Corporate events have been a vital marketing channel, particularly for B2B enterprises, for decades now. Live events, including conferences and trade shows, remain one of the top lead generation sources for B2B marketers.
Here are three ways to capture much more extensive, richer, and more valuable data from attendees at your next corporate event. All of this information will be useful to the company in some aspect (marketing, sales, support, product development, etc.). Some of the information will be shared with and useful to individual event or session speakers as well.
For all but the shortest, simplest events, the event credential (badge or wristband) will incorporate either a QR code or an embedded RFID chip. Both store data about the attendee and can be scanned by reader hardware at various points and for various purposes throughout the event.
QR codes and RFID chips each have their relative advantages and disadvantages. QR codes are less expensive to implement and can be read natively by most mobile phones, so there’s no need for special reader hardware. However, they are slower to use and can be difficult to read in low-light conditions.
RFID technology is a bigger investment but is also more secure. RFID chips are read based on proximity using near-field communication (NFC) technology rather than visual recognition, so they are fast to scan and usable in any lighting conditions. In addition, they enable you to passively collect data both on individual attendee actions as well as broader traffic flow. One example is seeing whether certain areas had large number of attendees passing through at specific times, using the long-range scanning capabilities of RFID.
Credentials incorporating RFID technology let you easily track individual attendee activity on a granular level, such as which sessions the person attended and which booths or stations he or she visited.
Online registration forms present somewhat of a conundrum for event marketing professionals. Either you ask for too much information and you run the risk of people leaving fields blank or ask for too little and you not only miss an opportunity to learn more about your event attendees, you may even end up with unusable data. One example is if your CRM system requires a zip code to be associated with each contact record, and your form doesn’t ask for the attendee’s zip code, you’ve got yourself a problem.
Consider what other data might be helpful to collect (e.g., company size, industry, number of office locations) but don’t over-do it. Some of this data can be collected later or through other means. Get all of the information you need and maybe a bit of what you want via the registration form, but keep it as short and feasible as possible.
Social Media Monitoring
Social media has become a critical component of event management and marketing, helping sponsors and attendees form communities around events. Through social media, those attending the event become active participants rather than just passive spectators.
First, make your event’s social media presence easy and obvious. Include your event hashtag on signage, presentation slides, and other event materials. Ask attendees to comment on your event Facebook page.
Second, look for opportunities to incorporate social media into event activities. For example, set up a digital photo booth where attendees can take selfies together and instantly share the images on Twitter or Instagram, by correlating their event credential with their social media accounts and including the event hashtag.
Third, at bigger events, have a large display screen set up that shows event-related tweets in real time.
Finally, have a plan in place to capture and use the social media data collected. Who was most enthusiastic? Which sessions or activities generated the most social engagement? Were there any complaints? (And if so, can you deal with them immediately?)
Pulling it All Together
Effectively collecting and using all of this data in a marketing context requires using a mix of special-purpose apps and broader event management tools to tie all of the information together and integrate with your marketing automation or CRM platform.
At larger events, it may be worthwhile to evaluate using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze the data collected. Per Mark Granosvky, “AI can be used to streamline the sheer volume of data generated by your events. When every visitor has a smart badge and every exhibitor has a lead capture device, the data on entry, exit, revisit, pre, post, dwell times, text opens, no shows, retweets, links and seminar attendance can get overwhelming. This is where AI—and IBM Watson in particular—can help you create real-time rules that let only the best data ‘get through’ so that you can make faster decisions using the most relevant information.”
By implementing the proper tools, technologies, and techniques to gather and act on this data, marketing professionals can realize a much larger return on their event marketing investments. Event marketing is expensive. The cost is usually justified in terms of basic measures like lead generation or customer retention.