The Biggest Event Tech Trends of 2015

From virtual reality sales pitches to emotion-based heat maps, check out the three biggest event tech trends of 2015.

  • Beacons: While beacons are not new to 2015 (Apple released the app-pairing technology in 2013), they have become one of the most popular tools to install at major events. The low-energy transmitters provide easier networking and navigation during events like South by Southwest. The Austin, Texas event paired beacons with their SXSW GO app to notify attendees as they moved throughout the festival this year. For example, instead of waiting in a long line, the app sent a QuickCode to attendees when they were in proximity of the registration area for a simple badge printing process. 

Six Tips for Better Event Lead Capture Surveys | Next-Gen Lead Capture Part IV

This is Part IV in our series on Next-Gen Lead Capture. Read Part I, Part II, Part III.

Almost certainly you’ve been there: getting scanned at a trade show while the sales or marketing rep also tries to bring you through a series of survey questions. And all you wanted was that cool light up ball for your kid. The quest for more data during lead capture is a noble one, but unfortunately it has become something of an afterthought for event marketers, and thus you are in that awkward scenario where the sales rep dread asking these questions. It is time to reignite this quest, nay this mission, to have a lead capture survey that actually works to turn leads into relationships!

Today, because we love you, we give you six tips for better event lead capture surveys, and we’re counting it down.


The point of the survey is to get information that will help your sales team get the prospect to the next meeting, or as importantly, disqualify them from the sales process. Your goal is to qualify quickly, and depending on your business that may be as simple as asking a few very transparent questions such as:

  •      Do you have any plans to buy a <your industry solution> in the next 12 months?
  •      Have you implemented a <your industry solution> in the last 12 months?
  •      Are you answering these questions simply to get a tchotchke?

Sometimes cutting to the chase in the beginning is the best way to save time, and it also sets you up to go deeper depending on the answer.


Let’s imagine that the person does have plans to buy your super-duper widget in the next 12 months — now would probably be the time to ask some more interesting questions. The ability to tier your survey is critical, and it should align with a decision tree like:


Survey questions are very personal, not for the participant, but for each member of your team. Every sales rep will want something different and there will be edits needed to be made right up until the event starts. Now you do have to create some ground rules in terms of question workflow, but you also need the ability to adapt to the sales reps needs and even the event attendees.

One great example is when we asked attendees about cloud-based data analytics. On day one of the event we noticed that the folks in this niche industry were  getting turned-off by the term ‘cloud’ and it was hurting our ability to establish relationship capture. Mid-morning we changed the question to read ‘secure SaaS-based data analytics’ and our problem was solved.


In tip #6 we got a bit humorous around asking people if they were only there for the give-away. But it’s often the best way to engage people throughout a survey, even for the positive qualifying questions. When you align the sense of humor with your brand personality it can be a great way to relate to the person taking the survey.  

One great way to infuse humor is to relate it back to something happening in the current news cycle (CAUTION: Avoid politics). A good example was at an event right after Super Bowl 49 (Patriots beat Seahawks in dramatic fashion) and we slipped in this question in the middle of a 7 question tiered survey:

Should Pete Carroll have run the ball?

If you knew about the game you laughed and answered. And if you weren’t a football fan then you asked ‘Who is Pete Carroll’ and found out something new. Win-win (just like the Patriots).


Surveys are typically text based, even for the best lead capture apps, but that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate some interactive questions. If there is a video running or perhaps a demo then insert a question into the survey that not only gets you some insight into what they were paying attention to, but also sparks a conversation.

One amazing example happened when a travel luggage manufacturer  came out with a new top-line premium backpack. Their video loop had several celebrities modeling the new line in various outdoorsy scenarios and in the survey they would ask which celeb they remembered doing what? If the answer was Clooney hiking that lead to the next question of if they were avid hikers…and so on, and so on (see Tip #6).


That perfect lead is answering every tiered question and going deeper and deeper with you…STOP. Quit while you are ahead. Better yet have the survey graphically pop up a screen with something like “This person needs to go to some sessions now, leave them alone…they’ve told you everything.” It’s a great way to acknowledge their time and to leave the conversation at a point where you both want to talk more.


Tell us your tips for a killer lead capture survey at @captixevents, #leadsurvey.

Business Cards, Like a Handshake, Mark The Start of a Relationship | Next-Gen Lead Capture Part III

Part of a weeklong series looking at next-gen lead capture. Read Part I and Part II.

