Marketing Spin: How to fool your CFO and protect your event budget

This is a true story of a well-executed event gone awry. As you’ve seen in previous posts, we spend a lot of time trying to understand event goals with our new customers and driving down to metrics that are actionable. Usually this is easy for B2B lead generation efforts; where companies invest in an event to grab the attention of attendees that fit their ideal demographic, so they can show them new products and services to generate new sales opportunities.

One customer (who graciously let us tell the story, but only anonymously for good reason) recently spent over $200k to roll out a large exhibit to do a new product roll-out, with engaging content and demos, coupled with several hours of bar time. Overall, it was a “Best in Class” presentation of their brand as an experience. The demographics were ideal and the goal was simple; generating 200+ new opportunities aka attendees that left their exhibit with a renewed interest in buying their new products and services.

What happened?

2000 attendees were scored, 4000 drink tickets were given away, 3 iPads were awarded, and… only 25 attendees left with a renewed interest and distinct follow-up interest. They essentially ended up throwing a great party, which isn’t a problem, if that was your success measure. Obviously, our customer was crushed by the results and immediately started to change their executive debrief to package a good story:

“Look at how many Directors and C Level people were in out booth!”

“Look at how many Fortune 500 Companies were represented!”

Can measurement be bad?

Of course not, but in this case, our customer thought so. In reality, these metrics will be a tremendous value as an input to adjusting their strategy the next year. At least now, they can start to evaluate the following:

  1. Perhaps their party overwhelmed their product announcement.
  2. Spend less to get the same results
  3. Perhaps the booth workers were a distraction versus traffic driver.
  4. What value can they leverage these 2000 attendees through effective nurturing?

Regarding that last point, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from marketers who have built elaborate campaigns with unqualified names (the 1,975 party attendees) using Marketing Automation. Perhaps I’ll post on this topic next.

I can tell you this, had this data not been available, they may very well have gone bigger by giving away more iPads and bringing in more booth incentives. This is every CFO’s nightmare and one of the reasons many marketing budgets are first to be cut.

Who would you rather have as your event marketing leader; one who is covering or hiding their bases or one who is willing to admit their failures and adjust to improve results?

B2B Lead Gen: Does your event feedback/evaluation match up with your event purpose?

Ok, so you’re going to invest significantly in hosting a corporate event.   There are some very basic questions that you should be asking yourself;

  • What is the purpose of your event or event series?
  • How will you determine if it was a good one or bad one?
  • What are your goals for the event?

These are simple questions that we ask our customers when working with them on customizing tools to measure their performance.

Getting customers to describe the purpose of their meeting is usually a natural response.  We are launching “New Products”, “New Branding” etc.

Finding an answer to the question “How will you determine if you had a good or bad event?” takes a bit more thinking, especially if their event goals are nebulas or undefined.  I know what you are thinking… How could you plan an event without knowing the goals?   Let me explain…

I am a big proponent of surveying to gauge event performance during and after the event.   Asking questions like “Did you like the venue?”, “Rate your satisfaction with the keynote” are helpful in future event planning.  But you can’t stop there.  You have to align your feedback with questions that are relevant to the attendee and focused on gauging performance against your event goals.  Many companies miss the target here.  For B2B lead generation events,  “goals” in this context, align with creating new leads and opportunites for new business and upgrades to existing business.   Here is an example of a survey that misses its target.

This is a post event survey for a one day B2B lead generation event.  This is a very smart high tech company producing an event with the primary purpose being generating renewed interest in their products and services.

How satisfied are you with:

The quality of the overall event?

Very Satisfied       Very Dissatisfied

The scope of the information presented?

Very Satisfied       Very Dissatisfied

The usefulness of the information?

Very Satisfied       Very Dissatisfied

The usefulness of the networking opportunities?

Very Satisfied       Very Dissatisfied

The quality of the keynote presentations:

James Jones

Very Satisfied       Very Dissatisfied

Jim Smith

Very Satisfied       Very Dissatisfied

Usefulness of the Roundtables?

Security / Data Loss Prevention

Very Useful               Waste of Time

Enterprise Mobile Deployment

Very Useful               Waste of Time

Compliance / Regulations

Very Useful               Waste of Time

Mobilizing Your Business: Which Apps Are In Your Plans and Why?

Very Useful               Waste of Time

Additional feedback?

As a sales person, I find this survey to be a tad bit offending.  First, it is anonymous which means I’ll never see the data for my prospects, customers or partners.  Second, it provides information to two entities; the speakers regarding their performance and marketing regarding the experience they delivered to attendees.  Nowhere are they asking how they did with regards to their primary purpose.

If the purpose of your event is to introduce new products and services to an audience of customers, prospects and partners with the goal of driving sales post event perhaps you might ask something like this:

Would you like to speak with a solution specialist regarding one of the topics discussed in the round tables?

That’s all that I wanted as a sales person.  I usually received attendance data only.

I can tell you this; those that answer yes to this question have a higher propensity to become a lead, opportunity and sale.  Our best customers know this and have devised ways to deploy event technology to capture, gauge the size and track these from a closed loop perspective.

How do you measure your event performance?

Validar Video: Does your company recognize your value as an event producer?

The team and I spent time last week developing a video describing our value proposition. It all comes down to recognition for your efforts. We believe all event managers and producers add value. Many do not get recognized though with revenue contribution credit going elsewhere. That’s what this blog and our company is all about. Helping our marketing customers understand and articulate their contribution so they get credit for their hard work. Please let us know what you think!

