Events, Part 2: Evaluating the Event
By: Kathy Kelley
As with every promotional or business-related activity, it is necessary to properly plan events, have clear objectives of what you hope to accomplish (or the benefits you desire), and measure the outcomes. This information will be essential to determine whether or not the energy used to promote and implement the event justified the time and money spent.
Though an event’s ultimate measure of success is profitability, it is also important to understand:
- How responsive consumers were to the type of event offered
- How customers learned about the event
- Which advertisements and promotions reached the greatest number of visitors
- Goods and services visitors purchased during the event
- What other events and activities visitors would be interested in attending
Pay attention to how attendees are reacting during the event and note whether what you are offering them meets, if not exceeds, expectations. Be sure to keep track of certain indicators that determine if the event provided a return on investment and whether or not it should be offered again or changed. Specifically, record the number of visitors, amount in sales, and other related information.
Document the number of consumers that visit the business during the actual event and weeks that follow.
Measuring foot traffic can be accomplished by:
- Requiring attendees to RSVP or bring an invitation to the event that they receive in the mail, print from the Internet, cut out of the newspaper, etc. These approaches can also be used to collect attendees’ names, email addresses, interests, wine preferences, and other information that could be used to help plan next year’s event or other activities. Be sure to have extra invitations available at the event for walk-ins to fill out and use to be admitted.
- Assigning an employee to manually count customers as they enter the event or install an electronic sensor that tabulates the number of customers who pass through a particular doorway (do not forget to subtract the number of employees who might also enter through the same doorway).
- Providing customers with the opportunity to sign up for your mailing list or to become wine club members.
Each system has its advantages and disadvantages—for example, not all customers will sign up for your mailing list or loyalty program, or they may already be members. But, an estimate of how many consumers attended can help you better plan future events.
You may find that basing foot traffic counts on a per-hour basis or for a several-hour block of time can help with scheduling employees and/or adjusting the hours that the event could be held in future years. Additionally, if you invite other vendors to sell their goods and services or a special entertainer to perform, try to schedule their appearances when foot traffic is at a level that will be rewarding for all involved.
Record not only foot traffic at the tasting room but also the number of visitors who access your website during and after the event. Have customers participate in an online survey that asks if they are interested in attending the event, what additional vendors or attractions they would be like to see, how they heard about the event, and if they were aware of the event before visiting the website.
How did gross sales compare to the same period during the previous year, regardless of whether or not you hosted a similar event? Did they increase, stay the same, or decrease?
Gross sales that are either the same or decrease could indicate (excluding any other major changes to the business or factors such as poor weather conditions) that the focus of the event, structure of the activities, or other components need to be altered. An increase in gross sales is certainly a very positive measure; however, it is still necessary to review notes taken during the event and determine if any changes could be made to make the event even more successful.
Especially during the first few years, an event will probably require more inputs than other promotional activities, depending on:
- The number of activities that are offered during the event and whether customers are charged a fee to participate in any or all of them
- If other vendors are invited to be a part of the event and whether they are required to pay for booth space
- Additional advertising expenses
- Whether merchandise will be discounted during the event
- Additional staff that may be needed before, during, and after the event
The event could be a success in terms of attracting new and existing consumers, yet not be profitable.
- If the primary goal of the event was to be a major income generator, but the cost of hosting the event exceeded revenue, then it may be necessary to revise aspects of the event before offering it again.
- If the primary goal of the event was mainly to alert consumers that the business exists and no significant sales were expected, sales generated during the first year could be viewed as an additional benefit to the business.
Sales during the event are key, but consumers may not always make purchases, or make their entire purchase, during the event. Rather, they may return at a later date when there is less of a crowd, or they may need to give greater consideration to the goods and services offered and their need for them. If the conversion rate (number of purchasers compared to number of visitors) is low or less than an average business day’s conversion rate, then further investigation is warranted.
Once the event is over, the work is not done. Though it may be difficult, key personnel should meet immediately after the event to talk about their perceptions of how well the event was received, any components that need to be reconfigured, and what the economic reward was. A final task would be to develop or redefine a list of objectives for the next time you plan to offer the event. Most likely, employees’ memories of the event will become less accurate as they become involved in other business activities.
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