By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
Late in 2015 we started producing a weekly radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which is live 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 featured an impressive list of guests and will continue to do so with awesome content going forward. 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.
Recently we worked together on an Event Marketing Playbook. We’ll talk about it… and we’re going to get tactical today, we will talk strategy.
What I liked about this program we put together is it actually gets fairly tactical pretty quickly. It’s real, practical advice to drive real results in organizations that are doing events. We’ll talk about one of the reasons why we put this together. I think a lot of people when they do events just do the same old stuff. You get a sponsorship, you get your booth, you go through the motions, and then you’re wondering where the revenue is and why you spent all that money.
Kristen will talk about some of the pitfalls she sees from event marketers that aren’t getting the kind of ROI they need from events today.
We’ll also double down a little bit on the discussion of data strategy for events because I don’t think a lot of event marketers and event managers are thinking about what their data strategy is. Kristen will talk about some examples of why managing data, using the right data is so important to getting results out of an event.
Listen in and/or read the full transcript below.
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Matt: Thank you very much everyone for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. If you are joining us live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thanks so much for joining us in the middle of your workday. For those of you listening on the podcast, thanks very much for subscribing. Our numbers, Paul, have been just off the charts in the last six months.
Paul: Yeah, it’s crazy.
Matt: We have almost doubled our listeners in the last six months, it’s been crazy. It’s, I don’t know where everyone’s coming from but it’s certainly-
Paul: It’s because of the football conversation, that’s what it is.
Matt: The winning banter is what they’re coming for, right. Well, thanks very much for subscribing to the podcast, and every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, past, present and future. You will always find at SalesPipelineRadio.com, we, every week, are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing. Today is absolutely no different. Very, very excited to have with us Kristen Alexander, who’s been in the B2B space for a long time and is currently the Chief Marketing Officer at Certain. Kristen, thanks so much for joining us today.
Kristen: Hey, Matt. Delighted to join.
Matt: We can certainly talk about college football if you like, but we can also just go direct to event marketing. We, a couple months ago, published together this Event Marketing Playbook. I want to talk about sort of, we’re going to get tactical today, we can talk strategy. What I liked about this program we put together is that it actually gets fairly tactical pretty quickly. It’s real, practical advice to drive real results in organizations that are doing events. Maybe talk about, one of the reasons why we put this together is that I think a lot of people when they do events just kind of do the same old stuff. You get a sponsorship, you get your booth, you go through the motions, and then you’re wondering where the revenue is and why you spent all that money. What are some of the pitfalls that you see from event marketers that aren’t getting the kind of ROI they need from events today?
Kristen: Yeah, I mean I think pitfalls in marketing overall is just, it’s so busy. There are a lot of activities. You’re constantly, you’re in perpetual motion, and sometimes events fall in that trap as well, where you’re in perpetual motion. You’re just doing the things you know how to do, and banging things out and getting them out the door. If you don’t pause and think strategically about capturing intent from your event strategy, you’re missing a huge opportunity to drive measurable results for your business. I think the trend now in marketing that I’m seeing is to slow down a little bit, make sure what you’re doing is strategic to the business, and then maximizing every opportunity you have with the highest quality experience and the highest quality data strategy to capture intent and use it for how you then engage with customers and prospects.
Matt: I want to double down a little bit on the discussion of data strategy for events, because I don’t think a lot of event marketers and event managers are thinking about what their data strategy is. Talk about some examples of why managing data, using the right data is so important to getting results out of an event.
Kristen: Sure. I mean, it starts all the way from pre-marketing. In the run-up to your registration and what we call the registration drive, you might be looking six months out. Everyone, on a registration form, is asking the basics and trying to ask minimal information, email address, might have a technology that’s filling in the company name based on IP address, so you know where they’re coming from. Once, either on that registration form or as you go throughout the process and you’re collecting information from folks who have registered, one strategically placed question could make all the difference. “Which products are you most interested in learning about?” as an example. Or, “Of these pain points, which one are you solving for the business as a strategic priority this year?” That kind of information is gold for marketers to leverage in terms of how you then continue your marketing and provide the best experience for every single attendee based on what their intent is and what they’re interested in learning. Then that continues throughout the event itself.
For example, you can think very strategically from a data perspective about your content. I’m having a two-day conference. I have all of these sessions planned. Great. I can actually create a tagging system for all of my sessions. I can create a tagging system for all of my booth demos that tells me, “Okay, I have product A, B and C, and these are the customers and prospects that are interested in each.” I can connect all of that content and tag it based on pain points, based on campaigns, for example. Any sort of thing that I’m interested in as a marketer, I can start to segment my days. Then all of my marketing can be personalized based on the segments that I’m creating.
If you can do that, then you’re really providing the highest level of experience and being smart about nurturing people in the right way. Also, that information now is extremely valuable for Sales. As everybody’s talking about ABM, and how do you actually like execute ABM in channels other than just advertising? I like to say, I think events are the channels where Sales and Marketing actually come together, physically and digitally. Because you’re working together to actually get in front of people and set meetings. As well as, if I have all this information now that’s highly relevant from a data perspective about what people are interested in and where they are in their buying journey, I can give that to Sales immediately, so that their action is targeted and they have a better chance of implementing pipeline and creating new pipeline from there.
Matt: Well, you’re doing my transitions for me because I wanted to talk about the sales impact of doing this well. We’re talking with Kristen Alexander, the CMO of Certain, today on Sales Pipeline Radio. I think oftentimes, marketers sort of march forward with an event strategy and Sales kind of follows along. I think by doing this smarter upfront, by segmenting your lists, by understanding which prospects have what intent and what interests and showing what activity, you can help the Sales team focus on the right prospects that actually want the meeting, to not only get more meetings but to get more productive meetings. Is that something that happens during the production process? How early should companies start planning that cross-functional value of the events they’re going to attend?
Kristen: I would say as early as possible. Early and often. Understanding the target list that you’re going after, Sales and Marketing together from a registration perspective, is critically important. Then in the final drive to the actual event, you want to be collaborating with sales to set meetings with your highest value customers for upsell and expansion opportunities and your highest value prospects. That could involve things like weekly stand-ups. We have a weekly, Revenue War Room, we call it, where we’re doing a stand-up literally to talk about, “What are the opportunities we’re working on together? How can we get these meetings set? What’s the list? Who’s on tap for this communication or that communication?”
Leading up to an event, we’ll have a daily stand-up. I think a lot of marketers are moving to that model. Then also, for the one-on-one meetings that you’re setting during an event, you’re strategically working with Sales to set those. As those events are happening, you can also use technology to capture that data signal and automatically send the meeting data through your marketing automation platform, through your CRM, in whichever way you choose based on your data model, but to make that immediately accessible to both teams as well so you can take the next step.
Matt: There’s data you capture and leverage before the event to help you better communicate with and engage with prospects as they get to the event. What about during the event? Like what are some best practices for what information you should be looking for? How do you use mobile more effectively to get information in real time from prospects? How does that sort of mobile data collection opportunity help people enhance their event results in real time?
Kristen: Sure. I mean, one of the most important things I think I mentioned, which is you really want to capture check-in information for any content experience you have. If you have sessions at a conference, for example, you want to know, you want that check-in information. You could also do that though, not just, even if you’re sponsoring a trade show, for example, or you have a presence where you’re hosting product demos, you want have to have check-in information for those demos. Through check-in, you can ask custom questions. “Is this …” For example, “Technology that you have a budget to purchase in this year?” Those types of questions you can ask and capture for any check-in. The mobile question is a great question. As you’re sitting in and listening to a session, for example, you can do surveys and polls, and all that data can capture, be captured. You can track what content is being downloaded. I’m giving a presentation and people during the presentation are downloading it because they want to engage with it later, that’s a data signal that can be captured.
You can capture social engagement by person, but also you can capture this kind of information across an account. It’s much more powerful for me, it’s powerful as a marketer to know that you, Matt, are engaging with me on product A. It’s even more powerful me to know that you’re not the only one engaging with me on this product. In fact, 50 people from your company are engaging with me on this product, product A. Now your account intent spikes and is much more significant, so I know across your business, this is a pain point that you’re grappling with. That’s the kind of data that you can capture through mobile. Really, technology supports, in many cases, I’d say in most cases, what you want to achieve as a marketer. You really need to sit down and think strategically, “What am I trying to get out of this?” Plan just the few data points, you can start simple. Plan the few data points that will really be transformational for you to understand about your customers and to understand about your prospects, and then design the technology to meet that need.
Matt: Well, then you get the opportunity to kind of personalize that experience as well, right?
Matt: By taking some of that data and not just doing follow-up to get them into sales meetings, but also if you’re using some of that data, even in real time, to customize what you recommend they attend, and what portions of the conference you recommend they take advantage of. You can directly sort of impact the efficacy of the event and the likelihood the people will come back again and tell their friends and make it even more successful for you.
Kristen: Exactly. You can enable your team to do really effective, but targeted outreach with just a little bit of information. For example, we use something called VIP Alert. If we host a party and we have a list of 10 VIPs that are arriving, we notify Sales via a text message that says, “Hey, Matt Heinz from Heinz Marketing just arrived. You can meet him at the door.” Sales loves that, because they get to have, they don’t have to work so hard to navigate. They can meet you at the door. Then if we know that you’re interested in product A and Sales knows that these are the three sessions tomorrow that are related to product A, they can follow up with you either in person or by sending you a follow-up message that says, “Hey, based on our conversation, I know you’re interested in this. Tomorrow we’re having a session at 10:00 a.m. to talk about that topic. It’d be really great if you could attend.”
That’s one way to do it like very personalized. Then, of course, you can automate that. As long as you have the data at your fingertips. It doesn’t have to be hard, but you can be strategic and creative about providing that touch that makes me feel then, “Whoa, you really understand me and what I’m interested in,” and that has a halo effect on your brand.
Matt: Love it. If you like what you’re hearing, you want to learn more about this, certainly encourage you to check out the Event Marketing Playbook at Certain.com. You go to Certain.com, you’ll find the Resources section and Learning Center. You can get a copy of that Marketing Playbook. It has a lot of details on this particular topic. We’re going to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be right back with more with Kristen Alexander, the CMO of Certain. We’re going to be talking more about event strategy. A chicken or egg? Do you pick the events first or do you figure out what to do at the events, what your objectives are, and how do you measure that impact, short-term, long-term? We’ll be right back on Sales Pipeline Radio.
Matt: Thanks very much for coming back to Sales Pipeline Radio. Really excited to be joined by Kristen Alexander, here to talk about event marketing and the Event Marketing Playbook for 2019. We got some great guests coming up over the next few weeks on Sales Pipeline Radio. We’ll be joined in a couple of weeks by Laura Vogel. If you are in B2B marketing, you know Laura. She is one of the best Event Managers I’ve ever met in B2B. We’re going to be talking about what it takes to produce a successful event, and how to create an event that your attendees and sponsors and partners and producers alike will all benefit from. A couple of weeks after that we have Jeb Blount. He’s one of my favorite authors and speakers in sales. He’s written a number of books. His latest book is on handling objections. We’re going to be talking about objection handling for sales and how that relates to marketing as well.
I want to get back to talking a little bit more about event marketing with Kristen Alexander. She’s the CMO of Certain, who published with us, actually, recently the Event Marketing Playbook. I encourage you to check that out at Certain.com in their Resource Center. Kristen, let’s talk about how to choose events in the first place. Then, obviously, there’s thinking about your event strategy, you can attend other people’s events, you can host your own events. There’s a lot of ways to play this. As a marketing leader, how do you think about events as part of the marketing mix? Then, how do you evaluate where to spend your time and energy on events once you get to that channel?
