Event Marketing ROI: Our 5-Step Formula to Prove the Impact of Events

May 2, 2023

Meisha Bochicchio, Senior Content Marketing Manager at Goldcast

Kelly Cheng , Head of Growth at Goldcast

Event marketers are too often the unsung heroes of the marketing team, silently moving the needle on everything from net new leads to customer retention and upsells.

But as an event marketer in 2023, you can’t afford to continue living life behind the scenes. And with the right approach to your data reporting, you don’t have to.

With the rise of digital events, event marketers finally have access to the numbers they need to prove their impact and claim their seats at the revenue table. Because despite their reputation as the magicians behind the curtain, there aren’t many positions that touch every part of the business the way event marketing does.

If you’re an event marketer looking to set yourself firmly on the CMO track, your unique exposure to product marketing, customer success, sales, and the customers themselves places you in an ideal position to add value.

But first, you need to know how to prove it.

In this article, we’ll draw from our own experience as event organizers sharing clear steps for identifying which numbers to report on and how to connect those outcomes to the broader revenue strategy.

💸 Want a quick ROI estimate? Check out our free calculator!

From misunderstood “event planner” to future CMO

With 50% of field and event marketers reporting bonuses based on new and influenced pipeline, the ability to prove your value directly impacts your career (and your bank account).

Yet, for many event marketers, the struggle for recognition is real.

Thankfully, our research indicates this is finally changing. As digital events have evolved to become the central mouthpiece for modern brands, event marketers are coming out of the shadows and entering into essential conversations about revenue and strategy.

This is also reflected in compensation. Today’s event marketers make an average annual salary of $125K, nearly $70K over the national average.

Yet despite the increased buy-in, the transition to the center stage hasn’t been easy for event marketers. From being perpetually challenged to do more with less to overcoming self-doubt and building your strategic thinking muscle, it can be scary to make the leap.

But if you’re committed to leveling up your career, now is your moment. Because while the budgetary pressure and imposter syndrome won't disappear overnight, there has never been a better time to cement your position as a marketing leadership linchpin.

That means diving into the numbers and understanding what they mean.

It's really important for teams to own a number, or else none of their programs are accountable. For teams to be successful, it all starts with clear goals.” — Kelly Cheng, Head of Marketing & Growth, Goldcast

Step 1. Clarify your event goal

Before they even get started, even marketers are always asked the same question — ‘What are we going to get out of it?’

As event people, we know instinctively how well events work. But getting clear on what your goal is and how you define ROI is fundamental to proving your impact.

For most of us, return equates to cold hard revenue.

But the total return on your events can include any number of factors that all play a unique role in revenue generation — sponsorship and partnership opportunities, leads generated, pipeline influenced, customer adoption and more. Not to mention, some relationships might not convert to revenue until months after an event.

There are varying models for how to calculate revenue-based ROI, but before you can even think about tying your events to revenue, you’ll need to know exactly what revenue goal you’re working toward and how you’ll track it back.

That’s where having a clear attribution model is key.

Step 2. Define your attribution model

Event attribution is a common sticking point for marketing teams. How do events get the credit they deserve? And what’s the best model to use in order to track that back?

Defining the right attribution model can be a tough nut to crack, but it’s worth the time and energy.

To understand how events are performing as a channel, establish a clear attribution framework that accounts for key goals within your campaigns, marketing ops, and sales teams.

Be a part of the conversation, get visibility and learn what's important for sales so you can make sure marketing is aligned.” — Belinda Joseph, Head of Events & Community, Goldcast

While every company handles attribution in their own way, here are some of the most common attribution models.

Whichever approach you choose, the key to proving your impact is to make sure everyone  is aligned on your attribution model and the KPIs you’ll use to track the role of events.

While getting this initial buy-in may seem like an uphill battle, the trust you’ll build with sales by starting this conversation will help pave the path toward a relationship where the sales team is actively following your instructions post-event, amplifying your impact even more.

If you’re not sure what your attribution model is (or if you even have one), a great way to start the conversation is by letting teams know about the programs you're running and how you’re working to bring more leads and revenue to the table.

And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Not even the best CMOs out there were born knowing this stuff. If you’re confused about what a specific dashboard or report means, ask someone to explain it to you. Keep an eye out for places where data can be traced back to your events and use those insights in your reporting.

Using this model, our team at Goldcast can pinpoint the very first touchpoint each customer had with the brand before an opportunity was opened by sales. This way, no one has to wonder who brought in the lead.

If any marketing touchpoints happened after the sales team opened an opportunity, that’s seen as market acceleration. Even though the Goldcast event management team didn't source it, we helped it progress along the way.

Step 3: Select your KPIs

The value of events differs from department to department, which is why it’s important to align sales and marketing around a shared goal.

At Goldcast, pipeline is the goal that both marketing and sales share, and that's how we align our teams. We think of pipeline as the sales team’s early indicator and marketing team’s late indicator. We then break the goal down into inbound and outbound pipelines, with inbound owned by marketing.

