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How to Use Data to Drive ROI and Profitability

The data you already collect could be worth a lot to your exhibitors and sponsors, not to mention provide some easy opportunities you may not yet be optimizing.

When it comes to monetizing event-related data, it is a tale of two worlds—one where the event drives the business, the other where the event is the business. In both worlds, however, “Data is what moves people through the purchasing funnel,” said Scott Schenker, vice president, strategic events, ServiceNow, to the audience at the inaugural Transform event last summer. Data about what they know, feel, think, believe, intend, want, need, and have done, who they listen to and what motivates them, is what drives attendees from awareness to consideration to purchase.

However, traditional event data—think satisfaction scores—and basic demographics that only skim the surface aren’t going to give you data rich enough to drive additional revenue, he said. “I want to know if it was relevant, not just if you’re satisfied. And what good is finding out you weren’t happy with the food on site going to do me two weeks later?” 

Where you’ll find added value—and monetization opportunity—is in tracking changes from pre- to post-conference in how attendees feel, think, know, and do, he said. Another key data point to collect is their intent—what will they do as a result of attending?—and tracking their activities to find out what they actually did and how relevant it was to their goals for attending. Unfortunately, trade show organizers rarely collect this type of data, and if they do, they rarely share it with exhibitors and other partners. 

And then there’s other data that most organizations do collect, but most likely don’t share with partners, such as purchase history, pipeline, and subscriptions, community and membership activities, web visit summaries, and sentiments shared on social media.

You likely already collect all this data—don’t let it go to waste. One way you can monetize it is to make it available for an increased sponsor price. “Ask them to pay to get more data,” said Schenker. You also can make it available only to high-level sponsors. 

The Online Opportunity
If you’re looking to grow your attendance, stop thinking inside the hotel ballroom, he added. Your market is a whole lot bigger than just your actual attendees. Think about the long-tail groups who can’t physically attend due to distance, or language, or time constraints. “If your membership, community, or social media followers are larger than your attendance, your addressable market is larger,” said Schenker. You can, of course, reach them online—and gain more revenue through online sponsorships, advertising, and charging attendees for pay-per-view. The cost per attendee is lower than in-person attendance, while net revenue per attendee—and the likelihood that online viewers will convert to in-person attendees—both go up. 

He suggested that trade show organizers think in terms of both narrowcasting and building an online-first strategy, using the Olympics as an example.

• “Make it easy to just watch slalom skiing, or tennis,” or whatever special interests your specific audience may have, he said.

• Invite reporters from areas where distance makes it difficult to attend in person to report on happenings relevant to their specific audience, and create content specific to those niches.

• Run the event on multiple channels, including social, streaming, and on-demand.

• Let online audiences participate in everything, including the expo, networking events, meet-the-expert opportunities, Q&A, and feedback.

“To monetize it, you can run ads, get sponsors, and you’ll have even more data to add value for your online exhibitors,” said Schenker.


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