At a mere $20 for a pack of 500, the business card has long been the easiest way to have your professional identity printed on a 3.5 by 2-inch piece of paper. And because it’s so cheap they now get handed out like bingo cards at a nursing home. The problem is, and always has been, the business card is only the beginning, like a handshake, to establishing a relationship. Meanwhile you have a $400 relationship-tracking machine in your pocket.

Business cards have never been productive for large-scale lead retrieval, and it’s not even ideal anymore for small-scale relationship building.  In fact, grabbing a business card alone implies a lack of relationship building. This is a legacy problem because for so long sales and marketing teams have force fed their “lead quota” by collecting one hundred business cards in a fishbowl. It seems nonsensical to label that as a successful event since that contact info could have most likely been found online. Yet, that is the world we created and now must break apart.

Start The Relationship With A Business Card

Capturing leads shouldn’t be like an Easter egg hunt to see which sales team can get the most business cards in their fishbowl – the real success comes with finding the golden leads and controlling the conversation from there. Business cards can and should be the gateway to developing lasting relationships, but it takes more work than just collecting and inputting contact information.

While a handshake and an exchange of business cards is a perfectly acceptable way to start your relationship, you need to utilize technology to further the conversation. Now let’s be clear, by ‘employing technology,’ I don’t mean sending generic follow-ups and offers to every email address you collect. Quite the opposite. The follow-up should be just as personal as the initial interaction.

In comes next-gen lead capture (not only because it’s the name of this series, but it actually works better for sales teams accustomed to the card collecting churn).

Develop The Relationship With Intuitive Technology

Technology is a funny thing. While in some ways it can make communication feel shallower, in other ways it can be the key to building relationships. This is especially true for sales and marketing teams.

Lead capture apps were built knowing that the business card is the first step. After snapping a photo of the card and having the lead information appear on your smartphone, you can then start the personalization by using tags, surveys, and notes.

With apps like Overpass you can use specific indicators to sort leads into categories like Marketing Qualified, Sales Ready, Interested In Learning More About ____, etc. By using tags, notes, and surveys, you are no longer just collecting contact information, but rather compiling in-depth insights to build a lasting relationship. The person whose business card you just collected will now receive a personalized email that meets their exact interests, thus exponentially increasing your chance of controlling the conversation.

Without the initial interaction, technology is useless. You need the business card to build the relationship. And without pairing business cards with an app that understands this balance, they equate to nothing more than a firm handshake and nice gesture.

Evolve Lead Capture to Relationship Capture In Two (Plus Three) Steps | Next-Gen Lead Capture Part II

This is Part II in our series on Next-Gen Lead Capture. Read Part I.

Sales, the actual transaction not the process, don’t happen once a lead is captured — it happens when a relationship is built and the customer conversation is under control. Capturing that badge info or business card and putting it into is only the beginning, the true work begins when you start to build the relationship and control the customer conversation. The most fine-tuned marketing and sales organizations (called ‘Challengers’ in some circles) have started to evolve to this updated workflow of lead to relationship building to conversation control.

Thinking back to lessons learned around renting lead capture devices, one common goal for high-performing marketing and sales teams is reducing the friction around transitioning leads from capture to relationship building, and ultimately controlling the customer conversation. Naturally it seems that marketing, especially event marketing, could do a better job from the very beginning of controlling that conversation in order to reduce the sales cycle and build more longer lasting customer relationships.

In our quest to move towards a next-gen lead capture we should immediately start to look towards ways to more quickly capture relationships and move our sales teams into the customer conversation. But how? It’s easier than you might think and it doesn’t always involve technology. Below are four ways you can start the move towards next-gen lead capture today

The Top Of The Funnel Has Moved: Stop With Lead Count Goals

All too often we head out to events with a lead goal in mind. Even beyond events we all have a top funnel approach that revolves around capturing as many leads as needed to achieve revenue objectives. The problem? This approach is completely wrong, and worse it leads teams to waste resources and money in droves. While some folks believe the funnel has flipped, and it has, I view marketing and sales as a series of filters.

Leads are full of junk and must be sifted a few times in order to figure out who is ready for the relationship building stage —  this process can often take months if not years via strong nurturing programs. Filter one is all about the first “meeting set” stage of that relationship and that is really where you should align your marketing goals. Leads feed the meetings, but when you focus on a big lead number you lose sight of why you are doing what you are doing: the relationship!

