persona. Using the above conference example, there were a wide range of prospects who attended, including independent marketing consultants, members of marketing teams from small to enterprise companies, exhibitors with a wide range of tools, services and products. Without leveraging these rich attendee insights, you’ll be unable to properly segment your email follow-up campaign to deliver highly personalized content that will increase your buyer’s engagement. This also applies to creating individual landing pages for each persona, focused on the interests and needs of that particular group.
  3. Pre-schedule Appointments– When possible, make sure to pre-schedule appointments for the event. This allows participants to check-in, ask questions, watch a demo, and give prospects the opportunity to provide great world-of-mouth to people in their network who may be interested in purchasing your product in the future. Include an area on the event app where attendees can provide their contact information quickly and easily, along with an area for notes or voice recordings so they can include details of the individuals they’ve met, ways to post directly to their social media profiles from your app, instant updates and notifications to schedule changes and similar concerns. By including tools like this, you can ensure that attendees will default to using your app instead of using multiple other channels and apps where you won’t be able to access each attendee’s data as easily.
  4. Track Your Social Media Presence– If you’re not able to add a branded event app to your event, at least make sure you have a solid presence on social media like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to get people together to share their experiences. Make sure you provide links to these sites on the event’s web page, at the event site itself in the form of QR codes and similar ways to connect. Offer a bonus report or other gated free content for those who use the official hash tag in their posts from the event, which gives you an easy way to track the conversations and data related to the attendees.
  5. Capture Attendee Behavior– The data you’re gathering can have a big impact on planning future events to get the best ROI. If you’re implementing data tracking during your event, you can make session recommendations based on attendee behavior and interests. Then you’ll have a better idea of how many people are showing up for a morning networking coffee hour versus an evening cocktail party, and this will help you decide how to schedule your event’s activities. You can also track what type of event is getting the largest audience, which sessions are drawing the most audience participation, what time is best for particular speakers and what workshops need more promotion or a different focus. Though you can gather some of this information through surveys and questionnaires, you can also gather it during the event itself, leaving your attendees to focus on what made them decide to come to your event.
  6. Monitor Social Media Mentions  Use your social media presence to help expand your reach and ROI for an event. Start with a comprehensive social media plan to monitor your different channels, develop talking points to keep attendees involved in the conversation while the event is upcoming and ongoing, and create official hash tags and similar tracking tools early on to help monitor your progress and whether you’ve reached your goals. Don’t forget the possibility of offering upgrades to an attendance package for qualified referrals, as this will also help increase your event’s overall reach.
  7. Review Data for Timely Follow-up– Don’t forget to follow-up after the event. Though many marketers consider an event completed when they’ve handed out the exit surveys, in reality, your work has just begun. Look at the data available on your most active attendees — were they from a particular sector, such as mobile technology or IT? What job title do they have? Do they have interests in common? Don’t forget to review social media profiles like LinkedIn or Facebook to get a more complete data set for each attendee to maximize your chances of success in data-driven marketing approaches. By analyzing your data, you can more effectively nurture prospects for cross-channel marketing campaigns.
  8. Plan Post-Event Lead Nurturing– Make sure you plan out your post-event engagement with attendees. Whether it’s links to presentations that were made during the event, contact lists for exhibitors or teasers for the next big event, staying in contact and keeping potential exhibitors, speakers or attendees informed helps build engagement and improves your ROI significantly for the next event. Don’t forget to include your analysis of your confirmed registrants, including those who replied but didn’t show, those who had to sign-up or cancel at the last minute and similar groups of interest. Once you’ve grouped them by persona, try approaching them differently for the next event, such as offering an early bird discount to late sign-ups, penalty fees for cancellations after a particular date and similar approaches.
  9. Analyze Event ROI– Measure your ROI. Though event analysis occurs after the event is over, it is probably one of the most important components of your pre-event planning — an unsuccessful event with poor ROI is unlikely to be repeated. By incorporating your app into your planning, you can essentially begin to map the behavior of attendees, from which exhibitor booths they’re stopping at to high-traffic locations during the event. If you are hosting an event, you can even begin to match up leads to exhibitors based on the presentations each attendee is going to and what activities they’re participating in during your event. By studying the actions of the prospects as a whole, you can create a more dynamic event that delivers personalized content to each prospect based on their schedule, interests and actions in the past. This allows you to cut unpopular sessions and exhibitors from the event while expanding on areas of interest that produce a large draw.

As you can see, collecting and tracking rich data for your event is vital to improving both your Event ROI and the event as a whole. But when you’re hosting an event, you have a lot on your plate—often too much. From the stress of setting up your booth as an exhibitor, finding targeted prospects and handling last-minute emergencies, it’s a lot to take in. This does not include the stress of managing your event’s engagement and prospect data to optimize your marketing strategy. But without that data to drive your marketing efforts forward, you’re flying blind. With the help of an effective event automation platform, marketers can capture information they need before, during and after the event so they can start on cross-channel campaigns as soon as possible, reaching prospects during those crucial time periods around the event and increasing conversions. Finally, the ever elusive Event ROI is yours for the taking.

 

About Lynn Langmade

Lynn Langmade, formerly the Director of Marketing Communications and Content Marketing at Certain, is a content and digital marketing influencer at www.lynnlangmade.com with almost 43K followers on social media. In 2014, Lynn was the recipient of the Marketo “Revvie” Award in the Socializer category. She has a PhD in English and over 15 years B2B high-tech marketing experience. Lynn would love to chat with you on social media. You can follow her on Twitter: @llangmade View all posts by Lynn Langmade →

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