Kristen: We do it based on a heavy ABM strategy. We’re looking to see where our accounts, our target accounts already are going, so where we’ll sponsor events where we know our target accounts have a presence. Not only just our target accounts, but the right titles, the right personas, the right buyers within our target accounts. We have a mix of those, as well as events that we host. This really depends on the scale of your company, but the largest enterprises have a pretty aggressive event strategy where they’re hosting events across the spectrum. From small field events, dinners, partner events, to medium-sized road show like events where they’re showcasing their latest technology and customer case studies and those types of things, to the very largest conferences where their customers and prospects are mingling. They’re really using that as an opportunity to expand within their customers to generate pipeline.
What’s crazy is that at the largest scale, the companies that are really investing heavy in their event strategy are seeing results. Up to 50% of their demand is being generated through events across product lines around the globe, because it’s really an opportunity. Think about it. If you’re doing business with somebody, you’re not going to shell out $50,000, $100,000 or a million dollars or multi-million dollars without doing business face-to-face. Events provide the opportunity to do that, and so the large enterprises take advantage of that opportunity and host their own large conferences, from a brand presence and brand awareness perspective, down to actually influencing pipeline and creating and closing deals. I think your mix really depends on size of company. Then it depends on your sales and marketing strategy in terms of how you’re getting in front of these accounts. I can’t think of a B2B enterprise that isn’t hosting an event strategy, right? There’s some mix in there, but it depends on your business objective.
Matt: Well, I think you’re right. I think almost every company in B2B does some type of event. It may not be like, “Oh, we’re going and doing Dreamforce with 140,000 of our SAS friends.” It could be that you’re hosting small gatherings of peers, but an event is an event. Talk about the role of technology to drive those events. Because I’d imagine, I mean, look you guys sell an event automation software platform. I imagine that you guys talk to a lot of people that say, “Look, we’ve been doing events. We’re fine doing events. We don’t need to add to our cost to events.” What’s your answer to that in terms of talking about the opportunity cost of not raising your game in a more consistent, predictable level with software to support it?
Kristen: I think, I don’t really know that I hear that. I don’t know if I hear an objection so much to budget like, “Hey, we don’t have the money to invest any more in our events because they’re expensive.” I think the frustration I hear more from marketers is, “We host events because we know we have to get in front of our customers and prospects, and that works. We know that that works from an awareness perspective, from an engagement perspective. We have a hard time like quantifying that, and justifying it back.” Where marketers struggle is, “How do I show the value of this objectively? How do I, what are the metrics that I should be using to track success? How do I actually track those and show those back?” That’s where it’s really helpful to have already identified what data you’re capturing, how you’re using that data to either show engagement or to show, for all the accounts that you touch for example, you can show pipeline influence. Where you’re actually creating an opportunity, following an event you can show pipeline creation. Where, for example, if you’re doing, if you’re measuring customer satisfaction, you can show pre-event, post-event customer satisfaction for the accounts you engaged with. You can show that through net promoter score.
You really have to think about, “Okay, what data am I capturing from the people that I’m engaging with? Then, how can I materially use that to track progress and show that I’m generating measurable business results?” More than just, “Hey, we had this many people register, and we had this many people attend.” Everybody can do that. Also, “How much revenue are we generating from this event?” Everybody’s got that locked up. Like I think the basics are covered. Now it’s like the next level. “How do I show that this event is actually driving revenue results for my business?” That’s where marketers are struggling. Like, “Hey, I had an event. We did capture some data. Getting the data all together in a system is really difficult. Like then being able to convert that data and show what Sales is doing with it is really difficult. Showing that, ‘How do I show influence and pipeline contribution?'” That’s, those are the questions that I get.
