CMOs have long cited events, such as trade shows and exhibits, as a prime marketing and customer engagement mix, but a new study by the CMO Council has found that the old way of developing and measuring ROI for events is falling woefully behind.
Conducted in partnership with the Exhibit & Event Marketers Association (E2MA), the survey of more than 260 brand marketers found that events were still the No. 1 marketing channel, but search, direct/email, and Web-based marketing were each nipping at the heels of the events channel. The study, “Customer Attainment From Event Engagement,” released today, warns that events have been lagging and will soon fall behind unless they are more rigorously conducted. There is a particular need for enhanced metrics.
“We asked CMOs what they would like to see,” said Liz Miller, vice president of marketing programs and thought leadership for the CMO Council, in an interview with CMO.com. “Marketers are looking for new, improved measurement and how to extract value from it.”
Not surprisingly, the survey’s respondents said they want better metrics to help them develop new referrals and introductions. That category scored 71 percent among the marketers taking the survey. Other metrics most desired by the CMOs were quality and quantity of leads, 66 percent; deal closure, 52 percent; value of sales, 51 percent; and upsell or cross-sell transactions, 38 percent.
While noting that events continue to offer “tremendous value,” Miller said forward-thinking CMOs should be asking for more details. “CMOs want to know more about an individual’s engagement,” she said.
For trade shows, for instance, data should be developed on how much time a potential customer spends at an exhibiter’s booth and not just that the customer visited the booth. Did the customer follow up later by logging onto the exhibitor’s social network? CMOs indicated they want improved, trackable self-check-in technologies as well as RFID-tagged badges and QR codes for conference content. Also high on their list of desires are personal technologies tailored exclusively for attendees’ devices, such as iPads and tablets.
But, the CMO Council asked rhetorically, “While events are still number one for marketers, the real question is: for how long?”
Not for long, Miller said, unless marketers adopt more advanced measurement technologies and then act on them.
The CMOs surveyed were nearly unanimous in their opinion that trade shows offered the most effective way to brand and generate demand. Miller cited research from Exhibit Surveys that has found 81 percent of show attendees are enabled to make purchase decisions, and nearly half made a purchase within 12 months of the event.
However, if marketers look over their shoulders, CMOs will see other marketing channels gaining on their events channel as the most effective way to brand and generate demand. Search, direct/email marketing, and Web-based marketing are in a statistical tie–at 44 percent each–with events’ 45 percent figure for the lead in branding, according to the study.
In another finding, the survey discovered that marketers believe that their events channel delivers the best return for local campaign marketing; they found that local events are effective for connecting customers at local levels with national brands.
One obvious solution would be to beef up analytics tools to go hand-in-hand with improved metrics tools; the goal is to extract more useful analytics from each event engagement. The measures suggested by survey respondents call for improved strategy, planning, and outcomes, suggested by 35 percent of the respondents; data collection, 32 percent; taking advantage of speaking opportunities, 31 percent; and post-event reporting and analytics, 30 percent.
“There are a lot of great [technology] tools that can provide a single view,” said Miller, who observed that many new business intelligence tools and platforms have been recently unveiled. “It’s important for marketers and [event] organizers to come to the table with clear-cut strategies at the start before the event begins.”
After the two sides have agreed on a strategy, marketers can be more confident in asking organizers what they can provide. As an example, she said marketers and CMOs can develop a dashboard with a single point of easy reference.
“What this study demonstrates is that marketers’ attention is shifting,” Miller said. “Now is the time to begin moving down this road of defining and tracking the value of event and experiential marketing.”
The CMO Council and E2MA sought to balance interviews with brand managers by also interviewing senior brand marketers and experts in the event and trade show industry.
Jim Wurm, executive director of E2MA, endorsed the findings in the study and noted that the whole idea of helping marketers work better with event organizers will be the subject of a joint CMO Council-E2MA symposium in Chicago in July.