With 13% of gross annual revenue going straight to marketing departments, and 22% of that going towards events, it’s no surprise your C-suite expects something more concrete than ‘70% of attendees enjoyed our event’.
And as a B2B event marketer, you’re already accustomed to sales and other internal teams questioning ‘what exactly it is you do’.
We think it’s time to change that.
How? By providing a data-driven virtual event return on investment (ROI) analysis that is so clear and detailed, the rest of the team can’t ignore it.
In this deep-dive guide to the real cost benefits of virtual events, we'll show you how to calculate and improve your event ROI to get the buy-in you need to keep killing it.
Alright, ready to dive into your virtual event ROI?
Before you can roll up your sleeves and get to work improving that figure, you need to make sure that you, your sales team — and anyone else in the org who might have skin in the events game — is totally clear on which goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) define ROI for your virtual events.
In case you haven’t already covered that step in your event strategy, here’s how to start developing a strong business case for virtual events, beginning with clear goals and KPIs.
With so much on your plate before an event, it can be tempting to go straight into planning. But if you want to avoid uncomfortable conversations with your sales team, do not skip this step.
Once you’ve decided exactly which goals and KPIs you’re gunning for, you’re ready to start diving deeper into what your event ROI actually is, and how you can improve it.
Incremental revenue helps calculate your event profit and link it to future profit over time.
Here’s how to calculate Incremental Revenue:
(Event Income – Event Expenses) / Event Expenses x 100 = Incremental ROI
Keep in mind that tracking event ROI isn’t always as simple as running a couple of formulas the day after your event closes. The real ROI of a sophisticated event program tends to expand and compound over time based on important factors like your product niche, ideal customer profile (ICP), and average deal timeline.
Make sure you take the time to pinpoint and really understand your chosen attribution model so you can collect the right data at the right time.
Because at the end of the day, virtual event ROI calculations can be as simple or complex as you like — what matters most is that you know exactly why you’re using the formula you’re using, and that you can easily drill down deeper to help move sales into action after the event.
Of course, the more sophisticated your event ROI data, the clearer your value becomes (and the more internal kudos your team receives 😉).
Let’s have a look at some of the other revenue-based metrics that can help deliver a massive boost to your virtual event ROI.
💡Tip: Ready to make ROI tracking easy? By using an event platform that feeds data directly into your CRM, you can automatically collect and measure your core ROI metrics throughout the pipeline.
No matter which way you cut it, time is money. And while you can never eliminate the time it takes to create a content-rich event, you can reduce it.
By taking the virtual plunge, cybersecurity firm Axonius shrunk their planning time to an impressive 32 days, down from their 90-day average for in-person events.
Not only that, the team at Axonius smashed their first virtual summit, receiving over 400 registrations. How much could reducing time on event planning save you?
Let’s work it out.
Say your event income is $500,000 from closed-won business. You have 5 employees, working for $300 a day, for 90 days = $135,000.
Here’s the formula you could use to pinpoint your virtual event ROI, based on a reduction in time and labor costs:
(Income – Cost of Labor) / Cost of Labor x 100 = ROI%
Your total sum would look like this:
($500,000 - $135,000) / $135,000 x 100 = 270% ROI
❌ In-person: With this example you would spend $135,000 or have an ROI of 270% on this key metric.
✅ Virtual: Axonius proved just how simple it is to cut event planning time down from 90 to 32 days (around 65%) by going virtual. In this example, your spend would be cut by nearly two thirds to around $47,000 — a whopping 964% ROI just by going virtual!
Now that you’ve got a solid grasp on time and costs saved, it’s time to turn the focus to the other side of your event ROI formula — revenue generated.
Net New Pipeline helps quantify the revenue potential of all the leads that entered the sales pipeline for the first time through your event by totalling up the potential deal size and revenue from each.
With location and capacity no longer an issue, you can invite as many attendees as you like and massively boost your Net New Pipeline via your virtual event. 👌🏼
To use a quick global example, if your in-person event is usually held in the US only, you’re missing out on over 190 countries of potential leads and revenue.
But regardless of which markets you target, here’s why virtual events are more accessible, even to in-field attendees:
If your company has a long sales cycle, it’ll be a while before you can calculate your event ROI from a real revenue perspective.
So, what’s the next best thing? Velocity through pipeline.
Take a look at your pipeline. How many Net New leads became MQLs? MQLs to SQLs? Drilling down into this data allows you to see which stage of the funnel your event impacts most (and just how much impact it actually has).
“Drilling down into the data allows you to see which stage of the funnel your event impacts most (and just how much impact it actually has)”
You can then use your findings, along with engagement insights, to assess which content and formats resonated most with your attendees.
When it comes to your next event, you’ll know exactly what to keep or change — plus, when sales seals the deal, you’ll be able to calculate the closed-won revenue on the SQLs brought in.
To track pipeline acceleration, you need a goal along the lines of ‘20 funnel progressions within 7 days’.
If your event helped 15 MQLs become SQLs and 10 SQLs convert to closed-won, you know you’ve smashed your target.
Velocity though pipeline is also easy to track through your CRM by capturing pre and post-event status data and using this calculation:
MQL Lead Progression + SQL Progression = Total Number of Funnel
EXAMPLE: 15 + 10 = 25 Funnel Progressions
When it comes to tracking lead progressions, both in-person and virtual events have this handled with the help of your CRM. But the really useful data comes from knowing why that acceleration occurred so you can emulate it in both the sales follow up and in future events.
❌ In-person: Tracking progressions is possible manually, but tracking what impacted that velocity isn’t so easy.
✅ Virtual: Using engagement data you can pinpoint what impacted progression (like a specific session or booth they attended) and replicate it next time.
By now, you’ve got a good handle on your event ROI — great! Now it’s time to make sure revenue is being correctly attributed to your event.
Work with your sales and senior leadership teams to decide which of these common attribution models will make the most sense: