By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

Late in 2015 we started producing a radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which currently runs every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific.  It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests coming up. Our very first guest was Funnelholic author and Topo co-founder Craig Rosenberg.  Next we had Mike Weinberg, incredible writer, speaker, author, followed by Conrad Bayer, CEO & Founder of Tellwise.  Recent Guests: Jim KeenanJoanne BlackAaron RossJosiane FeigonMeagen Eisenberg, and Trish Bertuzzi.

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes.  You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.

In this episode with Alexandra Gibson:

  • Why do events still matter?
  • How offline marketing and events should be measured and attributed like their digital campaign brethren
  • Determining KPIs for event channels
  • Choosing the right technology for your marketing stack

Free Download: The Complete Guide to Revenue Event Marketing 

About our guest:  As a leading SaaS marketing executive, Alexandra has built and led multiple software startups from seed through Series B funding, while tripling revenue year-over-year. In her first year as chief marketing officer for Event Farm, she designed, built, and quickly executed high-performing demand and lead generation strategies. Event Farm helps companies that utilize events in their B2B marketing strategies attribute revenue to those events. Customers include large companies like Google and JP Morgan, down to SMBs.

Alexandra believes in a value-add, content-first approach to marketing, allowing the companies she leads to be thought provokers and authentic educators rather than commoditized sales brokers. The Event Farm’s content campaigns have earned them nominations and wins for multiple Killer Content Awards; more importantly, the content campaigns have led to an increase in leads generated by 1300% in the first three months.

Prior to becoming CMO at Event Farm, Alexandra was VP Marketing at Contactually, a relationship-based CRM where she grew pipeline from $95,000 to $1 million/month in 18 months. She started her career working in sales and marketing for Fortune 500 company, NVR, where she marketed and sold $10.8 million in residential real estate in her first year and was nominated for Rookie of the Year. From there, she launched her own startups–the most recent being a digital marketing agency that worked with e-commerce, consulting firms, and international manufacturers to use data from its marketing stack to understand buyer trends and paths.

 

Matt:  So excited to be here. Boy, it has been a crazy, busy beginning of spring. I’ve been really excited to continue to host our weekly Sales Pipeline Radio. You will always find us at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern every Thursday on Sales Lead Management Radio. You can also find us at salespipelineradio.com. You can find all of our past episodes as well as we update it whenever we post a future episode at Google Play and the iTunes Store. And every week we are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing. Looking for what’s new, what’s different, things that could make you more successful as you build and manage your own pipelines of business. And very excited today to be featuring a friend. Someone I’ve gotten to know over the last couple of years. The CMO of Event Farm, Alexandra Gibson. And, Alexandra, we’re going to get into some things. Not only related to event marketing, but also some things in your bio which is very well written and shares just a lot of interesting things about you both professionally and personally. But, Alexandra, thanks so much for joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio here today.

Alexandra:  Oh my gosh, thank you so much for having me.

Matt:  Oh of course. Absolutely. So Alexandra, I always go to the bottom of people’s bios because I figure somebody’s always going to talk about what they’ve done in their careers and how much money they’ve made for their companies. And you’ve got a lot of that good stuff. You talk at the bottom … You say you’re a live music junkie and an avid skier. Talk a little bit about your first concert. You were in eighth grade. It was at a hockey rink in Wyoming. Talk a little bit about that first concert.

Alexandra:  Yes. So I actually grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho. Not the worst place to grow up for those of you who aren’t familiar. It’s a ski town, but our school actually went on a … We had a field trip that was a couple of days around Yellowstone National Park and as kind of a surprise, we got to go to Dave Matthews Band was opening for Big Head Todd in Jackson Hole. I have no idea how many people but it was very small and obviously a hockey rink that was covered with plywood. And that was my first concert experience in eighth grade when Under the Table and Dreaming had just come out. I feel like that started me off on the path.

And it’s kind of funny that … Fast-forward many years from then when I was living in Charles Hole, Virginia, our office, when I was running my digital marketing agency, was in the Pink Warehouse and that was the first place that Dave Matthews ever played a concert. And there’s a song called Warehouse that he wrote about that place. So I feel like somehow Dave Matthews has been an integral thread in my life.

Matt:  You and a lot of people, I think. His music and just his longevity has made a big impression. He married a gal who’s from up here in the Seattle area. I don’t know if this is why, but every Labor Day weekend he does a three night stint out at the Gorge which is sort of central Washington. Just beautiful, beautiful outdoor venue.

Alexandra:  I’ve been there.

Matt:  And he recorded one of his albums at Bastyr University which is literally just about five minutes from my house outside of Kirkland, Washington. We could probably spend the next 35 minutes just talking about Dave Matthews and the fact that I think there are about two things … There are probably many things that are better live than any thing else, but two of them are hockey and music. I think music live is just amazing. We should probably talk a little bit about event marketing. Alexandra joining us here on Sales Pipeline Radio today. She is the CMO of Event Farm, and Event Farm helps companies utilize events in their B2B marketing strategies to sort of better drive attributed revenue from those events. And that’s really been a challenge, I think, in the past. I think sometimes, Alexandra, we’ve seen events can kind of be grouped in with PR as, we think they work, we think they’re valuable. But it’s really hard sometimes to measure the value and return on events. Talk a little bit about that challenge and how Event Farm is approaching that.

Alexandra:  Yeah. I mean that really has been a challenge, and even the best in class companies that we see that are really, really good at digital attribution still have struggled with that offline attribution. And we all have that gut feeling of, okay, I know that this event went well. I know we got things out of it. That’s not easy to show on a board report or to try and tell your CFO. Especially the fact that events are often extremely expensive. That might be your largest line item of your budget.

What Event Farm is doing is we created a software that then helps. It does logistics as far as the invitation, registration, check-in. That part, kind of like marketing automation, has the landing pages and the workflows and the email marketing component. But those pieces is what helps gather the data and then feeds it back in, speaks with your CRM and your marketing automation so that it becomes a point in time instead of an event living off on an island. It becomes a timestamp, if you will, that shows up right there where someone attended a webinar, downloaded a white paper, spoke with an SDR, whatever the case may be.

Matt:  Let’s take a quick step back. I’ll ask the devil’s advocate question which is do events still matter? I think we’re seeing more and more opportunity across digital channels. We’re seeing with marketing automation and predictive intelligence tools just increased complexity and personalization of online marketing and digital channels. In that increasingly digital world, I’m asking this sort of devil’s advocate but also sort of setting you up maybe a little bit. Do events still matter? What’s the benefit of still getting out and getting in front of people in more of a planned environment like that?

Alexandra:  So a couple things. I’ll start with saying that I came to Event Farm as the CMO coming up on two years ago, and before that I had been completely a digital marketer. That was what I hung my hat on. And I have to say in some ways I sort of thought things like direct mail or events as very expensive things that you couldn’t easily measure and I asked that question, why is this part of our budget? Why don’t we just use something digitally? So I had to do a little bit of soul searching and I knew there was something there, and if this business was going to be figuring out what that something was and quantifying it, I knew I wanted to be a part of that.

So fast-forward to 2016 of the entire year, actually one of our, at Event Farm … I guess you could say drinking our own champagne. I’m not a big Kool-Aid person, but we had a road show across six different cities. And when we looked at all of our campaigns still to this day as far as what was most successful, digital, mail, anything. As far as our closed-won and also our pipeline created, it was that road show. So at the time I was running the report which was in February, I need to update the numbers, we were already at an 8X ROI, and we still had a potential ROI of about 14X.

Paul:  That’s amazing.

Matt:  Yeah. It’s interesting to see companies in a drive to create efficiency, forego some of the events. And it’s not just going to an existing third party event and doing a booth, but also doing your own road show. I’ve heard multiple times some senior, enterprise reps sales force, in trying to get in front of senior IT decision makers. When you ask them, “What’s the best marketing channel you have?” Forget events, just what’s the best marketing channel you have? And they say dinners. Which is another type of an event. You get people in a room, have a good conversation, that’s something that can be built on. And it’s not just the impact of that event itself, but the follow-up.

Alexandra:  Exactly.

