by Corbin Ball
When Event and Marketing Technology Collide . . . Great Things Happen!
Although events are proven promotional tools, until recently they’ve lacked the detailed data collection and analytics capabilities found with other marketing vehicles such as email campaigns and websites. Much of what happened at the event or trade show stayed at the event or trade show! However, this is changing, and events and trade shows are rapidly becoming central to an overall marketing effort.
With the recent explosion of on-site data collection and analytics tools, meetings will no longer be the black hole of marketing analytics. A gold mine of event data is becoming available, detailing attendee preferences, interests, movements, and interactions. These data can help meeting planners make midcourse corrections on existing events and improve future ones, provide significantly more value for exhibitors, and give attendees a richer and more personalized experience.
Sales automation tools and CRM systems now allow for tracking consumer and attendee behavior at events with precise detail. As such, event analytics are moving to a central position in the marketing mix and can help planners using these tools take a seat at the C-level table with sales and marketing executives. New corporate positions, such as VP of Sales Analytics and SVP of Sales Effectives, point to this shifting trend toward the importance of analytics. Event planners and marketers can work together to improve the event and provide a much more detailed profile of the attendee’s (customer’s) interests and desires, while elevating the importance of events within the organization. Following are trends that are making this possible.
The Explosion of On-Site Data Collection Tools
The past few years have seen a significant increase in on-site data collection tools, including the following.
Mobile event apps: Mobile event apps have become the norm at many events and provide participants with rich details about the event as well as a range of networking tools. Since every touch in the app is trackable, a wealth of data about user interests, likes, dislikes, and interactions can be gleaned. Mobile-app providers are now refining data analytics within their products to
provide improved marketing insight.
Fixed beacons: When paired with mobile event apps, Bluetooth low energy, or BLE, devices (known as “iBeacons” or “beacons”) can measure event interactions based on location, allowing event planners to track every movement at their event. BLE devices can provide the following:
- Heat Maps: Crowd flow can be measured through an exhibit hall to see which spots are hot and which are not.
- Dwell Times: Beacons can measure the time an attendee spends inside of a booth. Spending 15 minutes in front of a booth indicates greater product interest than just walking by. The ability to generate a list of engaged booth visitors would obviously be very valuable to the exhibitor, and to the marketing team.
- Session Attendance: Tracking registered attendees as they enter and exit session rooms or when stopping for in-show presentations given by exhibitors at their booth space provides valuable information about attendee interests and commitments.
Wearable Beacons: Wearable beacons can do everything that fixed beacons can do and more. About the size of a quarter, they are inserted or attached to badges and can work independently from mobile apps. The attendees don’t need to download a specialized app and have their mobile device charged with Bluetooth on for the beacon to work. The result is often a much higher use–utilization rate, but at a slightly higher cost. The advantages of wearable beacons include data analytics technology that provides real-time data on everything from show-floor traffic patterns and attendee booth activity to attendance of education sessions (including what types of attendees are sitting in a specific session). Marketers and event planners can use this data in conjunction with their CRM, marketing automation platforms, and attendee profile data to develop highly personalized and targeted post-event communications based on the attendees’ event experiences and activities.
Mobile Polling, Surveying, and Social Q & a Applications: Mobile event apps and stand-alone apps have made surveys and audience polling easier for an event planner to manage, and at a fraction of the cost of renting polling keypads. The results can give immediate feedback to planners and speakers about attendee thoughts and sentiment. Social Q & A tools, where attendees text and up-vote questions, facilitate group interaction and point to what matters to the audience.
Second Screen Technology: Second screen technologies, such as Educational Measures (educationalmeasures.com), allow attendees to interact with on-screen visuals on individual tablets and other mobile devices. This technology can provide precise engagement details and information on individual attendee interests and responses to built-in polling and survey data.
Gamification: Gamification tools, increasingly found as part of a mobile event app, create better and more meaningful experiences. These data points are also very useful for adding to attendee profiles.
NFC badges and USB sticks: Although NFC (near field communication) technology has been around for some time, the ability to quickly exchange contact and other data between attendees and exhibitors with a tap of a badge or stand-alone NFC device (e.g., poken.com) is extremely helpful as well as valuable from a marketing perspective.
The Rise of Data Integration Capabilities
Data management systems are maturing to the point at which integration is a much simpler task. With state-of-the-art, cloud-based event technology systems and advanced APIs, it is now possible to collect and analyze on-site data and connect it with CRM tools such as Salesforce—closing the loop from a marketing standpoint.
Interoperability is at the center of much of this change. For example, Eventbrite is a basic, consumer-oriented event invitation, registration, and ticketing system. This San Francisco-based company was built from the start to be interoperable with others, and it lists hundreds of software products with which it integrates. Swoogo (event registration), Hubb (abstract collection/exhibitor management/scheduling/task management), InGo (social marketing), DoubleDutch (mobile event app), and InsightXM (data analytics and marketing) work together to integrate data as if they were a single platform, providing rich data and marketing capabilities.
Other options for planners include integration platform-as-a-service products, such as Built.io, that provide solutions to more easily integrate a wide range of software systems into CRM and marketing automation tools.
What does this mean to marketers? Customer behavior and interests expressed at meetings can be tied to customer profiles, allowing for much better marketing intelligence and more customized sales and marketing communication.
Financial services, pharmaceutical, and technology companies are some of the key vertical markets pushing the events analytics envelope, which will in turn push the marketing envelope. And the efforts are paying off! Tracking the wealth of on-site behavior and incorporating into customers’ profiles allows a more precise measure of the event ROI and helps companies make marketing decisions with a better view of customer needs and preferences. As the trends mentioned above mature, costs will come down and technologies will become more accessible and routine for a wider range of events. Additionally, new data options, including artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, will become available. Event planners and marketers will be able to make the best choices based on the data.
As meeting planners are often intimately involved in on-site technology purchase decisions, they can help elevate their events’ marketing impact with the right technology choices. This is a rapidly changing area, but there are many good choices to make now. Event planners should embrace these new on-site data-collection, -integration, and -analytic tools to figure out which ones are most applicable for their events. Then, they can work with their event marketers and other C-suite executives to grasp the true power of face-to-face marketing.