Data Matters Most: New Differentiators in MarketingOps for Event Planning

Events are back and in a big way. But while the show may look the same, the situation in the production room does not.

Since the pandemic, wholesale changes in data regulation and legislation mean those in an event’s command center need to orient themselves to a new, dizzying array of best practices and legal requirements.

The use of data can make or break an event. Companies stand to incur the loss of hard-earned trust, operational inefficiencies, and even severe financial penalties if data isn’t collected and used properly.

There’s another big upside: strategically deployed data ensures an event’s success and helps you prepare for what you can’t plan for. Recognizing the power of data and developing best practices for its use are the new differentiators when it comes to event planning and execution.

Balance lead capture with consumer data protection preferences and requirements.

When it comes to collecting personally identifiable information (PII), there’s a natural tension between the motivation of marketers, incentivized to capture and attribute leads, and the preferences of consumers, who may want to restrict access to their information.

In the past, that tension might have been measured by consumers as spam in their inboxes, by marketers as a less-than-ideal data set. Today, with the advent of data protection laws and cultural shifts in attitudes toward consumer data protection, the stakes of data capture are much higher—and the approach to it more complicated.

When it comes to data collection, the path of least resistance is littered with legal landmines. But irrespective of technical or lawful requirements, data collection should not detract from the way a customer experiences your event–or your brand.

Best Practices

Commit to capturing consent. Use opt-in instead of opt-out checkboxes. This is already required in the EU. In addition, include a field for ‘country of residence’ on your registration. This ensures GDPR compliance and is especially important for virtual or large events that attract international attendees. While it may result in fewer leads, capturing data in a straightforward and compliant way ultimately redounds to your benefit: The information you do have is from willing consumers, which improves brand attitudes and reduces risk.

Establish internal practices for data collection. Setting standards for issues like opting-in, third-party lists, and purchasing data helps remove sources of ambiguity and friction. Develop a privacy policy and use it as your north star. Educate marketing and sales teams on the policy proactively; better yet, include them in its development. And empower them to speak up on behalf of data privacy considerations when developing event communications and experiences.

Keep abreast of data privacy requirements in an ever-changing legislative landscape.

Data privacy laws and compliance are becoming increasingly complex, important, and prevalent. The rules are in constant flux, and currently, there are no federal regulations—only a patchwork of laws that vary by state. The EU has its own stringent data requirements in the GDPR. And major changes are coming in the US, with legislation proposals moving through Congress.

In addition, the potential consequences of data misuse can be broad and deep. Aside from damage to reputation, misused data may include stiff regulatory fines, ranging from $5,000 to upwards of $40-$50k per person. (In the EU, it can be 2-4% of your annual turnover–and we may soon see similar penalties in the US).

Privacy laws are also beginning to create issues between vendors and customers. Increasingly, customers are asking for representations and assurances that vendors are in compliance, and in the not-too-distant future, vendors may be on the hook for lapses. Incorporating emerging and evolving data privacy laws into event planning is essential, and it can be a differentiator for your company’s ROI.

Best Practices

Stay informed of changes and trends in data privacy. Establish a compliance or privacy officer, whose responsibility it is to stay informed. If data privacy is important to your job function, keep up with it by engaging with online social groups and conversations on platforms like Slack, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Plan for a potential data breach. Marketing must be briefed and bought into the crisis response protocols before a breach happens. Your legal team and head of marketing should establish a proactive communications plan for different breach scenarios.

Forge a strong partnership among marketing and legal, compliance, and/or security teams. Consider privacy regulations within the context of strategic planning for events, not just their execution. Provide legal/compliance training opportunities for marketing teams. Integrate legal departments into marketing planning; work hand-in-hand, not in a vacuum.

Keep data clean. While keeping data clean is a journey and not a destination, a sound effort can pay dividends when it comes to compliance–and is an essential part of preparing proactively for a worst-case scenario. Establish a “deletion” preferences center when customers ask to have their information deleted. Getting granular with deletion requests allows you to potentially preserve some data for your use. And invest in automation tools. Your data is a valuable asset; CRM tools like HubSpot and Pardot help keep your data compliant.


Amid several trends—the post-pandemic tilt toward in-person events, big investment in account-based marketing, and the perpetual pressure to fill the sales funnel with quality leads (customer data)—companies are spending on high-dollar shows as much as ever. But today’s savvy marketer knows there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to pulling off a successful event, and that when it comes to achieving effective targeting, messaging, metrics, and return on event investment, data matters most.


HX1wdlf1msGkH5aaZwhzK 0BSTJGbhvr9HIxd03F5d7xh0Sdx4R8GRH G9tQ7Sk7nsFMl rYD KmnUFa6hLe0nQUNWx7UvpNzHlgUDOZRSoUMCo6eR3C9PS3r9JbD4VR1GLOGjI7QNJBqoVZ 5ij9gAli Wittich
Founder, MarTecha 
Marketing Operations & Marketing Automation Expert
Get in contact: Ali(at) 
Xd IqFr1DDFzL fK361kg25A5HeuEo5NzBiJq9WMUNYrjQIB5rfecGqzW wBpxLdU5Qjh5TFWRK18pnPpaEpcDOxrBqARGrace Gittinger
Founder, GG & CO Event Marketing and Strategy
B2B Events Expert
Get in contact: grace(at)
4251bb5OcLJO3RG8duSyL 0KO9MsFXKq87EwSSNVBe4olM34Ke3Z dRZc pp0QZCDp6P2aCaroline McCaffery
Founder & CEO, ClearOps Inc.Host, Privacy & Security in the Metaverse
Data Privacy Expert
Get in contact: caroline(at)
About The Author — Ali Wittich

Independent MOPs consultant, Founder of MarTecha ( - Certified in Pardot and HubSpot - Passionate about data privacy best practices

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