How to use data for successful events

Event organisers are sitting on a goldmine – an abundance of data with which they can spectacularly increase the success of events. But how do you go about mining this data? Where do you start and what are the benefits?

Before I started working for RAI Amsterdam, I spent many years employed in the field of data consultancy. I’d like to share my tips on how to translate data into insights. After all, the better you know your customers, the more successful your event will be.

Operational databases
Most event organisers have their operational processes in order. This enables them to collect a great deal of data: names and addresses, registrations for events, subscriptions to newsletters, evaluation forms or reactions posted on a community platform. These details are often spread out over a number of functional databases set up to support the operation. While they usually do this well there is so much more potential.

From data to insight
Compile all of the various data for a person and you end up with a complete customer profile and significant insight. This places you in a position to see that person’s needs and interests and how best to respond to them. It is a win-win situation as customers receive a tailor-made service and an offer that matches their needs. As a result, sales efforts are far more effective.

How do you combine different databases?
While the compilation of data from different databases is therefore very worthwhile, it is also complex. The best way is to take a step-by-step approach, starting with establishing which different sources of data you have:

  1. Your own databases, such as exhibitor registration, the CRM system, the newsletter mailing list and the campaign management system;
  2. Behaviour on websites and/or community platforms: clicks, reactions and downloads;
  3. Stand-alone systems, such as an ERP system or financial details;
  4. External sources, such as air travel, local municipality or hotel data.

Unique key
You start by combining sources from the first category. To do so, it is important to find a unique key, which forms the connecting factor between different records. Ideally, it will be a unique client number that is used in all databases. Unfortunately, this is not always the case; the idea that databases will later be connected is not taken into consideration when most are set up. In many cases, an e-mail address is the next best alternative. The key is the place to start; it forms the link between the various databases.

Behaviour is the most important factor
Combining such ‘statistical’ information from business relations already provides considerable insight. For example, you can see that someone visits various trade fairs or subscribes to certain mailings. It becomes much more interesting if you can track that person’s behaviour. The best source for this is your own community platform. On which links does someone click, how long do they stay on certain pages, what do they react to? This can all be monitored based on their IP address.

You should also collect this data and link it to the person concerned. This makes the client profile more complete, your offer more relevant and your sales efforts more effective. You can even respond to a person’s behaviour in real time. If someone clicks on a page listing exhibitor rates, a chat window with an account manager could pop up, for example, or a re-targeting e-mail could be sent to keep the lead hot.

Towards a data warehouse
Combining many different types of data is not easy and requires both technical and analytical knowledge, which is why many organisations outsource the task. This is unwise as insight into your customers is a necessity. The core business of event organisers is to bring people, facilitate contacts and promote the exchange of information and deals. This is only possible if you know your clients’ needs very well and if you can respond to them before, during and after the event. It will cost time and money but you will only remain relevant in the long term if you are prepared to make those investments.

Next time
This is the first part of a series on the use of data in the events sector. In the following blogs, among other topics, I will analyse online behaviour and the new forms of marketing it makes possible and examine how to keep data up to date.

Vanessa Visser

Vanessa Visser

Vanessa Visser | LinkedIn | RAI Amsterdam | Marketing Services | Data driven | Shopaholic

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