9 data management tips for events

Small or large companies in the event and meeting industry have to deal with data collected on their exhibitors, partners, sponsors and attendees.  Managing this data is far too often considered a pure IT-issue, solved by technical people when they install a database management software on some in-house or externally hosted server.  And then I won’t mention all those, even bigger companies, that just keep the data in separate Excel-files per edition of their event(s).

But obviously it’s not a technical IT problem, far from.  Managing data is supposed to help you get intelligence on your customers.  You need that intelligence to make clever and business accelerating decisions to improve your product offering and maintain your competitive edge and relevance in the market.  Equally, you will need that knowledge to cater for effective, 1-on-1, relevant, converting marketing campaigns.

Even without considering the data stream that comes from opening up the gates of internet and online platforms, event and meeting organizers typically already have to deal with rather large amounts of data.  Data on their prospects and customers when it comes to exhibitors, data on their prospects and customers when it comes to attendees or visitors, data on the products and services they deliver, financial data, transaction data of ticket sales, survey information, …

All of that data is constantly changing at accelerating speed.  So how do you manage that ?  Here’s 9 tips.

1. Make data management a priority

What many event organizers don’t realize today is that accurate data on vertical markets is their prime business asset.  That must be treated with care.  Make sure this data stays in top shape.  Do so by spreading quality awareness and appropriate measures and processes across all levels of your company.  Google is not about search, Facebook is not about distributing socially appealing messages and likes, they’re about providing relevant information and advertising to customers and delivering that back to their advertisers, all based on extensive data.  You as an event or meeting organizer are no different and can even be better at it if you have all the relevant data for your markets or special interest groups.  Hell, you could even start selling your data to the Googles and Facebooks of this world.

2. Procedures for quality

Develop strong and rigorously implemented and monitored procedures for handling data.  Disallow root access to all data for everyone in the company.  Implement the processes and rules in your data management software solution.  Install a role based access rights system.

3. Hire a data specialist

He/she is responsible for sourcing, buying, importing, exporting, enriching, deduplicating and analyzing data.  Marketing helps him/her, if required, with segmentation, finding potential sources of extra or new data.

4. Segment don’t separate

Exhibitors, sponsors, partners – gold, silver, bronze, whatever – visitors, attendees : they’re all customers, just with a different business value to you.  Some or many, depending on the case, will have multiple values for different event brands in your portfolio.  Don’t store them in separate databases based on their initial contact or business value.  That value might change over time.

5. Segment further

Figure out the customer information as detailed as possible.  Categorize potential exhibitors in a structured way on industry, product groups – standardized SIC, NACE but also your event specific products groups – company size, revenue size per product group, ABC-category, competitors per product group, main industry markets, focus geographical markets,…

For visitors segmentation go for interests, buying power and buying intention.  For B2B-events add company size.

Do regular data integrity checks on these segments.  Filter out all those addresses that have slipped in over time as incomplete, missing one of the segment information elements, and take the time to complete.  This information will prove valuable to you in sales and marketing efforts.

6. Develop buyer persona

From the segment information you can derive archetypes of visitors and exhibitors.  E.g. a male maintenance technician between 30-40 years old working in the chemical industry located in the Antwerp province.

For each of these archetypes try to answer these questions :

  • Priority Initiatives – What causes certain buyers to invest time in my event, and what is different about  buyers who are satisfied with the status quo and don’t attend?
  • Success Factors – What operational or personal results does your buyer persona expect to achieve by attending?
  • Perceived Barriers – What concerns cause your buyer to believe that your event is not their best option?
  • Buyer’s Journey – Who and what impacts your buyer when evaluating their options?
  • Decision Criteria – Which aspects of the competing options does your buyer perceive as most critical, and what are their expectations for each?

7. Test

Test your data all the time, newly acquired data and existing data.  Over 20% of personal data becomes inaccurate after 1 year.  And that percentage grows if you take into account product data, market data,…

Do A/B-testing on your data sets.  Test purchased or otherwise newly acquired data before importing it into your CRM-database.  Use the test results to score data providers or to develop a data quality game inside your company between product range departments.

8. Build a solid data warehouse solution

Externally or internally hosted, doesn’t matter, that’s up to the manpower and skills you have available, but always look for a solid, scalable, performing, secure data warehouse solution. Set it up including a test, staging and live environment.

9. Prepare for BIG DATA

While all of the above is SMALL DATA and already a big challenge to maintain well, you must play in the back of your head with the idea of going for BIG DATA.  It will, as in many other industries, and not long from now, be of the utmost importance to event organizers.  You will want to know everything there’s to know about your exhibitors and visitors.  This information will not be available to you in clear, structured packages, like SMALL DATA.  It will have to be processed at ultra-high speeds and the volume will be huge.  This is a true challenge but when executed correctly this data will give you the ultimate knowledge of your target groups and insights needed to keep your event top of mind.

BIG DATA may seem like an overwhelming and over-anticipated monster, but with the appropriate strategy and tools, professional guidance and continuous evaluation and adjustments, you will master this too.  Big data in events : a great topic for my next post(s).