Make Live Events An Integral Part of Your B2B Marketing Strategy

At DoubleDutch, we strive to unlock the business value of human connections by bringing the power of digital to live experiences. This is the first post in our CMO Perspective #PowerofLive series, where we’ll interview some of the most progressive and innovative CMO’s to find out how they make live events a strategic part of their marketing approach.

Julie Knight-Ludvigson has pretty much done it all in B2B marketing at some of the biggest success stories in tech: Cisco, SuccessFactors, SAP and Zendesk. Just one of her many accomplishments (that we at DoubleDutch can certainly love) is that Julie has built field marketing teams from the ground up and made events a central and strategic part of her company’s marketing strategy.

Now the CMO of Reflektive, an HR SaaS start-up, that has created a real-time performance feedback platform, Julie spoke to me about how she approaches event marketing and how live events fit into her overall marketing strategies.

Emily He, CMO of DoubleDutch: What role have events played in supporting overall marketing and company objectives during your career?

Julie Knight, CMO of Reflektive: Events play a role from a number of dimensions. First, from an awareness standpoint, this is a way that we get in front of people that may not have heard about Reflektive and people that have heard of us but want to get into greater depth as to who the company is — the leadership team, how the company can potentially support them, what their perspective is. It’s really about putting a face with the name, especially given all of the other vendors that are out there.

The second thing is demand generation. We have used coaching events as well as third-party events as a way to talk to people in more of a demand capture capacity. They are already exploring solutions to help them, as they evolve and transform their approach to performance management.

The final thing that’s important for us to think about is customer engagement. These are recurring customers that are asking, “How do we transform what we do around employee engagement and performance reviews,” and trying to do this on a regular basis.

Emily: How do you think events as marketing programs have evolved in the last few years?

Julie: They have evolved towards delivering more thought leadership. At Zendesk, we launched the Relate Live event series, which was all about discussing different ways to engage with your customers and to create meaningful relationships with them. We were trying to have conversations beyond ticket deflection and issue remediation and focus more on person-to-person relationships.

Events are also an opportunity for training and onboarding. As our customers think about technology, they’re also thinking, “What are the changes that we need to make to really maximize the investment and change what we’re doing, in terms of employee engagement and employee success?”

Emily: How have you integrated events with the rest of your marketing channels?

Julie: Events are an important ingredient for success, because when you’re marketing to the enterprise, you need a face-to-face relationship. That’s especially important with emerging markets. So, we’ve always thought about events as part of the customer journey and the service we provide our customers. That was the case at SAP, SuccessFactors, and Zendesk —and I expect it to be no different here at Reflektive.

Emily: Traditionally, gathering data from your events to prove ROI has been hard. In your experience, how do you usually measure the success of your events, and how do you quantify ROI for your event programs?

Julie: We look at events both from a pipeline creation and pipeline influence perspective. Both are incredibly important. When you’re using events as a key tactic or investment area, things like lead attribution are very important. My view is that it is the palette of marketing tactics that really help to build and drive pipeline. If you’re an SMB, you can look to one or two tactics, but when you’re moving up to mid-market and enterprise, you absolutely need to start looking at tools like lead attribution as a way to quantify the impact of your marketing “cocktail”.

Emily: From the CMO’s perspective, what advice do you have for other CMOs in terms of using events as a strategic part of your marketing program?

Julie: My recommendation is that you really look at events as something to build around. So it can’t just be a single tactic. It’s should be something that is part of your integrated campaign strategy, it’s part of your corporate communications plan. What are you doing to draw in your your media partners? What are you doing to draw in your AR partners? What are you doing to make sure that the messaging, the positioning, and your theme-based campaigns are related to the events that you’re executing in the field?

So my recommendation for any CMO, including myself, is if you’re thinking about doing an event first-party or third-party, you need to think about what’s the ecosystem or plan around it?

You’re spending a lot regardless. Even if it’s just a booth or speaking sponsorship, you need to be building something bigger and broader. If you’re not, then it’s a wasted opportunity.

Emily: What advice do you have for events people who want to be more strategic?

Julie: Events teams often get relegated to just working events or building events. I like to say, especially with field marketing teams, that they are their region or territory’s CMO, and they have the power to really reach out to other functions within marketing, to build the strategy.

If a field marketer or corporate events person wants to be more strategic in how they’re thinking about things, they need to think about how they partner with the content team, with digital, or with corporate communications to transform it from just an event to something that is truly strategic. Engaging the leadership team of your company can also be an important ingredient in maximizing investment especially when meetings are set up with customers, analysts and partners. As an event marketer, they  already hold that power. It’s a matter of using it.

Emily: What technologies do you use to automate event execution and enhance the event experience?

Julie: We obviously use the core tools like Salesforce and marketing automation. The other thing that’s super important, especially for an account-based marketing strategy, is a tool like Demandbase. It’s a profiling and performance management tool that shows how target accounts are engaging with your company. If you’re betting the farm on target or top-tier accounts, those tools are important.

Great event management tools are also important. That means working with tools like Certain or Cvent. Smaller companies can use tools like Eventbrite. The goal is to ensure you’re able to track your investment (and the return on that investment). Leveraging a tool like DoubleDutch, which I’ve used at several other companies, ensures engagement is not just person-to-person, but that it’s robust from a digital standpoint. DoubleDutch allows us to understand and track what our attendees are doing, what type of content they’re interested in, and how they’re engaging with other people at events.