Every business has a marketing strategy (or so we hope). Here at LeadSift, one of our favorite marketing approaches is our Show me the Data podcast. We sit down regularly with leaders at successful B2B businesses and ask them to share their secrets and their data. Intrigued to see how event marketing adapted to the ground falling out in 2020, we spoke with four directors of demand generation. We’re sharing their key event marketing strategies and how you can action them in any format.
The guests featured in this article are:
- Veronica French, Director, Demand Generation at Replicant.ai
- Tyson Wigfall, Head of Marketing for Breakthrough
- Hana Jacover, Director of Demand Generation for Madkudu
- Jordi Capdevilla, Vice President of Marketing, ForceManager
- Harmony Anderson, Director, Demand Generation Outreach IO
Veronica French, Director, Demand Generation at Replicant.ai
Event Type: Intimate Events with Seasoned Executives
Key Strategy: Leverage LinkedIn Event Pages (and Your Networks)
It’s exhilarating to be hired on with a young company, especially one that’s already performing. There are no proven methods or ingrained tactics. The atmosphere is daring and creative.
When Veronica stepped into her role as Director of Demand Generation at Replicant.ai in early 2020, she was prepared to experiment. Replicant.ai powers customer service conversations with natural voice AI. After her initial deep dive on the business, her demand gen team tossed out the typical ABM playbook.
“We want to keep our market broad as we gain learnings and see what’s working for different accounts, different industries, different personas,” Veronica told us.
They build intimate experiential gatherings for roughly 500 companies that their sales reps are already getting to know. The gatherings are bespoke and ad hoc, the two-part agenda featuring an interactive experience and thought leadership. A key strategy is that the events never contain a sales pitch– the moderator only briefly mentions Replicant as the sponsor. This keeps everything high-level and intimate.
The pilot targeted 30 executives, fifteen showed up. They hoped to scale to 100 attendees for a chocolate tasting.
Five hundred people registered!
- 500 registrants
- 80% legitimate leads
- 250-300 new net contacts ($30/lead)
- 200 direct connections
- 30 meetings ($300/meeting)
- 10 opportunities ($1,000/opportunity)
How did Veronica’s team blow their targets out of the water? A series of tactics you can easily use for your own strategy.
Replicant utilized the LinkedIn Event Page. Then gave team members a simple call to action: “Invite all the folks you’re talking to on LinkedIn.”
“We relied on our cumulative network, based off of all of our account reps and senior executives. Invitees can also see who else has registered. So there was a snowball effect where we saw senior C-level executives from giant airlines, giant food industry companies who registered,” Veronica shared.
Only 200 registrants divulged their personal addresses to receive chocolate kits, but Replicant didn’t let the remaining 300 dissolve into the abyss. They manually invited the registrants to the calendar event with a zoom link and countdown alerts. They also reminded them that the thought leadership piece was worth showing up for even without the chocolate. It worked.
The following events have been a huge hit. The agenda starts with coffee tastings, barbecue classes, cocktail mixology, and the chat goes crazy. By the time the thought leadership piece begins, everyone is friendly and ready to dive into deeper material. With event marketing like that, it’s clear why Replicant is seeing major ROI.
Tyson Wigfall, Head of Marketing for Breakthrough
Event Type: Quarterly virtual summits
Key Event Marketing Strategy: Start with the Customer
Tyson Wigfall’s marketing team maintained its roughly 50% demand generation when it transitioned from live to virtual events. Breakthrough is an end-to-end practice growth platform for physical therapists. His first key strategy to successful event marketing is something that should be central to any product, service, or event, but is sometimes lost in the process.
“Start with your customer in mind. What is it that they want to know? Typically we’ll ask our customer base or our prospects what they’re looking to learn,” Tyson told us.
Breakthrough’s events feature topics that help their clients attract more customers and increase their revenue. Like many of our interviewees, thought leadership is the secret sauce to Breakthrough’s events and Tyson builds a running bank of experts to contact at the right time.
Breakthrough has quarterly summits with at least six speakers and event sponsors and partners to manage as well. Tyson’s second key event marketing strategy is allocating the responsibilities to a dedicated event coordinator.
“Someone internally has to own the event as a core accountability,” he told us.
