Event app budgetWhat percentage of your conversations center around your budget? More than 20%? More than 50%? And are any of them about how you have too much money to spend? Of course not. Budget restrictions keep you from doing all the cool things you want to do, hiring the big name speakers, implementing the super-sexy experiential and technical toys and tactics.

In talking to app developers at last week’s EVENTtech conference, the issue of budget came up again and again. Everyone has come to agree that apps generate connections, engage attendees and keep the messages front and center, all things that make events more valuable. That said, budget is still the primary obstacle to implementing an app at every event. People see the value of the app, but can’t relate the cost to the value.

Let’s look at it from a new perspectivce: If I told you a movie cost $10 and a video game cost $50, you’d think the movie was the less expensive choice. But if the movie lasts two hours and the video game lasts 100 hours, the relative unit cost of each shifts. Suddenly, what looked expensive became the more inexpensive option.

The problem with spending big money on an app is a perception of limited longevity, if your event is only a few days, then your app only lives for that long. But, what if there is a way to expand the use from three days to 365 days?

If your event lasts just three days, why would you want your app to live for so long? The answer involves stepping back and seeing the bigger picture, it is about seeing your app as more than just your event app.

In many cases, your event is the kickoff for a long campaign. For example, you have a sales meeting where you might want to use an app. The app helps the team connect to each other, take part in activities and launches the annual sales campaign. Maybe your message this year is to finally take over the number one position in the industry. As a great event manager, you’ll want to develop activities and sessions that define, explain and reinforce the message that this is the push to “Reach #1.” Every aspect of the event directs attention to that message and for three days your attendees are surrounded by it.

But when your attendees go home, what then? You get the team excited about the campaign and they go home and it falls out of their heads. You pass the baton to internal marketing to keep the message going, but they’ve got a whole slew of tools to communicate the message that are completely different from yours. After three days of investing in a tool like the app, getting people to download it, use it, fall in love with it, internal marketing thinks they should delete it and start fresh with something different. There’s no way that this lack of integration makes for a seamless transition or aids in reinforcing the message. The hand-off is purely a function of internal departmental divisions.

But internal marketing would love to have an app that everyone already has downloaded, that everyone knows how to use, that everyone has built relationships through. All you have to do is stop calling it an event app and start calling it the campaign app.

The key is in thinking beyond the ballroom. Once you have started thinking about the app as a campaign app, the app that you select has far more value to the company, as they will be using it for a whole year instead of three days. The app still does what you need it to do as an event marketer, but now others get to use it. What others? How about MarComm? Or your Training department? Or even Human Resources? These are departments who have a completely separate budget from you. These are departments you can reach out to in order to share the cost of an app, because they can use it to further their own departmental goals.

That is: not only will they share their budget with you, they will thank you for helping them solve their own problem.

goLet’s go back to the sales meeting example. After three days of using the app to learn how each person will play a vital role in getting the company to number one, the Executive Vice President of Sales gives closing remarks in which he or she says that the app is actually a campaign app. The leaderboard will be closed and all scores will return to zero. Sales staff should keep the app on their phones because every week, the sales team will get messages through the app. They will be expected to read pushed content through the app. They will be able to check into weekly virtual town halls on the app. They will be expected to take weekly or monthly surveys about the campaign and get feedback on how well the team is working towards the goal of reaching number one. Sales team members go home and can keep commenting to other team members they met at the event through the app. They can check in while they are on the road from anywhere in the country, or even from around the world.

On the back end, the MarComm team launches a quarterly contest through the app where the leaderboard tracks how many times each sales person is checking into the virtual town halls and how well they understand and use the campaign message. Quarterly winners get prizes and recognition. They develop content that gets delivered through the app. They build their own push messages. They write their own surveys. They collect their own analytics.

The job of event managers and internal marketing departments is to help perpetuate marketing messages, and here you can provide other departments with a tool that does exactly that. If you planned it right, you will have MarComm team members take the app training with you so that they can support team members after the meeting.

A new laptop may cost you a thousand dollars. Are you going to use it to play video games? Then it’s worth a thousand dollars. But if you use that same laptop to analyze data and find new untapped customers, the value of that laptop increases exponentially. The same can be said for the app. If you see it as an event app, it’s worth $30-45,000. If you see it as a campaign app that helps train, inform, align, and engage employees, it is suddenly worth far more.

Sometimes it takes bringing in a third-party to help your organization see the opportunities that a shared event/campaign app can bring. A third party can bring all the appropriate participants together to uncover the different ways the app can enhance employee communications and achieve departmental objectives, all at a cost far lower than if you tried to look for separate tools.

This is how you make the “event app” more valuable to more departments. This is how you find new budgetary support. This is how you are able to launch the app of your dreams.

If you’re interested in making your event app do more, you might be interested in reading Beyond The Ballroom.


 Images courtesy DocPopular