How To Measure Event Marketing Success

June 13, 2020  |  by:

Photo by Claudio Schwarz

If you don’t measure event marketing success, did your event even really happen? Well, yes, but you won’t know if it was worth it. 

And that’s the crux of the whole thing. You can’t afford to blow money or your time, and the bulwark against that wastefulness is setting a measurable goal. 

Why You Need To Measure Event Marketing

I’ve written about the importance of setting the intention and focus of your event marketing, and this is positively related. If you’re going to have a purpose for the event, and if you’re going to spend an inordinate amount of time planning the event, you should at least ensure you met your goals. And if you’re going to plan, you absolutely ought to use event planning software.

Let’s take a moment to discuss what a reasonable goal for your event marketing might be and how to set it.  

So what are the types of goals you’d measure? There are plenty, and we’ll go through many of them below. But the thing is that you can’t know what to measure unless you write down what you want to achieve from your event.

Are you investing in event marketing to gain new clients? Easy – you’ll track how many clients you gained from your event marketing. Then, add up the revenue from those clients, and compare it to the cost of the event. Pow! You’ve got an answer to the above question.

And this math applies to anything you’d like to gain. Even some nebulous concepts like brand awareness, customer goodwill, and engagement are all measurable, as you’ll see below. 

Before you can measure anything, and yes, you can indeed measure anything, you should know what your event’s focus is. Is it to build brand awareness or to sell a product or service. I strongly recommended you decide on one specific focus for the event because it allows for effective marketing. Still, it also allows you to answer a fundamental question:

Was my event marketing successful?

And that is why you need to measure event marketing. You need to know whether it was worth it. 

Create A Plan To Measure Event Marketing Success

But don’t leave measurement to chance. If you don’t plan to collect the correct data, you can’t go backward and generate it anew. For most metrics that will inform your event marketing success, you’ll need to collect data in real-time, even if you’ll compile the reports later. 

So once you’ve decided on the focus of your event, you decide on the metric to measure. We’ll go through standard metrics or key performance indicators below, and when you’d use them. But once you’ve picked the right one, you’ll want to figure out how you’ll get the data you need. 

Sometimes, you’ll need tools. It could be a survey tool, or it could be a little clicker in your hand. But whatever the metric, and the measurement tool, I have a little advice to help you stay sane when wading into analytics. 

First, keep it convenient. There is a near-infinite amount of software out there that touts countless features. You likely don’t need granular segmentation, 360-degree insights, or whatever other jargon-dense innovations on offer. If you’re using software to help with measurement, go for something easy, simple-to-use, and easy to implement. It’s better to build the habits of measuring event marketing success, and you can always get more involved next time. 

And let’s get the money stuff out the way. Don’t stress precision except when it comes to money. When tracking revenue, you want to-the-penny accuracy. But when monitoring things like brand awareness, customer engagement, referrals, or even leads, you can be a little forgiving. It’s better to set up a measurement process that is easy, rather than precise. 

Why? Because when measuring things becomes a chore, it’s my experience that it falls by the wayside. And you end up with both inaccurate data and much less of it too. You want certainty, not accuracy.

What you’re looking for is an answer to your question of “did this work?” And that’s where certainty comes in. If you gain confidence that your event marketing worked, then whether or not every single lead is tallied and counted, doesn’t matter.

Graph illustrating How To Measure Event Marketing Success
Photo by Isaac Smith

Key Performance Indicators To Measure Event Marketing Success

So let’s look at the typical Key Performance Indicators. Or KPIs. Or metrics. Or whatever you’d like to call the thing you’re measuring. It doesn’t matter either. 

Measuring Sales

Track the number of sales that occur during the event. You could also measure the actual revenue amount, but that’s actually a related but different KPI. If the volume of sales is your primary business goal, then that’s what you’re going to look at. 

Measuring Revenue

You’re measuring the exact dollar amount you make during the event. This metric defines whether your event had a return on your investment. If the event cost you $1000 to execute, but you made $2500 in sales, you’ve got a clear signal that the event turned a profit. 

I recommend that you set a revenue goal before the event – one that feels like success. This informs your pre-event planning. Do you need extra staff to manage sales? Are you set up to make the sales at the expected volume? Have you tracked expenses against which to measure the net income from the event?

And don’t forget to include time as a cost. Even if an event’s raw expenses are $1000, if it takes you 30 hours and your net revenue was only $1500, you might not find it worthwhile. 

Measuring Lead Generation

This is an excellent event marketing KPI when you’re not making revenue at the event itself. You’re getting phone numbers and email addresses or, better yet, booking appointments. It’s a simple number of 35 qualified leads, and that’s quite easy to measure. 

However, there are some dependent metrics too. You probably want to measure sales closed within 3 months (depending on your sales cycle). Because in the end, leads that don’t convert aren’t all that valuable, and you’re weighing up whether you reached event marketing success. 

