Dec 18, 2019 by zkipster Editorial Team

Picking an Event CRM: What to Know for 2020

From streamlined check-in experiences to direct messaging tools, event management platforms help you and your team to provide personalized, highly memorable experiences for your clients and their guests. But is a CRM — short for customer relationship management — a necessary part of this equation?

So what does this mean for your digital communications, and how can you augment your strategy to push through the noise?

If you’re putting on an event, you’re inevitably collecting tons of guest information. You may have an event management tool to help you store this information, but utilizing a CRM helps you manage it in a powerful way.

CRMs can easily analyze data and generate invaluable reports based on your customer (or in this case, guest) portfolios. You can use this information to filter for specific characteristics to create unique guest lists, evaluate your event ROI, send targeted, personalized messaging, and much more.

But choosing the right CRM for events, or choosing one that integrates with your event management technology, isn’t easy.

In this guide, we’ll look at why a CRM is important for your event management operation, what to look for in a solution, and how CRMs can help you create extraordinary experiences for your clients and guests alike.

Choosing The Right CRM

Which System Is Right for Your Team?

While CRMs for events are strong in some areas, they significantly lack in others. In order to pick the right software for your business, you need to understand your options and compare those to your desired outcomes.

There are two popular ways to incorporate a CRM system into your event management strategy. You can choose:

A CRM for events built with a full suite of event promotion tools, like event marketing via email or social media campaigns, as well as standard data and analytics features.
An event guest management platform that enhances the guest experience and integrates into an existing CRM to leverage attendee data and analytics.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both, and it ultimately depends on what you’re looking to gain from the technology.

CRMs for events

Pros
  • CRMs can generate compelling event data, analytics, and reports with regard to registrations, website clicks, detailed attendee information, and more.
  • They can easily automate marketing efforts for attendees to help your team to qualify and nurture new and existing leads while saving them valuable time.
Cons
  • CRMs focus more on data and analytics and less on event logistics and operations.
  • Many CRMs do not have all of the tools that event managers and planners need to run a successful event or operation.

 

Event management platforms integrated with CRMs

Pros
  • These platforms tend to offer highly specialized tools that focus on event operation specifics, such as online invitations, seating charts, event check-in, synced stakeholder portals, and more.
  • They also boast powerful integrations and APIs that allow information from many tools to sync together to create a robust platform, uniting the best of both worlds in one experience.
Cons
  • Because you are using more than one tool, it may be harder to keep track of your information and tasks across several platforms.
  • The integration may not give you access to all of the CRM tools, leaving you in need of a more robust integration or to use a separate CRM tool for other needs.

 

If you don’t have any CRM at all, or have a CRM that does not have event-specific functionality, it’s certainly worth weighing the pros and cons of each choice.

In determining which option works best for you, the first and most important step is to evaluate your pain points and needs.

If your highest objective is to streamline event check-in, you should focus your research on event management tools that can help you optimize that process. From there, search for CRMs that your new tool integrates with, and make sure the CRM has all of the basic functionality you need for collecting, organizing, and automating data.

However, if your biggest pain point is leveraging event data to generate new, qualified leads and automate communication with them, then it may be worth researching CRMs for events first. As a second objective, you can search for the event management platforms that the CRM has existing integrations with, or ask if they are able to build a custom integration specifically for your agency. You may end up with one CRM that integrates or connects with several event tools to complement its functionality and suit your needs.

Let’s dive deeper into how CRMs for events, whether standalone or integrated with event management platforms, can help your event management business.

4 Big Benefits of an Event CRM

How an Event CRM Streamlines Your Work

Before we dive into what you should look for in a CRM platform, let’s explore four key benefits they can bring to your events operation.

 

Automate manual tasks

Running an event management agency requires adeptly assigning work to the right team members. But even the best delegation doesn’t necessarily reduce the amount of manual work, which is where a strong event CRM can win back a lot of valuable time.

Many of the common tasks that crop up, like data entry for guest lists, can be automated, freeing up team resources to focus on all the event details that benefit the most from a human touch.

This is exactly what a CRM can help you with — especially one that integrates with other tools. These tasks include sending event invitations, email follow ups, and logistics management, such as catering and insurance, among others.

Automating time-consuming tasks allows you to focus on higher-level activities that make a bigger impact on your ROI.

 

Measure event ROI

Speaking of ROI: with all of your data in one place, it makes tracking the effectiveness of your events easy. From attendee metrics to post-event touch-points, you can measure the entire event journey from start to finish.

Measuring each touch-point is especially useful when assessing the ROI of the events. ROI in this context can simply mean the event revenue generated from registrants, or by measuring another metric, such as leads generated or the number of sponsorships secured.

There are some event management platforms, like zkipster, that offer the ability to record detailed guest portfolios to support guest management. Integrating this event management software with a CRM doubles the insight power. The CRM scans the data and creates critical reports that you can take meaningful action from. This helps you dig into metrics such as leads generated and allows you to set up automated marketing campaigns to qualify new leads.

