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).