Matt:  I’ve heard companies that will do great events that are super well received at conferences and the follow-up is through a BDR team or a demand-gen team that says, “Hey, can we grab 15, 20 minutes to share more of what we’re doing.” The answer’s almost always yes because you’ve given something of value to people, and they figure the least I could do is give you a little bit of time. And if your message is correct in that conversation. If you connect the dots and provide value then you’re in an active conversation, and you’re off to the races. Even though sometimes events … People look at events and say, wow, it’s more involved or well, it’s more expensive. Well, more expensive than what and to what purpose? And the ROI we’re seeing from people that are leaning back into doing events is pretty significant.

Alexandra:  Yeah, and I think you hit the nail on the head, too, with the follow-up piece. That’s also been an interesting thing to see. Especially in larger organizations, how the event team will often not be under the marketing umbrella. They’re off on their own, and it’s more of a logistics … It’s a lot of moving pieces, but it’s not pulled under a VP of Marketing or a CMO. That to me is such a huge disconnect because how are you going to do all of the follow-up? How are you going to make sure that that event has legs well beyond? I think that’s where a lot of companies are missing the mark is, “Oh good, the event happened.” Then nothing, or then there’s a message that is just really off. It’s tone deaf based on that engagement and that rapport that someone has built with you.

Matt:  Yeah, I think gone are the days where hopefully random acts of marketing are seen and done and thought of as being enough. I think that even companies that will say, “Well, we’ve got a robust event strategy.” It doesn’t involve other campaigns. It doesn’t coordinate with other efforts. I think about a good event, it’s not isolated in and of itself. What are you doing before the event to drive momentum, attention, and interest? What are you doing at the event to form leverage, everything that exists around it? And as we’ll talk about here in a little bit, what are you doing in the follow-up? How are you engaging with those prospects through a variety of channels? Not just with your sales team. Not just with your digital efforts, and not just in the days or weeks after the event but long-term so that the event itself may be a catalyst to a number of things, but it’s seen as part of a broader campaign to really drive prospects into and through the pipeline.

Alexandra:  Yeah, it’s interesting what you said, too, about someone who is, let’s say, a VP level or a C-level being willing to actually then pick up the phone and speak with an STR or a BDR after an event because you provided value at that event. Whereas if they had come out kind of cold, they wouldn’t be willing to do that. We see that a lot. I think Jon Miller with Engagio talks about those engagement minutes. So before people give you money, time is their currency. If someone is willing to spend time with you in a room, whether it be at a dinner, or they come and they are talking to you for a while and finding out more about your product at a trade show booth. Any sort of way that they are spending time with you, that is such a good indicator of they’re probably going to be willing to engage more because they’ve already made that investment.

Matt:  I completely agree. I think sometimes we get so focused in a buying journey and the stages of discovering and learning, we forget that sometimes there’s a stage zero that we call attention. If you can get a prospect’s attention, if you can keep their attention, if you can earn ongoing attention whether they’re ready to buy this week, this month, or two years from now, you’ve got the currency of a great foundation to build some mutually beneficial relationship. We’ve got to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be right back with Sales Pipeline Radio. We’ve got a lot more with Alexandra Gibson, the CMO of Event Farm. We’re going to be talking about the rise of event marketing technology, how you can leverage that to get more ROI out of your events, combining online and offline behavior in a true integrated campaign format. Lots more to go. We’ll be right back. This has been Sales Pipeline Radio.

[Break]

Paul:  And while you’re doing that, tune back in to Matt and his guest.

Matt:  Nothing like multitasking in the sales and marketing world. Thanks very much for joining us back here at Sales Pipeline Radio. We’ve got Alexandra Gibson, the CMO at Event Farm. If you’d like to follow Alexandra, you can find her on Twitter @gibsondm, that’s gibsondm. I’d also encourage you to check out eventfarm.com. They’ve got a lot of great content up there related to event marketing. A lot of great stuff there. They just published something called The Complete Guide to Revenue Event Marketing, and really, really like what they’ve done there. Providing a lot of great insights.

Make sure you join us every week. Thursday at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern, and we’ll be featuring some great guests over the next few weeks on Sales Pipeline Radio. Next week we’ve got Jeb Blount who is one of the preeminent sales experts in the industry. He has just published a new book called Fanatical Prospecting. Fantastic resource for sales and marketing folks alike. Following that we’ve got Sangram Vajre. He is the CMO of Terminus, and we’re going to be talking about ABM. Is it a fad? Is it here to stay? Is it just a hashtag or is this really something you should be focused on long-term in your business? We’ll be talking about that. And then finally to round out our last episode of May of 2017, Paul Teshima, who is one of the co-founders of a company called Nudge. We’ll talk about the power of relationship marketing in this distracted world, and what you can do there to be more successful.

