Why data makes the difference

A good database is the foundation of successful event marketing. Simply put, 20% better data will mean 20% more delegates. As long as it’s the right data!

With email and telemarketing still the core of most event marketing campaigns, being able to reach your target audience by email – the main channel relying on of a strong database – is crucial to success.

A prime example of this comes from a publisher we have been working with over the past three years on eight of their events in Europe, the US and Asia. We have added 70,000 records to their database – focused on their target audience. This resulted in an additional £1m+ delegate revenue and an ROI of over 500%. Many event organisers don’t invest enough in the development and management of their database. Here are the most common mistakes we see in events businesses, and how you can avoid them!

1. Not enough data or the wrong data

As a benchmark, for every attendee you want to attract to an free to attend event, you need you need to reach 50 of the right people. For paid for events, it’s 100 for every one delegate. So, for an event targeting 100 paying delegates, you need to reach 10,000 of the right people – repeatedly. The best way to ensure you achieve this reach, is to have these people on your database!

The composition of the database also needs to match your preferred target audience – if you want 20% CFOs in the room, then 20% of your database need to be CFOs – in the right type of organisation and the right geography.

Check how closely your database matches your target audience and then be prepared to fill in the gaps (see below for how).

2. Data not in one place

All your data must be in one system. This doesn’t have to be an expensive system like Salesforce. If you do not do direct mail or telesales this could be an email system like Mailchimp, or if you do a multichannel campaign it could be something like the free CRM from Hubspot. Any CRM that you use should be integrated with your marketing automation/email marketing system to ensure your communications are all joined up across all your channels. It’s no good having data in various excel sheets or disconnected systems. If this is the case, you can’t develop a strong database, track permissions (for compliance) or run targeted marketing campaigns.

3. Neglecting organic data build

Those who engage with content on your website are likely to be the most engaged prospects. But many organisers don’t build the required elements in to their event websites to capture the details of these. It is important to have a well optimised event website with plenty of interesting content, all year round. This website should include a number of forms for potential customers to enquire about the event, register their interest or download a PDF of relevant information. The data captured from these form completions should feed in to your database in real time.
A year-round programme to optimise your website for form completions should generate organic data adding 5-10% of your total database , with these contacts being the most responsive and likely to convert to delegates.

4. Buying data in bulk

‘Buying lists’ from list brokers the old fashioned way is a definite no-no these days! This data is likely to perform very poorly as it is over-sold and over-used by a large number of buyers. Data may not be clean or up to date, the permissions may be patchy (if at all considered), and you will not get the response rates you want. If you need a large amount of data in a hurry, it’s better to purchase a subscription to a modern database or lead generation provider like Cognism. But always do targeted research for your core, most important target audience.

5. Not researching data properly

If you have gaps in segments of your data, you may need to use third parties to research this for you. This can be highly productive, but it is essential to brief the agency thoroughly, ask for a data sample, and then monitor the research process extremely closely. Take a long-term view – you can often get your data investment back in the first year, but the real value is in the second and third year, when you should get up to 400% ROI.

6. Lack of categorisation

If your database is not properly aligned with your audience segmentation, then you will have to send out messaging that may not be very relevant to a large number of people – resulting in a high number of unsubscribes. On your CRM, you will need to be able to tag records to align with different segments. This will allow you to send more targeted and relevant campaigns.

7. Not planning data in advance

Data can’t be a last-minute fix. It can take months to identify gaps in data and then research to fill in the gaps, clean data and plan your campaign. If you plan to use media partnerships to reach specific sectors, these are likely to also take months to set up.

8. Lack of skilled people

Managing data is a skilled discipline – it requires experience in managing data research firms, working with database providers and knowing how the data needs to be structured in within your marketing tech stack. Plus you need very strong attention to detail. Good data marketers can think strategically and are highly analytical. Many marketing teams lack these skills.

9. Not tracking engagement

Watch your email analytics to check the quality of the data you have. You should have over 97% deliverability. Open rates should be 15%+, click through rates should be 1.5%+ and click to open rates should be 8%+. If they are lower the data might be poor quality.

Limit emails to any individual to no more than twice a week, even if for different events. If you run multiple events, you need to have a single database and co-ordinate activity across campaigns.

10. Misdirected compliance efforts

Many publishers focused their GDPR efforts on the datasets they are using for email marketing, in particular attempting to collect consent from all of the people they wanted to email. The reality is that GDPR itself did not change the rules about who can be emailed with or without opt-in (there are separate pieces of regulation in each EU member state that define that). In B2B markets, depending on the country, prior opt-in is not always required for email, so attempting to collect it for all contacts before contacting them is likely to be overly cautious and is likely to kill your marketing effectiveness, especially for events that require large datasets in niche markets.

But do keep an eye on current regulations and any possible future changes to ensure you don’t fall foul of the law for countries where consent or opt-in is required and where it is required, do ensure that you are collecting and recording it in the correct way. These considerations should be built in to how your database is configured and managed, and a specialist with the required compliance knowledge is essential in getting this set up correctly.

If you are an events business leader, these are the questions you should be asking your head of marketing:

  • How many relevant records do we have on our database for marketing our event(s)? Do we have enough based on our event targets?
  • How clean and up to date are our database records, especially those most important to us? Can we do targeted messaging based on how the data can be segmented in our database? What segments can we identify?
  • Is our website set up to capture good new names to add to the database, with the right permissions?
  • Do we use a research firm to collect data in most important audience groups?
  • Do we have access to a database provider to find large volumes of data fast?
  • Do we have the required skills and resources inhouse to manage our database well?
  • What is our plan to invest in improving our database?

Data quality is far more important than choice of CRM. You can use a basic, free CRM and still get good results if you have a large enough, clean, well segmented database.

We have worked with many event organisers on their marketing databases – and have always found that time invested on cleaning up, expanding and structuring the database well has always delivered a strong ROI!

About the author

Magda has been working within the databases of the world’s leading B2B conferences and exhibitions for over 5 years. A trained expert on data privacy and compliance, including GDPR, her deep expertise is highly valued by MPG, AGNC and our clients.

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