The SaaS Event Strategy For In-Person Events
Sponsoring events like SaaStr or SaaStock is one of the cornerstones and highlights of our in-person event strategy each year. Why? Our ideal customer profiles (ICPs) are SaaS companies. We know that our customers, partners, and prospects are going to be roaming the halls of conferences like these.
However, the decision to sponsor a conference is not easy. A sponsorship is a huge time and financial investment. We consider carefully which events we could and should invest in.
In this post, I’ll share our approach to sponsoring in-person events in 2023, in particular, how we measure ROI and overall success of event sponsorships.
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Are in-person events worth it?
We’ve always been proponents of in-person events. We’ve been attending and sponsoring key industry events since the inception of ChartMogul. There’s a few reasons for that.
ChartMogul is a fully distributed team. We’ve got offices in Toronto, Berlin and Seoul, but most of the company is working from home or in different coworking spaces all over the world. That means that we cherish every opportunity we get to meet in person as a team.
Businesses are built on meaningful relationships. Some of them can be started online, absolutely. But when you dig deeper, there’s nothing better than developing relationships in person.
- In sales, it’s easier to book a demo with a person that remembers you from an event, that you had a beer with, that you showed your baby pictures to and vice versa. Whatever it was!
- In marketing, talking to a customer about doing a case study or testimonial comes naturally in-person.
- In partnerships, speaking face-to-face, you can show enthusiasm about connecting for a webinar or a co-marketing campaign.
- In account management, your customers will be so much more open to giving you honest feedback if they met you in person, and saw how tall you are.
At SaaStr in London this year, our team was able to start and build upon existing relationships with the SaaS community. We met hundreds of customers, prospects, partners, and many more folks in the SaaS community.
Evaluating the success of sponsoring an event
Determining the value of event sponsorship is one of the most important aspects of our strategy. It’s a mix of metrics and priorities that we continually refine and reevaluate but at the end of the day we always come back to the fundamentals: ROI, brand awareness, and engagement.
LTV is key to calculating ROI of in-person conference sponsorships
Let’s start with ROI. Return on Investment is the most common way to asses event success. After all, you want to make sure that your business is not operating at a loss.
If you consider the cost of the booth, travel, accommodation, swag, time of the team that was invested, etc. sponsoring an event costs upwards of $80k. Easy.
So what’s the difference between attending and sponsoring an event? Well, all the conversations you can have at the booth and the contacts you can make. And that translates directly to revenue and ROI.
Another term I heard for this is “booth math”. Here’s how we do our “booth math”.
In our experience, it’s possible to have about 2-3 conversations per team member per hour during a show. On average of course, some hours are busier than others.
For example, let’s say your team is able to have 400 conversations in total during the event. Let’s assume 150 of them were ICP leads, 50 of them you got to engage with your product after the event, 20 converted into customers.
Another assumption: your LTV is $10k. So on average, a customer will bring in $10k over the course of their subscription. If that’s the case, the you have to multiply your 20 converted customers by $10k. That’s 200k! That’s well above the initial investment.
Considering LTV, the math could work for you!
Here’s a picture of our wonderful team having a million conversations per hour. And we loved it!
However! And a big disclaimer here. If you only measure ROI from pure revenue numbers, you might set yourself up for disappointment.
Attract as many eyeballs as possible to your on-site activities
The second dimension we measure our success by is brand awareness.
The best conference sponsors stand out from the crowd. Conference attendees are already split between talks, meetings, chats, meals, and activities. So conference sponsors need to offer something memorable. What is memorable? When you reach out to them after the event, do you have a hook that they’ll remember?
At one of the last conferences, we had a t-shirt with the number 83,334 on it. Asking folks if they knew what it meant was our “soft opener”. Some responded right away: 83,334 MRR x12 is $1M ARR. They felt proud! If they didn’t know, we’d explain it. And they felt well-informed.
So start conversations with something engaging, ask open-ended questions, and be an active listener. I personally believe that if you talk more than you listen, you’re doing it wrong.
Also, make sure you provide value. This year we printed a summary version of our SaaS Benchmarks Report 2023. Inside attendees could find key SaaS insights and benchmark their own company’s metrics against over 2,000 SaaS businesses.
In terms of brand awareness we look at all the conversations we had, all the meetup attendees, talks, workshops, dinners, and happy hours. Also, how much buzz were we able to create online, and how many new eyeballs are on us because of the event. It’s hard to quantify, but there are some ways to do it. Conversations, impressions, pageviews, etc.
At SaaStr in London, we had a pleasant surprise. Jason Lemkin’s key presentation featured our insights from the Benchmarks Report.
There’s no better brand awareness than this. Thanks, SaaStr!
Engagement: it’s a measure of long-term success
Awareness and impressions are useful. Leads and revenue and fabulous. However, they’re not standalone measures of success
Our long-term success depends on building meaningful relationships with folks from all corners of SaaS. We go to events to build deeper relationships with people in the SaaS industry.
Engaging with partners
We use SaaStr as an opportunity to connect with partners. For example, the companies that we have an integration with, and with the companies that we have commonalities with.
A measure of success for us is how many partners we engaged with and were able to build relationships with.
Engaging with existing customers
We also consider existing customers. We all know that SaaS businesses have been struggling with new business these days. Growth has been slowing down. As a result, retention should be on all of our minds. So to keep our retention and expansion numbers high, we go to events.
We measure success at events by looking at how many existing customers we met, how many customer meetings we were able to book for our account manager, and how much feedback we received and can pass on to the product team.
Create your one in-person event strategy
So, to recap.
First of all, you need to know if and why sponsoring events is relevant and useful for your business. Every company is different, so make sure you know your “why”.
Our success at ChartMogul relies on 3 pillars: ROI, brand awareness, and engagement. Your pillars might be different.
Just remember to keep them in mind when implementing your tactics. There’s no point investing in elaborate booth activation tactics if they don’t contribute to your goals.
Create your own event strategy and you’ll be set up for success. See you at the next SaaS event!