Pre SaaStr, events were always the largest line item in my marketing budget. Now, events (specifically Annual) are the largest initiatives in my professional life—let alone budget. But, let’s go back to my VP of Marketing days, when I exhibited at sometimes 30+ events per year, and talk about event ROI.

Tradeshows and field events, while sometimes costly, always had the highest ROI of any program in my marketing plan. Sure, your reps always submit way-too-high expense reports for T&E, you never look forward to the extra cost of booth electricity, that extra scanner, or branding late fees, and your marketing team always gets overzealous when ordering swag…BUT, there is simply nothing like an in-person event. A tradeshow or targeted field event moves the needle in all areas of the funnel, making events a truly unique lever to increase your bottom line.

Since events are a large part of our business here at SaaStr, we are constantly speaking to companies about the benefits of sponsoring and attending our event. The most frequent questions we get asked by sponsors are around assessing and tracking event ROI.

The key to measuring the success of an event is to move beyond just lead generation and look at how events impact all your revenue generating initiatives. Look at key metrics at every stage of your funnel—top-of-funnel (TOFU), middle-of-funnel (MOFU), bottom-of-funnel (BOFU), and customer lifecycle.

TOFU ROI: Branding and Thought Leadership

Events are an incredible way to get your brand in front of the right audience. Between a booth presence, speaking sessions, ancillary event branding, and more, an event is the perfect venue to get everyone talking about your company. If you do the branding right, you can almost own an event—and the buzz from that can really catapult your company to the next level.

The keys here are creativity, strong marketing, and impactful messaging. Align a product launch with your event, consider hosting a themed ancillary party that everyone is dying to go to, or have your brand logo and colors splashed on every surface across the venue. Doing this right works to drive engagement at the very top of your funnel.

TOFU ROI: Net-New Lead Generation

OK, just so we get this one out of the way, one of the most common ways to assess ROI from an event is to look at lead generation—the number of net-new leads that you acquire at the event. Event leads can enter your funnel by visiting your booth, attending a speaking session, or registering for an ancillary party.

When looking at net-new leads, don’t just focus on the raw number—look at how many of those leads are a good fit for your business. Did you generate any leads from your target accounts? Did you speak to the right titles? What about the right industries? Looking at the quality of your leads and not just the quantity will give you a more accurate indicator of propensity to buy.

Pro Tip: Do you have predictive marketing? If so, you can score the leads you acquired from a particular event to quickly determine whether or not the audience is a good fit.

MOFU ROI: Lead Acceleration and Velocity

In addition to lead generation, be sure to look at lead acceleration—how fast a lead flows from one stage to the next in your funnel after engaging with your company at an event. Because events give your company an incredible opportunity to build a face-to-face relationship with a prospect, they’re a great opportunity to move a stuck lead.

For instance, imagine a lead has opened your emails a number of times, but your SDR still can’t nail her down for a meeting. Imagine that lead is attending your event. She walks past your booth and recognizes your name. While she never responded to your SDR via email, she stops by your booth to schedule a demo with a rep later in the week.

BOFU ROI: Opportunity Creation

Looking into later stages of the sales funnel, events are fantastic for opportunity creation. Hopefully you are attending events that cater to your target audience, so there is a chance that one (or more) of your target accounts or key opportunities will be attending. Plus, many decision makers actually put time aside during events to meet with vendors, partners, prospects, and more. So you might find that your prospects are more than willing to spend some time with you during an event.

Make sure to institute meeting goals for your SDRs or sales reps to ensure they are taking advantage of your time and money spent attending an event. Your reps should schedule meetings prior to and during the event with new and existing opportunities to solidify the deal.

Pro Tip: Make sure your AEs have a meeting location at or near the event venue. The tradeshow floor can be crazy, so you want to provide a quiet venue away from the show. And if you have food available for prospects…even better!

BOFU ROI: Closed/Won Deals

For similar reasons as those listed above, events can really move the needle for prospects who are already in sales cycles. Meeting someone in person often cements the deal. Reach out to relevant prospects who might be attending the event beforehand and set up some time to meet in person.

For a late stage deal, informal settings are often best—have your AEs take your prospect out to drinks in the area, or consider planning a targeted field dinner at a local restaurant to get the most out of your in-person meeting.

Pro Tip: Executive decision makers who attend an event are often invited to a number of ancillary activities. Send your dinner invitations out early and make sure you book an in-demand restaurant to increase your chances of a “yes” RSVP.

Lifecycle ROI: Customer Retention

Never think about an event in terms of lead generation only. If your prospects are going to an event, your customers are probably going as well! Events are an ideal time to meet with customers to build relationships, show new features, help them network with other customers, and more.

Just like your AEs, set goals for your CS team to meet with customers for 1:1 meetings or create special ancillary events for customers only. Plan a customer dinner, schedule a round table discussion, or consider hosting a customer happy hour or meetup.

There are many ways to determine ROI from your events. The key to ensuring success is to set measurable goals and make sure your sales and marketing teams are aligned on why you are attending an event and what you hope to achieve.

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