But want to get back for the last few minutes here at Sales Pipeline Radio and continue our conversation with Alexandra Gibson, the CMO of Event Farm. And Alexandra, we talked a little bit about events and the importance of events. Let’s talk about the rise of event marketing technology. There’s a handful of companies that are now involved in this. You see companies like the Marketos and Eloquas sort of put a nod toward offline behavior in some of their features. But for companies that are investing more in events and want to particularly tie the dots between online and offline behavior and really understand which events are working, I think that’s where tools like Event Farm really come in to place. Talk a little bit about that rise and not only as the CMO of Event Farm but just as a CMO yourself having been in a number of companies really with a focus on driving revenue performance. Why is this so important?

Alexandra:  I think it really just boils down to the share of wallets that events have in most marketing budgets, and that you can only give that answer for so long. This is important. We’ve always done this. We all know that events are important. At a certain point, your CFO, your CEO, your board is going to say, “Yeah, but why this event, or why these events?” A lot of people have just used them as cost centers or looked at them as cost centers. Marketers are trying to be heard. It used to be you could publish a great e-book, and you could get thousands and thousands of downloads. As we know, the online content is becoming so much more saturated. How do you stand out? I was listening to Joe Chernov‘s recording when he was interviewed by you a while ago, and he was talking about even direct mail. Now would that be something that you would think would come from a digital guy’s mouth? But in order to be heard, because of that event piece is something that stands out which shows that you’re invested in providing value to the person that you’re inviting to this. And it’s part of overarching strategy.

Matt:  Do marketers think that events are beneath them? And I ask this question just based on what I’m seeing in the digital space, and you’ve got this big data creating all this complexity on lead scoring and everything else. And then you’ve got the old school, let’s do a trade show, let’s have a booth, let’s buy someone a steak dinner. I honestly think that in the resurgence of events as a channel that seems to be working, I get the sense … And I don’t hear many marketers say these words, but I get the sense that they’d rather work on what they consider more sophisticated marketing. And they see events as old school and not as valuable. Do you see that? Have you heard that? And I can think of a hundred ways to refute that message, but what’s your thought on that?

Alexandra:  You know, that’s pretty interesting because I think it’s true. I think digital and a lot of those things are very data centric. That has a certain cache with it, and you feel that I am a more sophisticated marketer because I can slice and dice and do all of these things, look at influence and attribution. Whereas events, it kind of feels like, oh am I a party planner? It’s unfortunate because we’re seeing events as part of an omni-channel strategy are so important, but I do think that there is still that stigma and most of it is tied to the fact that it probably feels like it’s just the party throwing or event throwing part and you’re a planner, and not a full event marketer. I think once we move to that place where it is event marketing as part of a larger strategy, kind of like if you were doing the paid digital strategy, we’ll start seeing a rise again where that becomes a place that’s at the big kid’s table. But until then, it is a little bit of the black sheep of the family.

Matt:  Yeah, it’s unfortunate because I think a lot of people, you’re right, people think of events as just sort of brute force, unattributed marketing. And certainly a lot people still think of it that way, right? You do a trade show booth and you may get some scans, but otherwise you really don’t know what you got out of it. Or you do an event, you’ve got 10 seats a table, and at the last minute you’re like, well just invite whoever you want so we use up the seats. Well that’s not really a good use of time either.

I think that so many marketers just get in the habit of measuring “more.” More traffic, more leads, more of everything and assuming that more is better. If you can get 15 of the most important decision makers of your target accounts into a room, whether it’s for a fireside chat with someone important or maybe it is for a steak dinner. Whatever it is. If you can engage those 15 people at the beginning of a conversation, maybe it is just stage zero getting their attention for the next part of the conversation. What’s marketing’s job? Is it really more? Or is it the right prospects into the pipeline. If it’s really pipeline contribution and getting the right people in the right place, maybe that speaks to a redeployment of efforts across channels that really drive that more efficiently. And I think you could make a strong argument that the right events done well do a great job of doing that.

