Hosting a Data-Driven Event: The Good, The Bad and the Inconclusive
Ditch the Buzzwords: What Does Data-Driven Mean?
There’s a lot of buzz in the marketing world about conducting data-driven business and making data-driven decisions and blending data-driven smoothies with kale. But what the hell does being data-driven actually mean?
To answer this question we decided to conduct an internal case study and attempt to host a truly data-driven Sales Kick Off (SKO). And we used our own product – a mobile event app – to measure successes and failures. We saw this as a golden opportunity to not only drink our own kool-aid, but to give our customers a real-life example of how to conduct a data-driven event. No bullshit, just the real, raw data.
Our hope was to not only use this data to optimize our own events in the future, but also to put together a blueprint of sorts for other event professionals that are hosting data-driven events of their own.
Setting (Attainable?) Goals
The first step was setting our event goals; knowing your desired outcomes is crucial if you wish to measure event success. SKOs are essentially an opportunity (usually quarterly) to get your entire sales team in one place to talk about goals for the quarter and any major product or sale strategy changes and updates. They tend to be rowdy affairs; I mean, it’s an event only for sales people.
Bearing this in mind, our first goal was to align on the message; what was the story we wanted our sales reps to be telling to close deals? With the launch of our new analytics platform, “Event Performance”, we decided to focus on event app data and the ways event organizers can harness it to demonstrate and measure event ROI. Every tap, check-in and bookmark in the DoubleDutch app captures valuable data for organizers about what is working and what needs improvement at their event. We want to make sure prospective customers recognize the value that data can provide their business.
The second goal was to educate on the product. When selling a new technology, product knowledge is key. Our sales team doesn’t need to know how to program our platform, but they do need to have an in-depth understanding of its features, capabilities and strengths.
The third goal was to energize the team – or as we like to call it, the “rah-rah” effect. We wanted to get our sales team pumped for the quarter. Simply put, happy salespeople are more effective salespeople.
Defining a Digital Blueprint to Measure Success
Once we mapped out our event goals, it was time to set about putting tools in place to measure them. But how do you measure three goals that are arguably entirely subjective?
For our first goal, aligning on our message about the importance of app data, we encouraged sales reps to actively post in the app about data stories that were resonating with them. A data story might be that using a poll in the app increases engagement by 25% or that 74% of attendees with a completed profile go on to become highly engaged users.
Using a hashtag is a great way for event organizers to measure engagement around a certain topic or trend. So we decided to encourage sales reps to use #datastory (or alternatively, #datageek) when they posted about data in the app. We also asked them to share the type of data they were hoping to highlight to customers in their pitches.
The idea behind this was twofold: the first was to stimulate discussion about data and the role it plays in the success of our customers’ events and the second was to measure our sales reps’ performance. At the end of the quarter, we wanted to see if there was a correlation between posting and talking about data and closing more deals.
For our second goal, educating on the project, we decided to do a little before and after testing. We decided to send an identical survey before the SKO and after the SKO asking the sales reps to rate their product knowledge. The ideal was to see an improvement in results following the SKO.
For our final goal, energizing the team, high engagement was key. The more people were posting and interacting with one another in the app, the better. We wanted 100% engagement and 100% active users. While we recognize that this is a pretty ambitious goal and not always realistic for some of our customers, the app is our product so we wanted to be sure that every sales person was an evangelist. We also added in “rah-rah” hashtags including #r2d2 (This is short for the DoubleDutch mantra “Ride Together Die Together”) and #twerkingoptional to get people pumped (or at least twerking).
Turning Goals into App-tion
Once our goals – and how we planned to achieve them – were mapped out, the next step was actually putting together the app using our CMS (Content Management System). What’s that saying about “the best laid plans”?
With all the moving parts, and multiple people uploading multiple files into the CMS at the same time, we got more than a few wires crossed. And when you want to use every single feature in the app it ends up being a fair amount of work. Not to mention getting a hold of things like speaker bios, session abstracts and other time-sensitive information. These are certainly challenges many of our customers experience, and it was valuable for us to better understand the process firsthand.
But the fun flipside of this was that we really had the opportunity to get down and dirty with our app and better understand our customers’ experience from planning to implementation. We also got to be creative. We wanted to use our Lead Retrieval feature to show our sales team how easy it is for our customers to scan leads. So we decided that during one of the breaks we would send them a push notification prompting them to scan the QR codes on Emoji masks we place throughout the venue. We gave the Emojis goofy names like Hannah Happyberg and Sam Slyman. Beacons were another cool thing to play with, so we used them to create location-based messages welcoming the sales team to SKO and then later directing them to lunch.