Matt: Yeah, I agree. I think that the, what you’re mentioning there in terms of being able to tell a more revenue centric story about the impact events are having is critical. We’re beginning of Q4 now, and people are starting to think about budget and strategy for the next year, 2019. We’re seeing more and more companies invest in events, invest in hosted events, big events, small events. Invest more in direct mail and other things that a couple of year ago, the growth hackers wouldn’t necessarily have done because they were too expensive, right? I think we’re seeing much more, many more companies instead of asking how much it costs, they’re asking what it’s worth. They’re looking at their most important targets and investing and doubling down on the tactics that can help them do that. I think that tools like event automation software can certainly people get there. What are you seeing in the conversations you’re having with CMOs that are thinking about 2019? What are you hearing in terms of the role of events and how that’s evolving into the new year?
Kristen: I mean, we see growth in that area, so we’re seeing more aggressive event strategies. We’re seeing more like cohesion around, “We’re doing this type of road show and it’s going to be our tent pole event. We might have three conferences that are our most important and strategic conferences for the year. Then we have these road show series, and we need to make sure that there’s quality and consistency throughout those road shows series. We want a repeatable playbook for success with those.” We see focus on those to make them the highest quality possible, and extremely engaging events. I think there is a return to both creativity in engagement as well as the analytical functions of proving success. That’s nice to see as a marketer because it is, events are about an experience and about a feeling. Then, ideally you’re layering in a data strategy that can actually convert those engaging experiences into something that’s measurable for the business. I like to see that, of course.
Matt: No doubt. If you’d like to get more information on some of the tactics we’re talking about here, relative to really every element of event marketing around your data, your content, your promotion, your metrics, your mobile and technology strategies, definitely check out Certain’s Event Marketing Playbook. You can check that out at Certain.com in the Resource Center, in the Learning Center.
Last question for you Kristen, before we have to wrap up. We ask this of most of our guests. Who are some people that have been particularly influential to you in your career? They could be authors, they could be professors, they could be dead or alive. People that have really sort of helped guide you as a marketing leader that you might recommend other people check out as well.
Kristen: Sure. Well, I would start cliché, I think my parents have a pretty strong work ethic and so, obviously, that was really important to me. I think from a marketing perspective, I really admire Jamie Barnett‘s work. She’s the former CMO of Netskope. Really well-known, very creative marketer in terms of messaging and positioning and how to go build a category and dominate a category. I also really respect the work of Jennifer Nuckles, who is the CMO of Doctor on Demand and former CMO of Zynga. Really strong consumer marketer, now a consumer and enterprise marketer as well.
I think, honestly for me, I think my story is similar to many other people. There have been a couple handfuls of mentors in my life who have made a huge difference for me because they believed in me. They believed I was creative. They believed that I could make anything possible. When you have somebody who just believes in you, and some of those mentors have gone on now to being CEOs. Matt Carter was an early mentor of mine. He’s now the CEO of Aryaka. You remember these people because they had this faith in you and gave you a stretch opportunity that really helped propel your career, even knowing that you weren’t totally prepared for that or ready to go.
I think those people who have touched you in that way are material, and everyone has those. You should take a moment to recognize who those people are in your life and stay in touch with them, because they provide constant source of reinforcement and encouragement. I’m meeting a former boss of mine today from Disney, who again, gave me a stretch opportunity. His name’s Craig Relyea. Fantastic consumer marketer, one of the most creative and insightful I have ever worked with. You take a little bit from all of these people who have helped you along the way and it really makes a difference for your career and your evolution, I think, no matter what your discipline is, marketing, sales or other.
Matt: Absolutely. Well, that’s such good advice and good insights, that sometimes the people that push us out of our comfort zone and maybe make us a little more uncomfortable are those that have the lasting impact. Well, we are way out of time. I’m getting the hook from our great producer, Paul, here. I want to thank everyone for joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio. Thanks so much Kristen Alexander, the CMO at Certain. Make sure you check out Certain.com and get a copy of that Event Marketing Playbook. We will be back next week as we are every week at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern, for another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. For my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us again on Sales Pipeline Radio.