April 14, 2022

Event Strategies

How to Measure Virtual Event ROI: Metrics That Matter

By:

Victoria Rudi

Don’t struggle to answer whether having virtual events are worth it - measure virtual event ROI with metrics that actually matter.

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Marketers worldwide are increasingly running virtual events as part of their overall growth strategy. Their versatility and wide reach make them powerful assets. Whether you run singular or recurring virtual events, you can influence each stage of your buyer’s journey and achieve your marketing and sales goals. 

Additionally, virtual events: 

  • Ensure greater outreach. Remove any geographical borders and reach out to audiences you wouldn’t connect with otherwise.
  • Provide richer insights. Apart from helping you plan and manage virtual events, powerful event tech software gives you access to various insights regarding your attendees’ experiences and behaviors.
  • Cover all stages of the buyer’s journey. Whether to increase brand awareness, close more deals, or transform customers into brand ambassadors, virtual events are great for accomplishing various business goals. 
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According to The State of Virtual Events 2022 from Kaltura, a quarter of organizations see higher ROI from virtual events. Compared to other marketing strategies like SEO, paid advertisement, or referrals, your event ROI carries a broader meaning, encompassing multiple types of gain and growth opportunities. This significance explains why marketers allocate high budgets to event marketing

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The challenge, though, is to measure your event ROI correctly. This step is crucial for understanding virtual events’ impact on your overall marketing strategy. It’s also essential for justifying your business strategy and marketing event budget. 

Your Event ROI, or, What Makes a Virtual Event Successful

Event ROI is the value you derive from your virtual event based on the costs you invested in producing it. It’s worth noting that net value is a broad concept, including the revenue, impressions, number of attendees, attendance rate, and more. 

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Measuring your virtual event ROI will help you determine whether your event was successful or not. This process, though, is more involved than simply dividing some numbers. In fact, evaluating your ROI starts long before the event itself. 

First, you need to determine the event goal. Once you know what your ultimate objective is, you can map it to its corresponding stage of the emotional buyer’s journey.  

Your event goal and its corresponding emotional buyer’s journey stage will help you pin down the event KPIs you’ll need to measure. Only then can you take the results and evaluate the event ROI. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll take it step by step. 

Step 1. Identify the goal of your virtual event 

Why do I want to run a virtual event? That’s the main question you should ask yourself before you begin planning. In other words, your event goal should come first. 

The goal of your virtual event usually derives from your business goals. So, before kicking off the planning sessions, schedule a meeting with your marketing and sales teams to discuss and align your overall business goal(s) for the event. During this meeting, you may decide you want to attract more free trial users. Or, maybe you want to run a virtual event that will help you convert these free trial users into paying customers. Regardless of your goal, you need to discuss it with your team, agree upon it, and only then start to plan. 

To articulate your virtual event goal clearly, you can always use the SMART goals framework. SMART stands for: 

  • Specific: What is the goal? 
  • Measurable: How will I know I met the event goal? 
  • Attainable: What do I need to do to meet this goal? 
  • Relevant: Is this goal relevant to the overall company objectives? 
  • Time-based: What is the deadline for meeting this goal?

For example, your goal can be to attract 50 new free trial users by running a virtual event at the end of this month. 

As you can see, the goal itself already identifies the right KPIs for measuring the ROI. But more on that later. Next, let’s discuss another step you should consider before mapping out your KPIs. 

Step 2. Assign Your Goal to an Emotional Buyer’s Journey Stage

Event marketing and virtual events in particular can help you generate positive results across all stages of the emotional buyer’s journey. However, it’s more effective to hone in on one stage at a time. 

Focusing on one emotional buyer’s journey stage at a time will help you: 

  • Design a clear virtual event strategy
  • Achieve higher impact by developing content that meets the needs of your audience at a specific stage.
  • Assess the results your virtual event generates more accurately
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In other words, you can narrow down your event design and focus on driving results to encourage a well-defined growth opportunity in a given stage.

Image of the emotional buyer's journey

Let’s break down the stages in the emotional buyer’s journey: 

  • Frustration. Previously known as Awareness, marketing activities within this stage usually tell leads, “Here’s what can get you to your desired outcome.”
  • Optimism. Previously known as Consideration, offerings to those in the Optimism stage respond to the following statement: “Here are the resources that help you get closer to your desired outcome.”
  • Confidence. Previously known as Decision, the actions at this stage highlights what transformation looks like. 
  • Gratitude. Previously known as Evangelism, focusing on the Gratitude stage shows what partnership with your brand looks like.