When you start to measure the success of marketing by meetings set for sales rather than leads, you begin to see a big shift in the mentality, and ultimately the work done by the team. No longer is it about getting as many badge swipes as possible at a trade show (and passing out hundreds of worthless tchotchkes) but rather providing an interactive demo on the show floor and capturing pertinent relationship details in order to help sales get to that next meeting.

Over the years we’ve seen teams dramatically shift resources and their approach to marketing when they focused on meetings set rather than leads.

Chop the funnel!

Turn Lead Capture Devices Into Relationship Capture Machines

Now, a bit of technology advice. Because you have been focusing on that big lead goal as your measuring stick, you have been fine with basic inbound forms and those pesky rental lead capture devices. But when you are focused on relationships and meetings you can shift your mentality a bit and start worrying about capturing relationship details. Empowering your teams, whether marketers or sales, with a lead capture app that fits this mold is key.

We’ve talked about this a bit before, but let’s boil it down to three ‘must-haves’ for your next lead capture solution (assuming you are as sick of those rental ones as we are):

1. Work With Devices You Already Have

Today there is no reason not to simply convert your mobile device(s) into a lead capture tool. Apps now allow that to happen (obviously Overpass by Captix is one alternative…I mean we ARE in marketing here). When looking at these apps consider not only support for both iOS and Android, but also ease-of-use and how quickly you can get sales up and trained on the app itself. Do yourself a favor and test out the app first, then pick a guinea pig in sales to test this out while they are traveling around over the next month. Remember, lead capture is not just about events, a good lead can be captured while running through the airport to make  a connecting flight. Can the app allow sales to capture the lead and the relationship context?

2. Capture Context Not Just Phone Numbers

Speaking of relationship context, be sure that the app can not only collect all the pertinent info on a business card or badge, but that it also allows sales to then collect relationship context. This might simply be an easy way to collect notes, or a survey that can be personalized in real-time depending on the needs of the sales person Legacy rental devices are known for being difficult to change when it comes to surveys so be sure you can do this on the fly to capture the context that builds the relationships.

3. Integrate Into YOUR Workflow

Next-gen lead capture is all about enhancing your current marketing investment through integration of captured leads. Be sure that you have seamless integration every popular marketing automation and CRM solution. But more importantly confirm that your team can easily route lead context data whether at a major trade show, regional roundtable, or dashing through the airport.

Next-gen lead capture allows marketers to collect context to build relationships, control the customer conversation, and realize never before witnessed ROI. But it takes a vision of how to evolve your current measurement standards, technology tools, and sometimes mentality. In Part III we’ll start to face some of the more tactical challenges of next-gen lead capture…the business card as a gateway drug.

Nightmares of Rental Lead Capture Devices | Next-Gen Lead Capture Part I

The name was on the tip of his tongue, and each time he spouted it out loud we all laughed a little bit with our juvenile senses of humor. But that jovial emotion wasn’t shared by the person shouting out the name, now more AT me than TO me, because it was the name of his number one lead after leaving our number one event of the year.

It was 2009 and the event was the annual RSA Conference in San Francisco, a major cybersecurity trade show where my team had just run a highly successful and, what turned out to be, profitable event. But something was amiss while talking to our sales rep in the southwest days later. That great conversation and demo he gave on the show floor to…well let’s just call him Mr. Smith was not recorded in the lead count from the event now living in

A conversation ensued, one that many marketers might find familiar:

Me: “No worries Wayne, we’ll check the original .csv file that we downloaded from the lead retrieval devices we rented. You remember scanning him?”

Wayne: “Yes, no doubt, we actually laughed about how awkward the device was when scanning the badges.”

Me: “OK, I have the file up…yeah, he’s not listed in here…weird…hmmmm.”

Wayne: “What about Mr. Simmons? He’s not in salesforce either.”

Me: “Yeah, nobody with that name in the original leads. Oh god.”

Wayne: “What?”

Me: “The lead count is way off…some of the devices must have been faulty or the download messed up…or…Wayne, I’ll call you back, we’ll figure this out.”

Fast-forward after many calls to the lead retrieval company (we won’t name names, but it’s one we all have used and still use) who were extremely nice and supportive, but ultimately could not help me retrieve what we estimated at 225 leads now missing. Walking into my boss’s office that afternoon to tell her about the missing leads was not fun, and ultimately it was on me, even if the technology was the fail.