Alexandra:  Yeah, it’s so true and I think that this is something that isn’t just an event marketing piece. It’s a marketing. Is it important we get more leads, more MQLs? Or is it important that we go more account based and you get the right people and you’re touching the right people in the organization? I wish I could answer that question, and we’re definitely toiling with it. I think we are on the right path from a strategy perspective at Event Farm. But it is still, being in a demand-gen driven world for a long time, it feels to a marketer a little bit … You feel like, “Have I done my job?” Even if this event … Even if it was the eight CMOs of some of your target accounts that came to your event, does that feel as good as 300 new leads? That’s something as marketers that we’re going to have to, I guess, all have therapy for and start dealing with.

Matt:  It’s a really hard question to answer because even though I know the answer is I would rather have the smaller number of qualified people in the pipeline, the bigger numbers always sound better. Makes you seem like you’ve been working harder. If you do all this work and you engage eight people, like okay … Right? But if we’re doing named account selling and those are the eight most important accounts and those ultimately lead to deals, wasn’t that worthwhile doing? So I want to ask you, related to that, let’s talk about KPIs because this gets even more complicated in complex selling. If you’re not doing one call closes, if you’re not doing short account selling, you do an event. Even if you say you do a trade show. Part of it is having a booth and doing scans, what comes immediately out of that trade show on your flight home, as you try to evaluate was it a good event. You’re probably not looking at pipeline let alone closed deals. So how do you think about KPIs and measures of success short-term and long-term from events?

Alexandra:  That’s definitely something that we talk about. Indicators and KPIs of before, during and after your event. And you’re right, that after the event you can’t say, “Oh, why didn’t we close any deals?” Most of us don’t have those kind of products or services that someone signs on the dotted line right at your event. So you do need to look at some of the early signs that things are going in the right direction. As much as you just said, do new leads matter? In some cases, maybe the point of that was a lead generation type event and you knew you were going to be amongst the right people. As far as the people that were there, the quality of the registrants based on your target persona. I think one area that a lot of people forget about are your current customers. So what is the importance of having that face time and wining and dining them, having them have a great experience when it comes to their loyalty for them to refer you and also when it comes to renewal and retention time.

As far as later, you want to keep looking at opportunities created. I mentioned for that road show that we did back in October, if we had looked at November 1st, once the six cities were finished, I don’t think we would have felt like it was a huge pipeline driver. But all of the sudden when we looked at November 15th or December 1st. Based on what your sales cycle is, you have to constantly be checking on that campaign because it’s a long process. You can also look at if you’re using events in a way that, okay, we’re just going to invite people that are already in opportunity stage, then you want to see how do I compare that to people who didn’t attend this event? How do I compare the velocity of how quickly that deal closed compared to people who weren’t touched with that particular channel.

Matt:  Great stuff. Well I really appreciate everything you shared with us today. Alexandra, from Dave Matthews and Big Head Todd to leading the way with event marketing, event marketing technology, CMO of Event Farm. Really, thank you very much for joining us today. Definitely learn more about Event Farm at eventfarm.com. Definitely encourage you to check out their Complete Guide to Revenue Event Marketing and if you want to learn more about Alexandra and follow her, she’s at Twitter @gibsondm. If you like this episode, you want to listen to this again, share this with those on your team, definitely check out the replay on the podcast. It’ll be available at iTunes Store and Google Play. You’ll find it up early next week on CL’s Pipeline Radio and a transcript of today’s events also on our website on the blog at heinzmarketing.com. We will link to the Complete Guide to Revenue Event Marketing from our call from our podcast notes as well as from the website. Make sure you come back and join us every Thursday, 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. We’ve got some great guests coming up. Jeb Blount from Fanatical Prospect is next, and we’ve got ABM relationship marketing conversational sales presentations, lots of great, great sales and marketing content coming up. On behalf of our amazing producer Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks very much for joining us. We’ll see you next time on Sales Pipeline Radio.

Paul:  Once again, you’ve been listening to Sales Pipeline Radio brought to you by the folks at Matt Heinz Marketing. Right here in the Funnel Radio Channel for at-work listeners like you.