You can classify each goal under a specific stage in the emotional buyer’s journey. Here are some examples: 

➡ Frustration

  • Attract top-of-the-funnel leads by targeting the issues that trigger their emotional distress. You can create a wide range of event topics that’ll appeal to your frustrated audience. For example, an HR platform might attract top-of-funnel leads with a topic such as, “How To Convince Your Organization To Adopt an Internal Reviews Program.” The frustration this topic addresses is the difficulty some organizations have in getting employees to commit to completing reviews for their peers. 
  • Increase overall website traffic by redirecting your virtual event attendees to download a guide, check a blog publication, or listen to a podcast episode that includes a useful tool or solution to alleviate the frustration they experience. 

Optimism

  • Attract what was traditionally known as middle-of-funnel leads. Do this by running virtual events that aim to bring your more optimistic audience to a state of confidence. For example, if you provide a webinar platform, you can teach your attendees how to run webinars so people won’t leave in the middle. In other words, your goal is to provide and present tools or resources that’ll help your attendees achieve a desired outcome. 
  • Acquire free trial users. 

Confidence 

  • Close sales at your virtual event. Your audience is now confident that your solution is what they need, so they’ll be eager to purchase your tool or platform.
  • Increase revenue.

Gratitude

  • Cross-sell or up-sell at your virtual event.
  • Encourage customers to attract referrals.

By assigning your goal to a stage in the emotional buyer’s journey, you’ll be able to identify where you can find your audience. Subsequently, this step will help you achieve higher precision in identifying the KPIs and evaluating the ROI of your event. 

Step 3. Pin down the KPIs you need to measure

Once you’ve identified your goal and where it sits on the emotional buyer’s journey, you can determine the KPIs. 

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Let’s go back to our goals and emotional buyer’s journey stages listed above and see what KPIs we can attach to each: 

➡ Frustration

✅ Goal: Attract new leads

📌 Target: Top-of-funnel leads

📈 KPI: Number of new contacts

✅ Goal: Increase overall website traffic

📌 Target: Top-of-funnel leads

📈 KPI: Number of website visits

Optimism

✅ Goal: Attract high-quality leads

📌 Target: Bottom-of-funnel leads

📈 KPI: Number of bottom-of-funnel leads

✅ Goal: Acquire free trial users 

📌 Target: Bottom-of-funnel leads

📈 KPI: Number of free trials

Confidence 

✅ Goal: Close sales at your virtual event

📌 Target: Prospects

📈 KPI: Number of new customer accounts

✅ Goal: Increase revenue

📌 Target: Prospects

📈 KPI: The value of the pipeline in dollars

Gratitude

✅ Goal: Cross-sell or up-sell at your virtual event

📌 Target: Existing clients

📈 KPI: Total dollar value of the upgrades

✅ Goal: Encourage customers to attract referrals

📌 Target: Existing clients

📈 KPI: Number of referrals existing clients bring

Although not all KPIs focus on revenue, you can still attribute a financial number to them for a more concrete understanding (more on that later).

How To Measure Your Event ROI

According to EventMB, virtual events have raised the bar for measuring event ROI. Thanks to powerful event planning technology and the data quantity virtual events generate, marketers today are fully equipped to measure event ROI with accuracy and precision. 

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Each virtual event ROI calculation should be based on your goals and success metrics. 

The event ROI formula is as follows: 

Event ROI = Value / Cost

graphic of event ROI formula

To offer a concrete example of this formula, let’s say you produced a virtual event aiming to impact the Gratitude stage of the buyer’s journey. You invested $20,000 USD in planning and managing the virtual event. 

Your goals were to: 

  • Convince customers to upgrade
  • Cross-sell your products
  • Attract referrals  

The KPIs you measured were: 

  • Upgrades 
  • Cross-sells
  • Referrals 

For the sake of the example, let’s assume your virtual event resulted in: 

  • 100 upgrades from lower to a higher tier, translating to $30,000 USD
  • 50 cross-sells, which resulted in $25,000 USD
  • 25 referrals, equaling $15,000 USD

So, what is your event ROI? 

Your investment of $20,000 USD to produce a virtual event generated a total of $70,000 USD. In other words, your ROI is almost triple, justifying the marketing budget you allocated to plan the event.

What do you do if some of your KPIs don’t translate to clear financial values? In this case, you can attribute a specific value to your numbers based on previous experiences. 

For example:  

  • A 5% increase in your website traffic usually results in 50 conversions (i.e., people contacting the sales team). These 50 conversions result in a $30,000 USD pipeline value. 

This way, you can attribute a monetary value to all your KPIs and pinpoint your event ROI. 

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Knowing your event ROI will subsequently help you to: 

  • Plan. Identify which buyer’s journey stage requires engagement marketing support and reinforcement. 
  • Allocate. Know precisely how much of your marketing budget you should divert to virtual marketing events. 
  • Forecast. Predict the results and the revenue you’ll collect from running virtual events.

You should now realize your event ROI is much more than budget practice. Understanding the relationship between your returns and associated costs will give you deeper insights into your overall event marketing strategy. Moreover, if you’re purposeful about evaluating your ROI, you’ll be able to generate consistent and predictable results with your virtual events. 

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