Get a few dozen – heck, a few hundred – prospects and/or current clients in a room.

Feed them well. Given them intermission full of fancy bottled water and treats.

Make your pitch. Then open the bar.

There are fewer more traditional ways to market than events, and there’s no way perhaps more clung to in the B2B marketing world. About one-third — the biggest chunk — of your average marketing budget still goes to events.

Stone Age Marketing?

That’s the estimate cited by Lawrence Coburn, CEO of DoubleDutch, who doesn’t sound impressed by it. It’s a lot of money spent on a form of marketing “heavily rooted in the Stone Age,” as he put it, meaning reliant on anecdotes and hunches.

“Event marketing is increasingly on an island. While the rest of the marketing world — primarily digital — is aggressively embracing concepts like targeting, measurement and optimization,” he said.

Lawrence Coburn
Don’t get him wrong. Coburn believes that “events drive people faster through the funnel — any funnel (sales, learning, networking, etc.) — because of the face-to-face interaction.”

He just sees the trends of measurement and segmentation marching straight toward the event marketing world, no matter how successful event marketing may seem and sated its budgets are.

And Coburn appears right that data and analysis are not too closely on the minds of event marketers. In the 2015 Cvent Global Event Industry Benchmarks Study, the top three metrics that event marketers use to measure their success were reported as: revenues from registration, revenues from sponsorships and number of new leads.

Hardly 21st century algorithms. A Control+F for “data” in the report didn’t turn up any findings.

Subjective Measurements

The Event Marketing Institute’s 2015 report says much of the same.

About 79 percent of marketers are measuring their event and experiential programs — an amazing 21 percent are not — but what are they measuring for? Marketers announced they were measuring success by total attendance figures, leads and social media activity.

With that latter metric, perhaps there is hope.

The State of the B2B Event Marketing report from Regalix bolsters it a bit. Beyond lead generation and sales figures, registration and attendance, the respondents at least said they measured ROI in terms of social media reach and positive customer attitude toward brand. A little math seems involved in that, perhaps even fueling future decision-making around event marketing.

Real Time Insights

But what Coburn is talking about is a step ahead of that: collecting data at an event, analyzing it and applying it in real time as the event is still taking place.

“With insights that demonstrate what content is resonating, event marketers have the ability to pull the right triggers (leveraging promoted posts, push notifications and more) at the right time, and delivered to the right people,” he said.

In other words, event marketers can know what content is working, what speakers need a bigger venue.

Coburn cited one recent example where a client spent $75,000 to bring in a super-duper keynote speaker, but real-time data showed that 20 free speakers at the event scored higher in terms of impact. No need to pay that high-priced speaker next year.

Another benefit: Data collected through event management platforms could also then be fed into the greater pot of customer data, informing all other channels and approaches. (Disclosure: DoubleDutch is such a live engagement platform. And last August, it got a $45 million round of growth financing to, at least in part, improve near real time event performance analytics for event organizers on the back end, complete with sentiment analysis and engagement benchmarks.)

Self-interests on Coburn’s part or not to promote smarter event marketing, data is not going away, as much as events will never go away.

“Digital, measurable marketing is continuing its relentless march through the marketing org; not even live events are safe,” he said.