1. Prove Your Success
“Looking to get more money for an event program is like asking for more allowance before you've done your chores,” says Allison Saget, author of The Event Marketing Handbook: Beyond Logistics & Planning (Kaplan Publishing, 2006). But presenting compelling data that shows an event's return on investment can help you make your argument. Just ask CareerBuilder.com. Last year, the Chicago company worked with Swivel Media to produce a six-month, 43-city mobile marketing tour so successful that the company is not only doing it again this year, but expanding it. Company executives created several different ways to track Web activity that originated from the tour, including taking photos of event attendees at each stop and giving them a code that allowed them to retrieve the photo from the Web site; Careerbuilder.com then tracked how many people entered their code. “Presenting the data was the best way for us to increase our resources and make our case,” says Andrea Winitsky, the company's event marketing manager.
2. Tell a Story
While the numbers can be important, don't rely solely on them to make your argument. Instead, to get the OK to do more or bigger events, author and marketing guru Seth Godin recommends selling the story behind them. “When your boss asks you to justify the ROI, if you engage in that conversation you're walking into a sucker's bet,” he says. “What they're really saying is, 'It makes me nervous to invest in this, so tell me a story that won't make me nervous.'” How to do that? “Pick someone who just became a customer, or became a world-class employee, and talk in detail about their value—and then talk in detail about how the event you created caused that to happen,” he says.
3. Focus on Presentation
Make sure your proposal is visual. Ian Seeberg, a Los Angeles-based freelance creative director, writer, and composer who has worked on multimillion dollar events for companies like Chrysler and Mattel, has hired watercolor artists to paint renderings of his vision for events; he also suggests using 3-D graphics. The reason? Budgets tend to be created in “unemotional, logical” ways, he says. “But if you can get [decision-makers] into a situation where they become invested in the creative, then it becomes an emotional buy. And when they get the fervor of what you want to do, somehow, miraculously, there's always more money.”
4. Get Other Departments Involved
Look beyond your own event marketing department when it comes to budgets, Saget says. Partner with other departments within your company, such as internal sales, marketing, and even purchasing and accounting. “If you're doing press activity, the PR budget could help fund a portion,” Saget says. “If you are doing a product launch, product marketing has funds.” By engaging purchasing and accounting in your contract negotiations, Saget says, you can often get a 5 to 10 percent budget boost.
5. Have the Right Team
Having the right people working on the event can help make your case for getting a bigger budget. “If the event planner can walk in with the right people in tow—the right creative resources—it's less of a gamble,” Seeberg says. “When you're talking to people on a corporate level, you really have to show how you can take a big theatrical idea and build it upon a strong foundation of marketing and advertising so the message is coming across.” Hiring a team of talented people who have “trackable success rations” (meaning they've worked on previous events with measurable successes) helps.
—Erika Rasmusson Janes
1. Prove Your Success