Welcome to backstage with Zuddl the podcast where we explore the latest trends and strategies for B2B marketing and I'm your host Shreya from Zuddl’s marketing team in today's episode.
We'll be discussing how events have evolved and the importance of choosing the right format for your event to maximize our Oh, I will be joined by Kelsey Taylor, Senior event marketer at Vanta and Ketan Pandit, head of marketing at Zuddl.
Who will share their insights and guidance on how to confidently choose the best event formats for your next event.
Will also be discussing aligning event formats with company goals.
Key questions to ask when evaluating event formats and building the right events mix.
Hello and welcome everyone to yet another episode of event heroes show where we speak to event experts about tactics that they can use to build higher return event strategies and execution.
My name is Ketan and today we're going to be talking about mapping event strategies and events to the marketing funnel.
I have with me, Kelsey Taylor, a brilliant event marketer Advanta for those of you who don't know Van to their, the world's leading, compliance and security platform, automated security and compliance platform.
And prior to Van to Kelsey was running event strategy at outreach.
Next and wired.
So, hi Kelsey, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me Sure.
A couple of housekeeping things before we get started.
yes, the show is recorded.
Yes, the recording will be shared.
And if you have any questions, please use the Q and A box.
And we'll get to it towards the end of the session.
Okay, so let's get started.
How have you been Kelsey, how's the new year been so far?
I'm doing very well.
It's been quite busy the 1st 12 days of the year, but I'm really energized for what's to come both professionally and personally this year.
And I have to tell you this.
I was doomed scrolling on linkedin a couple of nights ago and I came across this post by Ryan.
No, he's the Ceo and co founder at vendor.
So vendor basically helps organizations with saS buying.
They have a platform and you know, he was just saying that they were looking at the data for the past four or five weeks about purchase behaviors and intent and venta was right up there in the net new purchase requests on vendor.
I mean, that's amazing, congratulations to you and the entire venture team.
It's a true marketing wide effort between every single marketing function and we're very honored and excited to see that from vendor awesome.
It cannot be any other way.
so right, getting right to the meat of the matter, right, Kelsey, you've been doing events for a very, very long time.
And over the past few years, not just the last few where you know, we saw virtual getting accelerated.
, but over the past 10 years or so we've seen the, not only the format have events have changed, but also the the expectations that b two B marketers or attendees have from events have also changed.
What, what have you seen in the past 57 years?
That's a that's a great question, I thinking about sort of pre during and post pandemic times.
The bar for events is so much higher now, no matter the format, our audiences have limited time limited resources either to attend a virtual event or travel away from their lives, their family, their dogs, and we want to ensure that we're delivering valuable actionable insights that they can take back to their teams and implement immediately again, no matter the format and there isn't really anything worse than attending an event and really not finding any value in it or being disappointed that the expectation didn't line up with reality.
I think also the days of events being more stand and deliver and a company and their speakers standing on stage and delivering a really long keynote or something like that are dwindling.
I've seen a lot more emphasis on shorter interactive sessions and organizers are really optimizing for to facilitate the organic meetings between attendees were really trying to recreate those hallway conversations that have just gotten missed from office and from the office environments that not a lot of us are in these days and the most memorable experiences, not only come from learning and attending an event that's really, that will, that will drive value, but building community and celebrating each other?
Yeah, I mean, I couldn't agree more community has become one of the key tenets on which events are built, right?
Folks don't have the patients or the will to leave their families, like you said, travel live in a hotel to attend events that just don't deliver.
And, and you know, there are a lot of events happening over the past few years.
The pandemic just accelerated one component and then there was obviously the revenge attendance and people were attending all sorts of events, which is a great thing, right?
It just brings people closer and you know, it's just a lot of learning that's happening.
, but you know, a lot of organizations do struggle with building an event strategy right there, not sure what kind of mix to consider.
so what questions should one look at answering when they're looking at building an event makes or they're looking at building their event strategy, what in your experience, you know, is the right way, That's another, another great thing to, to think on.
I bet that event marketers and a lot of the audience here today could opine on this for hours and really not ever get to the bottom of it because the factors that go into an event strategy are so endless and you could debate the merits of one over the other, every, you know, every, every minute of every hour of every day, but a couple of, of factors that I keep in mind are, what what are the true goal of the event?
Why why are you having an event and why do you want to do the event?
Is there a business need?
Is there a competitive need?
Is your competitive set doing something that you might be, you might want to get in on?
What is the geographical concentration of your audience?
Are you activating an event in a time zone or a location where you have a high concentration of customers and prospects?
