Actionable Insights From APT's Retail Practice

Cashing in on Conferences: Refining Event Investments to Boost ROI

June 26th, 2017 | Posted by APT in Technology

Trade shows, conferences, webinars – tech companies invest in all of these events to grow relationships and acquire new ones. Since sales processes are often six months or longer, strategies that can accelerate them are quite valuable – and the conventional wisdom is that events play a key role in speeding up sales cycles. Given this, events are a core component of many companies’ go-to-market strategies, and organizations worldwide spend hundreds of billions of dollars in this area alone. Further, hosting, attending, and exhibiting at events can comprise up to 21 percent of corporate marketing budgets.

However, it is extremely difficult to understand an event’s true ROI. Tech companies face a major challenge in determining not just which events are worth big investments, but how much marketing budget to allocate to each event. Complex sales processes with many sales and marketing touchpoints pose an obstacle to isolating the direct impact of any individual action, such as inviting a prospect to an event.

Another complicating factor is that executives from accounts that attend events are usually already engaged, and therefore naturally more inclined to make a purchase, regardless of whether or not they attend the event. For marketers seeking to measure the impact of such events, this natural bias makes it all the more challenging to understand purchase behavior caused by the event itself.

In order for executives to align marketing budgets with the highest-ROI opportunities, they must establish an accurate and reliable methodology to measure events’ true impact in the environment of long sales cycles and natural biases in the data. The best way to clearly establish cause-and-effect between events and sales is with test vs. control analysis; that is, comparing the purchasing behavior of event attendees against the behavior of similar prospects that did not attend the event. By applying this methodology across all events, organizations can develop an objective view of which investments are most effective in driving sales.

For example, one B2B technology company that devotes substantial marketing budget to prospect- and client-facing events recently wanted to measure the revenue impact of these events, in order to decide how to allocate budget in the upcoming year. The organization identified a control group of customers that did not attend each event and that naturally exhibited similar behavior to the test group, those that did attend. From there, the organization was able to use test vs. control analysis to understand the test group’s expected performance had they not attended the event. They then drilled down into the results to understand the events’ impact at a more granular level, and found that:

  1. While the events were ROI-positive on average, some were more impactful than others
  2. The events worked best for sales of one specific product category
  3. Certain types of attendees had a greater impact on results than others
  4. Incremental revenue lift was different for accounts at different stages of the pipeline

These insights enabled the company to confidently allocate more budget and resources to the events that were shown to be most impactful. By taking a rigorous test vs. control approach to evaluate the incremental impact of different events, tech companies can better answer the question: How many sales were closed because of a given event? Over time, these insights can add tens of millions of dollars to the bottom line by empowering organizations to invest in the right events, with the right accounts.

To learn more about leveraging analytics to optimize event investments, click here.

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