Do You Lie (When Surveyed at a Tradeshow)?

Tell the Truth:  Do attendees lie when they have to answer questions at a trade show?    Do you lie when presented with a survey?

Recently, I have been debating this topic with some very smart B2B lead management experts.  Some leaders within the Marketing Automation space flat out state all leads including surveyed leads need to be nurtured due to attendees lying when completing surveys at tradeshows. James Obermayer from The Sales Lead Management Association states this as well in his book and I respect his opinion greatly.  I have also spoken to many companies who have tried surveying exhibit visitors and stopped.   This due to sales department resistance, on the claim that its very difficult to survey and the data is just incorrect.

Those points made are certainly valid, if the survey questions themselves are poorly written,  and not tuned to their target audience.  What if they are not?   What if things are simplified?

How to get the truth out of your attendees?

Structure your questions in a manner such that the attendee realizes they can control how you treat them post event.

There is one question that most people will respond to in an accurate fashion, especially if you reiterate your intentions based upon this response and provide a distinct and subtle opt-out;

How would you prefer we follow-up with you post event?

You are doing yourself and the attendee a favor by enabling them to tell you if they are ready for sales follow-up or simply curious with no genuine interest.

Here are some simple sample responses we see often to this question followed by how some customers decipher and treat each response:

        Have  sales call right away

  • Decipher as – You can help me with a problem I have.  Don’t incubate me..call me!

        Put me on your mailing list only

  • Decipher as – Nice product.  I have no decision authority and or am not ready.  Incubate me.

        Just curious no need for follow-up

  • Decipher as – I want your squishy ball for my kids.  I will never buy from you and calling me or emailing me would only piss me off.  Thanks for your squishy ball though.

With regards to the opt-out event attendees appreciate it when given  an opportunity to tell you they are just curious and don’t want to be bothered when picking up a trinket.  Knowing the answer to this question as well can be worth a tremendous amount of money to you post event by eliminating bad data from your followup efforts and reducing lead decay.   If they tell you they don’t want to be bothered on their submission, don’t bother them or be less intrusive with your incubation strategy.  This will build trust in your community.

Also, your BANT questions should only be asked if they state they are interested in follow-up.  You’ll be amazed at what a trinket seeker will tell you when you ask these questions.  Don’t.  Attendees do have a tendency to embellish the truth when answering BANT questions, but they do so to a lesser degree if their interest is genuine (“Have Sales call right away!”).

BANT

B – Budget in place for project, or access to funds.

A – Authority to approve and make decisions to move forward

N – Need to take action

T – Timeline is clear

Without asking survey questions you are forcing your company to treat every lead though incubation or as a sales ready lead which can be very costly.

Do you believe people lie when filling out surveys?  Do you lie about surveys?  if so Let me know your thoughts.

Tailwinds of Marketing Automation and B2B Lead Management for Events

Lauren Carlson from Software Advice posted an interesting article regarding the momentum Marketing Automation firms are experiencing which I agree with. 

It wasn’t that long ago that people weren’t even sure what marketing automation was or how it functioned. Now, marketing teams are aggresively seeking out solutions that help them articulate their value. Why is this happening? 

The B2B sales environment has changed drastically due to technology and wiht the changing economy.  Companies today are dealing with changing buying patterns and are focused on streamlining and justifying their expenditures. 

There are several specific trends that are driving the adoption of these changes, making measurement and automation an essential addition to any marketing organization. Lauren from Software Advice, a free online resource for software buyers, did a good job of outlining seven macro trends that they believe are pushing this growth. 

  1. Buyers want valuable content.
  2. Buyers are hesitant to engage over the phone.
  3. Buyers require marketing accountability.
  4. A down economy results in longer sales cycles.
  5. Consumerization of B2B sales processes.
  6. Marketing channels have transformed.
  7. SaaS is the preferred deployment method.

Points three (3) and four (4) particularily resonate with me from an event perspective.  Our customers are looking for solutions that help articulate their event spend from a revenue contribution perspective.  Also, given the longer sales cycles, it is more important now than ever that activity driven to sales from events are relevant and timely.  This helps companies increase revenue production through reduced lead decay, and also lower cost through more efficient post event followup activity. 

For more information on these trends, please visit the original blog post on Software Advice.

How Do You Gauge the Success of Your B2B Lead Generation Events?

I always ask this question of prospects and customers, knowing in the back of my mind that the answer is nebulous and difficult to answer. By nebulous and difficult I mean: the key performance metrics of their answer is strife with holes regarding economic value. I was in a meeting today and asked a Fortune 100 customer this very question regarding a series of B2B lead generation events they were producing. Here is the response I received:

1) Deviation of attendance level from previous year
2) Decrease or increase of registered attendees versus attended
3) Lead volumes of exhibiting sponsors
4) Exit surveys gauging value of session topics and overall event performance.

Now, imagine if you have P&L responsibility for the investment and faced with budget restrictions due to economic times. You are looking for the largest return on investment and this response, even if positive doesn’t raise a high level of confidence regarding “bang for your buck”.

There are articles everywhere bashing events as a marketing investment and I believe the main reason why is the failure to articulate revenue contribution. (The 10 Dumbest Things Businesses Buy) I also believe marketers are not receiving credit for their revenue contribution and companies devalue these investments.

What should you do?

Read the Entire Post on Experient’s new Event Industry Blog! [http://blog.experient-inc.com/]