And that's a really big deal because you want to make sure you're getting everybody, you're getting the most bang for your buck with your auto and really, you know, I think especially with virtual events finding a time and finding a time zone really host events and we're in very, you and I are very different time zones is really, really tough because you want to get everybody, especially if you have worldwide customers, budget and it is a huge, is a huge factor.
Where is the budget coming from?
How are you?
You want a need by financial buy in from your C level, executives from your finance team and don't want to spend frivolous But events cost more and especially now we're seeing that event prices especially for things like production and equipment are about 50% higher in 2023 that they were in 2020, 2019 and so how are you, how much are you expecting?
What is, what is the, if you can't, if you can't project and expected return, what are those other factors that can prove why, what does that look like?
And then one which we'll get into this a lot more detail in a few minutes.
But funnel stage as well.
And where are the attendees in their journey with, with van to for example, and a prospect who may never have heard Atlanta or is just getting a cold email, whereas only interacted with Manta one time at a conference is at a very different stage than a customer with whom Banta has been working with for even months or years.
If if you're lucky.
Yeah, you're right.
He said, I mean, we attended a few events last year and the costs were nothing that I could recognize from my prior experience.
And with events, events were always looked at a spend more than channel that was integrated with the oral marketing demands and structure if you will.
But now it's a recognized channel.
so yeah, I mean, I completely get where you're coming from with the budget part.
And even when we want to do events, we have to have a clear line to R.
I I mean, you did mention the funnel spot, right?
And let's get a little bit deeper into that are some sort of event suited better to an attendee life stage than as compared to the others, definitely.
And I think that that all goes back to what the goal of the event is.
And thinking about thinking about the the whole marketing funnel, you definitely want to align and this is where your marketing counterparts come in very handy, so lean on your cross functional marketing teammates to define what those events are.
Bi curious and say why, what are the, what are the goals of the product marketing team, the demand team?
How can we support those?
And as event marketers, we are also there to build the relationship with the sales team and have events be as sort of a big marketing tool as a white paper or as a blog post or something like that.
So, or if you're launching a new product or do you have new features to share a webinar?
Either prerecorded or live is a great way to deliver this message, especially for customers.
customers will be really interested in always interested in hearing what you have to say.
What are the new features?
Did you implement my feedback that I had on this on this feature?
or do you just focus on the volume of mpls or moving moving those mpls through the funnel to the sales team?
The third party event sponsorships are a great way to drive the volume of leads and they might not always result in those sales qualified leads, but you're driving demand.
And so you're drumming up that volume of, of people who are have sparked any kind of interest in your company in van to if you have a client with a big renewal or up sell on the line and you want to do something special for them, a smaller intimate dinner or cooking class or something like that can be really fun and effective.
It's a little bit harder to do virtually.
And these are sort of all either virtual or in person, but it can be done and it's, it's really fun.
It takes a little bit more like work.
And if you have an obsessive audience, maybe entertaining.
Having a user conference is the way to go.
What does your conference?
What does your, your audience and your users want to again see here, do feel when they come and interact with with you?
I think, events are I find it fascinating that events is a one of the only marketing tactics where you can start like with something like a brand awareness campaign and and for a net new audience and ultimately get to hosting a customer advisory board with champions and advocates for your company and proving that and seeing that journey with their customers is always good for the relationship with the company with van to and also the bottom line, essentially.
And you did touch upon these events that are much smaller and personalized.
Have you seen, our event marketers prioritizing on smaller, more intimate events over larger conferences and trade shows?
I think it's, again, it's, it depends on where your, where your audience sits, or is it, what's the division of customers and prospects?
We just hosted a very successful small dinner in Toronto and we had a great mix of customers.
We have a pretty, pretty robust audience there of customers.
And I think that if you're trying to, especially a starting out with your event strategy, they can be events can be influential across the board.
But if you're starting out with your event strategy and you want to do something small, it can be a really good proving ground.
A smaller event like that can be a really good proving ground to see what works and then word gets out and that's that's great.
So I personally would recommend a more crawl walk run approach.
You can experiment with formats and see what works for you.
I think the biggest thing with that is to measure everything maniacally have your salesforce campaigns, have your hubspot campaigns, track Everything worked really closely with your marketing operations team and robots as well in order to, to get everything that you need, because come December of 2023, when your budget planning for next year, you can say, we experimented with this and look look what this did.
You know, number of attendees, these are the deals that came, these are the deals that closed and sales cycles are different, depending on again, who your audience is, what you're, what you're talking about, but ultimately with that and figuring out what resonates with your audience.
You, you'll definitely find a way to build that steady sustainable growth with a event strategy.
Like you said, it's not isolated anymore.
You've got events at the center of everything and I'm really happy to see events becoming an integrated part for, you know, driving revenue.