At RSA 2010 I skipped the onsite lead rental service and actually came in with a homegrown solution that cost me a lot of money and time to develop. We didn’t lose one lead that year…but Wayne never got back to Mr. Smith.

Rental Lead Capture Devices: Costly, Clunky, Capricious

It’s more of the same in 2015 when it comes to renting lead capture devices at events. They are not only costly, but the technology is often legacy-based, difficult to use, and seemingly hard to train your staff on the floor. But it’s also been the only game in town, and quite frankly it’s just easier to not have to worry about this piece of equipment with all the other challenges of managing a big (or small) event. Yet, capturing leads and turning those into business is exactly why you are at the event.

In 2010 when we rolled our own lead capture system we not only did it to grab those all-important email addresses and phone numbers, but integrated it with our backend marketing system to more rapidly touch the lead. For example if you visited with us that year you not only got scanned, but in 30 seconds you also told us your main business problem and what your timeframe for purchase might look like. Depending on your answer you had a customized email in your inbox the next morning with links to appropriate resources.

The only problem? The iPad had just been announced a month before, iPhones were only 2 years old (and most people in security didn’t use them) so our hardware was still clunky, and often frustrated the sales reps when capturing leads. Ultimately this was an idea ahead of its time.

Next-Gen Lead Capture: Accessibility, Accuracy, and Affordability

Today the market has spoken and organizations are looking for lead capture devices that are:

  1. Accessible. I can use the hardware my sales team already has in their pockets or bags, and it can extend off the event floor to anywhere a good conversation occurs.
  2. Accurate. I get the exact data no matter if it’s a badge scan or a business card, and it is verified by human eyes and seamlessly integrated into my marketing and sales automation workflow.
  3. Affordable. I don’t have to lock down a big percentage of my event budget simply to capture the leads.

All this week we are going to look at the three A’s of next-gen lead capture and discuss what this means for today’s marketer. Throughout the week we will also be providing tips on how you can transition your lead capture into relationship capture in order to reduce the sales cycle and establish stronger customer connections.

Don’t Simply Capture Leads, Build Relationships | Event Marketing Trends 2015, Part IV

Part of a weeklong series looking at the trends driving event, experiential, and face-to-face marketing. Read Part I, Part II, and Part III.

This entire week we’ve talked about the new trends in event marketing, ranging from how companies are measuring ROI to the use of VR in booths. It is interesting to consider then the crossroads of technology with lead capture since the measurement of overall success will depend squarely on how you gather, integrate, nurture, and close those event leads. Surprisingly this is often an after thought for most marketing professionals, or merely a check box before the event happens.

Rent lead capture device…CHECK.

We all know the technology for lead capture devices need a reboot, not to mention B2B event management software, but rather than harp on the technology itself, lets dive into the way humans need to evolve their use of the technology. Capturing leads is something a machine does, building proper relationships that leads to sales is something we do as humans, and should be a main goal of any event marketer. It becomes paramount then that you train your staff in the fine art of building relationships at events. No matter what technology you use for event management and lead capture be sure to measure that solution by a human-driven criteria of how it will help build sales-qualified relationships at events.

Four Ways to Build Sales-Qualified Relationships at Events 

I)               Minimize Automate Workflow

Marketing and sales have often been connected at the hip, although at the same time often trying to go in opposite directions. The dawn of marketing automation systems (MAS) and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms helped to put these two camps into sync. Today most organizations have a semblance of automated workflow when it comes to inbound leads:

Web Form –> Scoring –> Sales Assignment –> Task Creation

This now all happens between the MAS and the CRM, both marketing and sales is notified, templates are used, and follow up ensues. Every organization is different, but they have worked hard to figure this problem out and automate this once manual workflow. So…why is event marketing so far behind the curve?

Even if you use today’s event management software and rent those legacy lead capture systems the workflow between marketing and sales becomes yet again a manual process. Having run events for many companies it would often baffle me how hard it was for us to not only capture the leads, but then integrate all the business cards collected, notes written on the back of napkins, and wistful memories of a sales guy who talked to some dude named John who really wanted to buy.

In order to really move away from simply lead capture and towards building sales-ready relationships today’s event marketer has to get smarter about automating the entire workflow. This is not simply the ability to quickly port over leads into your MAS or CRM, but empower sales to build relationships outside of the booth, integrate into their workflow, and adapt to their unique personalities and set of skills. Accomplish the three items below and you will accomplish this number one criteria for event management software.

