06 May More than ever: measure the ROI of your (virtual) events
The facts about event ROI
- Various studies indicate that events take up to 25% of the marketing budget in both B2B and B2C companies.
- Only between 18% and 23% of marketing managers are able to calculate the ROI.
This means that for a substantial part of their budgets marketing managers are unable to proof why it is worth investing it. Claims to allocate marketing budget for events in the next financial year miss justification.
It is known that most marketers dislike figures and are not always savvy with the technology they need to produce these. I would like to show them how rewarding it is to implement the ROI approach for events.
In this article I’ll share the steps that you need to take to calculate event ROI and insights how to get started as of today.
To be sure: a definition
First a short word about definition. When searching for “Event ROI” online you will get a mix of content: in most of it just one or a few aspects of event ROI are treated, holistic views of the topic are rare. Often event ROI measurement does not go beyond measuring the event itself and not its added value to the company’s bottom line. Even the basics for a Marketing ROI calculation are mixed up: like revenue (from post-event sales of products) with event funding (sponsor or ticket revenues).
To me event ROI is the measurable contribution that events have to your bottom line and how events help your company meeting its strategic objectives.
Step 1: Set your event objectives
Each type of events needs SMART objectives. We will see later on how this helps to calculate the pre-event ROI. Of course, objectives are different between event types: a Sales Kick Off has different objectives than a Hybrid event for customers or an Executive Briefing in a resort. Differences also occur between an online or offline event at a certain location. Another difference is whether the event you want to measure is organized by you or by another organization (in which case you are an exhibitor, guest or sponsor).
SMART event objectives
Specific: goals like the expected attendee split by profile, the expected number of new leads, the increase in brand awareness etc
Measurable: specify your incremental objectives in such a way that you can measure them: in numbers, in percentages, in money, in scores
Ambitious & Achievable: don’t oversell or overestimate the impact of your event, describe ambitious objectives which are achievable
Realistic: Define realistic objectives fitting your company’s strategy and relevant for you and your team
Timely: the objectives are always time-bound, like “generate 100 marketing qualified leads of which 5% converts to business within the year”
It is important that the objectives are shared and supported, meaning that they are understood and agreed by the stakeholders of your event.
Research shows us that the main reasons to hold events or to participate as an exhibitor are lead generation, brand awareness and meeting with customers.
Step 2: Define your KPIs and determine how you measure them
The graph below summarizes best how to define and measure event KPIs, and which tools you will need to actually measure.
The overview serves as a guideline and is not meant to be exhaustive. You can enhance it for all types of events to reflect the insights you need.
Making such an overview for your events also helps you determine the MarTech and EventTech stack that you need to support your events.
Measurement functionality is seen as a forte of virtual events, make sure that the virtual event platform you choose enables you to measure a maximum of online interactions.
Choice and deployment of technology plays a key role in getting good KPI measurement results. Remember ‘K’ in KPI is Key to make sure you only measure or at least only report the performance indicators which are needed for your insights and that will help increase the next event’s effectiveness.
Step 3: do the math of your event ROI
The official formula for any ROI calculation is:
Incremental Revenue ROI = ((Event Revenue – Event expenses)/ Event expenses) %
The table about KPIs shows that it is difficult to talk about one single event ROI figure. Event ROI is measured on various levels and with various tools. Multiple calculations are the result.
To consolidate the information and the figures it is highly recommended to develop a dashboard. Your superiors will love it and you can use it to justify investments in events. You will be really showing off by presenting and explaining the differences between the ROI calculated while organizing your event (Pre ROI) and the actual results (Post ROI).
When you are doing the event-ROI exercise for the first time it will be a challenge to do the pre-event ROI. This is an overview of the ROI figures that you estimate based on the facts and figures you have and based on your objectives. The first time you will be short of information and will have to live with rough estimates, but once you have done one pre-event and one post-event ROI your machine starts rolling. It is the base of your Event accountability model.
Like with the collection of KPI’s, the event ROI calculation process will benefit from a strong collaboration between Finance, Sales and Marketing.
Dashboards, as shown above, are put together with data from Marketing Automation (Hubspot, Eloqua) and CRM (Salesforce, Sellsy, Pipedrive) solutions, BI platforms (like Qlik and Tableau) and attribution tools (like Bizzible). Depending on the size and number of events one can start with a spreadsheet. The more data you have and the more sophisticated the event ROI calculation becomes, the more technology gets involved.
Step 4: Analyze and adjust
As with most strategy – planning – execution – analysis – adjust processes, the event ROI approach is circular. One complete cycle will end with valuable analysis of figures and provide recommendations to deploy for the next event calendar and budget planning.
These recommendations should follow the rule of keeping and re-inforcing what worked and suggesting what and how events can be optimized. Sometimes that means that you will stop hosting or participating in an event, increasing or downsizing your appearance and required investments.
Ready to try?
If you feel ready to try after reading this, please make sure to follow a number of steps. These include:
- Get buy-in from your senior management or C-Suite
- Transform your marketing team into entrepreneurs and let them enjoy it
- Seek collaboration with your sales and finance teams and give them their role in the process
- Involve suppliers, like your event agency or event tech supplier
- Make it a multidisciplinary team effort to decide about the KPI’s, how and when what will be measured by whom
- Plan the implementation of the event ROI approach
- Communicate regularly with all parties involved
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About the author
Marty Huisman has 30 years of international marketing experience. in the past 15 years she has focused on the contribution of events to marketing results and on the event technology that can support measuring and analyzing event ROI.