Yes, definitely, definitely.
And that's the that's the point of events too, is that they sort of serve?
I've always thought about it as serving three main purposes, especially when you get to a size where you're hosting your own user conference and, and it is, it is a revenue driver.
And that's something that not a lot of people have seen or do see, but it's also about brand awareness.
It's also about recruiting.
You put on an amazing event, an amazing webinar and people say what, you know, I want to come work for a company that does things like that.
And also in this, in this day and age, in my sort of evolution of my career, I've been able to working for SAS Companies, software is intangible, right?
You can't pick it up and say, this is this is my software and events are the best way to bring that to life and to really just, you know, how else are you going to bring your how else are you gonna bring your product life then through, through?
I mean, I'm just speaking up from that crawl walk run analogy that you gave?
So in my previous role at clever type, I used to run events and we started with the small networking mixers or so Right.
And what we realized was that the first few months took an insurmountable effort, there was a lot of effort just getting people, but once the word got around it was that more easier, right?
We didn't have to do that much effort because people wanted to come, they knew that they would meet great people at those events and it has, you know, it got a life of its own.
Yeah, we it it that's that's so right, is that they create this, this life of its own and it creates almost a sub brand of your of your company's brand and you really want to have that integrated across every single every single function and also a company that values events and values the the revenue driving potential for all kinds of events is I think a really good place to be and a very sort of astute take on on what does, what, what gets things over the line and how, how events, just our ladder up into the overall marketing strategy.
and what do you think there's a stage at which organizations need to look at when they can bring in multiple format, you know, because you're a small company would like to do everything, but they don't have the resources or the budget all the time, what's a good time to look at building a nice mix, whatever that may be.
That's a great, great question.
I think it's it's really when you have a, what are the, what are the things that are working really well across your marketing functions and what, what where do you see?
Not necessarily room for improvement, but where do you see places that you can insert a something different or or maybe what isn't, what isn't working and experiment sort of that crawl, walk, run strategy experiment with the the formats and and just test what?
Test some things.
there is events can be big and flashy and exciting and you can see people have big name keynote speakers and that's and thousands and thousands of attendees, which is amazing.
It creates, it's a lot of, it's a lot of work, but I think that again, building that more more than that, getting really integrated with your marketing team is just making sure that you're also building that audience and so you you are building an audience that are followers of Van to and your and subtle and you're continuing to to market to those attendees and they always want to see new offerings from you, whether it's product offerings or event offerings and so they are more inclined to, again, as you mentioned, get the word out and it becomes a life of its own.
But continuing to think strategically and take into consideration and take good care of your attendees, no matter what they attend, will build that obsessive brand for your events and they'll constantly say to your CSM s when is your next event?
And can I put the dates on my calendar and eventually, hopefully if they have to buy tickets for your event, they will put it in as a budget line item and which is very, very cool and very, really, really great validation to to know that you, you're doing something right, Right.
And you can see that with some of these bigger events, right?
Which are built on community, like hubspot inbound or adobe summit, that's in March.
And, you know, dream force.
These are all built on community.
Yeah, that's and that's the that's the crux of it, is that people use these events as annual meetings for them for themselves.
And they only see this group of people once a year, business contacts or friends, even people have become friends from all over the world and they use it as it's not just a sort of poi in time thing, but it's all year.
They look forward to it.
And they're marching towards attending these events and really continuing to build, as I mentioned earlier, build that community and that is going to be even more important this year, I think than anything else we've seen for events that that's so true and I can completely relate with that, we've had such great conversations outside of the event after the networking, when we, you know, just a bunch of us decided to grab, you know, you completely on point there and I knew we said that we'll take the questions in the end, but I think there are a couple of questions that are very timely here, right.
One is so there's one question that's coming that's saying that, you know, for a company that's just starting to build off events as a channel, right?
What would you recommend starting with?
I recommend taking a look at your, your peer group, maybe maybe competitors, but also companies that are in your stage and size employee wise and see where they are, because we're as a small company, we are probably not at the stage where we are going to activate in a big way at something like Dream Force that's maybe a couple of years down the line, but in order to make a big splash at an event like that, there's a couple of other things that have to happen.
So always look look to see what your, what your peers are sponsoring and get in, get in that way.
Again, it's all about experimentation and I think third party events are a really great way to do that because you meet people, you see what is valuable, you know, ask your, your booth mates or, you know, whoever is on either side of you, if you know why they decided to sponsor the event and where what they're, what they're doing, how do they evaluate it?
I think event marketers especially are really eager to talk about why why they're doing the events that they're doing and really open to it as well.
