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Event marketing | 14 July 2017

Measuring Event ROI and Event Marketing Attribution

Brandon Rafalson

Learn how to measure, track and attribute event marketing ROI in this comprehensive guide. Featuring ROI models, attribution models, event technology tips and more.

Given that most companies allocate at least 21% of their marketing budgets to in-person events, it makes sense that marketers would want to track their return on investment (ROI). But how exactly can event ROI be tracked?

On the surface it would seem simple: money in, money out. However, event ROI is anything but simple. In fact, the more complicated the ROI picture gets, the more accurate event attribution becomes.

In this guide we will take a look at the many different forms of determining, measuring and analyzing event ROI. Of course, you can’t go about measuring ROI if you don’t have a sound attribution plan in place. That’s why you’ll find a large portion of this piece is dedicated to event marketing attribution, as well.

Buckle up. It’s going to be an ROI-y ride.

Table of Contents

  1. Event ROI Meaning
  2. Event ROI Goals
  3. Event ROI Models
  4. Event Technology and ROI
  5. Event Marketing Attribution
  6. Event ROI Tools
  7. Event ROI Integrations

Event ROI Meaning

Event ROI is a flexible term that indicates the net value an event marketer gets from an event for the net cost that goes into producing it. Note that Value is a much broader term than event revenue. While value could be revenue generated from registrations, it could also include sponsorships and partnerships, leads added to the sales pipeline, the number of people who attended the event, the satisfaction of attendees and more.

Similarly, the cost of an event could be considered the financial price of producing an event, but it could also indicate the time and resources that go into an event, and the opportunity cost of staging an event, and so on.


While event profit is expressed as net value minus net cost, event ROI is expressed as net value divided by net cost. The result is the event ROI percentage.

Event ROI

This is the simplest model for calculating event ROI. Later in this piece, we’ll take a look at several other event ROI models that are specifically helpful for determining revenue-based ROI.

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Event ROI Goals

As with any campaign or initiative, the first step in producing an event is identifying the goals that you are aiming to achieve. These goals will vary depending on the type of event you will be holding, the target audience for the event, and the departments and stakeholders that will be involved.

The best way to determine whether a marketer is getting the value per cost desired (ROI) is by setting goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and timely (S.M.A.R.T.). The below table provides a starting point for creating S.M.A.R.T. goals for determining event ROI. With each goal you’ll find accompanying event metrics. Some of these might seem like no-brainers. Others require a bit more brain.

Business Goals Event Goals ROI Metrics ROI Tools

Build Brand Awareness

Increase Event Registrations # of Registrations Event Management System (EMS)
Increase Social Media Presence # of Social Media Impressions EMS, Analysis of Social Media Platform
Increase Media Coverage # of Media Placements Manual analysis, Attribution Software
Increase Website Traffic # of Website Visits

# of Website Visits from Event Page

Web Analytics Platform

Drive Sales Revenue

Generate Leads # of Prospects Added to Database

# of Accounts Added to Database

Generate Pipeline Value $ Value of Pipeline Created CRM
Opportunities Created # of Opportunities Created CRM
Accounts Closed Won # of Accounts Closed Won CRM

Educate and Delight Customers

Increase Users of Product/Specific Product Features # of Monthly Active Users

# of Users on a Specific Feature

# of Demos Given

# of Samples Given

Product Analysis Platform, Event Staff Reporting
Increase Satisfaction of Customers Pre-Event Survey

Mid-Event Survey

Post-event Survey (NPS)

Increase Customer Retention # of Appointments with Customers Event Staff Reporting, Event Scheduler Platform

Event Engagement

Increase Session Engagement # of Questions Asked In Sessions

# of Live Poll Responses

Event Staff Reporting, EMS
Increase Event App Engagement # of Event Community Check-ins

# of Event App Downloads

Increase Social Media Engagement # of Company Mentions

# of Event Hashtag Mentions

EMS, Analysis of Social Media Platform

Educate and Delight Partners

Increase Partner Engagement # of Visits to Partner Booths

# of Event App Partner Page Impressions

# of Event App Partner Logo Impressions

# of Event App Partner Page Clicks

Event Staff Self-reporting, EMS
Increase Satisfaction of Partners Pre-Event Survey

Mid-Event Survey

Post-event Survey (NPS)


Drive Recruitment

Increase Recruiting Leads # of Prospects Added to Pipeline

# of Employees Recruited



To learn more about how to best measure the ROI of an event, check out our blog posts on event success KPIs and event metrics. To learn more about setting event objectives, check out the Smart Event Marketing Playbook. 