II)              Extend The Reach Off Show Floor

This is a topic I’ve written about before while providing tips on where to physically extend your reach at an event, but for today’s topic it’s important to consider the event management tech you are using. Is it mobile-ready, meaning can you not only incorporate it for management and registration off show floor, but lead capture can reach through every nook of the event. A simple question can help you determine the capabilities here; If my sales guy has the perfect lead lined up at Starbucks two floors away from our rented lead capture device and has zero business cards can he get that info digitally so that it integrates with our full event workflow?

The answer needs to be yes if you want to be able to properly automate event relationship workflow and measure your ROI.

III)            Integrate Into Sales Workflow

Speaking of workflow, your sales team has their own that in some cases they’ve been using for decades. Don’t disrupt it, we do that enough with marketing automation and CRM. Instead learn how they like to deal with event leads, how they want to build relationships, and adapt your event marketing solution into that workflow. A prime example is extending the lead capture device out into the palms of their hand (and yes, Overpass is a good example). But also consider how leads get tagged, tasked, and scored when uploaded into the CRM. Your team will want different levels of information about their leads, and perhaps they have notes they put into the system at the time of capture. How that information goes into the CRM and is then built into the task they get, most likely via mobile, can be the difference between a quick and personalized response and a lead going cold.

IV)           Adapt to User Personalities

Finally, and this is kind of associated with the above, be sure to use technology that adapts not only to all the sales personalities, but also the marketers on your team. The event management solution must be built to not simply be easy-to-use and accessible from anywhere, but it shouldn’t have 15 modules to get the job done. My simple rule here is whenever I hear terms like ‘platform’ or ‘add-on’ I walk away from that technology. It means it’s probably difficult to use, not out-of-the-box comprehensive, and will probably demand a special skillset from a team member. When evaluating systems be sure that during the demo you ask them to show you the product they would deploy if you spent the least amount of money with them…then sit back and watch them scramble.

About the Author: Kyle Flaherty is an award-winning marketing and brand executive, craft beer connoisseur, and devout Boston sports fanatic. He currently runs his own marketing agency and works with the team at Captix (consider yourselves disclosed).

Making Event Marketing Experiential Marketing | Event Marketing Trends 2015, Part III

Part of a weeklong series looking at the trends driving event, experiential, and face-to-face marketing. Read Part I and Part II.

By now we see the writing on the wall after the first two parts of our series on event marketing in 2015, but because we all love bullet points let’s summarize:

  • Event marketing budgets are RISING, and by a lot.
  • ROI remains a critical component of any event-marketing program, but event marketers seem confused by what that means.
  • Marketing folks are putting Facebook ‘Likes’ above actual sales when measuring event ROI.
  • Event marketing technology spend is also on the rise and it is focused in two areas; attendee experience and attendee lifecycle management.

The technology component is now where we begin to tread. Having established many of the business trends pushing event marketing, it’s time to understand the technology drivers. And by the looks of it attendees are in for a big dose of techno-driven event marketing throughout 2015 and 2016. And it all starts with the experience the attendees have come to expect at a conference.

The recent report from GES walks through the top 50 trends impacting trade shows that experiential is becoming event marketing, and therefore technology will play a huge role. Right up front the report lays it out for you:

CMOs agree that this is the year marketers will go “all in” on experiential with bolder budgets, bolder strategies and bolder experiences that tie together creative, execution and data analysis. “And marketers are using big strategies and big data in a meaningful way, to use events to generate meaningful intelligence,” says George Hines, CIO and Head of Innovation at Global Experience Specialists (GES).

Now take this with a grain of salt, since the “E” in GES stands for “Experience” and this is the company that wants to help you with your event marketing. But that being said the writing does seem to be on the proverbial wall when it comes to taking event marketing to the next level. And the most interesting element of the use of technology is how it is being used pre-, during, and post-event. Today we split the hair and focus on the actual event experience and the technology being used to influence attendees.

Experience at Events Means Digital

Walk any event floor, no matter how large, and the digital experience has transcended from the simple monitor-to-monitor walls that are interactive, virtual reality (VR), even digital brochures. People want to experience products and services now in a whole different way, and virtual reality is seemingly the best way to drive this goal. Two fantastic examples of VR came across our desk recently.

