Marketing Spin: How to fool your CFO and protect your event budget

This is a true story of a well-executed event gone awry. As you’ve seen in previous posts, we spend a lot of time trying to understand event goals with our new customers and driving down to metrics that are actionable. Usually this is easy for B2B lead generation efforts; where companies invest in an event to grab the attention of attendees that fit their ideal demographic, so they can show them new products and services to generate new sales opportunities. One customer (who graciously let us tell the story, but only anonymously for good reason) recently spent over $200k to roll out a large exhibit to do a new product roll-out, with engaging content and demos, coupled with several hours of bar time. Overall, it was a "Best in Class" presentation of their brand as an experience. The demographics were ideal and the goal was simple; generating 200+ new opportunities aka attendees that left their exhibit with a renewed interest in buying their new products and services. What happened? 2000 attendees were scored, 4000 drink tickets were given away, 3 iPads were awarded, and… only 25 attendees left with a renewed interest and distinct follow-up interest. They essentially ended up throwing a great party, which isn't a problem, if that was your success measure. Obviously, our customer was crushed by the results and immediately started to change their executive debrief to package a good story:

"Look at how many Directors and C Level people were in out booth!" "Look at how many Fortune 500 Companies were represented!"

Can measurement be bad? Of course not, but in this case, our customer thought so. In reality, these metrics will be a tremendous value as an input to adjusting their strategy the next year. At least now, they can start to evaluate the following:

  1. Perhaps their party overwhelmed their product announcement.
  2. Spend less to get the same results
  3. Perhaps the booth workers were a distraction versus traffic driver.
  4. What value can they leverage these 2000 attendees through effective nurturing?

Regarding that last point, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from marketers who have built elaborate campaigns with unqualified names (the 1,975 party attendees) using Marketing Automation. Perhaps I'll post on this topic next. I can tell you this, had this data not been available, they may very well have gone bigger by giving away more iPads and bringing in more booth incentives. This is every CFO’s nightmare and one of the reasons many marketing budgets are first to be cut. Who would you rather have as your event marketing leader; one who is covering or hiding their bases or one who is willing to admit their failures and adjust to improve results?