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Event ROI Models

There are several different models for measuring ROI. Each presents its own strengths, weaknesses and levels of complexity. Even if you choose the Return/Investment model, you’ll find that there is a room for complexity. As discussed above, event value can mean revenue generated directly from the event (registrations, sponsorships, customers), but it can also mean a variety of other goals and metrics that may be easy or next-to-impossible to ascribe a dollar value to (leads generated, brand awareness, customer lifetime value).

Whatever definitions of event value and event cost you end up using, the below models will help you calculate your return. You’ll notice that we use the term event revenue, but between you and us we’re really talking about the overall event value.

Simple: Return/Investment

The simplest model is the return/investment model mentioned near the top of this piece. It’s ROI in it’s purest form. How much did you get out of the event? How much did the event cost? Simple.

Return/Investment ROI Model


  • Easy to calculate.


  • Over-inflates the event revenue and doesn’t illustrate profit.

Advanced: Incremental Revenue

In the incremental revenue model, things get a bit more complex. Rather than just looking at the event revenue over the event expense, we are looking at the event profit over the event expense by taking a look at the profit of your event and then seeing how much profit you are getting for your investment.

Incremental Revenue ROI Model


  • Relatively easy to calculate.
  • Takes into account profit.


  • Does not take COGS into consideration.

Complex: Incremental Margin

For an even more complex break-down, try the incremental margin model. This takes into account the gross margin instead of event revenue. The gross margin can be found by subtracting the cost of goods sold (COGS) from the revenue of event. The result is a much bigger picture of event ROI.

Gross Margin ROI Model

COGS may vary depending on the type of event that you are holding or on whether you are holding an event or attending one. It could include various line items such as swag, design collateral, food, dinners and drinks. If this sounds very similar to event expenses, that’s because it is. More often than not, COGS will be smaller than your event expense. It’s also thought of as something that is absolutely necessary for making a sale happen. We’ll let you noodle on that for a bit.

If you have questions about what is considered COGS for your event and what is considered event expenses, you might want to reach out to an accounting professional. If someone with accounting acumen is out of reach, you might want to stick to the incremental revenue or the return/investment models. 

Incremental Margin ROI Model


  • Extremely robust, big picture analysis of your event.


  • Calculating COGS can be extremely difficult task for some businesses.

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Event Technology and ROI

Having an all-in-one event success platform not only makes it possible to measure otherwise inaccessible data, it also makes measuring data as a whole a heck of alot easier. Sure, we’re an event technology company, so there’s a good reason why we’d want this to be the case. But beyond our own wishful thinking, the market is presenting clear evidence that this is the case.

Several sources indicate that the event technology industry growing rapidly. According to a financial report from Frost and Sullivan, the “event management software” industry is worth $28 billion and is projected to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.3% moving forward. A quick look at Crunchbase reveals that in 2016 alone, over 50 million was invested in modern event management solutions—a record-setting year!  This comes as little surprise considering that Forrester Research estimates that the average B2B CMO allocates 24% of their marketing budget to live events.

When it comes to measuring event ROI, different event tech platforms have different strengths. To figure out which event platform is right for you, consult our event software buyer’s guide—created using objective third-party data and user reviews.

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Event Marketing Attribution

Hand-in-hand with event ROI is the question of event marketing attribution—the ability to connect the dots between your event and additional revenue. For instance, if someone attends your event, it’s relatively easy to see if they become a customer on-site, but what happens once they leave? For proving event ROI you will want to track whether or not that person becomes a customer days, weeks or even years down the line. By that same token, you will want to know what other marketing initiatives contributed to that final conversion.

Event Marketing Attribution Models

To better understand event ROI, we will first take a look at four fundamental models for tracking event attribution: the First-Touch model, the Lead Conversion Touch Model, the Last-Touch model and the W-Model.

The First-Touch Model

The first-touch model is one of the most simple models in theory, but in practice proves quite hard to track. It attributes 100% of the return generated to the marketing initiative that drives someone to interact with your brand. To be clear, this is not tracking a conversion or someone submitting their data to your company. It is tracking that first activity that would lead to a conversion.

