Missing the Moment: The Post Event Problem

Missing the Moment: The Post Event Problem

July 2019 | Digital Marketing

Everyone knows that attendee follow-up should happen as soon as an event is over, but too few marketers do so in practice. A change of priorities is needed.

So, you've just got back to the office after managing a brilliantly successful event. It could be the annual customer conference, it could be a small breakfast seminar, or it could be an industry tradeshow. Now you need to hand over to Sales all the hot leads you collected and send out the post-event comms to attendees and no-shows. It doesn't matter how big or small the event is, the challenge is always the same: you need to deal with all the post-event admin whilst juggling the rest of the to do list that you neglected in the build-up to the big day. All that changes is how much else there is to do because all those other things you put off during the build-up are now super urgent as a result. Something has to slip down the priority list, and inevitably that something will be the attendee lead upload and event follow up email, even though you know it really shouldn't.

On paper, post-event marketing activities should be easy. Actually running the event is the hard part; yet organising timely and targeted event follow up is a challenge for everybody. Few marketing teams do it well, in large part because it is a surprisingly manual process in a digital world with ubiquitous mobile devices. There is plenty of technology out there to automate events from dedicated apps to bullet point features in systems that the typical marketing department already has, such as marketing automation and CRM platforms. Everyone has heard of Cvent, who dominate the market for organising large scale events. At a smaller scale, event campaigns are the most common use of marketing automation across a wide range of organisations.

All of these technologies can create a great registration experience for customers and prospects when they sign-up to attend, but what happens when that person turns up on-site tends to be an afterthought. Despite the proliferation of mobile apps designed to help with the check-in process, too many on-the-day registration desks are run from spreadsheets, particularly if its a simple seminar without the need for attendee badges. If the on-site team are lucky with the Wi-Fi, then that registration list might be a Google Sheet or cloud-hosted Excel document syncing updates back to HQ in real time. This at least ensures that one of the biggest delays in post-event marketing activities is avoided. In some cases, it can take days for the finalised attendee list to make its way into the hands of marketing operations for uploading into marketing automation or CRM. Although third parties are often at fault for this. Those events which still distribute attendee lists to sponsors, often only send them out a day or two afterwards. By this time, sales have probably already started following up the hottest leads they got, bypassing the attendee upload to CRM resulting inevitably in duplicate leads and potentially duplicate sales follow-up.

For enterprise marketing teams running a lot of small scale events, there are plenty of mobile lead capture apps designed either for recording the details of stand visitors at tradeshows or checking off visitors as they turn up at hosted events. Apps such as Zuant and atEvent scan event badges or business cards using off the shelf Apple or Android mobile devices, and sync the resulting contact details to marketing automation or CRM systems in the cloud. This isn't a 100% reliable technology but is improving all the time. Where it does fail, the apps can capture details through in-app forms that supplement the business card scanning capability and can be used to additionally capture information such as opt-ins, follow up requests or conversation notes.

The end result is leads flowing into marketing automation in real time enabling instant attendee engagement emails to be sent even while the event is in progress, as well as pre-scheduled thank you for attending emails as soon as the event ends. This is even before the standard thank you email with presentations or session recordings is considered. Follow up emails always get much higher levels of engagement than any other type of email communications, purely because they're directly related to a previous interaction. Any delay between the end of the event and sending the follow up reduces their impact, so it's essential to send the email as soon as possible with relevant messaging and next stage content. Yet, all too often they drip out a week later, long after any interest generated by the event has died down.

This does require a degree of organisation that rarely actually happens for in-person events, but should be aspired too. In most cases, the drafting of a post-event email copy doesn't happen until after the fact. This is mostly down to marketing teams simply not thinking about post-event activity until too late, generally at a point when there are more important preparations to be made. Even where speaker permission to distribute presentations and recordings is required, there is no reason why the relevant event presentations page and email communications can't be drafted at the same time as the invites and registration process, with the missing content added in later once it is available. This at least minimises the delays and gets emails out the door as soon as possible.

Timing is everything, and marketers are missing out by waiting too long to sustain any engagement generated at events. All too often, the focus is only on the few sales-ready leads rather than the majority of attendees who aren't quite ready to make that jump. Events are a major part of every marketing team's time and energy, particularly at a field level. Face to face contact is an essential part of many business relationships, and events are the main way to get in front of prospects before they're ready to start a sales conversation. Yet, many marketing teams could be doing more to make the most of the opportunity this represents.

Written by
Marketing Operations Consultant and Solutions Architect at CRMT Digital specialising in marketing technology architecture. Advisor on marketing effectiveness and martech optimisation.