And even people who was talking to a friend last week who works for a much smaller company and they're just sort of in this stage of evaluating events and so looking to see where those people are and why being being really bold and sort of bullish on asking about why they chose the events that they did and sort of what they hope to to get there.
So I'd say I'd say being a sort of master networker and that can also go into the that can be part of your your your really intensive tracking as well because all that anecdotal feedback and also is they are also data points for that.
And it's an incredibly helpful community of people right?
Event marketers are incredibly helpful, right?
Most of the times when I'm doing it and I see something nice, I just go and ask and they're more than happy to, you know, just lay the cards on the table.
So yeah, and follow up to that question is, you know, what should one look at in terms of a payback time, Right?
So when you're thinking budgets and you're spending on on events, how how how long do you think it takes to come back?
I think it depends on the market segment that you're really focusing on.
Obviously an enterprise sales cycle is a lot longer than small business sales cycle.
So enterprise sales cycles are really, you know, if you're mapping sort of event return to that, which could be then that's 12 to 18 to 20 to 24 months.
But something like an SMB or a mid market could be immediate.
I had somebody at Vantaa Con in november which was our user conference, our very first user conference and we had somebody who came to the event and said I am with someone else who does the same thing that you do.
But after sitting through our ceo keynote for five minutes, I realized that I need to work with you all instead.
And then a week later they were we had gotten them signed and that is that's that is an exception and not a rule.
But I think it really take a look at the market segment of your attendees and you can get a really good base of of what what that is.
But I think that tracking also tracking 30 60 90 days post event to see what his, what his opening is closed and then following that, maybe a six month check in and then an annual check in as well to see that that that assumes that your marketing ops are really is really tight and you're tracking all of these in hubspot or salesforce or whatever your crm is.
but you do, you want that that data as much as the sales team wants that data.
And you know, it's 18 to 24 months for an enterprise deal sometimes immediate from for an SMB or a mid market, which is news to an event marketer because even if you crack a couple of those, your cost of the event is recovered right?
And you have your budget for the next Yes, exactly.
You want to prove that you want to prove that you did something so you can continue to get increased budget because as I mentioned, things are just more expensive.
You don't necessarily know, you don't know what, you don't know until you start planning an event that you haven't done in quite some time.
And you want to be able to say, okay, this drove this and we expect, you know, we're projecting that this will drive this much more and therefore we can't have a flat, we can't have a budget.
We need to have, we need to have more than we did last time.
And and coming to budget right?
There is no rule of thumb is such right.
But how should one think about budgets when building an event strategy?
I always take a look first at what is the average, what's your average deal size and think about it that way and so you can look at it.
You don't want to overspend necessarily on something like a really small small event that is going to be 15 times more than your average deal size.
But average deal size is a great way to take just to take a look at and formulate budgets because it's a great indicator of how much you might influence.
And so an influence model is another good way to really look and and formulate your budgets.
And you know, if we're going to have 10 at an event, we need to have at least that, you know, average deal size of, let's say $10,000.
We need to have at least double that in the room to make it to make this worth it.
Yeah, I think that's a that's a great way to look at things and that's a great question by the way that was from Gilliard in the audience.
So we've done a quick poll to see how you know, how many people here have actually kind of mapped their event strategy to the marketing funnel.
Could we have the poll on screen please?
Alright, just give like 30, 40 seconds to folks.
Yeah, this is a great question.
I'm, I'm interested to see what the answer is.
Alright, okay, so I'm certain that this is going to be a very, very helpful conversation for a lot of folks.
I hope so, I mean, yeah, if you think about it, We map everything to the event lifecycle, right, attend the life cycle of the prospect lifecycle, so why not events?
There are three folks who do.
Let's see if you have any more questions before we get into the fun part.
Alright, looks like no more questions.
All right, you can take that pole off, thank you.
just when I was saying, so there's one question from joseph and he's asking at what marketing funnel stage should one consider closed door events, you know, and I think he means the small conference, personal events invite only kind of thing.
I have always considered those to be mid to bottom of funnel stage if you want to.
I think there are less, there are a lot more, there's a lot more opportunity to really build those, build the content or the event to a really specific audience that way.
And so I'd say even even, you know, close, maybe not all the way at the bottom, but between bottom and sort of mid bottom, but not exactly the middle of the funnel.
You want them to be relatively far along in their, in their journey with you in order to make it more impactful.
And also this is where curiosity comes into becomes really valuable and that you get to, you can learn about your customers and what your, your prospects and what makes them tick, what do they love to do, what would really resonate with them and how can you create an experience for for them?