Also, consider cost per acquisition. How much did the entire event cost relative to the revenue generated by the number of closed sales (or customer LTV)? 

Measuring Brand Awareness

Measuring awareness is a tough one. The number of attendees is a reasonable metric to start with. Still, you might consider a survey asking who knew about your brand before the event vs. after. You might track an increase in direct traffic to your website or word-of-mouth referrals in the long term.

Frankly, there are numerous articles on how to measure and monitor brand awareness, and it all depends on your definition. And if this is your leading event marketing KPI, you’ll need to take the time to do it right. It’s not as clear cut as sales or revenue. 

Measuring Community Building

If your business, church, or non-profit is community-focused, then this one’s a good one to track. But it takes a long view. What you’re measuring is, over a specified time, whether your community is growing. For example, are you seeing an increase in engaged people after your events? More involvement with future events? 

This can be tricky to measure, especially after time goes by, but using a survey to ask “how did you hear about us” may answer whether the event marketing paid off.

Measuring Attendee Engagement

A common tactic is to count the number of attendees who took part in specific activities at your event. Divide that by the total number of attendees, and you’ve got your attendee engagement metric.

But if you want to measure event marketing success, attendee engagement includes sales, revenue, social media posts, check-ins, participation, and attendee surveys. Tracking these metrics will help you measure almost any of the above goals. It’s just a matter of weighing the results against your goal. 

Measuring Customer Education

Many businesses struggle with the fact that customers don’t know about all their offerings. If your event’s goal is to ensure that customers learn about a specific service or range of services, this is the KPI for you. 

Sales, revenue, or using the service are all good indicators. Still, if you’re specifically concerned about education, then surveys are the way to go.

Measuring Upsells

This is related to customer education, but more focused on the actual sale, rather than knowledge. If your event is focused on service upgrades, enhancements, or complimentary products, then the right metric is simply the number of sales. Sales, that is, of the specific services you were hoping to upsell. 

It’s not a bad idea to track revenue, net and gross, either. Because, sometimes, the income generated from the upsell will inform whether the expenses of the event itself are worthwhile.

Measuring Recruiting

This one isn’t difficult to explain, nor is it particularly challenging to measure. When your event’s goal is recruitment, you’re going to simply measure the number of qualified candidates who entered your recruitment pipeline. 

Qualified is the keyword here. The number of applicants is meaningless if they’re a poor fit. However, that’s also a useful metric to keep an eye on. If your events attract a significant percentage of the wrong candidates, that will inform your marketing for future events.

Measuring Referral Generation

This metric is a neat example of how, when you want to measure event marketing success, there are many ways to approach the same problem.

There are several ways to measure referrals, depending on your business type and goals. Some events like social mixers depend on existing customers bringing a friend and making a warm, in-person introduction. Other businesses will track referrals through link-sharing (I think Tapfiliate does a great job at this). Surveys are also a neat way to track referral generation through the question, “how did you hear about us?”

Measuring Registrations

Easy. You want to measure registration, simply count the number of people who register for your event. I’ve mentioned Eventbrite and Occasion before, but there is a vast number of other more advanced solutions. The event marketing software space is rife with options like BizzaboCvent, and Aventri

Measuring Check-ins

Registrations are nice and all, but so is knowing the number of registrants who actually show up. I’ll keep this simple. Many of the software I mention above also handle check-ins, but you can just as easily use a pen and paper or spreadsheet. Just have someone at the entrance counting. 

Measuring Social Media Mentions

This metric works nicely alongside KPIs like brand awareness, but I don’t know if I’d ever recommend this metric as your primary KPI. Social media is a fickle, shallow place to exist, and often doesn’t translate into tangible business growth. But if you genuinely believe that social media mentions are critical to your event marketing success, then go for it. 

I’m wary of recommending social media monitoring tools because I haven’t adequately explored many of them, but Hootsuite‘s monitoring tools are comprehensive. This article by Front has a few other good options.

Measuring With Post-Event Surveys

You can measure event marketing success with a post-event survey. This is also a pretty congested space with a ton of options. Some event software products include surveys, but I think tools like Typeform or SurveyMonkey are intuitive, reliable, and well-designed. Google Forms is quite common too, but there’s a slight air of amateurism there. It’s okay for informal forms, but I’d recommend something else when doing a post-event survey.

Measure Event Marketing Success, Whatever That Is To You

However you define success for your event marketing efforts, you should know, unequivocally if you reached it. And if you fall short, that’s okay too. The reason you measure anything is to find the opportunities to improve, so you get closer to success with every subsequent attempt. 

And that’s really the point. You don’t invest in event marketing or measurement programs for vanity’s sake. No, you do this to grow your business, and to optimize existing processes. Take the time to pat yourself on the back at your next event because you’re measuring success, but don’t only choose metrics that do the patting for you. If you’re not learning something, you’re measuring the wrong stuff.

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