Successful Marketing EventsBy: Joel Klebanoff
Which is more successful: marketing event A, which attracts only one person, or event B, which attracts 400 people? The intuitive response is "B." The correct answer is: It depends.
Cause and Effect
When "bums-in-seats" (a figure of speech, not to imply that attendees are bums) is the primary metric, there is a tendency to celebrate upon reaching some benchmark. What follows the celebration is, too often, complacency.
When an organization sets bums-in-seats as the ultimate goal, it typically does not plan what to do next and fails to convert prospects into customers.
Furthermore, success in the bums-in-seats measure often leads to a false sense of security. "If we sell to just 2% of the 400 people, the event will be profitable. No problem! We'll just wait for the calls." ... And wait, and wait, and wait.
The Proper Measure
What is the proper measure of success? The easy answer is profitability, but events are only one link in a chain toward increased profitability. Unless you sell low-priced consumer goods or services, you likely won't close new sales at an event. Instead, it is a way to:
Even with a "one-off" event, you should still measure success. The results will help in your decision and planning processes for future similar events.
If your marketing communication budget is small, dedicating a high percentage of it to research -- to the point where you can no longer afford to act on the results -- does not make sense. Since the reasons for increasing awareness and industry stature are to enhance the sales environment, a surrogate and virtually free measure of success is increased profit over time. However, since some sales will occur whether or not you stage the event, you must count only incremental profit.
When using increased profitability over time as an approximate measure of success, take the sales lag into account. If it normally takes three months to close a sale, the event likely had at most a minimal impact on sales closed the next day. Furthermore, if the primary objective of the event is increased awareness, success might take considerable time to show up in profitability.
In addition, remember to factor in other conditions. The event cannot account for all changes in profitability. For example, if you added a new sales person immediately before the event, some sales can be attributed to that person's unrelated cold calls.
Measuring profitability after the fact is one thing, projecting future profits to decide whether to hold the event is more difficult -- and more valuable. A useful, simplified formula for projecting profitability is:
Profit = (BIS * PP * AP) - PA - Cost
Unfortunately, there are no hard-and-fast rules for predicting any of the factors in the formula. They depend on the nature of the product or service being promoted, recognition of the speakers and the sponsoring company, the theme of the event, and the promotion, event, and follow-through activities. Experience is the best guide. What makes the formula useful is its illustration of which factors you can influence to improve event profitability.
The Event Continuum
Now that you have a clear sense of your definition of success, how can you help to ensure it? The most important advice is to not view the event as a single moment in time, but rather as a continuum.
© Copyright 1999, Joel Klebanoff, Klebanoff Associates, Inc.
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