Every software provider hears it sooner or later, usually sooner. “Our processes are very unique to us, we wouldn’t be able to use your out-of-the-box solution.”
At okapi we understand why you might think that’s true. The variety of uses for field event marketing software or event program management platforms are almost mind boggling. If everyone’s event program management workflow was as unique as their business case they would indeed all be required to custom build their software solution. But, as Salesforce can attest to, every company’s sales processes are definitely unique but there’s enough similarity between them all that a billion dollar industry has sprung up around CRM systems. The fact that a startup like okapi can use Salesforce and a behemoth like Microsoft can use the same platform should at least make you pause and ask how unique your process truly is.
Add to that the highly people-driven nature of event program management and data collection. This certainly limits the amount of workflow automation that is practical for any software application and it’s easy to see why so many Event Program Managers and Directors think they are just going to have to limp along with a less-than-ideal suite of non-integrated programs or budget huge sums of money to have a software platform tailored to their unique requirements.
But here’s what we have found over all of the conversations we’ve had with prospects and clients – pretty much every use case for an event program management solution or a field event marketing software platform has the same requirements.
Seriously, that’s what it comes down to. Some of our clients are experiential marketing brands and agencies, some clients use okapi to collect data and deliver speaker’s decks to attendees at conferences and conventions. It can be used to drive B2B sales through lead generation and, integrated with a CRM system, you can even track actual event ROI. It works great for businesses who need to build brand awareness and to collect impact data for organizations funded by grant dollars. And those are just the most common applications for what okapi does.
Sure enough, they all need to perform the same six functions.
So if you think an out-of-the-box solution can’t manage your workflow, give this a read. Let us know if your business case needs something really customized or if this list pretty much covers what you need your software solution to do. (If you really do need something unique we’d love to talk about creating it for you, just give us a call.)
6 Universal Functions of Event Program Management
#1 – Create the Event in the System
Your event might have a lot of variables associated with it, or only a few. But the first step in your workflow is probably going to be to creating a record for that event and add the appropriate survey and recap forms to collect data from both your internal teams and all your attendees.
In okapi you enter the data for most of the variables such as the program, region, market, and campaign, during your initial system set up along with your survey and recap form templates. Additionally, you can add any number of customer properties to an event or an activity so it’s easy to “tag” records for future analysis and insight creation. To set up the event all you need to do is to add event specific data such as the type of event and the event name and date. When you do that the appropriate templates for surveys and recaps are immediately associated with the event. As long as you’ve done your initial set up properly (and yes, we assist our clients with that process) most of the work required to set up your event was automatically associated with this event record so your event is now set up and you’re ready to add resources.
#2 – Assign Resources to the Event
Now that your event is set up you will probably need to assign a budget and personnel who will collect the data or work the event. You may also need to add files, coupons, sales collateral or marketing assets that will be delivered upon a successful completion of a survey.
You can add your budget, then add activities to the event. When you add activities you will have the option to assign existing personnel to those activities and schedule them in the system or you can choose the recruitment option which allows you to send an email to invite people to sign up to work the event. Again, much of the information required to complete these steps was entered during set up, so this step is streamlined.
If you will have attendees using their own devices to access surveys via a QR code or URL you’ll be able to set those up and associate them with activities. And if you have coupons or speaker decks or any other files that will be automatically delivered when someone completes the survey you can upload in this step as well.
#3 – Oversee the Event
The day of the event you need to be able to see what is going on, even if you aren’t working the event yourself. So we’ve built in GPS-based check-in features so that the personnel working the event can let you know they have in fact arrived on location. You can also decide whether to require your field team to upload a selfie of themselves and add a comment for each check-in and check-out. And once checked-in they can always upload as many files images, audio, or video to the event or activity record.
You even have the ability to monitor survey data as it is collected. If it’s important for you to know that data is being collected just watch your dashboard. It updates in nearly real time so you can see peaks and lulls in activity or be aware of trends as they emerge.
For most use cases it won’t be important to see the data instantaneously, but if you are overseeing a multi-day event you might make adjustments for the second day based on survey data collected on the first day of the event. If activity is low in your booth, table, or other designated area and the event is one that allows your brand ambassadors or field reps to do a little guerilla-style engagement you might even instruct your personnel to take their efforts to the food court or the hallways of the conference center. Whatever opportunities exist for you to improve your event ROI the data will be available for you to make those decisions.
#4 – Review Event Reports
Once the event is over you may need to collect recaps from each of the activities associated with the event. In okapi the recap forms are already associated with the activities assigned to the event so once they are completed by the personnel working the event they’re submitted for approval and your review.
Of course, you may not approve every recap. So we’ve built in a rejection process that allows you to request an update to the form before it is resubmitted and approved.
Once all the activity recap forms have been approved the event itself is automatically marked as completed and moved on for reports to be generated and the data analyzed.
#5 – Analyze the Data
Now that the reports have been finalized you’re ready to dig into the nitty gritty. Since your program includes multiple events, maybe even several different types of events across multiple locations, you’ll want to compare the data from this event to data from other events or from previous years of working this event. This is the point at which your single event data becomes event program insights, the point when you can check your projections and assumptions against actual field data.
Again, because your methodology for collecting data and rolling it up for comparison was designed in the set up phase, these reports and insights are easy to access.
#6 – Adjust Your Strategy and Program Design
This is what makes or breaks an event program isn’t it? The ability to use the data from every event to add to your understanding of what will move the needle for future events. This is less a part of the workflow process than it is the reason for your workflow process. This is what your workflow delivers for you, the power to make data-driven decisions about each event in your program rather than depending on subjective reporting or your own instincts and observations.
Your workflow can be as simple, or as complex, as it needs to be, but it must deliver this outcome – that at the end of the workflow cycle you have your event data in a format that can be easily compared across multiple events and variables so that you can have the intel you need to increase the ROI of your entire event program.
What does your software solution have to do to deliver that outcome? Create the event, assign resources to the event, oversee the event, review reports from the event, analyze the data from the event as it compares to data for other events, and deliver meaningful insights so that you can improve your ROI for every event in your program. These are the required functions of every event program management workflow we’ve ever encountered. So this is how we designed our event program management software. So the real question of whether our platform can accommodate your unique requirements is whether you fit into this model. If you can fit into this model then all the fields, questions, and variables within these big buckets can be easily adjusted to meet your exact needs.
We definitely realize that this workflow is part of a bigger process that includes managing actual events and designing campaigns and programs that help achieve operational objectives. But we know our mission, and that is to provide real-time data-collection software that influences future outcomes and improves operational efficiency. And so far, in accomplishing that mission, we’ve discovered that even if your business is a one-of-a-kind, your workflow probably isn’t too terribly unique. And if it is truly that unique there could be an opportunity to adopt some of the best practices we’ve learned over the past 30+ years in the business that could automate your program and make your entire team more efficient.
If you’d like to understand how we approach event program management or how okapi could simply your life give us a call or try out our 30 day demo.