Four Keys (and One Donkey) for Event Marketing Impact

By Karyn Scott

A burro just brought me a beer. This actually happened. I put on a V1 customer conference with the help of a killer event marketing team and they surprised me by having beer burros waltz through the outdoor cocktail welcome reception with ice buckets filled with beer for the attendees.

And a funny thing happened: After a good laugh, everyone started talking. And for three days, they never stopped. Cards were exchanged, meetings were set and business was transacted. And the beer burros anchored the event squarely in the minds of the attendees to share for years to come.

Throughout my career, event marketing has always played a key role in my business plan as events support each stage of the customer lifecycle and the buyer journey. They amplify investments made in one-way communication programs like SEO, digital advertising, and email by providing an opportunity to build meaningful connections with customers and prospects that drive sales. In fact, Gartner notes three main benefits of event marketing:  

  • Engagement with prospects
  • High-quality leads
  • Event-attributed revenue

There are many kinds of events you can add to your mix – from customer conferences to field roadshows to online programs and so much more. While the formats, goals and strategies differ, the keys to success are the same, and boil down to answering these questions:

  • Who will attend?
  • What will they discuss?
  • What will make the event memorable?
  • Did the event move the (business) needle?

Let’s break these down.

Who is in the room?

It’s critical to define your target audience and police this with passion. If you want to foster collaboration and discussions, you must have like-minded attendees with similar roles and pain points in the room. This is especially true with executive programs, where EAs are trained to ask for and screen attendee lists prior to accepting invitations. I learned this at Cisco when I managed the CXO Event portfolio. The hardest part of the job was landing the first three attendees to attract the rest!

Content, content, content: she’s still queen

An agenda that is built for and with attendees offers the greatest likelihood that debates, discussions and conversations will be lively and educational. Always create an agenda that is both inside out (content the company wants to push) and outside in (what the attendees want to discuss and learn).

I’ve seen many programs fail by having content that can be found on the web or elsewhere. Talk to your customers. Talk to your sales teams about what their customers are discussing. And then build a set of sessions that address these topics. At the Cisco CIO Summit, we had just one product demo session. One. Attendees all knew they could get demos for their teams at any time. What they could not get elsewhere was inside the heads of their peers.

Misty, water-colored memories

What will make your event memorable beyond beer-toting donkeys? A killer keynote speaker? An inspiring celebrity? A sneak peek at the product roadmap? Sitting at dinner next to the one person you’ve tried to land a meeting with for a year? 

At the inaugural Forward by Flexport event, we hired Shaquille O’Neill as the closing keynote speaker. With a V1 program, it’s always a challenge to keep attendees in the room until the last session. So, while Shaq did not speak about global trade, every single seat was taken in his session. And every customer had a photo opp with Shaq afterward. We framed the photos and the sales team was able to land meetings to hand deliver them. I’m sure that photo in a Flexport frame sits proudly on every desk. I know mine does. Make memories for your attendees. And they will remember you.

But still, was it worth it?

Don’t wait until the end of the event to ask this question. Start your planning with this question. Did the event or events move the needle on your business? Did you attain the customer acquisition or expansion goals you defined? Can you demonstrate the projected ROI? At the end of the V1 customer conference (aka the ‘beer burro’ event), a customer pulled me aside somewhat irate asking “How come I wasn’t invited last year?” I think she missed the V1 thing…#success.

If your company has a robust event marketing strategy and portfolio as a key piece of the integrated go-to-market plan, then you are on a fast path to delivering solid ROI to the business.  If you don’t, or you’d like a well-check strategy review, call us at Park & Battery. We’d love to help you fuel your business forward. With or without farm animals.

(No equines were harmed writing this blog.)

Karyn Scott CMO-In-Residence

As Park & Battery’s CMO In Residence, Karyn Scott is a twenty-five-year marketing executive with leadership experience at technology champions and challengers alike. Karyn acts as a fractional CMO and c-suite advisor for numerous early-stage startups throughout Silicon Valley. Prior to that, Karyn was Chief Marketing Officer at Kloudspot, developers of the first AI-driven situational awareness and intelligence platform, and SVP, Head of Global Marketing at Flexport, the SoftBank-backed, San Francisco-based unicorn freight tech innovator.

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