Data Proves Value of Corporate Events, Shapes Personalized Attendee Experiences

August 22, 2019

We live in a world of data. We have the ability today to know more about our customers than ever before — their likes, their needs, their behaviors, their interactions with brands and much more. Thanks to advances in technology platforms, it is possible for event managers to connect the dots with the data they collect. Leveraging data insights can help prove the value of events as well as shape personalized marketing communications and in-person event experiences.

Alon Alroy, co-founder and CMO of Bizzabo, an event technology company that empowers event marketers to manage, measure and grow their events, says there is a trend to adopt data-driven approaches.

“Smart event marketers know how to leverage data to design in-person experiences,” he says, citing several ways planners use data, including proving the value of events, measuring engagement before and during the event, identifying influencers and creating personalized event experiences and marketing communications for each attendee.

“Data around engagement can impact logistics,” Alroy explains. “For example, before an event, we can monitor which speakers or sessions attendees are checking out through website page views and social media interactions, and then assign the right sized rooms.”

Additionally, influencers identified through data can be given promo codes for future events and prospective attendees can receive personalized promotional emails.

Nick Fugaro, CEO of Vivastream, an event data analytics platform that aggregates multiple disparate data sources and derives insights to better understand customer behavior, says it’s important to use data to understand how the audience behaved and what they consumed at events.

“By mapping data from all of the different systems planners are using — registration, lead retrieval, twitter hashtags and more — all together, we can process data to gather insights on people’s activities,” he explains. “This pushes the industry toward using data to make decisions such as what sessions to plan and what content to promote and what content topics to provide beyond the event.”

Joel Rausch, executive creative director and strategist at The XD Agency, says the firm collects data on its events to measure performance, understand audiences better, refine deliverables and allocate funds to what’s working best.

“The effectiveness of an event’s many tactics can and should be measured at every step of the attendee journey,” Rausch says. “That includes response rate of marketing outreach, registration, the way in which website is navigated and used, app use, overall engagement, the success of traditional and social media extensions, lead generation, changes in brand affinity or purchase intent, success of networking opportunities and quality of execution.”

Using Event Data to Inform Business Decisions

While not all corporations have yet dug deep into their event data, COMPASS, a real estate technology platform company that hosts two three-day events annually, is one organization that uses event data to inform business decisions. COMPASS’s manager of national events & partnerships, Stephanie Militello, says her team uses data to determine the type of content it provides its real estate agents. The data gives them concrete information to make changes they know the agents are seeking.

“After our spring conference this year, we received feedback that the agents had already heard from the internal speakers we programmed, so we are changing the content strategy for the fall conference and filling it with more external speakers,” she says.

Red Hat, a software company providing open-source software products to the enterprise community, also relies on data for event marketing and registration efforts. Through Eventcore, an event registration software firm, Red Hat captures, stores and integrates registrant data and tracks it with the event team’s demand generation efforts. By connecting these dots, Red Hat has full visibility into who its participants are and what messages and tactics are resonating with them.

“As we’ve developed and refined our registration services for Red Hat, we’ve accommodated the storage of their marketing tactics so they can identify which strategies drew attendees to register,” explains Eventcore’s director of technical services, Katie Zurlo-Cuva. “Or we can store data such as Salesforce IDs to track on individual account manager recruiting efforts, and we store cookies that pinpoint when people authenticate and complete their registration.”

Both Alroy and Fugaro say data goes beyond registration, marketing and event program content, to support the organization’s sales efforts post-event as well. By providing clear insights into the topics and products attendees were most interested in, the sales team can reach out to the customers who are most likely to convert.

“We can use data to prove that events are more likely to close or retain customers,” Alroy notes.

Fugaro sees his clients sharing insights from the data collected within the sales teams and across the entire organization through customer relationship management (CRM) systems in a visual way.

“They create PDF account summary reports that cover what attendees cared most about, the sessions they went to, the products they liked and more that is crucial information for sales teams,” he said. “They are leveraging data insights to see what their accounts care about at the events they went to.”

The insights can also be shared directly with customers. As we mentioned in our CEMA Summit 2019 post-event coverage, Fugaro and Atlassian’s manager, event strategy & field marketing, Amy Walters, shared in a presentation that Atlassian realized a 1100% increase in content engagement from using Vivastream’s personalized trip reports.

“With a personalized trip report, planners can say to their attendees: ‘here’s what you told us, here’s what you did, here are the products you liked’ in a recap document that the attendees can then share with their management teams,” he explained. “Then planners can add a section that describes their organization’s resources that make sense for the individual attendee instead of generalized thank you for coming emails.”

Overcoming Data Fatigue

While the benefits are clearly evident, the industry still lags in adoption of this data-driven approach to events for a number of reasons. Fragmented data sources and data fatigue are two of the most-cited reasons.

Fugaro points out that technologies now exist that allow event marketers to see a holistic picture and by using these tools they can go beyond ‘did we beat last year’s attendee numbers?’ to review the full picture year-over-year and identify growth patterns.

“Many corporate event planners are still not taking a holistic view of all the data sets they are capturing,” Fugaro says. “They are doing a nice job of capturing data, but not doing a good job of bringing it all together to take a holistic view of their events, individuals and accounts — because they think it’s hard — so they’re just looking at some of it in silos.”

For data fatigue, Alroy says planners must really define the most important key performance indicators (KPIs).

“Focusing in on the three most important KPIs — whether that’s satisfaction, pipeline development or number of registrations — can help corporate event planners become smarter about what’s important and then optimize their events,” he says.

Implementing a data-driven approach to event planning can be accomplished in a few days. It’s the organization’s mindset that takes time to evolve. Once an organization gets beyond the “we’ve always done it this way” attitude, it can open a new world of opportunities to improve decision making, grow events and increase bottom line sales.


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