First, at Blackhat last week in Las Vegas the team at Raytheon Websense were filling their booth nearly every minute and strapping on VR headsets to attendees. Once on, the folks weren’t simply hearing a sales pitch, they could experience the message in a whole new way, and this is something Raytheon does in other areas. Second is the Lowe’s Holoroom, which can be used by customers to help plan a remodel or refresh project.

Baby Steps Rule When Incorporating Tech into Events

Now a warning; this technology can be expensive AND it can be used poorly in the hands of bad marketers. At the same event last week another vendor had a similar VR experience that was a complete fail because they basically rebuilt a sales pitch into a 3D version of Powerpoint. Listen team, even in 3D, nobody wants to see Powerpoint. And this is an important lesson about involving technology into any event experience; you still must hit the basics around your strategy and content.

VR, BLE, 3D, Drones, Eye Gaze, 3D Printing, Smart Watches…the technology is all out there and a lot of marketers will be compelled to try the latest and greatest. But think for one minute before you go to the cutting edge, have you even successfully accomplished all you can with what is now viewed as basic technology?

One great example is the use of tablets at events. At first they were giveaways, then they were used for lead capture (sometimes, and often poorly), and now people are realizing that tablets can extend their booth presence and provide a great experience for attendees. Again, from the GES report:

Siemens at HIMSS demonstrated a new IT software solution with a 25-foot display of 188 iPad tablets linked to each other to create synchronized media showcases. Other health care companies are using tablets and software-enabled accessories to demonstrate, among things, how to administer medicine with a syringe the correct way. On top of that, inline entertainment magic tricks and trivia games powered with tablet kiosk stations are just tipping the iceberg on how tablets and software will continue to inform but, more importantly, engage and entertain.
So, before you head out for VR or something else that might prove hard to implement in both form and function in these early days, look around and figure out how you can better use the tech you already have. Just always apply the golden rule of event marketing: “Create an experience that drives business goals.” If you stay in that scope you’ll be fine and capturing all those leads…well if you are using the right technology for that too, but more on that in Part IV.

About the Author: Kyle Flaherty is an award-winning marketing and brand executive, craft beer connoisseur, and devout Boston sports fanatic. He currently runs his own marketing agency and works with the team at Captix (consider yourselves disclosed).

How (Not) To Measure Event Marketing ROI | Event Marketing Trends 2015, Part II

Part of a weeklong series looking at the trends driving event, experiential, and face-to-face marketing. Read Part I.

ROI remains a critical component of any event marketing program, and as we discussed in Part I companies are seeing a dramatic rise in overall event budgets, including directly from corporate spend. The research, however, becomes a bit more confusing when you start to look at how brands measure success of these programs.

According to the fantastic EventTrack 2015 report, 79% of brands are measuring event and experiential programs, up from 78% last year and 71% in 2013. That’s good, you have to measure to understand. The confusion sets in when you look at WHAT they define by success:

Interesting, no? While you can’t even start to measure ROI without attendees (so we’ll just put that to the side), simply getting a “Like’ or social media mention does not translate back into an actual return, and the fact that only 58% considered leads a barometer of success is concerning at best. But if you dive more deeply into the numbers it becomes even more odd. According to the report:

The survey asked specifically: What ROI do you expect from events? Forty-eight percent of brands realize a ROI of between 3:1 to 5:1, and 29% indicated their return is over 10:1. Twelve percent say their ROI is 20:1 or higher.

Firstly, those data points don’t really answer the question, but putting that aside the numbers are misleading when you consider that 61% of brands considered a Facebook ‘Like’ a measure of ROI. In that world a 10:1 ROI ration is completely achievable…but it’s still not true ROI since you aren’t measuring it against the total cost of the event itself.

Now, before you get all up in my marketing face I do realize that some events are about brand awareness and exposure, but that doesn’t mean you can’t alter your measurement to define a true ROI. The capabilities are there to track direct revenue through an event, even when it goes from offline to online via social media. And it is obvious that event marketers are confused by all of this measurement simply by the next chart in the report:

This is, of course, the more granular version of the first graph where we see attendance, social, and leads as the top three…but look who is bringing up the fourth spot, SALES! And, in fact, it’s only 1% lower than leads. But wait, look at how the percentage fluctuates year-over-year. In 2012 it was 46%, growing to 49% and then a huge leap to 66% in 2014. Yet in 2015 it has started to recede to 57%. That’s a big drop off and one must wonder why. Although the report doesn’t analyze this it might have to do with the meteoric rise of the influence of social in determining event marketing ROI. It also is more confusing when you notice the other line item of ‘Gross sales related to the event’. If you take both of these into consideration would sales be above social? No.

