by Scott Kellner | March 19, 2018

Scott Kellner, vice president of marketing for George P. JohnsonEvent organizers are constantly looking for ways to measure the impact of their programs. Whether it's increased brand affinity, accelerating the sales cycle, identifying new audience segments or understanding which activation elements resonate the most, there's a real desire in the experiential-marketing and events industry for actionable analytics.

Measure properly
The process should begin with an alignment of overall business goals and what's possible to achieve at an event or experience. A comprehensive plan for effective measurability starts with cross-departmental communication among the sales, marketing, product and service teams. It's during the planning phase when identification of goals and accountability for achievement is set in motion. Professional event and experience agencies can provide time-tested ways of doing this.

But that's where it gets tricky. The solution most brands have relied on is a combination of "point-solution" measurements such as registration numbers, session attendance, mobile app usage, interaction with digital touchpoints and geo-tracking mechanisms like radio frequency identification (RFID) and near-field communications. The problem is that each of those solutions generates its own data, which usually end up in individual data silos never to be examined and never leveraged.

Therefore, achieving actionable results means having a comprehensive approach to determine three key factors:
• What to measure
• How to measure
• How to interpret the data you've generated

Personalization for authenticity
While broad audience segmentation is a useful place to start, it's not the end goal. To create a true sense of authenticity, brands must find ways to interact with individuals, not demographics or psychographics.

Most people expect a personalized approach. In many cases they're willing to provide you, the brand, with information about them if you're going to create a more meaningful and useful experience for them. Don't ask for their private information and fail to give them an experience that makes them feel as though you're considering their individual needs.

To achieve a more personalized approach, the proper use of data, both existing and that which is generated in real time, must be engineered. Brands need to ensure they're working with agency partners who know how to leverage data in this way, understand the media through which it can be delivered, and can shape the experience in way that feels helpful, not intrusive. This can be done at all points of an activation: prior, during and post. Attendees should get a sense that the brand cares about them as individuals by acknowledging their preferences and curating an experience that's constantly being updated based on attendee actions.

Design plans that include future analytics
Using existing data properly to create personalized experiences is complicated, but it can become worse if there is not a plan in place to use both existing and newly created data to achieve the business outcomes demanded by sales, marketing and product teams.

To achieve this, the overall data plan designed for ROI must include an integration strategy within each organization. The idea is to make the analytics actionable by ensuring the new data can be used to inform other marketing activities for sales-cycle acceleration, to provide sales management with new insights for better relationships, and to create audience sub-segmentation awareness to help product teams with design and launch (to name just a few).

That requires a deep understanding of systems integration, data warehousing and strategy. And that's a tall technology order, but a company's event or experiential agency should provide those services in partnership with the company's IT department. Such dual expertise in creative strategy and data analytics will no doubt soon become the norm -- but for now, it can still be a competitive edge for those willing to invest. And it's a crucial component for providing a complete perspective on event and marketing ROI.

Scott Kellner is vice president, marketing, for George P. Johnson Experience Marketing, with offices around the globe.