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As an event prof, you probably have a good feel for if an event was successful or not. But, with the ability today to measure metrics and pinpoint specific results, it’s essential to be able to show how event marketing efforts were successful. After all, marketing is allocated a considerable portion of the budget, and we need to be able to show evidence that marketing investments are worth the money spent. Not only that, but measuring what event marketing efforts were and weren’t successful, can help you establish a plan for improving marketing efforts for your next event.

So, we’re going to uncover how to measure event marketing success in these five ways:

  • Setting SMART goals
  • Using registration metrics
  • Measuring event ROI in two ways
  • Using event apps and social media to measure engagement
  • Conducting surveys

how to measure event marketing successSet goals before event marketing commencement

You would know that you need to set goals when creating an event marketing plan to ensure you plan and execute an event that is in line with those goals. But, did you know you also need to have goals in mind for measuring the success of event marketing efforts? There are a few things to consider when setting these goals.

Understanding quantitative and qualitative measures

Firstly, you need to realize that there are both quantitative and qualitative ways to answer the question of how to measure event marketing success. Quantitative results are all about numbers. Shortly, we’ll be explaining how registration metrics and event ROI use quantitative means to determine if your event has been a success. On the other hand, qualitative results, are related to event goer perception. That is their perceived value of the event, brand positioning and awareness. Shortly, we’ll be looking at using apps, social media and surveys as tools to measure your attendee engagement as a more subjective means of how to measure event marketing success.

Given that these are the two ways for how to measure event marketing success, that means your goal setting should determine the data you will need for each of the quantitative and qualitative methods. Choose the specific metrics you’re going to be tracking from the commencement of event marketing, so that you have the data you need before, during and after the event. To get a complete picture, you will need to start tracking some of this data before your marketing campaigns begin. After all, if you don’t have the right starting point, how can you claim your results are accurate?

how to measure event marketing successHow to set goals to measure success

“Success” is in itself a subjective term. After all, what you categorize as success for one event, could look very different to the next. In fact, success will likely never look identical for any event you plan. That’s why it’s important to define key performance indicators (KPIs) for what the success of each event actually is. Those benchmarks should relate to your intended outcome for the event, according to both your expertise and client expectations.

How will you define marketing success for this event? Will it be an increased social media presence to translate into building better brand awareness? Will it be winning new accounts to drive increased sales revenue? Or maybe you hope to expand the number of users of a specific product, to feed an overarching goal of delighting your customers. 

how to measure event marketing successWhy you should only set SMART goals

Most importantly, when setting effective goals for event marketing success, you need to make sure they are SMART goals. If a goal is too lofty, you will fall short. You will be disappointed, your clients may be disappointed and all for no good reason. If goals are too low, there is nothing worthwhile to reach for and you will only manage to achieve mediocre results in your event marketing. For those not familiar with the idea of SMART goals, the acronym stands for:

  • Specific: goals should be well-defined with a particular target. For example, setting the number of new registrations you want to achieve from a particular email campaign.
  • Measurable: being able to track the results via metrics using quantitative or qualitative attributes.
  • Attainable: setting a goal that can be achieved is a way of making you (and your client) happy when you do reach it.
  • Realistic: make sure you’re honest about your and your team’s capabilities and any hurdles you may face. Budget is often a constraint when it comes to keeping goals realistic.
  • Time-bound: deadlines are an integral part of goal setting. Your event marketing success should be measured per event and with an end-date, not as something you might achieve someday.

how to measure event marketing successMeasuring quantitative marketing efforts

Use registration metrics to determine if your targeted message was received well

Want to know whether your campaigns are giving out the right message to potential attendees? You should evaluate the conversion rates from each event registration source, whether that’s email or social media for example. Registration is the most important metric to consider as the precursor to overall event marketing success. After all, a successful event relies on attendees! Look at peaks in registrations and determine if those times correlate to any particular marketing effort that might have kicked off beforehand.

As well as outright registrations, look at the performance of invitation email open rates. Compare ‘sent’ vs. ‘opened’ vs. ‘RSVP’. As you go, it might be worthwhile A/B testing different factors to see if they influence registration metrics. Those factors might include ‘from’ fields and the subject line. Finding the right subject line could improve your open rate, which will, in turn, impact your RSVP rate too.

We suggest you monitor and measure:

  • Number of event registrations
  • The main registration sources
  • When peak registration times occurred
  • Date and time of marketing blasts

Once the event has happened, you can compare the RSVP numbers to your number of actual attendees. This conversion rate helps you ascertain how successful your marketing efforts were after registration and leading up to the event. We hope you have marketing efforts in place to continue nurturing those potential attendees who have signed up! After all, you still need to make sure they walk in the door!

how to measure event marketing successMeasure overall event ROI to evaluate success

Your marketing success is closely tied to your overall event success. After all, it’s possible, but not likely to have an incredibly successful event if your marketing efforts were poorly executed. So, if you’re wondering how to measure event marketing success, it’s a good idea to turn to your overall event ROI.

How do you do this? Look at your expense to revenue ratio – basically the purest form of ROI. That means you divide your total expenditure by the total revenue generated. A ratio of less than one gives you a positive event ROI – which is what you’re aiming for.

If your event model generates no direct revenue, all is not lost. You could instead try to estimate the expected revenue from the awareness raised or the networking opportunities created. Then run the same formula. This is more about establishing the value generated by an event, rather than dollars.

Measure cost per attendee as an alternative to event ROI

As an alternative to measuring event ROI in its purest form, as we just discussed, you could look at establishing the cost per event attendee.