Why? Well, it’s easier to measure. Facebook and Twitter come out of the book with decent analytics, and if you use a third-party system you are getting even more granular data. It is also easier to accomplish in today’s environment where anyone will ‘Like’ you if you give them a free t-shirt. And this has, in many ways, created a perception of event marketing driven more for overall awareness and less for cold-hard cash. But like all marketing programs before it the pendulum will swing, especially with event budgets increasing, and marketers must be ready to measure ROI directly back to sales.

Technology Enables Event Marketing ROI

One of the reasons this should be easier is the rise of better, more comprehensive, and easier to use event marketing management software. In just the past year we have seen tremendous growth in this market as traditional marketing automation players have struggled to provide event management as a capability. The reason is simple, big brands are, like with any IT purchase, more interested in best-of-breed over comprehensive platforms.

If we take the analysis in this report at face value (and I do for the most part) we know budgets are increasing for event marketing, which will mean the leaders of these programs need better tools in which to manage events. These solutions must have the ability to measure ROI, and that will only come when you can manage the entire lifecycle of an event attendee. From the pre-event emailers and registration, to onsite check-in and collaboration, through to post-event communication and data integration into your CRM, this is the data fingerprint that can be used to measure true ROI.

Technology is not only an enabler to measure event marketing ROI, when used correctly, but can also help establish a brand presence at an event and drive those attendees. In Part III we look at some of the trends event marketers are using to drive a better attendee experience, and that folds in with Part IV and what technologies they use to track the attendee lifecycle. I’ll leave you with this quote from Errol Ahearn, VP of Global Design at GES in their annual trends research report:

“Everybody is sharpening their swords, getting better and better with the help of technology, whether it’s their pull-through strategy or booth rep engagement; it’s rare now to see anyone displaying a stagnant design year over year.”

About the Author: Kyle Flaherty is an award-winning marketing and brand executive, craft beer connoisseur, and devout Boston sports fanatic. He currently runs his own marketing agency and works with the team at Captix (consider yourselves disclosed).

Event Marketing Drives Business, Which Drives Budget, But Brands Still Fail at Measuring Success | Event Marketing Trends 2015, Part I

Part of a weeklong series looking at the trends driving event, experiential, and face-to-face marketing. See all posts here.

Irony, although seemingly hard for some people to conceptualize, can be found throughout the annals of the latest research around event and experiential marketing. In our world of interconnected technologies and the ‘Internet of Things’ the momentum for marketers is squarely found in better face-to-face marketing (F2F). We inherently trust that with which we can see, and F2F marketing via events both digital and analog are clearly growing.

According to the recently published “EventTrack 2015” budgets for event and experiential marketing has increased 6% since 2014. Now when compared to grotesque growth numbers often touted this may seem measly, but one has to dive a bit deeper to understand why this is important. According to 58% of the brands interviewed (these are all Fortune 1000 companies) this budget is being supplied directly by corporate, rather than being from another part of the marketing mix. The significance in this number is that in 2014 it was 35%.

That 23% boost is a big indicator that corporate marketing is seeing results from event marketing, thus they are finding more sources of budget to fund their F2F marketing programs. Brands don’t just directly fund initiatives unless there is a corresponding ROI, well at least not the good brands. And it’s fairly evident from the research that the top two reasons brands are investing in event marketing are sales leads and brand awareness.

“It’s just further evidence that Fortune 1000 companies are using live en­gagements to building their business—and their brand. The data shows a clear and present picture of strengthening strategies, bolder campaigns and definable metrics as marketers use events to drive product knowledge and understand­ing and influence deeper customer involvement.” –EventTrack 2015

What Comes First, The Budget or the Results?

Marketers are forever challenged with grabbing budget to show results, and showing results to grab budgets. When considering other marketing venues such as digital, content, email, or traditional direct it can often be easier to walk before you run in order to establish ROI and then scale up. In terms of event, experiential, and F2F marketing, brands, especially those outside of the Fortune 1000, can have difficulty since these types of programs are often more expensive and certainly more resource-intensive. But it’s still possible to start small.

