Managing Your Virtual Marketing Event: Planning, Budgeting, and Analyzing

Circa Staff


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Managing Your Virtual Marketing Event: Planning, Budgeting, and Analyzing

Circa Staff

In this guide to virtual marketing events, we'll discuss the building blocks of delivering successful virtual event marketing, including:

1. Planning your event

2. Budgeting for your event

3. Sales and marketing team alignment

4. Virtual Event Marketing Data: Insights &Metrics

5. Building an event marketing data toolbox

6. Your Pre- & Post-Event Marketing Data Template 

We'll also provide you with a pre and post-mortem event marketing data template to help you plan your next event.

Let's get started.

While in-person events are returning, virtual events have now gone mainstream. This year and into the future, we suspect everyone will host a more extensive mix of in-person, virtual, and hybrid events.

Virtual events give marketers much more flexibility and transparency in the results and outcomes of their events. So, it stands to reason that as in-person events come back into the fold, virtual event elements will still be a critical part of event marketing strategy. This could mean anything from adding more virtual options to large-scale conferences to including more virtual networking options for your customers throughout the year.

Virtual events are here to stay because teams don't need to travel to get work done and many event marketers have decided they can make just as big of an impact with virtual event tools. As such, event marketing leaders should be looking for more local and/or regional marketing events for their teams to attend this year while offering more and bigger virtual events for large groups.

Fortunately, technology has caught up with the needs of event marketing teams over the last year, and the tools are there to make it easier to accomplish virtual event marketing goals. Your marketing leadership team should assess new technology to continue to glean data and strategic insights from your virtual marketing events and hen use this information to help inform your overall event marketing strategy.

The Building Blocks of Hosting a Successful Virtual Marketing Event

The single most important thing you'll do to put on a successful virtual marketing event? Planning.

Circa Staff

Planning Your Event

First off, it's time to plan and market your virtual event. Luckily, most people are pretty used to the virtual meeting experience by now, making it easy to discuss the virtues and value of attending an event online. Unfortunately, many people are experiencing screen fatigue and may not want to join an unnecessary event.


This is why all your virtual event marketing efforts need to be extremely tight and work to cut through the noise surrounding other virtual events.


There are a few must-have technical elements to any successful virtual event:

— A digital hosting platform (such as Zoom or Meetings) can give you the flexibility required throughout your event.

— A metrics calculator to track attendees, engagement, hand-raises, breakouts, etc.

— A communication platform to engage with attendees before (to drive awareness) and after (to follow up) an event. 


In addition, your team should strive to have as many engaging elements as possible peppered throughout your event. This could include anything from adding in other polls and trivia questions during a webinar to hosting. A virtual cocktail-making class for a fun networking alternative. It has never been more critical for event marketers to think outside the box and then deliver on these big-picture items to help drive new deals forward.

Budgeting for Your Event

For most event marketers, switching from in-person to virtual events has come with a slew of changes. One of the biggest and best changes for many has been the much smaller price tag of a virtual event than an in-person event. However, it's important to remember that the start-up costs are only smaller for virtual events when planned correctly. Too many wrong moves, and these costs can escalate quickly.


While it may be tempting to transfer the same budgeting considerations that you used for in-person events to virtual events, there are a few different objectives to keep in mind. Here is a comprehensive list of budget considerations to take into account when planning your next virtual event:

1. Platform costs. One of the essential parts of any virtual event is the platform being used to host the event. If this is a platform your team is already using internally, more significant event hosting capabilities may already be included or available for a small feature upcharge. If your team requires an entirely new platform, this budget item could be a little more costly.

2. Speaker or vendor fees. While your internal team costs are covered, any speaker and/or vendor fees must be considered. If you're hosting a webinar with one speaker, this is a pretty cut-and-dry budget item. This line item can be more convoluted if you're hosting a more significant virtual conference with multiple speakers and/or vendors.

3. Marketing costs. All in all, promotions may take up most of your virtual event marketing budget. This includes everything from list costs to social ad budget to promotional placements in vendor publications.

