What is the problem with most marketing from an ROI perspective?
Most marketing is designed to achieve aesthetic purposes: a beautiful ad, a colorful logo, a nice web site, a commercial that makes you laugh, attractive event dťcor. All of those things are fine, but theyíre not the real purpose of marketing. Marketing should grow the business and generate return on investment. Period.
If you spend $10,000 to market anything, youíve got to be able to generate more than $10,000. Often, companies donít know what their return is, they donít measure their results, and they simply do something thatís aesthetically pleasing, which may or may not sell anything. Sales are really what justify the marketing process.
How do corporate events fit into the marketing process?
I donít think they should be called events. They should be called the most important selling opportunities of the year. Youíre gathering a pre-qualified group of customers and/or prospects in one place, where they will focus on you and your company.
But events usually arenít treated like the most important opportunity of the year. The staff that attends may not even be very good at selling. They just happen to be available. Then they view it as a junket and they all go out every night and get drunk. They come in the next day looking like they got drunk the night before. And they come home with a stack of business cards, which ends up in a desk drawer.
If youíre going to hold a corporate or channel event, set clear, measurable objectives, send the right people to staff the event, and then follow up with customers who attend. Thatís a microcosm of what real marketing is. Unfortunately, it often doesnít happen that way.
Channel events are a great investment if you treat them like investments and make sure you work hard before, during, and after the event to cultivate new relationships and grow existing ones. Itís not about a vacation.
What should a company do before and after the event?
Companies should coordinate their channel events with all of their other marketing initiatives. Most companies treat their marketing activities as a series of one-offs. They have a PR campaign, an advertising campaign, an event campaign, and a web site. Theyíre not connected. So you donít get the power of synergy.
For example, companies should drive customers to their Partner Web sites before and after a channel event and track their online activity, e-mails, and downloads. They should look at an event as an opportunity to build a customer community. When somebody comes to your event, theyíve actually entered your family (and your database) forever. You donít want to treat them simply as someone who walked into a hotel where youíre holding a meeting or presentation. You want to treat them as someone with whom you want to build a customer relationship, learning all you can about their needs.
How to get greater value from your marketing investment?
Itís the absolute insistence that if marketing isnít generating new business it has failed. When we fail, and we sometimes do, we go back to fix what didnít work. The classic marketing excuse is, ďwe canít measure the value because thereís a lot of goodwill being generated.Ē Iíve never seen anyone deposit goodwill in the bank. If you canít deposit it in the bank, you havenít demonstrated any real value.
You have to be willing to admit you failed, and willing to reconfigure the approach until you succeed with measurable dollar results. If youíre going to spend $10,000 and you canít generate $10,001, youíve lost money.
What gets in the way of proper effective event marketing?
Event people need to better demonstrate their value. They should position themselves as catalysts of business growth. Event marketers are often preoccupied with details. Will the food be cold? Whatís the room size? What they ought to be thinking about first is: Who will come to this event? How much business are we going to do? How do we build relationships and partnerships with them? Are we well prepared to meet them? What will we do to follow up the day after?
A lot of people will say, ďYou canít measure that. You never know what influenced the purchase.Ē Those are excuses. You need to know: Are we generating sales from our events? If you canít actually do business when you bring together a group of customers and prospects, something is wrong and you need to fix it.
How can event marketers measure the success of an event?
Letís say you get 100 prospects to attend a demonstration event. At some point, you need to assign a salesperson to follow up with them. Itís very easy to track whether any attendees buy your products in three months, six months, a year, or even three years, and track the value of that purchase.
If you are meeting only existing customers, youíre hoping to grow your relationship with them. So you want to have some evidence that the customers who came to the event are increasing their orders or renewing their contracts.
Then, based on the data youíve collected, you can extrapolate each customerís value and compare it to the cost of the event. Youíll be able to tell if youíve got a positive return on investment.
Most companies donít go through this evaluation process. They treat an event like a party, and they donít measure it. All they know is that they spent $100,000 on an event and everyone had a good time. People seemed to love it. They liked the food. They thought the entertainment was great. They came to the free wine bar. Fine. But that doesnít mean it was a successful event.
What if the event doesnít generate a positive return on investment?
You donít want to scrap it. You want to find a way to make the marketing initiative work. If an event wasnít effective, you have to reverse engineer back through the process and figure out why your customers didnít buy from you.
Did you meet the wrong people? Was the product too expensive? Did they already have a competitor partnership? Did you tell your story well enough? Did you have the wrong salespeople? Did you follow up correctly?
People ask me all the time, ďDo events work?Ē I say, ďYes and no.Ē They work if you plan them strategically, but donít work if you think itís as easy as inviting people and putting together a menu. Events can be a hugely successful marketing vehicle. For example, Oracle Corp. is an event-oriented company. Almost all of its marketing is done through events. And itís a fabulously successful, profitable company.
A well-run business has to grow on an iterative basis. It has to gather information and then adjust the business model based on what itís learned. Events are great because your customers and prospects are there, and you get a chance to talk to them and find out whatís working and whatís not. That input should be used to adjust the business model.
What elements are essential for a successful event?
First, a company has to make sure it meets customers and/or prospects who have the authority to make buying decisions. Thereís no reason to hold an event for people who canít possibly give you a return on investment.
Second, events should surprise attendees in some way. People go to an event expecting a typical scenario: They go to a hotel, watch a PowerPoint, go to a breakout session, and go to a cocktail mixer. The event will have more impact on your customers if you surprise and even entertain them.
Third, and most important, follow up with each attendee after the event to help move them closer to a sale.
The hard part of marketing is the measurement, the follow up, and the determination to use it to grow the business. But itís also the most exciting thing about marketing ó seeing that you took strangers and turned them into customers, or you took customers and grew your relationships with them. You have more than a job you love. You have an exhilarating experience. Instead of an event planner, you are a catalyst of growth for the company.