What to Include — and Exclude — When Collecting Attendee Data

Author: Dave Lutz, CMP       

We need to walk a fine line — making it easy to click “yes” during the registration process, while also collecting intelligence to drive personalization — when it comes to collecting data on conference customers. Data fields and pick lists should be normalized and updated across membership, meetings, subscriptions, and all of the organization’s other programs and services.

Mandatory fields should be kept to a minimum. Here are five data categories to examine and refine for your customer-intelligence strategy:

Firmographics — The kind of company your customer works for should be a mandatory field. Develop a pick list with 10 or fewer options. Each company type should represent 5 percent or more of the total responses. For categories yielding less than 5 percent, group with another company type or allow as a write-in. Consultants and service providers should be included as a category. A second data point to consider here is the size of the organization. Providing several choices for employee count ranges is less probing, but just as helpful, as annual revenue. Company type along with job function are usually the two best fields for customer segmentation.

Demographics — Job function or primary role should also be a mandatory field. Develop a pick list of job levels and apply the 5-percent rule as outlined above. Years in profession is also a helpful category and should be done in five-year increments. All other fields should be removed or collected during a profile update, not during registration. These may include certifications, professional degrees, college, gender, ethnicity, age, etc.

Reasons for Attending — Many organizers don’t understand the motivators for attendance as well as they should. Consider adding checkboxes where registrants can flag their top two reasons for participating: learning, networking, to see latest products/services, speaking, committee member, location, award recipient, etc.

Session Sign-up/Interests/Behaviors — Participants should register for extra-fee workshops or tours during the initial registration process, but not session sign-ups. In the spirit of making it easy to say “yes,” session sign-up should be delayed until 30–45 days prior to the conference. This timeframe better syncs up with the attendee journey — instead of being in the consideration phase, they’ll be in the planning phase. Explicit attendee behaviors like sessions favorited or handouts downloaded in the mobile app can be the most helpful intelligence for future planning.

Purchasing Influence/Role — Most conferences with a trade show collect data on annual budget, role in the purchasing process, and product/service interests. In my opinion, these can be removed — exhibitors and sponsors are very unlikely to make their investment decisions on these outdated metrics. As above, explicit behaviors (like favoriting an exhibitor, viewing product listings, or even session attendance) provide better intelligence.

PURLs and Profiles

Want to know one best practice for conference registration? Provide your customers easy access to a pre-populated registration page. This is accomplished by embedding a Personal URL (PURL) into an email invitation or through the registrant providing login credentials to pre-fill. Customers expect this kind of ease-in-buying experience because it’s similar to ordering from Amazon or booking an airline ticket. Instead of being asked again for firmographics and demographics, registrants just provide updates to their personal profile before completing the transaction. If your process does not include this capability, make plans to implement it for your next conference.

Read “A 7 Step Guide to Define Your Target Customer Persona for B2B Marketing” on the SalesWings blog at convn.org/saleswing.

Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.