On average, CMOs allocate 24% of their total annual budgets to live events, according to Forrester. That’s not surprising, because many marketers consider event marketing to be highly effective. In a recent survey by Bizzabo, an event management platform, marketers ranked events among the best-performing marketing channels, together with content and email.
Why are events effective? Obviously, the Internet has a very limited power of human connection, compared to face-to-face interactions. People who attend trade shows are open to exploring new products and services. In many cases, that’s why they traveled all the way to the event in the first place.
But events are also expensive. On average, an event marketer spends $100-$150 per square foot for larger displays, which means that 20×20 displays may cost between $40,000 and $60,000.
Prianka Dhir, co-founder and CEO of Beyond the Booth, a trade show management platform, says that budgets are usually the top concern for businesses participating in event marketing. Travel, personnel, and promotional activities — the list goes on. Prianka says that the best way to maximize your trade show ROI is to focus on the areas with the most impact. Here’re her five core principles for managing ROI-amazing live events.
1. Invest in people first
The worst event marketing mistake of all, according to Dhir, is understaffing. “Opportunities are quickly lost just because there aren’t enough people managing the booth, answering questions, or facilitating conversations,” Prianka says. The solution? “Consider the size of the event you will be participating in.”
But don’t just hire many people — hire the right people. Hiring short-term promotional staff with inadequate training or background on your product will result in less than stellar results, leads, or sales. “Hire people who know your product and can communicate clearly what the message of your company is and how others can benefit from it,” Prianka says. “Great personnel can take an event initiative from low to high impact almost immediately.”
2. Bring the swag
Prianka recommends adding visible logos on all promotional materials for added brand exposure after the event. “When it comes to purchasing promotional materials,” Prianka says, “businesses that are built to show are built to grow.”
Cool swag boosts your booth traffic and draws more attention to your brand. The best type of swag? Something useful. Most people like smartphone chargers, nice t-shirts, water bottles, or food, but you can get creative if you really know your target audience well. Importantly, don’t cheap out and stay away from anything large and heavy.
3. Attend before you spend
Prianka says that for first-timers in event marketing, attending the event before spending on a booth at this event can improve return on investment. It helps to understand who the attendees are, how they buy, and why they attend — all crucial information to help your business hold the attendees’ interest and pitch to them at the event. You’ll get a chance to analyze what works and what doesn’t by observing the trade show attendees or chatting with the exhibitors.
4. Get your success metrics right
Not every aspect of event marketing can be measured in sales. Don’t overlook the opportunities to do some competitive analysis, test new products, and build relationships with your customer. Sales are important, but using just the sales metric can be short-sighted.
“Instead, create metrics around what success means to you at the event,” Prianka says. For example, your performance metrics could be number of leads, number of sales, brand exposure, or upsell and cross-sell opportunities created.
5. Budget for the unforeseen costs
Sure, you probably have all the major items planned out and accounted for in spreadsheets, but it’s hard to plan for everything. “Extra costs for items such as electrical charges, permits, design/decorating items are usually overlooked and underestimated,” Prianka says. “It’s good practice to set budgets for various aspects of your event, such as a separate budget for promotional materials, decor or staff so that you have a better chance of staying within the grander budget set for the whole event.”
To increase the ROI of your next marketing event, spend your money where it matters most. According to Prianka, your investment in staff and venue will have the greatest impact.