You can use a CRM to collect or store this data, and attribute the resources that contribute to each event. By tracking all investments in a single place, you can measure your event ROI more accurately.

 

Capture and act on attendee data

Event management platforms allow you to measure how guests engage with the content inside your events. When you Integrate these tools with an event CRM, you can attribute this data to individual guests, building a more robust reporting system.

For example, the CRM can easily scan your guest portfolios to determine the seniority of those who attended certain keynotes. A few months down the line, your company may be hired to manage an event in which these guests are the target audience. You can then use the CRM to easily locate this siloed group and use it, or a separate email marketing tool, to send personalized messaging for future events to generate interest.

The CRM for events or your separate event management tool can record these messages in a central location, making it easy for each team member access them. Your sales team can work together to register these guests for your future events and boost sales based on well-nurtured leads.

 

Enhance guest experiences

You most likely manage events that span multiple categories. This means you need to be able to leverage a wide variety of data to create better guest experiences for your varied event types.

For example, an event for wine connoisseurs most likely attracts a different audience than those attending a painting exhibition. While there may be some overlap, these variations mean you will need two different guest lists for each event.

A CRM or event management platform makes it easy to find and organize the target audience for these separate events. Through trustworthy data, you can identify, organize, and message your target audience to get the right people to attend your client’s event.

Most importantly, the CRM or event management platform allows you to engage in uniquely human experiences with your guests. Often, you will put on events that draw recurring guests throughout the years. Your team can focus on the details that make these returning guests feel special, such as seating them with different people at each event they attend to vary their personalized experience.

These little details take minutes rather than an hour to track down, thanks to the help of CRM and event management software.

What to Look For in an Event CRM

5 Key Considerations for Picking the Right CRM

With the benefits clear, it’s time to find the right CRM for your organization. Whether you’re new to the events industry or considering taking on additional vendors, this chapter will guide you towards the right CRM for you.

Supports guest communications before, during, and after the event

Whether you have a CRM with an automated messaging tool, or an event management platform with a communication feature, being able to effectively communicate with guests is key.

While email is the go-to communication, it has its drawbacks. As people become increasingly spammed with marketing messages, many don’t bother to open targeted emails anymore.

An alternative is direct messaging through tools like WhatsApp or Line to directly communicate with guests. These messages are more likely to be opened than emails, especially with younger audiences, and you can use them to:

  • Engage guests before an event, like opt-in messaging requests.
  • Send last minute updates leading up to an event, like what guests can expect at check-in.
  • Provide emergency information, like contact numbers to reach out to if there is an issue with a travel arrangement.
  • Send updates throughout the event to make any necessary announcements, like a room change.
  • Keep the communication channel open post-event, by sending thank you messages or information about upcoming events.

The best CRM platforms let you to manage and send direct messages or emails from a single interface. This makes managing individual contacts a breeze, with the added ability to schedule activities that move them to the next stage of the journey.

Most CRM platforms can integrate easily with your existing Gmail, Outlook, or SMTP setup. Look for additional features that allow you to schedule emails, create templates, and track opens and click through rates.

 

Rich contact data

With all this contact data at hand, it’s a great opportunity to put it to good use. Therefore, find a CRM or an integrated event management platform that has the ability to easily store and locate as much information on your guests as possible.

This translates to creating tailored guest lists and experiences that make each guest feel appreciated. The data should give you the ability to refine your guests lists to fit perfectly into the event at hand.

The perfect event is only possible if complemented with the ideal audience. After all, an event is only as successful as its atmosphere, and the audience is a major contributor to the overall ambiance.

The goal is to leave each guest feeling excited by an elaborate experience. You can achieve this by using intelligent tools to analyze guest data and create environments ripe for a positive experience.

 

Reporting and forecasting

Understanding the health of the event (before, during, and after it happens) is critical. Having access to the right reports will provide you with high-level and granular insights that matter for the event you’re currently running — and help you to build upon your successes and determine improvements for future events.

Many CRM platforms allow you to create dashboards that provide insights on critical metrics. This provides a clear view of your goals, and keeps your entire team on the same page as they work on their day-to-day activities.

You’ll also be able to create forecasts based on historical data, allowing you to get an estimate of registrations and sponsorship sign-ups based on the activity you’re already doing.

 

Pipeline management for attendees and sponsorships

Managing hundreds (or even thousands) of registrations can be daunting. Furthermore, tracking where prospects are along the event funnel can get lost in a sea of spreadsheets.

Instead of relying on Excel or a similar tool, find a CRM that helps you track and manage the entire event pipeline. For example, you can create specific pipelines for activities such as:

  • Follow-ups with high-value invitees who don’t reply to your RSVP.
  • Keeping guests who RSVPed to the event engaged to avoid no-shows.
  • Managing potential sponsors and where within the deal flow they are.

 

Integrates well with other platforms

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to event technology. Which is why it’s key to make sure that no matter what method you choose, it can easily integrate with other platforms to bring your specialist tools together.

Good CRM systems integrate with most event technology systems — either directly or via a connector like Zapier. For example, if you use event management software to send online invitations, you can automatically change the status of contacts who accept them. No manual input is necessary.

