Cracking the Code to Event Sponsorship ROI: The Authentic CMO Checklist

Align goals with measurable outcomes at every stage of planning, delivery, and post-event optimization.

You’ve invested in an event sponsorship, but how do you measure the impact? Here is guidance for how to match your goals to measurable outcomes at all stages of events, from planning to delivery to post-event optimization of impact.

Assessing Investment Impact

  1. Define goals for events in general to align on expectations.

To define the right measurements, it’s essential to start with why you are sponsoring events in general. Even when you are still evaluating which events to sponsor, knowing what your goals are will help you make the right choice of portfolio based on the events best suited to deliver what you need. Clearly stating what outcomes you want will also help ensure that all internal stakeholders are aligned on expectations.

This can include categories like brand and market awareness, demand creation with a specific audience, engagement with existing customers and new prospects at different buying stages, customer retention and advocacy, and insights about market dynamics and competitors.

Action: Make a list of what impact you want events to deliver in general, including who you expect to reach through the event and any other key objectives you have. Review this with relevant internal stakeholders to gain agreement or identify where there is misalignment or expectations that may be difficult to achieve.

  1. Define goals for specific events to choose the best fit portfolio for your goals.

As you review various events to find those most likely to reach your goals, start with your overall list, then refine it based on what a given individual event can deliver. Different types of events lend themselves to different types of impact. For example, a roadshow with an expert speaking at smaller venues over dinners in a few cities helps more with pipeline progression and customer retention. Larger industry events help more with general market awareness and top-of-funnel demand creation. Consider your goals and match your objectives for a specific event to what it is designed to achieve, the experience it will deliver, and the audience it will attract.

Action: Group event options by type, then define expectations for what you need them to deliver. Narrow down your choices based on how critical a role each type of event can play and what level of investment you can make. Ask event organizers how other sponsors have reached similar goals, and what they had to invest in to make it work.

  1. Define a process for capturing data and reporting on progress toward goals.

Once you have defined overall and event-specific goals, define formats for sharing progress for each key internal audience. You’ll need a summary view for leadership, an actionable view for sellers and others helping to recruit delegates, and one for the events team that tracks all aspects of event performance. Events teams need real-time insight, while sales teams benefit from weekly updates. Leadership teams are likely comfortable with a monthly update but could request more frequent information based on the level of investment and connection to strategic objectives.

Action: Decide what KPIs to evaluate based on objectives and expectations for the event. Choose reporting cadence and work with stakeholders to agree on the most successful formats to use. Finally, agree on the best way to share with your leadership team and other internal stakeholders. Some companies find that email is acceptable, while others provide updates in a collaboration platform like Teams or Chat. Some leverage video to provide some commentary along with the data, while others prefer to communicate in live meetings.

  1. Choose measures to track based on goals for events in general, and specific events you’ve invested in for the year.

Events measurements can cover the following categories. Choose from this list to build your own set based on your objectives. The right combination of insights, all related back to your objectives, will build a complete picture of return on investment (ROI) and how to do even better at your next event.

Attendance and Engagement Metrics

  • Number of attendees: Measure total number of attendees compared to target audience goals to understand event reach and appeal to your target audience.
  • Engagement (before and at event): Monitor metrics such as session attendance, booth visits, downloaded resources, and interactions with speakers to gauge attendee engagement. Post-event surveys can supplement data, and event session preregistrations can help you understand how well the content topics are received.
  • Customer vs. prospect attendance: Is the event appealing to both current and prospective customers if part of the goal is customer retention, expansion, or advocacy?
  • Participation in special sessions/outside events: If you are sponsoring special sessions, such as case studies, lunch and learns, dinners, or other social events, are you getting the audience you want to sign up? Also track registration vs. participation for these extra sessions, including cost per person, to gauge ROI against your goals.

Awareness, Social Media, Online Presence, and Content Engagement

  • Social media metrics: Monitor mentions, hashtags, and engagement on social media platforms to understand the event’s online reach and impact.
  • Website traffic: Analyze whether the event led to increased website traffic, which indicates interest generated from the event. How many of those new visitors took a next action to engage?
  • Influencer and media engagement: Events can offer an opportunity to tie significant announcements and launches to a broad media outreach. This amplifies your message and reach into the outlets that can help share your news on a wider scale. Track media engagement and mentions if you pursue this objective.
  • Analyst engagement: Sponsors for events often have an opportunity to encourage prospects and customers to take advantage of meetings with experts, such as the one-on-one interactions many analyst firms offer to delegates. This complementary expert advice is an added value to their relationship with you, made even better if you make the introduction with some context about what topic or areas of advice would be most valuable. Your executives and product leaders also have a chance to engage experts and analysts at the event and get their real-time feedback on your offerings, raising awareness and keeping your company top of mind. While this one is harder to measure, it is a positive outcome that should be considered from a qualitative perspective.
  • Resource downloads: Track the number of resources downloaded, such as white papers, case studies, and presentations, to gauge the relevance of the content provided.
  • New partnerships: Track whether the event facilitated new partnerships, collaborations, or alliances within your industry. Ask the sponsoring company for suggestions of who they believe you should meet among the other sponsors.
  • Media coverage: Measure the amount and tone of media coverage before and after the event to gauge impact on brand awareness and perception.

Demand Creation and Conversion

  • Qualified contacts: Measure the number of new contacts generated during the event, and assess their quality based on criteria such as job title, company size, and industry relevance. Are you attracting your ideal customer profile in terms of target accounts and roles? We are suggesting the use of the term “qualified contact” and not “lead” because the people you meet at an event are generally not yet able to be qualified as true leads. Instead, you should evaluate whether the contacts you engage are a match for the audience you typically see become associated with opportunities.
  • Qualified contacts in target accounts: Related to tracking an overall number of qualified contacts is tracking what percentage of these contacts come from your specific target account list. Have a plan for what to do with contacts who are not part of a target account.
  • Contact revenue influence: Whileit’s traditional to compare the cost of the event to the number of qualified leads generated to assess the efficiency of your investment, this isn’t the best way to evaluate event ROI, and it is critical for marketing leaders to re-frame this view. Instead of cost per lead, pay attention to the influence of the event on new and existing opportunities to see if they are more likely to close in general, close faster, or close for a higher average selling price. Especially when you have a well-defined target market, influence is the measure that works best. Also look at the total influenced revenue vs. the investment for the event. Often it takes just one closed deal to cover the investment. Help the business keep event investment in context.
  • Contact follow-up: Track speed and effectiveness of post-event contact follow-up and conversion into opportunities and revenue. Are contacts associated with existing in-flight opportunities or renewals? Are you able to convert contacts into active demand? How do these contacts convert differently than those from other sources? How quickly can a sales or SDR team take action to engage these contacts, and do they turn into a first sales meeting if they are new to you?
  • Pipeline and revenue influence: Calculate how much pipeline and revenue can be attributed to the event, considering deals closed as a direct result of interactions during the event. Remember that looking at the impact of existing opportunities and contacts, and creating new ones are both meaningful event ROI contributions. Look at how opportunities that had one or more contacts participate in each event behave differently. For example, do they close faster, or have a higher average selling price? Do some events do better than others?
  • Retention influence: Similar to looking at new revenue, consider how events impact customers who attend. Are they more likely to renew or expand their spend with you? Are they more likely to adopt a new offering because they learned about it at an event? Are they more likely serve as an advocate after having time with your team and experts they were able to meet at an event? Look at the influence of events on cross-sell or upsell revenue and overall retention to get a complete picture of ROI.

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