Start Your Measurement Before the Event Even Begins - Forecasting is an Essential Planning Tool and Can Pay Big Dividends
Forecasting can make a significant difference in how your event is perceived, how it performs and how it is evaluated. Forecasting is simply estimating, in advance, the results of your key measures and performance expectations for an event. By doing so, you can tailor your resource requirements and tactics for the upcoming event, e.g. adjustments to size, staff, spending and other activities based upon expected needs and results.
By forecasting an event, you can set realistic expectations with upper management and others regarding expected outcomes. This is extremely important as there is little you can do to deliver a successful result if executives and others already have unrealistic expectations for the results of an upcoming event.
Forecasting is also the tool that allows you to compare a new event that you may be considering with those that you are already doing. This is achieved by forecasting the results of a consistent set of key measures that match those you use to evaluate your current events. Additionally, the payback ratio can be estimated for a prospective event and compared with your existing events. The process is to simply rank all of your current events from best to worst using the most recent performance data and then add in the forecasted event results into the mix for consideration. You will be able to readily see where the new events fall among the existing ones. If the new events appear high on the list by payback, then you may consider eliminating or cutting back lower performing events in order to fund the newer ones.
One caution to consider is that you must ensure that lower performing events are not justified on qualitative factors alone, such as your company president being the chairman of the event sponsor association, etc. When the qualitative considerations have been made, you are ready to total up the expected costs and draw a line where spending meets allocated budget. This will provide the best mix of shows and will also equip you to represent suggested changes in the annual program to others (who may be quite fond of certain low performing events!) based upon fact and not just opinions.
The following variables can be forecasted for an upcoming trade show:
1. Estimating Resources
a. Size - Exhibit or venue size required to address the forecasted number of visitors at the event. Size is not a factor of visitor processing alone; it is also a consideration for your company’s visibility within the exhibit hall or venue.
b. Staff- Too many staff members are perhaps worse than too few. You can derive the correct number of staff required to handle the forecasted number of visitors to your exhibit for the show. Remember that sometimes experts are required to man a demo even though they may not get their share of visitors.
c. Cost– When size, tactics and staff are all adjusted based upon forecasted results, it is much easier to adjust the cost of the event with confidence. The optimum amount to spend on an event should be directly based upon the marketing opportunity associated with participating. This will allow your company to remix investment levels for maximum results.
2. Estimating Results
a. Number of Visitors
b. Number of Engaged Prospects
c. Number of Committed Leads
3. Expected Sales Results
a. Using the sales funnel approach, you can estimate the dollar value of the sales opportunity based upon the number of projected leads by product category.
4. Cost Savings
a. Estimating and then producing cost savings is a great way to enhance your plan and results.
5. Customer Relationship Management Value
a. Number of customers addressable at the event
b. Average value of a customer, and Addressable Current Revenue at the event
c. Cross Selling Opportunities/ Results
d. Account Saves and Associated Value
6. Promotion Impact
a. Number of Impressions (Gross and Targeted)
b. Advertising Equivalent Value (Media Value)
7. Payback Ratio and ROI
a. Estimate the probable value in categories of:
-New revenue (value of the sales opportunity, where practical)
-Customer Relationship and Retention Management
Compare all of these to the event cost. This payback ratio is necessary for assessing the value, ranking and comparison of current or future events. Forecasting is an essential element in event marketing success. Otherwise, there is no way to know what results should be expected and thus how much to spend.
Event marketing budgets should be directly correlated with the opportunity an event presents. And as detailed before, your job will be considerably easier and you will get better results and recognition when you set realistic expectations internally with executives and others about expected results and justification for the investment.