Whether online or offline, event marketing offers some of the most powerful opportunities for 1:1 qualification and warm list building. But for an effective event strategy, there is so much more to it than just showing up. So many factors can make or break your event’s success: pre-event campaigns, post-event follow-up, and everything in between like perfecting every detail of your onsite presence and prepping booth staff. An events strategy is really the cornerstone of a solid overall marketing strategy.
3 B2B marketing forces came together to form the Online and Offline Events B2B Channel Panel on Aug 16 to hash out best practices for a killer event strategy.
- Elle Woulfe, VP of Marketing at PathFactory
- Mark Bornstein, VP of Marketing at ON24
- Myllisa Patterson, Senior Director of Event Cloud Marketing Campaigns at Cvent
These are the shiniest gold nuggets to come out of the conversation:
How much of your marketing strategy involves offline and online events?
Myllisa: We’re in love with live events at Cvent, for obvious reasons. 52% of our marketing budget is spent on live events, which is probably higher than most organizations. When it comes to the digital realm, we do upwards of 500 webinars per year, both internally (hosted by our friends at ON24) and also externally with partners. We really leverage our partner channel using webinars. It’s a great way to distribute content to target audiences in a place where they already go to get their information.
Mark: Of course, we’re huge in digital, and webinars are our primary driver of pipeline and revenue by a huge margin. I’m a huge ‘webinerd’–I give around 20-30 webinars a month. But we still do a ton of offline marketing. We are at conferences and smaller events. Having said that, the last few years we did tons of big marketing conferences and had booths everywhere. Now we’re a lot more discerning. We make our bets based on history, who the audience is going to be and whether or not they match our ICP (ideal customer profile). And on the pipeline we’ve derived from the past. We’re careful about our offline investments: We only invest if we can present and have an opportunity to put forward our value prop. A passive booth experience isn’t enough anymore.
“We’re careful about our offline investments: We only invest if we can present and have an opportunity to put forward our value prop. A passive booth experience isn’t enough anymore.”
Elle: We have a similar strategy at PathFactory. We may not see payback from events up to 18+ months later. So it can take time, but we do look at how events impact our pipeline and their impact on revenue. ABM has changed the game for a lot of marketers in terms of how they think about events. We can now look back and see what percentage of our conversations were with leads matching our ICP.
Online and offline events are very different and can serve different purposes. Do you see different types of events more as branding opportunities or demand gen activities?
Myllisa: At Cvent, we skew more towards direct response than brand awareness. I always say Cvent built their business buying one lunch at a time, because hosting lunch seminars was a primary strategy for years and years. We still run upwards of 400 of these events a year. These leads go directly to sales, so we can track funnel production and pipeline fairly quickly. We have an aggressive strategy around appointment setting at live events. We run email campaigns and sales calls campaigns before events based off the lists we receive. We want to set up appointments on or near the show floor during the event.
“We have an aggressive strategy around appointment setting at live events. We run email campaigns and sales calls campaigns before events based off the lists we receive. We want to set up appointments on or near the show floor during the event.”
Mark: It used to be that bigger conferences were there primarily as a branding opportunity. Now, it’s much more a demand generation activity. We also have appointment-setting strategies similar to Myllisa’s. In addition to that, we run satellite events around major events if we have customers or prospects attending. If I’m not speaking at an event, I’m not coming. When people come to my session I know they saw the abstract, they’re interested and dialled-in.
“If I’m not speaking at an event, I’m not coming. When people come to my session I know they saw the abstract, they’re interested and dialled-in.”
Elle: My team carries an SQL number and a portion of the revenue goal. We set a very specific target, for number of badges we want to scan, how many qualified conversations we want to have and how many meetings we can book based off those conversations.
And once you do have someone interested enough to attend your breakout session or visit your booth, how do track them to make sure follow-up is timely and personalized?
Mark: What’s most important is capturing the substance of the conversations we have. The magic of those 5 minutes at your booth hinges on your ability to know what that person is interested in–have they requested specific information or do they want to book an appointment? We also capture every person who comes to a speaking session. We can then score leads differently based on who shows up to a session and the booth versus just a booth visit.
Elle: We use the lead scanners very strategically. We take as many notes as possible and the BDRs really rely on them for follow-up. We also try to book meetings on the show floor. We’ll take a picture of the person’s badge, upload it to the BDR’s Slack channel, and let them know when they want to meet. The BDR then sends a meeting request and gets the lead to commit in-the-moment, while their interest and excitement level is still high.
“We use the lead scanners very strategically. We take as many notes as possible and the BDRs really rely on them for follow-up.”
Myllisa: We’ve also started looking at the Q&A panel which reveals another data mine. A lot of events are providing a digital log of questions. We look at core themes in the Q&A and use that in targeted follow-up to make sure the selling teams are talking about those key values or pain points. We can also use it to inform content development.
Booth staffing can really make a huge difference in terms of how all these conversations go and how successful lead hand-off can be. How do you handle booth prep, etiquette and preparedness?