4. Thank you gifts. Virtual events are an excellent way for customers to share their stories with prospects, but in return, it's always wise to say thank you. Depending on your client type or industry, this gift could be pretty pricey, so it's essential to make this a separate line item in your budget.

5. Follow-up communication. Last but certainly not least, whatever technology platform you use to host your virtual event will have some functionality to follow up with attendees. If this isn't the case (or if you want to communicate on a broader scale through a different channel), you should consider this.

Before, during, and after an event, understanding budget data is critical for event marketing success. However, building event budgets can be tricky, especially when accounting for unforeseen expenses and balancing budget expectations with ROI expectations. By tracking your budget items in the same data platform as your other event data, your team can automatically connect things like registration, attendee, and event revenue numbers to your budget for a look at ROI in real-time.

Event budgets can go through several iterations, and multiple budgets should be tracked and measured. Make sure you're tracking your planned budget, your actual budget (with contingency items), and your paid budget for a full view of exactly how much is being spent.

One of the most challenging and confusing parts of any event marketing strategy is managing vendor payments and invoices. Managing all of these payments through the same platform as your budget tracking can help keep things straight and ensure your team stays on top of vendor payments.

Budgeting is one place where event marketing teams may need to collaborate in detail with other teams outside their department, including finance and accounting. It's a good idea for these external stakeholders to either have access to your budgeting tools for visibility or for your team to be able to export the correct data for these stakeholders on an on-demand basis.

Sales and Marketing Team Alignment

Often, the collaboration between event marketers and sales teams can be tenuous at best. While event marketers work to plan and execute flawless prospecting or nurturing events, it is often up to sales teams to pick up these leads and move them through the sales funnel. With so much ROI data connected to these sales conversation outcomes, there must be some visibility between sales activities and the prospecting achieved by marketing events.


— Salespeople need as much information as they can get their hands on. Event marketers can make it easy for them to follow up with leads by gathering prospect data, interests, buyer personas, and engagement information and automatically adding this data to a prospect record in a CRM system.


— Your event marketing data solution should be able to send immediate engagement alerts to salespeople when a prospect reaches out or takes action before, during, or after an event.


— Sales results and analytics are really where other corporate stakeholders, including executives, start to take a keen interest in event marketing activities. That's why translating sales events into CRM dashboards, reports, and updates is vital for driving visibility into event marketing success.


Let's dive further into the insights and metrics you need to track to demonstrate success.


Virtual Event Marketing Data: Insights & Metrics

One thing boosting the reputation of virtual events in the SaaS world is the ready availability of detailed metrics and insights available around virtual events. While many in-person events rely on softer metrics (such as in-person visits to a booth), virtual event marketing metrics are very qualitative – and available in real-time. Event marketing teams must be able to track virtual event marketing data, hybrid event marketing data, and in-person event marketing data, such as:

— Track registration and engagement metrics in real-time to see if particular advertising campaigns are working as intended.

— Immediately view opportunity and prospect contact records in a CRM platform to add this new layer of insight after a conference. 

— View exactly which marketing channels (email, social media, direct mail, etc.) brought in the most registrations and/or attendees for future planning. 

As event marketers have shifted to virtual-first events, the approach to event marketing metrics has also had to shift. There are a few things to note here before we dive into critical virtual event metrics to track:

— First, although virtual events may not be as high-dollar as in-person events, there is the chance to host or attend more of them throughout the year. So, even though marketing events might not take up as much as the budget, they will be more commonplace throughout the year.

— Second, as your team embraces virtual events, the tools you use to track and manage virtual event metrics may look different from how you managed live events. Because you aren't scanning badges or tracking conversations, those tools should instead make way for digital-first engagement tracking, messaging platforms, and dashboards to visualize audiences.

— And finally, your event marketing goals shouldn't have to change too much from in-person to virtual events. Whether your bottom-line goal is to collect new leads, move prospects through the sales funnel, or close a current account renewal deal, these can all work with virtual events – if you are tracking the right metrics.

