How do you decide what events your brand will participate in each year? Do you go by the attendee demographics the event organizers collect? If so, are you aware that many of those numbers are made up to make the event look bigger and better than it really is (they’re marketers too). Do you go by how well you believe your brand was received at that event in previous years? Do you have data to support your decision?

What if you were asking the wrong question, or looking for the answer in the wrong places? What if it wasn’t a binary yes/no decision, but rather a matter of discovering how you could increase your return on participation? Furthermore, what if you could answer that question based on actual data?

That was the conundrum we set out to solve when we designed okapi. We believed, based on 30+ years of experiential marketing and data collection, that the existing experiential marketing measurement tools fell short of providing the kind of analysis that could inform marketing strategy or budget decisions such as choosing which events would be likely to yield a significant return.

In order to make decisions that increase ROI, rather than just knock some events out of the running, it’s important to understand how many variables there are in event marketing and how many of them you control. For instance, you control what products you sample, or what services you highlight, or what presentation you deliver and how your teams interact with each potential consumer. You control your collateral, whether you put your entire budget into a booth or if you add a customer event or even some guerrilla marketing tactics. And you can make informed decisions about all of those variables by collecting, managing, and analyzing data.

Your event data should inform all of your marketing decisions, which means that to put yourself in control of your ROI you also need to be in control of your data. Most event organizers collect some data and make it available to you, usually at a fee. But while that data may be meaningful to the organizers, and could possibly be valuable to you for post-event campaigns, it won’t tell you anything at all about who attended the event and interacted with your product, service, or brand. Your future decisions aren’t really about who was there – they’re about who interacted with your brand and how did they respond?

That’s where experiential marketing software comes in. okapi is a platform that sits between you and the conference and allows you to determine the frequency, the places, and the type of data collected. Now you are in control of when you collect data, where  you collect data, and what kind of data you collect.

You can even customize the type of data collected to the type of activity or “micro-event” you’re designing. That means you can have a simple sign up form for a drawing entry at your booth, a more comprehensive survey for a tasting event or lecture, a different survey following a demo of your product, and yet another survey for collecting data “guerrilla style” in the hallways or outside of the main entrance to a large event.  

The size of group doesn’t matter – you might have five people sitting at a table or 5,000 visiting your booth during the event. The key is that you can customize the kind of forms and surveys you ask those people to complete at each activity so that you’re building a basis for the decisions you need to make. Having the ability to quickly adjust the amount of data for each activity type is crucial because no one is going to spend 5 minutes completing a survey for a square of pizza or to take home your swag.

One of the biggest mistakes brands make in analyzing experiential data is isolating their data analysis to a single event. The real power to control your ROI is not in evaluating the data from a single event, but in understanding the relativity of one event’s data to another. Consistency of tracking and measuring data allows you to make incremental improvements to your marketing strategy and collecting and comparing data from all events across the organization gives you incredibly valuable feedback that you’ve probably never gathered or consolidated before.

Armed with this comparative analysis you can do far more than give a thumbs up or thumbs down to potential events. Because you’ll have a better understanding of market sectors and demographics who respond to your campaign you can shift marketing dollars to “micro-events”, offerings, and campaign strategies that have greater appeal to the event audience.

By having the option to compile data from multiple events and “micro-events” you remove the variables from any individual event such as overall attendance, staff interactions, weather, and so on. By analyzing what demographic engaged with you over the course of multiple events and also responded positively to your brand you might confirm your ideal buyer persona and make the decision to double down on events that attract that audience, or you might uncover a completely new market or a deeper niche than you expected and you can design future event strategies around that insight.

Not only does okapi put you in control of your data when you aren’t in control of the event, we also put you in control of people’s experience in sharing that data with you. And because the data is available instantaneously you don’t have to wait until everyone gets back in the office for a debrief to make adjustments to your strategy.

We believe marketing strategy should be able to balance short range responsiveness against long range planning and objectives. And that you should have more options than a binary yes or no. We deliver on that philosophy by giving you back control over your data and the way it’s collected, managed, and analyzed to give you control over your event strategy and the return you get on your investment.