This involves calculating the amount spent on event marketing campaign, divided by the number of visitors.

how to measure event marketing successOther important numbers to monitor

If it’s more appropriate for the type of event, cost per qualified lead might be a formula of better use to you. This would be true in particular, for events like trade shows, where the intention is to generate brand awareness and leads for future business.

Event marketing spend, divided by the total number of leads acquired, equals your cost per lead.

Need a few more quantitative ideas for how to measure event marketing success? As well as cost per lead, also consider whether these factors would be an indicator of success for your event:

  • If you offer a trial service – how many sign-ups were there?
  • If you provide a newsletter – how many sign-ups were there?
  • How many email or phone call enquiries did the brand receive, post-event?
  • Have people already registered for the brand’s next event?
  • Were event sponsors satisfied and are they committing to a continued relationship?

how to measure event marketing successMeasuring qualitative marketing efforts

Use social media to measure engagement

If you’re wondering how to measure event marketing success, then monitoring social media activity can sometimes be a good indicator. Now, it’s important to remember that this will not necessarily be true for every event you plan. Some types of events and attendee demographics would lend themselves better to this approach than others. For instance, a festival that attracts a mostly millennial audience will naturally have a higher potential for social media engagement than a medical conference for busy surgeons, or an event that incorporates unplugged zones.

That’s why it’s important to focus on the measures that are most appropriate to each event you plan, and ensure you set benchmarks for each. Don’t compare an event’s results with another, completely different event. After all, you know the saying, you can’t compare apples to oranges.

As for how to recognize social media engagement, we suggest considering these questions:

  • Is the event hashtag in use? How many times?
  • Were there many brand mentions?
  • How many social media impressions were made?
  • Is there much interaction from event-goers, from posting photos to tweeting their favorite quotes from speakers?
  • Were the comments positive?
  • Were there any repeated complaints?

You should keep a close eye out for comments that indicate an attendee wasn’t aware that a session or speaker was part of the event. After all, if they have missed something of interest because they didn’t know it was happening, this is an indicator that your event marketing efforts need fine-tuning.

If you aren’t already, then we recommend using a social listening dashboard to help you in your analysis of social media activity. This takes the hard yards out of it, making your life much easier and your insights more accurate.

how to measure event marketing successUse an event app to measure the engagement

Much like measuring social media activity, if you need to know how to measure event marketing success, you can use event app metrics and depth of interaction. This is another way of measuring qualitative factors of success like engagement, satisfaction and an indicator of attendee retention.

So, how to measure event marketing success via your event app? We suggest looking at these:

  • How attendees are interacting with others via chat and networking features
  • Feedback event goers are posting about or to guest speakers
  • How much the special features of your event app are being used (like an inbuilt business card scanner)
  • Whether the attendees are using support features to ask questions of event staff

A simple rating system within your event app could also give you a massive insight into the level of engagement and satisfaction that attendees have for different aspects of your event. So, if you’re wanting to know how to measure event marketing success, try including a 5 star-rating system for each session or for each speaker. That’s an easy way to see if attendees are engaging with the app. But also, if they have strong or mediocre feelings towards the event proceedings.

It’s a simple system that doesn’t require much effort on the part of event goers, meaning it can be completed on-the-go. But, while we encourage using this as an indicator, you shouldn’t place too much stock in these results alone. After all, just one small thing could sway your event goer to indicate negatively in the moment, even though they’ve generally had a positive experience. And the star-rating won’t allow you to know what that small thing was.

That’s why it’s also important to use more in-depth survey methods. We discuss below.

how to measure event marketing successSurvey event goers by email

We hope we’ve given you an understanding so far, that event marketing success isn’t justified only by attendee numbers or sales, but also relies on the attendee experience. That’s why surveys are a must-have tool, to actually ask the event goers about their experience and expectations. Remember that all the metrics in the world won’t translate into sales and customer retention if you aren’t getting a positive “yes, I’m more likely to buy this product or recommend you now I’ve been to this event.”

Your survey should:

  • Ask questions that directly relate to whether attendees are now more likely (or less) to attend future events
  • Ask whether attendees would now recommend company products and services
  • Determine if attendees are likely to buy a new product during the launch
  • Ask whether your event met their needs
  • And put forward questions designed to ascertain the value attendees felt your event and the brand provided

how to measure event marketing successSurvey event-goers with an event app

An event app is useful for surveys too, because you can receive feedback in real time throughout the event so that you may address issues as the event proceeds. What does this mean for how to measure event marketing success? Well, you don’t just measure the level of success, but you have the chance to improve it too.

Try to generate short surveys periodically during the event. That could be at the end of each session or when there is event downtime. If the survey reveals any issues for event goers, you can take steps to resolve those issues. Then, you can report on the steps you took. And you can send follow up survey questions relating to how you addressed those and report on (hopefully) a better outcome!

Waiting until the event is over to issue a survey can still be useful, but it is a more inferior method in terms of being able not just to measure, but influence overall results. We discuss this idea further in our article on crowd shaping.

how to measure event marketing successHow to measure event marketing success? Final thoughts:

Setting goals and measuring both quantitative and qualitative marketing efforts is essential to determining the overall success of event marketing. It’s important to remember that it is a collaborative approach – you shouldn’t just use one method to define success. Instead, use particular techniques to assess how certain marketing approaches performed. Like, as we mentioned earlier, using the ‘sent’ vs. ‘opened’ vs. ‘RSVP’ numbers as a measure of email marketing success. By following these measures, not only will you be able to show your results and justify the marketing budget, but also find where you can improve marketing efforts for future events.

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Kristen Cooper

Author Kristen Cooper

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