Once you’re clear on how revenue will be attributed across teams and how events fit in, you’re ready to select your event key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your success at the practical level.

For a classic way to drill down into which KPIs will move you closer to your goal, try using the SMART goal setting framework:

  • Specific 
  • Measurable
  • Achievable 
  • Relevant 
  • Time-bound

Here are a couple examples to get you started:

Goal #1: Improve lead-to-launch time by X days within the next three months

Example KPI: Number of account level insights generated

Goal #2: Increase in-event engagement by X% across the next three events

Example KPI: Number of attendee touchpoints (polls answered, questions submitted, messages sent, etc.).

Goal #3: Increase revenue by X% by mm/dd/yy

Example KPI: Closed-won revenue

Once again, the individual event KPIs you choose to track will always depend on your shared goals with sales.

Here’s a more complete list of some of the event metrics that might make sense depending on your goals and attribution model.

Attendee KPIs
  • Registration numbers 
  • Attendee job title
  • Key account attendance rate
  • Average time in event per attendee
  • Number of attendees per account
  • Cost per attendee
  • Time spent in specific booths or rooms
  • Content downloaded
  • Chat messages sent
  • Polls answered
  • Questions asked

Net-new pipeline KPIs  
  • Net-new pipeline generated from event
  • Cost per net-new lead

Influenced pipeline KPIs  
  • Ratio of net-new to existing contacts
  • Demos/meetings held during or after event
  • New marketing qualified leads (or MQLs)
  • Influenced pipeline generated from event
  • Key account interaction
  • End of pipeline velocity

Closed-won pipeline event KPIs
  • Closed-won rate
  • Eventual event attribution from event 

Brand awareness/loyalty KPIs
  • New press contacts
  • Referral rate
  • NPS score
  • Renewal rate
  • Upsell opportunities generated

Step 4: Calculate your ROI

Team aligned. Goals locked in. KPIs in place. ✔

Now you’re ready to buckle down and measure your event ROI. When it comes to revenue-based ROI, there are a couple leading models to consider.

Simple return/investment

To calculate how much overall income your event brought in, simply:

  1. the amount of sales pipeline or revenue your event generated
  2. Divide it by the total cost of the entire event
  3. Multiply that number by 100 to get the %

Event Revenue / Event Expenses x 100 = Simple ROI

Incremental revenue

If you’re selling sponsorships or tickets and you’re looking for a fast way to prove how profitable your event is, incremental revenue could be the formula to use.

Here’s how to calculate incremental revenue:

(Event Income – Event Expenses) / Event Expenses x 100 = Incremental ROI

At the end of the day, event ROI calculations can be as simple or complex as you like. But the more accurate your calculations, the clearer your value becomes.

Whatever the goal, it’s time to get resourceful. Start thinking about the ways your events impact revenue, whether that’s immediately or long-term. Then actively pull the numbers that prove that impact.

Event marketers are going to feel the pressure of ‘How do we get scrappy? How can we still achieve the same goals or hit the same numbers with less money?’ We're going to have to start getting a little bit more resourceful.” — Belinda Joseph, Head of Events & Community, Goldcast

Step 5: Learn to love the numbers

Whether it’s meetings booked or sales pipeline generated — leadership always wants to know what ROI they can expect from their events.

And while event marketers are no strangers to being asked to do more with less, 66% of businesses are now restricting travel budgets, indicating increased scrutiny ahead.

Don’t be afraid to face the numbers head on and get creative with your strategy. Dive deep for data, connect with your campaigns and sales teams, and find out which event touchpoints work best for moving the needle on your revenue goals.

The task of generating, calculating and communicating event ROI isn’t always easy, but with the right tools and approach — it is doable.

Event ROI = proof they can’t deny

Even amidst budgetary pressure, event marketing continues to deliver real value to audiences and brands. You just have to be willing to step up and show folks the real impact they bring.

And a little cheerleading from the sidelines never hurts.

If you’re looking to connect with other like-minded event marketers, you’re in the right place.

At Goldcast, we’re all about celebrating the rising role of the event marketer. Every month, we’ll help you connect with the event marketing community via our live digital events and resources, including:

  • Event Marker’s Live - All about getting to know the humans behind the scenes of our favorite B2B events.
  • CMO Diaries - Get a sneak peek into the C-Suite in these fireside chats with leading CMOs.
  • Goldcast Resource Center - Everything you need from done-for-you guides, event budget templates, event marketer compensation data, and more.
  • Event Marketers Club - Join the waitlist for our exclusive community and connect with the best in the biz! 

We know coming out from behind the curtain can be tough — at least, it was for us! But as long as you know the steps — and your numbers! — proving your impact as an event marketer can be a whole lot easier than you think.

Prove your event ROI. Try Goldcast for your next event.

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