Myllisa: We have specific guidelines about booth conduct and processes. Having a planner onsite helps tremendously. They become the conduit for making sure event staff is doing the right thing, using the right scripts, and offering the right offers. We also have at least one person from senior management at every show, especially the big ones, which also helps reinforce protocols. We have a booth call before the event starts with role-playing and practice runs.
Mark: Everyone at our booths needs to know 2 things: they understand how to run a demo and they understand what is going to be on the demo screen. The goal of our booths is to be a living, breathing demo experience. We encourage our booth reps to have smarter conversations by asking qualifying questions rather than just saying “Hi” and introducing the company. We have a set of resources available so no matter what conversation comes up, a rep can easily pivot to the most relevant version or part of the demo.
“We encourage our booth reps to have smarter conversations by asking qualifying questions rather than just saying ‘Hi’ and introducing the company.”
Switching gears now to focus more on online events, like webinars. While we all can’t be webinerds like Mark and pump out 20+ webinars a month we can still try out darndest to master the art of the online event.
What’s the best channel and tactic for webinar registrations and how do you ensure the people who register actually show up?
Mark: Email is still the number one source of webinar registrations. There are a few ways you can improve on the promotion of online events:
- You can promote 5-6 weeks ahead of your event, it doesn’t just have to be one or two emails. Think of the long tail.
- Mix up email types. If the HTML email didn’t work well the first time, try plain text next time.
- Promote webinars during webinars. I’ll promote the heck out of next month’s webinar while I’m doing housekeeping for a current webinar and sometimes I’ll get a couple hundred registrants for next month before I even begin this month’s.
Myllisa: I challenge my team to repurpose content at least 5 times. Most of the content we produce will end up as a webinar at some point. This gives us a nice path to cross-promote and sort of bread-crumb people along. We use PathFactory to create that journey and let people binge on content and consume more than one thing in a short period of time. They don’t have to wait for the email promotion if they’re interested enough. We also use our selling channels to promote webinars. We make sure sales knows when they’re happening and they can extend their reach and communications.
“I challenge my team to repurpose content at least 5 times. Most of the content we produce will end up as a webinar at some point.”
Elle: We use our own product to do the same thing. For these Channel Panels, for example, we host our registration page in a PathFactory Content Track. So someone can register for the event but also consume more relevant content, all in one session. We can track how much time individual people are spending with the related assets and can gauge their interest and intent. We see a higher attendance rate on our webinars because of this.
Webinars take a lot of time and resources. What are some tips to get a lot of volume out there?
Mark: Everybody comes to me and says: I want to do more, how? I always give them these 2 tips:
- Everyone thinks you have to prepare a giant slide deck for every webinar. You don’t. Great webinars are just great programming–like a coffee talk, a panel discussion, an interview show. All you need is a topic you know will resonate with your audience. Great webinars are just great conversations.
- The other thing is to consider mid and bottom funnel webinar content. For example, run live demos or get your customers to talk on a webinar. That way prospects can hear your voice and maybe even ask questions. That holds so much more value than a resource centre on your website with 2-page case studies. Webinars don’t just have to be a top-of-funnel lead generation tool.
“Great webinars are just great conversations.”
Myllisa: Early in my career I used to run these lunch and learn webinars (lunch and learn is trademarked so don’t use that). I’d sit down with a sales rep and product manager and pose a thought-provoking question on one slide. Then we’d just roll with it. At the end we’d open it up for questions. This took almost zero prep. Another thing you can do is if you’ve already spent the time to create an amazing ebook, create a webinar based off that. Since you already put the time in it won’t take you as long as it would to create something from scratch.
Elle: Also, I can’t stress how important it is to capitalize on customer advocacy. We have an amazing customer marketer who extracts customer stories and works with our marketing team to turn them into case studies, videos, webinars. She spends a lot of time working with the customer to make sure the story is fluid and maps back to our value proposition.
Events make magic happen. How can you capitalize on the momentum and grab the long tail to make sure you’re getting the most out of your online and offline events?
Myllisa: It’s super challenging. We have a formula for online events. We ask people to take a 2-question survey at the end of the webinar. One question rates the presentation and the other asks if they want more information about event management technology. I offer to buy them a cup of coffee if they take the survey and give them access to a fresh piece of content that matches the experience they’re having. We use the data we captured to deliver a hook that increases relevancy so we can attract and keep someone’s attention.
Mark: To optimize the magic of the moment don’t wait for someone to come back another time. Make sure that, after a webinar, viewers are surrounded by the next logical step. For example, integrate CTAs, content, maybe even a suite of solutions. Give people the option to self-select the next step in their journey before they even leave the webinar, while they’re interested and dialled in. The next thing is to capture every single thing that happens. At ON24 we capture everything they downloaded, every question asked, every poll response etc. We can move that info to Marketo for lead scoring and push it into Salesforce. That way our sales reps can follow up saying with real answers to their questions. The ability to capture engagement is key.
Elle: Absolutely. I talk a lot about the on-demand world. Not only are people accustomed to convenience, they also want highly curated and personalized experiences.
Want to watch the entire hour-long live discussion? Check it out:
The Channel Panel is over but you can still watch all 6 recordings here!