Key Metrics Event Marketing Teams Need to Track for Virtual Events

As any event marketer will tell you, data is everything. Marketing events can require large budgets, and it's critical to have the numbers on hand to support these investments and prove value to your larger marketing team and executives.

While most marketing teams realize the need for detailed event ROI and data, it is often frustrating to glean this information from event marketing activities. Without a clear understanding of how engagement translates into hard data for in-person and virtual events, measuring the ROI and success of an event can be more of a guessing game than anything else.

Building an Event Marketing Data Toolbox

Event marketers are learning that uncovering data and metrics to glean actionable insights from marketing events doesn't have to be an uphill battle – but it does have to be planned out. Therefore, an event marketing data toolbox is critical for agile event marketing teams to scale and be prepared for every marketing event they have planned.


It's impossible – and improbable – to start from the beginning with every single event you host. But, with an event marketing data toolbox, your team can feel confident that every event you plan and execute will have a robust component of data and metrics that can help measure success. This ensures your team has the information needed to make more strategic planning decisions in the future.


Let's get into some of the critical virtual event marketing data and hybrid event marketing data your team must be tracking and the tools you need in your event marketing toolbox.

Registrations


This is a critical metric for any event but can be incredibly informative when tracking virtual event metrics. Look at registrations – and where they are coming from – to identify your top advertising channels moving forward.


Having an event registration tool in your corner allows your team to track new registrations as soon as they come in from any source.


Additional insights may include:

— A detailed breakdown of registration channels to see which channel brought in the most registrations to help inform promotional activities in the future.

Automatic alerts for sales partners when a new registrant engages with any event-related or on-site content.

— Custom landing page forms to capture the correct data about your event registrants right from the source, giving you deeper insights into your registration population.

Attendees

This number is typically looked at in comparison to registrations. If you're hosting your own virtual event, this virtual event marketing data should be pretty high to help track towards a good ROI. Suppose you are attending a virtual conference or networking event. In that case, the number of attendees can help determine if this should be part of your overarching event marketing strategy down the road.

During an event, event marketing teams are often focused solely on ensuring the event runs as smoothly as possible, which leaves little room for sitting there to watch attendee counts or keep tabs on in-person engagement at a conference. Tracking virtual event marketing data or hybrid event marketing data about your attendees as your toolkit gives your team more flexibility while running events without worrying about having access to these detailed metrics on the back end.


Look for some of the following features when deciding on an attendee data tracking tool:

— Ongoing virtual attendee engagement tracking shows every activity an attendee does during an event, from registration to log-in to engagement.

— Consolidation of all meeting tools, CRM platforms, webinar solutions, and more for a unified view of all meeting attendee data and information.

— A streamlined process of gathering attendee data for in-person events, designed and understood by both marketing and sales team members in collaboration.

Conversion Data


A huge part of understanding the total value of a marketing event is calculating the conversions at critical points throughout an event lifecycle. One reason marketing events have so much budget power behind them is that they work to drive new business, move deals along the pipeline, and even close new revenue. Therefore, your comprehensive event marketing data toolbox should have the proper functionality in place to visualize conversions at every single step of the event (and prospect) lifecycle, including:

— Promotion registration: the number of people your team marketed the event to/invited to your event vs. the registered number.

— Registration attendee: the number of people who registered for your event vs. the people who attended.

— Attendee engaged attendee: the number of people who attended your event vs. the number of people who engaged with your team (either virtually or in-person) during the event.

— The average length of attendance: One creative virtual event metric to track is the length of attendance. If you see a mass exodus of attendees during your webinars around the 45-minute mark, this could be a sign to start running 30-minute webinars instead.

— Attendee engagement: Just because you're not face-to-face doesn't mean you can't track lead and attendee engagement. Instead, virtual event metric tracking looks at questions, hand raises, post-event follow-up, and other types of interactions to see how engaged your audience was during your event.

