How to solve the event marketing data problem

From trade shows to meetups, it’s tricky to manage and process the data from events. Columnist Scott Vaughan explains how to take control of your event data to get maximum ROI.


In-person events have become a critical source of leads for B2B marketing and sales organizations. In fact, face-to-face events account for 18 percent of B2B marketing’s annual spend, according to 2016 Forrester Research. This is a shockingly higher investment than their seemingly more “modern” cousins — digital advertising and marketing technology.

It’s easy to understand marketers’ attraction to events, especially for demand generation. Face-to-face events provide brands with a platform to generate real dialog, go deeper with prospects to understand their specific needs, and tell their brand story in an interactive way. And B2B professionals (buyers) who attend will benefit from more personal attention when doing their research.

All parties come back fired up after an event. Now, the real work begins. It’s time to turn badge scans and event lists into prospects and customers.

This effort starts with developing a follow-up plan in advance of each event. The plan should include a data integrity strategy, a well-understood lead routing and qualification process and a follow-up communications workflow. While it’s not the “sexy” part of marketing, marketers must be able to quickly and efficiently:

  • process and inject accurate event lead data into core marketing and sales systems based on their data format requirements;
  • prioritize which “lead” gets what type of follow-up; and
  • sort through those that are tire-kickers who just came for the free giveaway and those who are interested, qualified prospects.

Easier said than done.

The event data problem is compounding

The challenge starts with the reality that most marketing departments participate in multiple flavors of events: industry conferences, trade shows, seminars, road shows, roundtables, meetups. Because each event organizer uses their own attendee data collection process and unique registration forms, each marketing event’s data must be manually reviewed, scrubbed and standardized to be usable in the marketing database.

The more events and the broader variety of event providers are utilized, the more manual data processing has to be done. Not exactly the best use of marketing resources.

Compounding the challenge is how the lead data is retrieved and processed for each type of event. If it’s a trade show or conference with exhibits, a data collection scanner is typically used where lead files can be retrieved via a spreadsheet from a centralized location.

When marketers host their own events, marketers typically manage and process data directly from their own registration forms. In both cases, marketers often dump all attendee data as “leads” directly into their database with no data governance for accuracy or prioritization data to inform which leads to follow up based on lead type or behavior.

Take control of your data for event ROI

So how do you get control and get maximum ROI from all that awesome work and resources you put into the variety of events you host?

The answer is to put the same level of planning and discipline into the data processing and follow-up as you did while you were at the event wowing prospects and your industry. Here are three proactive event data measures you can put in place to both accelerate sales pipeline and eliminate manual, resource-draining work that detracts from high-impact marketing and sales activities.

Streamline the lead/data delivery process using technology and tools.

This starts with utilizing data integrity tools to standardize event data, translating each event’s data format to the fields and format in your database.

These same tools can be used to automate delivery of each event’s lead files, injecting data directly into the marketing database. Applying technology saves marketers’ time, eliminates human error from manual scrubbing and formatting, and dramatically increases the speed at which marketing and sales teams can engage event leads.

Append and enhance data on the way in to ensure actionable and accurate data.

Many times, event data are either inaccurate or incomplete, hamstringing the ability to effectively follow up on leads. Utilizing data providers to verify and append the most up-to-date company and professional info increases the impact of nurture and sales follow-up.

Using this same data provider approach, marketers can also enhance the data with critical professional info (e.g., LinkedIn profile, exact title) and company info (e.g., company revenue, industry) before the data is injected into the marketing database. This “before” focus also keeps “dirty” data from ever reaching your database.

Score and prioritize data to prioritize leads for effective and efficient follow-up.

This “before” mentality can also be applied to scoring event leads to properly prioritize and route for follow-up.

Today, B2B marketers can use “intent” data, applying a score based on what else event attendees have done across the B2B web (e.g., articles they have read, ads they have viewed or clicked on, white papers they have downloaded). This activity signals intent and the collective score can be applied to events leads.

This score allows marketers to customize and prioritize who to follow up with first, and how each event lead is followed up. Those with high-intent scores, for example, can be routed directly to sales.

Final thoughts

Marketing and sales rely on events to generate and accelerate demand. The most successful B2B organizations apply the same kind of planning and diligence to event data as they do to executing their events.

By thoughtfully using modern tools and techniques to process and improve event data, marketers will see the same tangible improvement in event ROI as they have in the digital investments they have been advancing for the last decade.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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