How to Data Mine Your Event

Preparing your post-conference report is time-consuming, but closing the books on your event is the best move you can make to start building (and improving) the next one. Technology has made the task easier: There are post-con forms online; companies that provide event management systems; and Google Analytics for those comfortable creating their own customized reports. Standard reports include financials, evaluations and attendee numbers—probably the first things management will look at. But one component often overlooked or undervalued is marketing data, which you probably have in your own files. If not, there are several digital solutions tailored to meeting planners. Most likely, you have valuable profile information on your attendees. Maybe you’ve been putting all your attendee contact information in an Excel spreadsheet and then forgetting to look at it again. If so, you are overlooking a gold mine. You can capture emails and quickly sort them into files for various users and preferences. Faith-based events often draw diverse groups and can benefit from targeted marketing campaigns. Email addresses also can be used to connect with people on social media and to get them to opt-in for future marketing. Ask about their preferences and where to connect with them to better target your marketing the next time around. Surveys also should include questions on which social media sites they use. You’ll not only collect valuable information, you’ll also give them ownership and make them feel part of the process. You can use their answers to improve your marketing efforts and tell them what you changed as a result of their feedback. SurveyMonkey offers free online survey software, and management companies like SignUp4 offer a host of solutions tailored to meetings. You’ll also want to collect data on visits to your event website, social media impressions and any other measurable touchpoints to see where your audience gravitates. Have you used any special incentives, coupons or asked your attendees to check in on Foursquare? Research the benefits and drawbacks of different marketing tools to find an effective mix for your events. Your goal is to find what works for your audience and how to integrate the various tools. What led some campaigns to succeed and others to fall short? Remember, too, that savvy customers now view themselves as explorers and researchers, and enjoy hunting around for the information they want, when they want it. You can tap into their experience and community spirit by involving them in your marketing. Invite post-con stories that can be shared with potential and returning attendees. Create interaction between customers and suppliers or sponsors. And, while you’re at it, examine drivers of immediate and ongoing word of mouth. Documenting and evaluating both traditional and digital marketing methods is critical for crafting your marketing strategy for next year. A comprehensive program incorporates sampling, personal experiences, digital and offline targeted communication. Collecting publicity materials, photographs, press clippings, magazine articles and a list of any reporters in attendance to include in your report is important, but you need to dig deeper to present a complete evaluation of your marketing efforts. A checklist of the most important items to review when evaluating your marketing data and results, as well as the functionality of your current tools, will provide a method of what to look for and how to know what is and is not working. This should be an important part of your post-con report. The complete report reflects your overall meeting strategy, creates the history you’ll need for negotiations and provides a blueprint for future meetings.