Why Data is the Now in Event Marketing: 5 Insights with eShots CEO Craig Steensma

It’s simple: data-driven experiential marketing can help prove ROI, provide attribution to unrealized sales, increase future event budgets, answer your boss’s questions and even, ultimately, save your job.

Engineer W. Edwards Deming said it best: “In God we trust, all others must bring data.” So why is data-driven experiential marketing considered “old school” by many, making them hesitant to commit?

We sat down with eShots CEO Craig Steensma to get his take on data-driven experiential marketing. He shared five great insights, including why planning is just as important as utilizing the data itself, how utilizing data correctly can give a crystal-clear picture of event ROI, the three hurdles brands face when utilizing data and more.

In your opinion, what is the value data can provide to the modern experiential marketer?

Many people are under the impression that experiential marketing is an “old school” tactic that isn’t as measurable as other channels like digital or social. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Year after year, experiential marketing continues to increase its share of brand’s overall marketing budget, and is now becoming a main content driver for many of them. Furthermore, via experiential marketing, brands have just as much advanced data and analytics tools as other channels like digital or broadcast, you just have to plan effectively for it and use the right tactics. For example, we can share with our clients things like consumer demographics, garage composition or whether or not the specific person they engaged at an event actually followed up and bought (with them, or with anyone else). The tools are out there for experiential marketers to make more informed decisions and become data leaders within their marketing groups.

Do you have any examples of how a brand has effectively leveraged data to improve their campaigns?

One of our clients, a global auto manufacturer, was able to realize incredible gains from their experiential campaign with our data-driven platform. With over 5,000 event days per year, the brand was looking for better ways to utilize data in their experiential program. The planning stage is just as critical as what you actually do with the data, so it was important to work with their teams very early on to set success metrics and activation team rules so there would be consistency across their entire program. This foundation is the key to evaluating accurate and consistent data as you can focus all resources on driving toward the correct metrics.

This client also took advantage of some of our advanced data offerings to make more informed decisions. We’ve been collecting consumer data at events for nearly two decades so we are in a unique position to offer historical benchmarking and trend data. Perhaps the most important data tool that we were able to implement for this client was our sales matching tool. By matching data we collected on the client’s behalf, with actual auto sales data, we gave them a crystal clear picture of their event ROI.

By collecting millions of consumer leads annually, while focusing on data accuracy and consistency and then matching with actual sales, this client was able to realize a 32% increase in event marketing ROI. They achieved a 19x return on the overall eShots investment, and are driving over $1 BILLION  in directly attributable sales through the eShots platform.

What advice would you give to brands on where they should start deploying a data driven approach?

There are really three areas that you need to keep in mind when deploying a data-driven approach for events, but they all depend on data consistency. People often just think of “what do we do once the data is collected?” but that is only one piece of the equation. Planning is paramount. If everyone on the project or program isn’t working toward the same goals, the results will not be optimized.

  1. First, clearly define the goals, and what metrics will define a success. This seems obvious but sometimes when you have a national campaign with numerous outside agencies involved, it can sometimes be taken for granted.
  2. The next step is to monitor your program in real time and make adjustments while your activation is happening.
  3. The third step is to follow what happens after the event to see, and prove in the data, that the ultimate goal (in many cases product sales) was achieved.
In addition, reviewing data post event can make it easy to review the overall program for further optimization at the next event. This pre-event, at-event and post-event approach to data analysis are the keys to many of our client’s successes .

How is data collection impacting the experience of the consumer at an event?

Data collection at events can be tricky. For many industries, data collection is the primary reason to engage in experiential events, but when done incorrectly it can backfire and give consumers a less-than-positive impression of the brand. It’s vital to make sure the consumer data collection creates as little friction to their experience as possible. For example, surveys that take too long will create a high percentage of abandonment, lowering the quality of your data overall. It’s important to collect data but you should always build your program with consumer experience in mind (which should be part of the goal-setting process). This is obviously important for the current year’s activations, but if there are long bottlenecks and a poor consumer experience, it could affect attendance in future years.

What are the largest hurdles for brands adopting a data-driven approach?

The biggest hurdles are three-fold.

  1. First, as I’ve already mentioned, brands need to be smarter about data consistency. Too many marketers who manage national or global programs have gaps in their data or inconsistent methods of defining and collecting it; leading to errors interpreting data across events. My recommendation would be to start with a clearly defined base of metrics and goals that span before, at, and after your events.
  2. Secondly, brands have a wealth of tools at their disposal, but most aren’t aware they even exist. In some peoples’ minds, Experiential can’t have the same data-driven insights they get from digital, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Brands need to explore the tools they could deploy across their events and within their operations. For example, eShots offers a complete suite of Marketing Sciences products that offer advanced data-analysis tools. This includes features like Sales Matching, Industry Benchmarking, Cross-tab Analysis, Lead Profiling, Lead Indexing and more. It’s vital to know what tools are available in the market and to begin using them to understand what could provide real benefits to Experiential.
  3. Thirdly, make sure that your data measurement is consistent, constant and ongoing. There are many metrics that can’t be finalized at a single finite point after the event. For example, if you’re an auto manufacturer, you experience a long-tail sales process. You need to re-evaluate your sales match for up to 12 months to understand if the consumer you met at the Chicago Auto Show eventually converted and became a consumer. Simply checking once or twice after the event won’t give you accurate insights.

Want to learn more about how data-driven experiential marketing can increase your event programs ROI? Download our free white paper now.

For more information about improving your event ROI visit www.eshots.com 

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