I think that there are things like like Van to con for example, our user conference, we were very specific on who we wanted to invite and it was an invite only event and because we we really wanted to make sure not only that we had the right people in the room, but getting back to that community building that everybody else was getting value of the other p people in the room.
And so taking that into consideration as well and making sure that you're again creating value, not just with the content that you are delivering, but with the experience that you're creating for your attendees who are presumably peers of of one another because of their shared interest is your event and making sure that you're thinking about thinking about that and taking that into consideration.
Okay, fantastic guidelines.
one last question before we move on to the rapid fire and I think this is it's a good question, but it will kind of help us summarize what we've spoken so far.
Again, it's from Juilliard for a B two B sas company, what kind of event mixed would you recommend across its lifecycle between cities?
A two series.
C good question.
I think the definitely looking at the overall sort of you're looking, we're starting in january, right?
So you're, looking at sort of the year long, year long strategy for, for example, I think the figuring out what times of year will be the most impactful for you and you know whether that's quarterly, first half of the year, second half of the year and figuring out, you know, maybe it's one bigger activating at one or two bigger.
I say bigger, but I mean third party events and sponsoring a couple of third party events a year and say maybe for an early at an early series 2 to 3 to four and experimenting with what that looks like.
Did you have a good experience for your peers there and then as you get that data and get that information, you can do more smaller events.
And also another great, another great tactic at some of those if you are doing, if they're, if you're sponsoring a third party event is to take advantage of the audience that's there and you didn't have to build that audience.
The event organizers built it for you and they are most, they must be somewhat interested in the products and your offerings.
And so you could organize your own lunch or your own dinner around that event.
It doesn't necessarily have to be connected with the event.
I hope that my fellow event organizers are not mad at me for saying that, but because there are sponsorship opportunities that afford that as well, but if you don't or you have a smaller budget or you can't do that, then taking advantage of that audience in, have a meet up or something like that after a session or have a breakfast, you know, stop by and say hi for a breakfast or a coffee or something like that as well.
So I think leveraging audiences that you don't necessarily have to build from scratch is really valuable in starting an event, starting and building your event strategy.
Yeah, there's a reason why event marketers are called superheroes, right?
Because they're a marketer, there are serious person that our customer success that everything rolled into one, right?
But this has been fabulous.
I mean I have learned so much right?
But yeah, this is the fun round now and put your rapid fire questions hat on.
Okay, first question, right, Because because it's New Year's, so we have to start with this.
What's your New Year's resolution?
Oh man, I really want to explore cholera.
I live in colorado and I really want to explore more of colorado and there's so much that I feel like I haven't seen, I've lived here for about four years and just little mountain towns and driving in without a real destination and hiking in places that are sort of the path less traveled and I have a dog.
So he and I definitely do a lot of exploring but I want to do more of that.
I think I hope you get to do more of that.
if you could meet one historical figure, who would that be?
Ny, I would love to meet Michelangelo.
I studied abroad in Italy and I am obsessed with his work and his, his paintings, the sculptures, his story.
And I would love to see just what life was like in Italy back then and just absolutely just racked his brain for everything that you know, we now know about that time, which is just fascinating and really beautiful to me.
Such a talented artist.
One song that you have completely memorized, I can sing every word to love shack by the B 50 two's without missing one awesome.
So maybe when we speak next time we'll start with that.
the best piece of event advise you've ever got something that I've definitely applied to vent advice is don't burn bridges, it's not, it's not worth it.
You truly don't know who is going to come back into your life and how they're going to come back into your life, whether it's a vendor or a co worker or a competitor, even you might end up working with them one day.
And I think that that takes the, you know, we all get, we all get frustrated and we all get in in in ways, but that has served me really well in continually building relationships over my, over the last 10 to 12 years and I think that's just good life advice in general?
Okay, last question.
which other event marketers would you recommend?
We get on the show?
I think you should talk to Lindsay mimic from Pendejo awesome.
All right, okay, that was it.
You scored fabulously.
and thank you for your time, Kelsey, this has been the most wonderful.
I hope you get to keep your New Year's resolution.
Yeah, thank you for your time.
Thanks for your time today and I appreciate it.
And thank you too subtle for having me sure, anytime, have a good one and thank you everyone for joining in.
yeah, we'll just share the recording as soon as it's ready.
and see you guys soon.
That's all for today's episode of backstage with subtle.
We hope you found Kelsey's insights and guidance on choosing the right event format helpful.
Remember that there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to events, but by aligning your event formats with your company goals, asking key questions when evaluating event formats and building the right events mixed.
You can ensure that you're getting the most out of your events fans if you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to check out all our other ones on Spotify, apple music anchor and other platforms.
Thanks for tuning in and we'll see you next time