A Data-Driven Approach to Event Portfolio Management

This is the time of year when, as a corporate event marketer, you are busy analyzing your 2015 event performance and planning your portfolio of events to do in 2016. As Liz Lathan wrote in her excellent blog ‘Optimizing Your Event Portfolio by Liz Lathan’, there are several ROI factors to consider before doing an event. A lot of events are driven by lead generation and pipeline acceleration goals. Other events are motivated by brand awareness creation considerations. Yet others are motivated by customer retention and loyalty goals, etc.

Regardless of the specific goals of events, the key to successful portfolio planning is to be able to do the following consistently:

  1. Establish specific key metrics for each type of event you do. If it is a lead gen event, establish key metrics such as ‘No. of net new contacts’, ‘No. of net new leads’, ‘No. of Hot Leads’, etc. If it is a brand awareness event, establish metrics such as ‘No. of Media Mentions’, ‘Total Reach in Social Media channels’, ‘Net Sentiment of all Social Media Conversations’, etc.
  2. Keep the number of metrics small, relevant, and manageable: There can potentially be a large number of metrics to choose from. Don’t get bogged down by the number of things you could choose from. And, don’t try to over engineer metrics that will involve making too many assumptions and extrapolations. Keep them focused on your primary goals. Pick the top 3 or 4 that are directly related to your desired business outcomes.
  3. Select metrics that you can objectively and consistently measure with good accuracy: You may be tempted to select metrics that sound attractive to your stakeholders. Don’t fall into this trap. Be careful in selecting metrics that you can credibly hang your hat on! Select metrics that you can measure accurately and consistently across all events. For example, in a complex B2B sales environment with long sales cycles and multiple influencing factors, it would be really hard to measure the direct impact on revenue from the events that you did. So, do not use ‘Revenue Generated’ as an event metric in these cases!
  4. Tie your measurement to your ‘Single Source of Truth’ systems: As Liz discusses in her blog, it is important to connect to systems like Event Management, CRM and Marketing Automation that centrally manage information pertaining to event costs, leads, lead status, opportunities, customer accounts, etc. I refer to these systems as the ‘Single Source of Truth’ systems (besides Event Management, CRM and Marketing Automation, there are other systems such as Customer Loyalty, Social Media Monitoring, etc.). By referring to these systems that collect and manage events and events-outcome data, you eliminate the frequent ‘my data is different from your data’ internal politics.

So, how does all this help?

Well, here is the good news. By following the four guidelines above, you will now have consistent data across your different types of events that you can use to compare and contrast events. You can use charts like the Event ROI Heat-Map shown in the attached image.  Assume that you do several lead generation events during the course of a year and that you had set up three key metrics to measure at the end of every one of those events:

Assume that you do several lead generation events during the course of a year and that you had set up three key metrics to measure at the end of every one of those events:

Event ROI Comparison Heat Map

Event ROI Comparison Heat Map

  • Cost per Contact
  • Cost per Lead (as some contacts progressed to Leads over time)
  • Cost per Opportunity (as some leads progressed to Opportunities over time)

In this case, you would extract information from your Event Management, CRM and/or Marketing Automation systems as the ‘Single Sources of Truth’ to measure and track the impact of your events.

By establishing these measurable metrics, and by leveraging data from the ‘Single Sources of Truth’ systems, you will have the ability to compare and contrast how each of your events performed against those three metrics. You now will have the ability to do apples-to-apples comparisons across each of your specific type of events and make very smart portfolio decisions.