2007 EM Dream Team: Rob Aston - Event Marketer

2007 EM Dream Team: Rob Aston

Rob Aston

Dream Team title: Director-Trade Shows and Corporate Events
Current position: Manager-Brand Marketing Hewlett-Packard
Why we want him: Aston’s a metrics guru in an age where ROI ROO and ROMI (that’s return on marketing investment for you newbies out there) are everything. The problem he says is ROI is a financial term but few trade shows and events can state their return in dollars. He tracks down and measures that elusive ROI translating data into business language in order to balance lead-generating and non-lead-generating events at HP.

A graduate of Toledo University in Ohio with a degree in education and business Aston started in sales then switched to sales training working at Digital Equipment Corp. in Maynard MA which was purchased by Compaq. Eventually Compaq was purchased by HP and today he manages global sales recognition and performance measurement programs. Aston heads a group of 100 with strong leadership organizational and management skills but until he took his first measurement job interestingly he says he hated math. When DEC’s ceo asked him to assess the value of a huge trade show investment however an event statistics whiz was born.

Aston says there’s not another high-tech company with a global performance measurement program like his. “This data enables our event marketing managers to make data-based decisions ” he says. “They’re not guessing anymore about how to improve their trade shows and events. They get the information from our team which helps them do that through training and communications.”

Aston has seen a lot of changes during his 29 years in the industry. Among them: a concerted effort to generate sales pipeline leads and a focus on relationship-building non-lead generating events. The result is an improved customer experience in terms of education engagement attraction and the environment. “There’s a focus on things like awareness consideration and preference because they drive the lead-generating events ” he says. “Qualitative metrics drive quantitative metrics.”

If this all sounds like something straight out of Harvard Business School that’s because it is. After Aston attended a course in Total Quality Management there he came away with a key message: “All programs are based on a well-defined outcome. Data give you predictability.”

It can also give you a headache which is why Aston plans one of these days to write a book on how to make statistics easy. That is when he’s not traveling the globe for his job or tooling around town on his Harley. “It’s difficult to measure the value of things in marketing ” he says. “But you have to start somewhere.”

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