We decided to launch the app about a week before the SKO, hoping to drum up excitement as the day approached. I tried using push notifications to get people in the app and to get them to take the product knowledge survey. While we saw some decent activity a few days pre-SKO, the app-posting frenzy only really took flight the day of the event.
Ready, Set, SKO!
As soon as members of the sales team entered the venue, the app began to pick-up steam. They were posting about everything from the speakers to the yogurt parfait breakfast and the race to the top on the leaderboard was real. By associating point values with actions in the app, we were able to fuel our sales reps’ healthy sense of competition.
One thing that was pretty great about being able to be in the CMS as the day progressed was the ability to respond and adapt in real time. As our speakers began sharing great, useful data stories, we had the idea to create a repository in the app for these nuggets of information. On the fly, we added in a “Data Driven Stories” section. Post SKO, we uploaded this section to our Sales Home, which is an online resource site for our sales team.
Another thing that was interesting to note was the “rah-rah” effect. It was certainly there, but not in the way we expected. While #r2d2 was fairly popular, “#twerkingoptional” never took off (that was so 2014) and other hashtags like “#skoexcited” and “#readysetsko” began to crop up in the app’s Activity Feed. While this was not the “rah-rah” we anticipated, the excitement was definitely palpable.
We often see this happen with our customers; they expect one outcome, but are even more pleased with the excitement and trends that emerge at the event.
Experiencing the SKO through the lens of the CMS on my computer screen was fascinating. Every memorable moment and funny anecdote that I was witnessing in real life was echoed and captured in the app. And seeing how engaged our sales reps were was totally worth the late nights and last minute changes.
Results: The Good, the Bad and the Inconclusive
Once the event dust settled (and the SKO happy hour hangover subsided) we were able to parse through the data to determine our successes – and failures. We were getting a lot of great verbal feedback from the sales team, but we wanted the data to back it up.
We had briefed our speakers in advance of the SKO about the importance of the #datastory, so they were great about emphasizing and repeating the importance of data as a part of the sales strategy for the quarter. And it worked – #datastory was the most popular hashtag by far, with 75 unique posts dedicated to this topic and 45% of the entire sales team using the hashtag at least once. We saw another 35 #datageek posts, making it the third most popular hashtag in the app.
When we took a deeper dive into the data to look for common in-app behaviors among top-performers for the quarter, we were unable to find anything of statistical significance. However, there were a few data-points worth noting. We calculated a “hashtag score”, which is determined based on use or interaction with the all of the data hashtags. All of the top performers were at or above the mean for the hashtag score.
When it comes to app behaviors you will almost always have outliers; people who are “contributors”; posting, commenting and liking statuses far more than others, and then you have “spectators”; individuals that might go into the app and read the Activity Feed or check the agenda, but won’t post at all. While one of the top performers is what we would label a “contributor”, none were spectators and all posted in the app at least once.
For assessing product knowledge, we also were unable to draw any substantive conclusions. While percentage-wise we saw an improvement in perceived product knowledge between the pre-SKO survey and the post-SKO survey, when we drilled down into the individual sales reps that took the survey both before and after the SKO, there was no difference in their responses. In hindsight we realized that perhaps we needed to make educating on the product a more focal part of the event (there was only one 20-minute session dedicated to the topic) – and our strategy. The survey simply was not a sufficient measurement tool; perhaps we should have included a mandatory pre and post product quiz in conjunction with a more comprehensive education segment at the SKO.
In terms of engagement, the numbers were off the charts, with 100% adoption, an average of 382 actions per user, and an average of 16 sessions per user (over the course of just one day!). When you benchmark this data with other internal SKOs, it is 46% above the average number of sessions per user. “Rah rah” was definitely in the air, with #r2d2 coming in as the second most popular hashtag in the app.
Being Data-Driven: Easier Said than Done
Being data-driven is definitely easier said than done – but the upside is that what used to be left to hunches and smile-sheets can now be corroborated by facts and figures. While we may not have been successful at achieving all of our goals, we certainly learned valuable lessons for the future.
Maybe next SKO we will add another session on product knowledge and then ask all of the sales reps to take a “test” at the end of the day. This way we might be able to better assess content retention, and it would give us more concrete and individualized data about our top performers.
Perhaps we can isolate other behaviors we would like to measure to better understand – and motivate our sales reps.
Many of the challenges we faced – and the victories we achieved, closely mirror the experiences of event professionals everywhere. And while there is no one-size-fits-all formula for success, one thing is for sure: if you can measure it, you can make it better.