— Engaged attendee to prospect conversions: the number of engaged attendees vs. those who meet your new sales prospect qualifications to become viable prospects.

— New leads: A favorite virtual event metric for many event marketers, new contacts are fresh, new leads not yet part of your system.

— Prospect qualified lead: viable prospects from an event vs. those who move through the sales funnel to become a lead.

— Qualified lead opportunity: qualified sales leads vs. leads that are nurtured and flagged as opportunities by your sales team.

— Opportunity revenue: opportunities vs. new business that is closed and associated with a revenue number.

Finally, the post-event lead movement will be the most significant virtual event metric that everyone (including executives!) will look at to assess ROI.

— What are some tangible numbers we can attach to the virtual event in question?

— Were any deals closed?

— Did a prospect change to an opportunity?

Tracking the ROI

At the heart of any event marketing data tracking is uncovering the ROI, or the return on the investment, of an event. Every single data point listed above works towards measuring and tracking ongoing ROI numbers for event marketers and team leaders. Additionally, event marketers can build a holistic view of event marketing success across various events and event channels with multiple data points working together.


Here are three final ROI data tracking considerations to be aware of:

— ROI calculations can change constantly, and tracking ROI metrics against the total budget can build a live picture of event success.

— Event marketers can show even more value by breaking down ROI status at every point in a prospect lifecycle, especially between marketing and sales handoffs.

— Every stakeholder in your organization will want to see different breakdowns of ROI numbers, so being able to filter and highlight various areas of ROI success is key to sharing with teams, departments, and executives.



With the event marketing data tracking features listed above, your team can build a holistic view into your event marketing activities, create a seamless internal process for managing and nurturing leads, and give stakeholders visibility into the success of event marketing activities. In addition, building a virtual event marketing data toolbox gives event marketers the flexibility and scalability to make every event – both in-person and virtual – a success.


Your Pre- & Post-Event Marketing Data Template

For most event marketers, the events themselves are the star of the show. Managing logistics and set-up, making connections with other professionals in the industry, and moving strategic marketing objectives forward are all part of what makes event marketing so exciting. Data gathering, on the other hand? Not quite as much fun. 

As we all know; however, event marketing activities require substantial metrics and insights to show whether or not an event was a success or not. Both virtual and in-person events require significant budget considerations, planning, and resource allocations, which means they need to have the numbers to back up the investments.


Luckily, you don't have to start from scratch every time. A few stalwart data considerations apply from event to event and a handful of others that can be pulled in depending on the event in question. 


Here is your virtual event marketing data template for both pre and post-event data gathering:

Pre-Event


_____ The team knows exactly what to look for to measure success.


For some event marketing teams, the end of an event arrives, and everyone looks around and says, 'what now?'. If your team doesn't even know it's tracking and subsequently doesn't track any data during an event, there will be no data available to analyze when the event is over.


Event marketing teams can proactively get ahead of this awkward moment by clearly defining the metrics used to determine success after the event is over. This means deciding that you want to gather fifty new leads at a conference booth, for example, or drive ten feature add-on requests from a client webinar. Having these hard numbers to work towards keeps your team on track and ensures there are no surprises down the road.


_____ Your team (and other stakeholders) have access to the tools they need to track this data.


Once you have your KPIs clearly defined, it's time to make sure you can measure this data. This could include anything from a badge scanner at a conference integrated with your CRM platform to a virtual event meeting solution that measures event engagement in real-time.


A good thing to keep in mind here is that even though digital tools will be helping your team measure this data, they will still have to monitor and run these solutions (in most cases). Suppose your event marketers are also responsible for engaging with leads, running the webinar, or executing the event behind the scenes. In that case, it's a good idea to look for tools that allow them to pay attention to their other tasks instead of tracking event data the whole time.


_____ Everyone knows precisely what they need to do and how to do it to be successful.


Marketing events are notorious for having multiple moving pieces, which is even doubly true if salespeople are also involved. As a marketing leader, you want to enable your team to be as successful as possible before they are sent in to do battle at your event.