One of the easiest ways to dabble in the event marketing realm and measure success is the ‘lunch & learn’. These are really ideal ways for teams to get moving on F2F marketing, extend their current event marketing, or even dabble in something experiential (rather than the typical steakhouse, invite prospects to a lunchtime cooking class). Now running a lunch & learn isn’t easy, but if you do it right it can show results and get you that bigger budget (check out this how-to guide on hosting a lunch & learn to get started).

Another suggestion we make to brands is to piggy-back on an event that you have already locked down, like an industry trade show. Last week many brands in the cybersecurity industry were at Black Hat, where big brands owned much of the scene with big off-floor events and experiences. But other companies such as Lancope, a hot startup out of Atlanta, used the event to throw a smaller party focused on customers, partners, and industry luminaries.

Big Brands Still Need Help Measuring 

These are both great ways for a team to measure the impact of their own event as part of an industry event, and then report back the ROI in order to grab budget for future events.

And that brings us back to one of the most critical aspects of any F2F marketing, and that is the ability to track the overall impact to the business itself. All too often we attend events, even those well planned in advance, and see limited check-in capabilities (yes, I’m talking about the sign-in sheet or, shudder, Excel). Within the EventTrack 2015 report we see that 79% of brands are measuring event and experiential programs, up from 78% last year and 71% in 2013. But the interesting fact is HOW they measure event success:

Surprised? I was…because revenue or sales is completely missing from the mix. Why? Well, more on that in Part II!

About the Author: Kyle Flaherty is an award-winning marketing and brand executive, craft beer connoisseur, and devout Boston sports fanatic. He currently runs his own marketing agency and works with the team at Captix (consider yourselves disclosed).

4 Ways to Extend Lead Retrieval at Black Hat 2015

Las Vegas is seemingly always busy, but this week there is certainly a different kind of buzz as the world’s most renowned hackers and cybersecurity vendors descend on Sin City for Black Hat and DEFCON. Tens of thousands of people are streaming through the Mandalay Bay conference center as we speak, and our esteemed marketing colleagues in their booths on the show floor are eagerly getting ready to qualify some leads (most using the in-house lead retrieval). But the potential for great conversations and the need to collect info doesn’t stop when you leave the show floor.

Good marketing and sales folks know that, often times, the best conversations happen in the hall, in line to that sponsored party, or even sharing a cab back to the airport. The problem is, and sure you can blame the Vegas lifestyle, that card you grabbed either gets lost or the general gist of the conversation disappears with your lack of sleep. Companies are now realizing the event lead management is a 24/7 proposition and the onset of apps like Overpass allow your team to make that happen.

For everyone at Black Hat we wanted to provide four tips for extending lead retrieval beyond the show floor, and if you do need an app to manage these go grab Overpass and then let us know how it worked for you!

4 Tips for Extending Leads Off the Black Hat Show Floor

1) Stand in Line. Last night the line to the FireEye party wrapped around the casino floor at Mandalay…and honestly some of the best conversations were happening. We even saw one guy doing a product demo on his tablet. And parties aren’t the only place for good line-standing, just go check out the line for taxis around 6pm tonight.

2) Starbucks, Starbucks, Starbucks. The person who placed the Starbucks as you walk into the conference center was a genius, and it also provides an ideal location to not only run into strangers and old friends, but have a meeting away from the craziness of the show floor. But remember, there is another Starbucks under the escalators to Mandalay Place (the shops), and that actually provides some semi-private areas to have conversations.

3) Party Animal. It’s Vegas and there are marketers sponsoring, so of course there are parties. We’ve found from many years at Black Hat that the best ones are often in the biggest areas (House of Blues, etc) because there is more space to actually sit an talk to other people. But even in the smaller venues you can find nooks to talk folks up. Last night, the team at Lancope had their shindig at Minus5, which is smaller, but if you go to the non-frozen part of the bar in the back it’s ideal for meeting folks and drumming up business.

4) Non-Sales People, REPRESENT! The show floor doesn’t open until 10am and there are sessions throughout the morning. We always encourage companies at Black Hat to make sure they are not only sending actual delegates to the show, but that those people are equipped to gather lead info. These non-marketing/sales folks are actually really key since they will have the best conversations of the show during sessions. Just train them on how to get contact information and transfer that to your team (again, something like Overpass helps).

Enjoy the show!