Given that first-touch occurs before a conversion happens, it can be difficult to track. Advanced attribution and analytics tools (like Google Analytics and Bright Funnel) can help event marketers keep track of this metric for most online interactions. However, a bit of guesswork might be required when it comes to offline interactions.

For Example: Someone visits your blog, then visits your event website, then attends an event. In this case, 100% of the credit goes to whatever blog brought that person to your website.

First-Touch Attribution Model


  • Simple in idea.


  • Prone to technological limitations.
  • Focuses on one part of the marketing funnel.

The Lead-Touch Model

The lead model attribution model is probably the most simple and popular one. In this model, the return generated is 100% associated with the first marketing initiative that causes an individual to convert and become known to your company.

For Example: Someone who is an anonymous contact visits your website and submits a form to download a white paper.  

In this case you may want to nurture this contact by inviting them to an event. According to the first touch attribution model, even though this person attends your event, the event does not get any credit for the return.

If someone is not known to your company and then they attend an event, then the event will receive 100% credit for the return.

Lead Conversion Attribution Model


  • Very simple to implement.
  • Doesn’t require a robust marketing or event stack.


  • This model doesn’t look at the action a customer took before becoming an opportunity or customer.
  • Focuses on one part of the marketing funnel.

The Last-Touch Model

In the last-touch attribution model, the return generated is 100% associated with the action that someone takes immediately before converting to an opportunity or customer. Like the first-touch model, the last-touch model is relatively easy to implement.

For Example: If someone becomes known to your company by submitting their information for an ebook, then downloads a webinar and then finally attends an event before becoming a customer—only the event will receive credit for the return generated.

Last-Touch Attribution Model


  • Easy to implement.
  • Good for businesses dealing with a large transaction database.


  • May require a more advance platform.
  • Focuses on one part of the marketing funnel.

The W-Shaped Model

The w-shaped model is the most accurate and robust model for attributing event marketing ROI. It’s also the most difficult to implement. It takes into account all of the points of contact and marketing initiatives that have caused a contact to finally close.

It distributes a portion of the return across each marketing initiative. The question for the marketer is the percentage of the return that should be attributed to each touch point. This is left to the marketer’s discretion.

For Example: Someone becomes known to your company by visiting your blog, converts on an ebook, attends a webinar, attends an event and then finally becomes a customer. In this case, a marketer might attribute 30% to the blog, 20% to the ebook, 20% to the webinar and 30% to the event.

W-Shaped Attribution Model


  • The most robust of these models.
  • Takes into account multiple aspects of the marketing funnel.


  • Requires an advanced attribution platform.

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Event ROI Tools

If you’ve made it this far in the guide, then you’ve realized that tracking event ROI is no easy feat. Fortunately, there are several tools that can make doing so easier and more accurate. Below is a comprehensive, but by no means exhaustive, list of tools that can assist you in measuring and attributing event ROI.

Event ROI Tools

Marketing Platforms

Covering a broad range of functions—from email marketing management to content management, marketing automation and more—marketing platforms provide event marketers with a suite of tools for engaging and activating customers.



Customer relationship management systems (or CRMs) are the backbone of the modern event marketer’s strategy. They enable businesses to manage businesses relationships with current and prospective customers. They also manage the data and information associated with them.  


Business Intelligence Platforms

More than 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two year. More and more companies are leveraging technologies that make it possible for them to track valuable data. Business intelligence platforms help event marketers make sense of this data and draw meaningful conclusions from it.


Attribution Platforms

As marketing has become increasingly digital, a number of attribution platforms have arrived on scene to help marketers connect the dots between their numerous marketing campaigns—both online and offline.


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Event ROI Integrations

It’s one thing to have a number of platforms assisting you with event marketing attribution and tracking event ROI. It’s another thing to have all of these platforms integrated. Data integration is the practice of linking your various software platforms so that data can be easily transferred and reconciled among them.


Event ROI Integrations


As an event marketer, the center of your web of integrations should be your event platform. From there, you’ll want to make sure that it is connected to the other relevant platforms across your department and company. Doing so will ensure that all of your event ROI data is efficiently and accurately being tracked. For more information on ROI, check out our Event Data Integrations eBook.

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Wrapping Up: Event ROI Can Be Easy

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide. From event ROI models and attribution models to business objectives, tools and the technologies that can help you become an ROI master. If there’s one thing to take away from this piece, it’s that measuring event ROI is possible and it can be easy. The trick is in finding the right technology.

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