All data big and small – and how to collect it from your next event

December 17, 2017

We know that data capture before, during and after an exhibition is vital.

Regrettably, many businesses don’t prioritise the activity. It seems this is because they underestimate its value, or because they lack the confidence, skills and tools needed for effective data collection.

Maximising ROI is a pillar of an exhibition’s success and is key to ensuring recurring events. Data collection should, therefore, be a priority for your next exhibition.

Today I want to outline four main benefits of the practice, plus talk about six specific tactics to use when collecting this business-critical event data.

Why should you collect data?  

Here are the four most cited reasons for collecting data.

1. It turns visitors into revenue: It goes without saying that the vast majority of event ROI comes from converted leads after the event. The start of that process is visitor data. If your marketing teams don’t collect it, they can’t contact customers afterwards – hence lead follow-up being difficult for many companies. The issue is lack of an efficient, standardised process with which to integrate, sort and prioritise leads. Without that, allocation to the appropriate channels to maximise conversion is impossible, and the data is lost in the no-man’s land between siloes.

2. It informs future activity: Every exhibition is an opportunity to refine an approach based on prior experience. Effective post-event analysis is impossible without robust data, robbing you of insight into where and how to improve activities. Data gives you critical understanding, such as which types of visitors were attracted to your stand and how long they spent there. This allows your marketing teams to tailor their approach and improve the attendee experience next time – vital for improving brand equity.

Every exhibition is an opportunity to refine an approach based on prior experience.

3. It builds a business case for investment: Dubai has, of course, targeted events – and events tourism – since the 1990s. It has achieved a strong, positive overall brand image and continued investment has led to stiff competition within a crowded market. This makes justifying spend a primary challenge and UAE marketing teams are under increasing pressure. How to define success without metrics? Without hard data, ROI is not demonstrable. Data is instrumental in building a business case to justify the budget needed for the next event cycle.

4. It builds prospect profiles: Most organisations use prospect profiles to inform their sales and marketing. These profiles are commonly incomplete, remaining as figments of our educated imagination until we flesh them out with real insight from real-life customers. That’s the big opportunity with exhibiting. CEIR research shows us that 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority and that 78% travel over 400 miles to attend events. What does this tell us? Prospect profile data is rich, dense and of a global nature.

Exhibiting means your team gets immediate insight into your real-life customers at a strategic, decision-making level. If a rigorous and robust data collection process can be demonstrated, solid expectations of excellent ROI levels can be argued.

Which data should you collect, and how? 

Many businesses we speak to find data collection confusing and complex. This puts them off taking meaningful steps to take control of their data. With this reticence in mind, let’s look at six pieces of practical advice to deal with this issue.

1. Collect traffic insight with digital beacons: Booth traffic is a frequently undervalued metric. Traffic holds an important place at the top of your funnel – more visitors mean more conversion opportunity. So, how do you track visitor numbers? Digital beacon devices are suitable and effective for the UAE event environment. These can include similar location-based devices such as RFID badges, GPS and NFC tags. All these devices, of course, rely on connecting with users via their smartphones. Users have to opt-in, but once they have you can collect invaluable insights including foot traffic statistics and average time at your stand.

Engagement can also be improved through content. As holds true universally in the practice, offering genuine value with no obligation is key. Video is an excellent option. The principle is two-fold: Experience is improved, and real-time insight is captured.

2. Understand reach and impact with social media: An Event Marketing study found companies that have high confidence in their viral impact generate over 450% more social interactions than their peers. Social media remains a profitable means with which to drive event engagement and increase reach throughout the event cycle. Interactions can be tracked with a consistent event hashtag and social media mentions monitored. Ensure your social dashboard integrates easily into your CRM, so customer data is used in the wider context of your business.

A warning: A common trap is that of putting too much emphasis on vanity metrics. Follower growth and social likes are positive, but they don’t paint the whole picture of ROI. Combine these with metrics like long-term engagement increase to get a genuine understanding of event impact.

A common trap is that of putting too much emphasis on vanity metrics. Follower growth and social likes are positive, but they don’t paint the whole picture of ROI.

3. Gain qualitative insight with polls and surveys: Qualitative insight should be prioritised within the data-mix you collect, especially to measure soft goals such as brand awareness or visitor experience. Polls and surveys are the best way to gather this information. Consider including iPads or touch screens in your booth to deliver surveys. Or, if RFID or beacon technology is used, a short survey could be part of the unique content delivered to smartphones. A dedicated mobile landing page for users to visit – linked to a QR code on your stand – may also prove fruitful. Engagement post-event should never be neglected but is doubly important in these scenarios. Short surveys are appropriate for this.

4. Collect visitor contact information with event apps: Paper-based data collection of visitor details is an inefficient practice that is nevertheless used to this day. Mobile event apps simplify and speed up this process. Data can be integrated straight to your CRM, enabling prompt follow-up that also builds profiles and refreshes information. Event hosting apps offer value through convenience for attendees, with real-time updates on subjects such as start times and room changes made easily available. For attendees, that’s a valuable source of information right at their fingertips, improving their visitor experience significantly.

The organisation is rewarded with real-time insight into various real-time metrics. Information is gathered on where visitors have checked in, which speakers they’ve engaged with most heavily and which booths they’ve visited. These are all signals of interest that describe lead quality. Understanding these signals allows better lead prioritisation – vital for effective, efficient follow-up marketing.

5. Acquire commercial insight via product demos: Aforementioned CEIR research also found that 91% of event attendees agree that conventions, shows and conferences are essential to evaluate products and compare suppliers. These needs cannot be overlooked.

Product demos are a fantastic opportunity for behavioural research – a direct line into the heart of your customer base. Companies invest millions into market and product research but frequently fail to recognise exhibitions as an in-built focus group opportunity.

Companies invest millions into market and product research but frequently fail to recognise exhibitions as an in-built focus group opportunity.

A return, then, to the content marketing mantra: provide genuine value.

Consider arranging product or prototype demos with which to collect data about how visitors interact with them. This could be the perfect opportunity to A/B test different features and identify sticking points in the user experience. Quantitative and qualitative data can also be gathered through usage statistics as well as surveys.

6. Understand and encourage engagement with exciting tech: Innovative technology is popular because it ticks so many boxes for exhibitors. It attracts visitors, drives engagement and creates a memorable experience. This builds brand equity and awareness and encourages PR coverage. Identifying a format suitable for your products and services is important. Virtual reality is enduringly popular, but other options such as motion recognition and projection mapping may effectively entice attendees.

You could gain access to these technologies with a data collection form, or combine these technologies with gamification to increase engagement. Examples include a VR game where users can compete for prizes – after having entered their details to play.

Take control of your data, take control of your event ROI

Data collection should be a major priority at your next event.

Consistent and rigorous practices will maximise returns from the channel and ensure your continued success for the future. Incorporate these six tactics into your next event, show or exhibition to take control over your data – and your event ROI.