Technology is shaping the way we do business, and smart tech relies on good data—the more the better. As I outlined in the first post of this series, event marketers need to ensure that they have processes in place that will make them smarter today and simultaneously set them up for success in the future. The best way to do that is to collect data.

As a marketer myself, I realize that the push to become data-driven is much easier said than done. On a day-to-day basis, I’m lucky if I think about how being data-driven today will help me next month, let alone next year or the year after. And the campaigns I’m creating seem so qualitative in nature that it can be difficult to know the best way to assign data points to them.

Planning for the future and collecting data is especially difficult for event marketers. It’s difficult to plan for the future when that future relies on technology and event marketing tech is rapidly changing. And it’s difficult to tie event campaigns to something quantitative—because how do you assign data points to experiences and in-person interaction?

But technology is shaping the way we do business. As consumers become digitally fatigued and innovations in event tech continue to bridge the gap between the way we track online and offline campaigns, event marketing technology will become an increasingly important piece of the marketing stack. Event marketers need to become comfortable with tying their campaigns to data, and organizations need to understand the impact events can have as a marketing channel.

But what exactly does it mean to tie an event to data, and where should you start? Events require so much planning and detail-oriented work as it is—it’s difficult to add an additional step (or steps) that will allow you to put in place the processes necessary to capture event insights.

There’s a lot of advice I could give about how technology can help event marketers glean data from their in-person campaigns, but for now I want to focus on the necessary, foundational steps that will lay the groundwork for robust, data-driven event campaigns.

The first step is a shift in perspective. Marketers and event producers alike need to change the way they think about events if they’re going to make the most of them. The second step—and this is really important—is guest list segmentation.

A shift in perspective: events as a marketing channel, not one-off initiatives

The term “event marketing” is thrown around a lot, but I’m not convinced the broader marketing industry recognizes what event marketing is or could be for their organizations. Many organizations host events but often think of them as one-off initiatives that are siloed from the rest of their campaigns.

This isn’t the marketer’s fault. Given the innovations in marketing automation platforms over the last 10 years, a lot has quickly become possible for digital marketing initiatives. Streamlining processes and tying campaigns to data is easier than ever. Event marketing platforms are several years behind traditional marketing automation, but event tech is following the same blueprint—what’s possible to track with online campaigns will soon be possible for in-person events, and I think more is possible today than most marketers realize.

So given the breakthroughs in event marketing tech, how should we think about events? At its best, event marketing takes the creativity of event production and marries it with data-driven business strategy, much like content marketing has married the creativity of writing and design with marketing strategy. Events are the medium through which you market your business, and you can now measure the success of your events with the same metrics that you use to measure other marketing initiatives.

When you start to think about events this way, it’s easy to draw parallels between events and the rest of your marketing channels. What are the fundamental best practices you stick to with the rest of your marketing campaigns that can be applied to events? How can you integrate events with other marketing initiatives so your online and offline campaigns reinforce each other? How can you weave events into the buyer’s journey as high touch-points that will serve as indicators of how interested your prospect is? I’m not sure a lot of marketers think about events this way—and if they do, they’re not sure what initial steps they should take to start treating events the same way they treat other marketing channels.

Marketing best-practices and events: segmentation

Without guest-list segmentation, you won’t be able to build data-driven event campaigns, and most (if not all) of your event data won’t deliver the actionable insights you need to make your events and overall marketing strategy smarter.

Let’s say, for example, you host an event and invite a group of 1500 people. 1200 register, 800 attend.
When you’re not segmenting your guest list, you’re treating all of your invitees, registrants, and attendees the same. But that’s not how marketing and sales teams operate. Customer-facing teams spend most of their days finding the right people to talk to in order to drive business, and they also spend countless hours refining their messaging to find the best way to talk to those people.

If events are a high-touchpoint marketing channel, why aren’t organizations diligent about creating personalized and targeted outreach, in-event experiences, and post-event follow up for different types of invitees and attendees? Marketers and sales reps would never send a generic email to 20,000 contacts because they know different groups within their contacts care about different things—so why aren’t they thinking about event outreach the same way?

Let’s go back to the hypothetical event and this time imagine that you did segment your guest list. Of the 1500 people you invite, 500 are prospects, 500 are customers, 400 are your sponsors’ invitees, and 100 are friends and family. Wouldn’t you want your messaging for these groups to be different for your event outreach? Prospects and customers, for example, are going to come to your event for different reasons—and you’re going to have different goals for each of those groups. You’ll likely want to gauge interest among your prospects and teach them about your product, whereas you might want to provide a more VIP experience for your current customers and also educate them about the specifics of your product (and potentially drive upsell opportunities). Delivering targeted messaging to those groups will help generate more interest in your event and will like produce better results.
But the benefits of segmentation are far greater than simply delivering personalized messaging and registration experiences. Guest list segmentation serves as the foundation for all actionable data insights you might want to glean from your event.

Let’s pretend again that you don’t segment your guest list and invitee 1500 people, 1200 of whom register and 800 of whom attend.

Without guest-list segmentation, that’s the best data you’re going to get: 1500 invited, 1200 registered, 800 attended.

If you’re measuring the success of your events based on your ability to fill a room with 800 people, then this would be enough data for you. But marketers want to know a lot more than that. Businesses don’t run because they successfully fill a room—they run because they successfully fill a room with the right people.

If you segment your list of 1500 people into prospects, customers, friends and family, and sponsor guests, you’ll have much better insight into whether or not you filled the room with the people who will help drive business results for your organization. If conversion and attendance rates are highest among customers and prospects but low among your employees’ friends, you’re probably okay with that. If the opposite is true, then you’ll know that you need to change part of your process in order to do better next time.

Attendance rates, of course, are just the beginning. If you want to know, for example, the percentage of prospects who purchased your product after attending the event, you wouldn’t be able to pull this data if you hadn’t segmented your guest list. You’d likely be able to find the number of people who purchased after attending your event, but without knowing the total number of prospects who actually attended, it’d be impossible to understand how well your event influenced purchasing decisions.

When you start to think of your events as a high-touchpoint marketing channel, guest-list segmentation is an obvious first step to start treating them that way. A segmented guest list serves as the foundation all actionable event insights—it will not only make your event strategy smarter, but will make your marketing smarter as a whole.

The need for segmentation was the central pain point that Event Farm’s tech was initially built to solve, and it’s something we continue to build our platform around today. Get your segmentation right, and the rest of your data-driven event marketing strategy will follow.