Through multi-channel marketing, Tyson’s team elevates the speakers and the topics, carefully demonstrating the value attendees will receive. Marketing strategy begins broadly and then highlights specific sessions as the date gets closer. Short video interviews with speakers and one-click registration make it easy for people to show up.
- 600 registrants per quarterly summit
- 50% fit the ideal client profile
- 55% of attendees come from email database
- 45% are net new
- 15% want to learn more about Breakthrough (20-30 people in the ideal customer profile)
- Seven figures were in the pipeline after the last four events
“But ultimately, the goal of the virtual events is more downstream and long-term. It’s the thought leadership we’re building. I think if you’re just looking at the amount of people that you move all the way through to sales, then you’re going to do the wrong things during the event.” -Tyson Wigfall
Tyson’s team is certainly doing something right with seven figures in the pipeline after just four events.
Hana Jacover, Director of Demand Generation for Madkudu
Event Type: Web Series
Key Event Marketing Strategy: Think Beyond Current Limitations
Marketing is about standing out in a sea of same-ness. How do you show prospects what it feels like to work with you or use your product? Why do you know best what your clients need?
Hana Jacover’s key strategy is all about obliterating the box that competitors play in. Hana is the Director of Demand Generation for Madkudu, the data science platform for marketers which works within your data stack to help you work more intelligently.
Hana’s team was seventeen episodes into their weekly “Marketing Operations Confessions Web Series” and we were intrigued to learn more. More specifically, why not just create a podcast?
“This is a new experiment. So first and foremost, I needed the flexibility to create it or allow it to be whatever it needs to be… to remove some of those guard rails,” she told us.
Marketing Operations Confessions amplifies the voice of its marketing operations audience. Not by trying to control or become that voice, but by giving a mic to speakers who have a hot take on something their audiences know well. Speakers are passionate, sometimes up and coming, and sometimes industry legends. Every episode is a confession and often stirs up a conversation or catalyzes a debate.
“We don’t want to infiltrate the marketing ops community. We want to facilitate any of the conversations that are happening, we want to align ourselves with the thought leaders and the existing communities and work with them,” Hana told us.
Sounds like a spicy podcast, and…
Hana also wanted people to register and attend live. The conundrum was that she also wanted to ungate the episodes afterward. So, how do you get people to carve time in their schedule for what can be accessed un-gated and un-scheduled later on?
Madkudu does this a few ways:
- Each season, there’s an enticing give-away for attendees (ahem, Yeti Cooler).
- Session incentives (they’ve experimented with a $25 lunch card).
- The guests themselves!
The guests’ unique perspectives are what the show is all about after all. Live attendees interact with guests and ask questions, something obviously unavailable in a replay. When sourcing speakers, Madkudu does so with the intention of leveraging their following as a key marketing strategy. That means some attendees are already loyal fans of the speakers.
“We look for people who have a large following and are very active. We also give them the tools to actually promote the session,” Hana said.
Another winning strategy? Encouraging people to sign up for multiple sessions at once. This unlock saw average registrations leap from 45 per single session to 376.
The Web Series Stats
- 240 average weekly registrants
- 15-18% average attendance rate
- 50% of registrations are qualified conversions
- 40-50% of attendees are qualified conversions
- $700k in the pipeline in the last two quarters
“Now we’re just looking for ways to expand. Can we do a panel? Can we do a live Marketing Ops Confession as things open back up? How can we work with partners to constantly be making it bigger and bigger?” -Hana Jacover
Madkudu’s web series broke free from event marketing constraints. If you’re also a rebel, we’d love to hear what you’re up to!
Jordi Capdevilla, Vice President of Marketing, ForceManager
Event: Virtual Summit
Key Event Marketing Strategy: Get Your Teams Excited
Force Manager is the leading mobile CRM for field sales teams with a presence in 36 countries and headquarters in major global cities.
Right as the world shut down, ForceManager set an audacious goal to host a virtual summit for its customers in six weeks. Rather than sending people fleeing to dark corners of their home workspaces, the tight timeline galvanized ForceManager’s 120 person staff. Twenty to thirty people became deeply involved in the project, including the CEO and marketing and inbound teams. They really showed up for the summit’s promotion phase.
This team spirit was the summit’s key event marketing strategy that presented itself organically.
“When everyone inside the company buys in, it makes a huge difference for the marketing team. It means you’re doing a good job, and the external promotion gets much more fun.” -Jordi Capdevilla
“Everyone can be a marketer, not just marketing. Everyone has great ideas. A lot of our ideas have come from other teams.” Veronica French agrees.
