“Measurement” has certainly experienced a rise in popularity and relevance in the event and experience space. There is increased focus, activities, and even funding to capture the opinions of the attendees, understand the results of the event, even (in a few cases) the return against the objectives. And when the objective is sales, a true ROI can be calculated showing the financial returns for the economic investment and allowing comparison to other tactics. Organizations are actually (read as finally) making portfolio and experience decisions based on measurement rather than on assumptions, hopes, and sentiments.
This second generation of measurement (the first having been almost nothing, or driven by emotion and recognition of the hard work rather than actual event results), begins to align to event objectives and business impact in positive ways. It’s not easy to move from counting metrics to applying insight and much credit needs to go to those willing to push through.
So what does Measurement 3.0 look like?
Measurement 3.0 will retain much of 2.0 including the triple focus of efficiency (diagnosing how we did), effectiveness (what were the results) and value (return on objective or investment). But these focuses will move beyond the lint in the belly-button to incorporate the audience objectives more squarely in the center, and align to the corporate objectives in financial as well as satisfaction terms.
There are some lessons (good and bad) that can be had by looking at other environments and tactics where measurement and feedback occur. Key elements of Measurement 3.0 are:
Actionable Measurement | The “So what?” syndrome has started to influence what is measured. If the reaction to the measurement is “so what can I do about that?” then it is likely that either the measurement should be adjusted, or the item not measured at all.
One on-campus event showed a relationship between overall satisfaction and the weather at the event. The action of changing the weather to increase satisfaction seems intuitive, but hard to control. The insight is not meaningless, but it is not truly actionable.
When it comes to the diagnostics (“how did we do?”) of an event, the time between the insight being gathered and any action taken is shortening. Recognizing a less than satisfying experience closer to when it occurs provides the opportunity to correct it, rather than just recognize it. Is it better to know that there is a problem at check-in during the event, or after, via a survey? Adjustments could/should be made on site that improved the experience immediately.
Fortunately social media provides for a general sense of how things are going and other tactics (like instant feedback at the check-in counters as is done at some international customs counters) can provide real-time, actionable feedback. This also gets closer to matching the solution to the attendee having the issue rather than just the very important, but still more generic, “we’ll fix that for next time”.
The response to the feedback is just as important. It must be genuine, relevant, and appropriate. One lesson on how NOT to do this comes from a major restaurant chain. After the appetizers came out after a long wait (and after the main course) the manager (recognizing the problem) come over to the table to apologize. She offered a coupon for a free appetizer at the party’s next visit to the restaurant.
A more genuine, relevant, and appropriate response might have been to subtract the cost of one of the appetizers from the bill for the visit where the problem occurred. Instead, the solution was turned into a future sales opportunity but the customer left having had an unresolved negative experience. When they did use the coupon, they recalled the negative experience that resulted in receiving it.
On the other end of the spectrum – “how effective were we?” – more data might be needed to “action” the data from the event. What happened to the leads captured, how can/did we action the data provided on the new product launch, etc.
One event, working closely with the regional sales team, responded via tele-teams to all leads within 30 days, accelerating the pipeline over 900% from prior years.
Lesson: For diagnostics, shorten the time between the activity and the feedback allowing for corrections when issues arise. In this time of instant everything, fixing it next time is later than it needs to be. For effectiveness, look to align and accelerate the “downstream” activities.
Context | At its simplest, data without context is just words or numbers. A “4.3” means what? However “4.3 for transportation, on a scale of 5, with 5 being the most satisfied, and a target of 4.5” brings the context needed to turn data into information. Yet often the context of targets, comparison, segmentation, or scale is missing.
Adding context often means more data is needed – historical, competitive, or target based. At times related data not directly resulting from the experience can bring context. For example, $6.81 is just a data point. We do not know the target, scale, segmentations, or in this case relationship to the objectives of the event
If we added the data point of “per square foot”, we’d understand that $6.81 is the price per square foot. Adding more data we see that this is for renting ($1,500/month) a 220 sq. ft. “micro apartment” in the SoMa area of San Francisco. More data shows how this compares to studio apartment in the area ($2,000/month and more) and to other micro apartments in Chicago and NYC.
A more complete story emerges.
Further context reveals that at this rate per square foot, the rent on a 1,000 sq. ft. apartment would be $6,810/month! What would your home rent for? More context – in 2012 rents in South Beach area of Miami increased 11% to $2.25/sq. ft. and in Japan, apartments as small as 50 sq. ft. rent for as much as $12/sq. ft. per month!
So which is better – $2.25, $6.81, or $12.00?
Lesson: As more data is added, more context on the results and value can be revealed, broadening the story that can be told.
Strategic Value | Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
To some, Maple Syrup is beautiful. To others it is valuable, and to the Canadian Government it has strategic value. In fact, as the producer of 70%+ of the world’s Maple Syrup, Canada maintains a strategic reserve of Maple Syrup much as the US does Oil.
To Canada, the value of Maple Syrup is much more than just its market value. Its impact on the larger economy, jobs, and the need to maintain quality levels elevate this commodity to unusual heights.
At times, events are treated as nothing more than a commodity with endless supply and little “deep” value. We hear, “We have to be there, our competitors are.”, “Wall Street would be spooked if we cancelled that annual event.”, or “We’ll run it as break-even so there is no cost to the company.” as justification for staging an event. Like so much Maple Syrup running down the side of the tree.
In many ways these justifications (which come from the people or organization putting on the event) are cop-outs for not understanding the strategic value of the experience – the unemotional, non-job protecting, objective driven, and audience-centric value that the experience should provide for.
This void of (at best) focus and (at worst) understanding of the strategic value is supported by the “what a great show” emails that come out even before the load-out begins, much less after the post survey has been conducted. The Strategic Value can’t be seen or proven that quickly.
Events that are in the business of being an event – where the event is designed to make money first and foremost – are crystal clear as to the value they are providing for their attendees and stakeholders. Break-even is a failure. These events are in the business of events, the event is their product.
For everyone else, attending a 3rd party conference or hosting their own experience, the experience must be viewed first and foremost as a business event – aligned (and measureable against) corporate and/or customer objectives.
As with context, strategic value requires more data points to move from the optical success to the true value. These data points (pipeline captured, moved, or closed; changes in belief or understanding; even social media sentiment) take time to surface and be captured.
Lesson: Break-even events are bad for those in the business of events and show a lack of understanding or focus on the strategic value for those staging business events. Understand the Strategic Value of the event from an audience centric prospective and measure success against that.
Corporations who sponsor private events need to understand that a one-to-one opportunity to hob and nob with their key customers is an extraordinarily valuable marketing channel. Measurement 3.0 provides critical insights into optimizing the year over year value of that channel and lays a foundation for ensuring its long term existence.
Do what is recommended here and the CMO might actually start to care… or spare your event.