To this end, make sure everyone knows exactly how and when to use the tools mentioned above. Share your event KPIs publicly and clear up any confusion on how these will be tracked before the event starts. Give pointers or tips on how marketers and salespeople can influence these numbers and give them the timeline for when this data will be gathered, analyzed, and shared. Event marketing is all about transparency, and this is the perfect time to be overly communicative with your team.

During your Marketing Event


Believe it or not, it is possible for event marketers to proactively influence data during an event while all the action is taking place. Here are a few bonus tips and tricks to boost event engagement while it's happening:


  • Post on social media during your webinar and include a link for last-minute attendees.


  • If your team is sponsoring a speaker at an in-person event, post clips or quotes on social media and tell people to respond if they want to learn more.


  • If someone RSVPs but doesn't show up in the first 15 minutes of an event, send them a personalized note asking if they're planning to attend or if they want to schedule a personalized follow-up at a different time.


  • At an in-person conference, send marketing team members around to the attendees with swag and ask them to stop by your booth. In a virtual event, you can spontaneously pop in on attendees and offer goodies, too.

Post-Event


_____ You know what the raw data is telling you.


Once the numbers come in, it's time to start analyzing. Your team did a great job of tracking the correct data during your event; now, it's time to build a story around what this information is telling you.


Let's say, for example, that fifty people stopped by your booth. Of those fifty, ten were already customers, five didn't meet your prospecting criteria, and five were looking for gifts. Thirty people, however, were stone-cold viable prospects.


Now it's time to use this number, append any additional qualifying data, and come up with your ROI target. Did you hit your KPI goals or not?


_____ The team has reviewed the numbers from every angle.


One reason virtual event marketing data is so tedious to compile – and so difficult to pin down accurately – is that there are multiple ways to look at the numbers in front of you. It's a good idea to break down every single angle of the data you've received to make sure you can glean as much information as possible from your event.


For example, let's say you had fifty attendees on a webinar out of 100 registrants. Sure, your attendee rate is only 50%, but let's look at those 50 attendees a little closer. Which ones asked questions? What was the most prominent buyer's profile? Were a majority of attendees C-level decision-makers? Going as in-depth as possible with the data can build a more robust picture of what makes a successful event.


_____ You have identified areas of opportunity and growth.


The most prominent reason marketers even track event marketing data is to tell us if we're making the right strategic decisions to drive more prospects for our sales team. 


By looking at the numbers after an event – and understanding whether or not you hit your KPI goals established pre-event – your team can make a hard decision around whether or not an event was a success. If it was, now is the time to identify strategic opportunities you can replicate with other events. If it was not, your team could identify areas of change and/or growth that could help make these kinds of events more successful in the future.


_____ The data findings have been shared with other executives and stakeholders.

As a marketing leader, you serve as the connection between your event marketing team and other departments and executives. This means it's up to you to share the ROI data, opportunity, and strategic outcomes of events with other key stakeholders.


This data sharing can be especially critical when working with sales teams, as event marketing data can often influence sales and marketing strategy on a higher level. The checklist items reviewed previously, from understanding where the data comes from to how your team is influencing the numbers, should be included in these recaps to give stakeholders a clear picture of how your team determines event success. 


The impact of your event marketing data and metrics shouldn't stop once an event has concluded. All the data your team gathers from pre, during and post-event activities can be used to inform your overarching event marketing strategy down the road. Keeping track of the numbers – of what works and what doesn't – can help your team build a more informed event marketing strategy.

Bringing It All Together


In the end, everything circles right back to the beginning. Analyze your results based on the goals you started with. If you hit your targets or overachieved your goals, congratulations! Celebrate and then figure out what went right so you can do it again!


If you fall short, there's more work to do. You've got to figure out whether your planning or execution didn't live up to your expectations or whether your KPIs were too optimistic. Isolating the root cause of any shortfalls is essential to improve your performance next time out.


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