ForceManager drove people to the virtual summit through multiple channels, especially social media ads– mainly LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, and Instagram. They also sent emails to existing customers since that was what the summit was all about: showing up for them in an unprecedented moment and responding to their needs with empathy. Turns out, their prospects needed the same.
- 9,977 summit registrants
- 80% net new leads
- 2,721 MQL from the event
- 500 free trials for small teams
- 500 MPS survey results
- 40 meetings
- 10 opportunities
Another key strategy to drive ROI was making the content relevant long after the date it ran, for what they hoped would be a year and a half. When we spoke with Jordi only a few weeks after the summit, ForceManager was seeing just how effective this strategy was.
10,000 viewers had accessed the summit’s content since the date it launched!
“The people that spoke and the people that attended got, in conduct, to be partners. The value of the exponential reach of the event goes beyond the event itself. So we have people talking about us and our work, and it gives us opportunities beyond that event through people that didn’t know about us before,” Jordi explained.
Turning your attendees into ambassadors and champions is a major hack for event marketing. Of course, that means that the event itself had to be buzzworthy.
Harmony Anderson, Director, Demand Generation Outreach IO
Event Types: Six-Tiers of Field Marketing Events
Key Marketing Strategy: For Virtual, Put More Time Into Nurturing the Post-Event
Outreach IO is the leading sales engagement platform. Outreach IO’s field team did almost 225 events in 2019 which drove 15% of the year’s demand generation. Their 2020 goal was to up their team’s demand gen to 25%. Harmony’s team didn’t sway from this target when the world went virtual, they merely added one more tier to their five-tier funnel.
One of their biggest events was an industry conference in San Diego that nearly doubled year over year. They anticipated 3,000 in-person attendees; with a lower barrier to the virtual event, they hoped for more. They smashed their target of 7,500 and ended up driving 13,000 people to the event.
For targets further down the funnel, the field marketing team is curating interactive, small gatherings: comedy shows, celebrity chefs, and even an executive book club for sales VPs.
What stood out with our interview, though, was Harmony’s focus on the post-event. When comparing the virtual touchpoint to an in-person touch point, Harmony’s team scores them as a digital touch similar to a webinar.
“You don’t make that sincere connection as you would in person. So the velocity of conversions through the funnel is much slower, you expect pipeline being generated further out. Rather than in 30 days, you’re probably generating pipeline of 90 to 120 days. You gotta expect that and do more from a follow-up and nurturing standpoint to still drive your pipeline,” Harmony told us.
This key strategy is one that marketing teams can action easily into their strategy.
Ready for Action
These directors of demand generation are master adaptors. Here’s how to integrate their key strategies into your own event marketing:
- Start with your customer. What do your customers and prospects need? Poll your networks, speak with your clients, have questions ready for prospects. Every customer wants to know you’re putting their needs at the center of your company.
- Think beyond current limitations. People are exposed to a lot of content and events. Make yours stand out by breaking the mould. Sit down with your team and create an atmosphere of risk taking. Keep pushing the outlandish ideas, you’ll surprise yourself.
- Get your teams excited. Kick the door open and invite team members from every team, position, and role. Get the janitor in on it. Ask them their ideas on format, topics, sourcing, potential speakers, promotional tactics. The more creativity in the room, the more innovation. The more widespread ownership, the stronger the event.
- LinkedIn Events. Create the event and pull your account representatives and SDRs into the promotion. They simply go to the invite, click “invite connections”, and go through their prospects and everyone they’re already talking to. Let the power of social persuasion take over as people register.
- Rely on the power of your guests. Who is making waves? Who is defining the industry or challenging popular notions of your topics? Who has a large following and is active? Do quick interviews to integrate into your ads. Give them the tools to promote the session.
- For virtual, put more effort into the post-event nurturing. Your audiences are inundated with content and event invites. Sometimes they’re multi-tasking with cameras off. Show them you see them and value their engagement by nurturing the lead after the event. Expect to see your pipeline drawn out.
Our interviewees showed us the data! These key strategies have been proven to drive revenue. Test out some of them and let us know what works!
To hear more data-driven insights around all things marketing and sales, check out the Show Me the Data podcast.