I took in an afternoon matinée on startups this week, put together by Rob Moore (@RobertJMoore) from @RJMetrics, and the founder of @SoftTechVC, Jeff Clavier (@jeff). The topic:

“Raising Venture Capital with Data”

Data is all the buzz in the startup world, but what does it have to do with associations and their events?

More than I thought.

Jeff starts off by answering the question that is always on everyone’s mind when they are trying to talk to or pitch a VC.

Q: What do VCs look for when investing?

A: “A smart ass team with a kick-ass product in a big ass market.”

It’s as simple as that. 

Not quite. In fact, things can get a bit more complicated when it comes to determining how great the product is now and how embedded you are into that market, later.

Q: So how do you figure out the reach of a given product or service, and estimate it’s future success?  

A: Data

Here’s what Jeff said, broken down into areas that make sense for associations:

If you are not collecting data – form partnerships.  

Find the data and sources that show what is going on at your event. This used to mean surveys and the Net Promoter Score.  Today it means much more.

What does your data tell you about your target market?

Think your event represents the cross section of the industry. Look at your registration and exhibitor data. Who’s missing? And does the proportion of the show floor or attendee list represent what you believe to be the cornucopia of your market?

Are you leveraging “free marketing”?

This means engaging on social media, not just pumping out early registration deadline announcements. Crafting targeted, even microtargeted, content rich emails.

Understand the flow and paths of your users.

VCs want you to understand the flows and paths of your users to better understand where your product is going and how it can evolve. For events, you want to be able to say you know your attendees are coming because of your direct mail piece, email marketing, or their previous positive experience.

You need Cohort Analysis.

Are you looking at your attendees and their lifecycle within your event, or their company lifecycle within your event? This is a great tool to understand how your attendee base is shifting over time. Once you know that, you can begin to target your campaigns to what the data is showing.  

Customer acquisition.

We all know that acquiring a customer is more costly than retaining an existing one, but by how much? This is not only a financial calculation, but one of resources and time for your team, marketing creativity, channel development, etc. Are you reviewing your retention metrics to understand if your costs and resource allocation are shifting or increasing?

Engagement across events.

Another aspect you want to track for your product is how often are people using it? In the association and events world, this means retention and loyalty across the portfolio of your events. Are your most loyal attendees members or non-members, how many events do they attend, and what is their average spend? Looking at their contribution (both financial and participation) can be a strong indicator of how your’e doing as an event organizer.

Lastly, always do reference checks and if your data conflicts with your gut instinct, do more research. You can always look at more metrics in your data to determine further trends and therefore decide what will be successful and if your gut instinct is right. 

Take your cues from the startup world. There’s no one out there trying to do more with less, than entrepreneurs and the VCs that are backing them. 

If you’re interested, the full recording can be found here.  It’s a great listen, I highly recommend it.

– Nick

**Photo by Alex Grichenko