Integrating event data with a customer relationship management system is the ultimatetool.
Marcom events are attended by the most sought-after constituents, yet typically, they aren't measured by the same criteria as other customer outreach programs. With this in mind, I'd like to return to a topic I've discussed before: integrating your event management system with your customer relationship management system.
You probably know how many people attend your events, and you may even know which sessions they participated in. But do you know how many of those attendees turned into sales leads or buying customers? Do you know which of your product lines each attendee was interested in? If you have an integrated EMS/CRM system, then you probably know those answers, and you may have access to other valuable customer information as well.
Putting It All Together
Here's a real world example. BlueDot Software (www.bluedot.com) is working with a large technology company that has a number of regional user groups, each of which holds several meetings per year. The company also holds one large annual meeting that draws from all the regional groups. The problem was that the regional groups didn't use a common registration system for their events, so there was no way to connect regional attendee records with attendee records for the annual event, nor was there any means of tracking attendees' subsequent interactions with the company.
Working with BlueDot and its CRM vendor, the company deployed a Web-based registration system for the large annual event that will also be used for regional meetings. A gateway into the corporate CRM system that's about to be implemented will connect any attendee who registers for an event directly to the CRM, which will pull up customer information and display it on the registration form. Any updates made by the registrant will feed directly into the CRM, thus keeping it current.
The sessions for any event are tied to product interest codes. Any registrant for a product-coded session is automatically flagged in the CRM as having expressed an interest in that product and can then be contacted through an integrated e-mail system that will send targeted promotional messages.
Using the integrated event database, event organizers can pick speakers and abstracts for local events based on their success (as measured by sales leads) at the annual event. And, of course, the same attendee and product interest information will be captured at registration for regional events. The next step will be to integrate presentations and abstracts into a knowledge base and to develop a budget that allocates spending based on the proven success of an event.
BlueDot isn't alone in its approach. Other companies, such as seeUthere (www.seeuthere.com) and cvent.com (www.cvent.com), have also recognized the power of an integrated EMS/CRM approach. For example, seeUthere reports that it increased attendance fivefold at one of its customer's events through a campaign that used e-mail, fax, postal mail, and Web technologies. The campaign relied on seeUthere's ability to build reliable customer profiles from its integrated EMS/CRM service, as well as substantial post-event followup.
Cvent claims to offer the most comprehensive tools for sifting through collected EMS/CRM data, based on an analytical engine developed by MicroStrategies Inc. (www.microstrategies.com).
Event planners need to pay close attention to this developing trend. After all, one way to show an event's return on investment is to demonstrate that it's a critical part of the marketing process.
Kevin McDermott is founder and managing director of Major Scale Technology Management, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in e-business strategy for commercial businesses and nonprofit associations. Contact him at (708) 763-8970 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.