Look for a CRM that integrates with other event management platforms, such as:

  • Project management software.
  • Guest listing and check-in.
  • Mobile event apps.
  • Event lead capture software.
  • Email and social media marketing tools.

Scaling Your Event CRM with Your Event Team

How to Effectively Plan Around a New CRM

As you introduce new technology into your event operation, scaling it up and running bigger events will become more manageable. Here, we’ll cover three ways you can scale events and how CRM technology can help make it happen.

Aligning your teams

Keeping all of your teams on the same page can be tough. It’s especially important in the event management industry that all teams involved are aligned and working towards the same goal. You only have one shot to execute a flawless event.

Here are a few practical ways to do this:

  • Select true-north goals. As mentioned above, when everyone is working on separate goals, priorities can become unclear. While this might seem obvious at first (for example, creating the perfect guest list for your client’s target audience), other metrics should be considered. This could be filling a quota or generating buzz about the event, causing some team members to stray from the original objective in order to reach secondary goals. CRMs and event management technology help to keep your team’s ultimate responsibility aligned, ensuring that your event draws the desired targeted audience, every time.
  • Foster transparency. Each team should explore the activities going on outside of their departments. This means marketing must share what they’re working on, and sales should provide insights into the conversations they’re having with guests and partners. This is easy to do through CRMs, as they are designed to be collaborative repositories of information.
  • Encourage skill sharing. When it comes to event management, many individual contributors must seamlessly come together to create one unique experience. CRMs help your various teams keep each other informed on ongoing information as it unfolds. This ensures that every contributor and team is up to date on the latest advancements so that every action can be taken into consideration as the operation advances.
  • Schedule regular meetings. Feedback is an effective way to keep all teams on the same page. These meetings can be used to evaluate owned and shared metrics, look at what’s working and come up with ideas to move the needle further.

How can an event CRM help with this challenge? With every interaction, activity and conversation logged in one place, your teams have a single source of information and data. Reports and dashboards will show individual teams where they stand with their daily and weekly tasks, ensuring everyone is moving effectively towards your primary goal.

Ideally, the CRM will mold into the daily workflow routine. If the whole team comes to rely on the software for their tasks, it will evolve into an essential tool as opposed to an uncomfortable obstacle.

 

Overcoming common hurdles of implementing an event CRM successfully

While powerful, a CRM or an event management platform still needs a human touch to be most effective. Both can help to store and analyze data, but you and your team are the ones responsible for setting the parameters in which the system will operate and carry out tasks.

Here are some common hurdles for implementing an event CRM successfully and ways that you can overcome them:

    • Keeping the database up-to-date and clean. Make sure you have a process for auditing your database to ensure the guest details don’t become stale. For example, if a guest gets a new job, this information should be reflected in their client profile. Perhaps it will affect their table placement or even the future events they are invited to, specifically if they are business networking events. Your software most likely won’t have a way of capturing this information and it will need to be manually updated by your team. The more often you audit your database, the more effective it will be, especially as you scale.
    • Making sure it has a clear role in your team’s workflow. Just like anything else in the workplace, the CRM tool must be clearly defined in your team’s workflow. The best way to do this is with calculated training sessions, both team-wide and individual as necessary. Such robust tools may be difficult to grasp at first, but once your team understands and starts to see the benefits of using them, the hard work will be worth it. Define exactly what actions should take place each day within the CRM, and create easy-to-follow documentation for your team to refer to. After a few months, the CRM will become one of the most valuable assets for your team.
    • Making sure other tools are connected. As mentioned earlier, CRMs are powerful alone, but come into their true power when connected with third party tools. There are countless tools that can be connected to CRMs or event management platforms through integrations or APIs. The more you make use of these, the more valuable your system will become.

 

Planning for growth

As your organization grows (and as the events become more successful), there’ll come a time where you can scale beyond your current processes.

The best event agencies understand the importance of creating an unforgettable experience for their guests. If you can make your guests feel wholly welcome and included, they may become effective brand ambassadors for your future events.

It’s also worth taking expansion into account from the very beginning. As you grow, your clients may have more needs and run larger, more data-heavy events that require more robust tools to handle nuanced operations.

For example, your client may be hosting an exclusive, one-time-only food event. You can leverage your CRM or event management platform to filter your guests’ profiles based on past event attendance to find the perfect leads for the upcoming event. You can filter your past guest lists for food preference, age, dietary restrictions, profession, personal or business connection to similar guests, and so on. From there, you can curate a flawless guest list for your client’s upcoming event.

Conclusion

Defining Your Goals to Determine the Best CRM

Your event marketing agency is unique. Before you can pick a CRM for events or event management platform that works best for you, you must define your needs and goals.

Once defined, spend some time researching the many event management tools available, as well as their integrations with CRMs for events, and vice versa.

Because there are tons of integration tools, both out-of-box and custom, as well as several open APIs that assist with information sharing, it’s worthwhile to invest a chunk of time upfront on evaluation before making a final decision.