Insights | Marketing

The Future of Events Marketing

January 05, 2017
Dreamforce image

“Every Tech Company Wants A Dreamforce.” This is the gist of many conversations with gurus at Salesforce, AWS, Rackspace, etc. who are guiding the future of events marketing. Like Benioff before them, forward-looking tech CMOs see the benefit of event production: it’s brand, customer service, and–probably most importantly–leads. But Dreamforce and the like are insanely complicated affairs. Agencies such as UBM, and tools provided by Cvent are benefitting from the demand for high value, yet complex events and offering their services to help run them successfully.

The true opportunity, however, is helping these firms better understand the ROI impact of such events. They need to know: how and why these leads convert? Or are events better as lead-nurturing tactics? Hubspot and Marketo are pushing the boundaries of quantifying the marketing funnel, but events are still dark and hard-to-attribute. As an ex-SFDC exec put it: “we’re spending $10m on this event; why not $8m or $12m?” To answer that question, CMOs need a next-gen platform that addresses these key points:

Know Your Weight Class:

The Total Addressable Market (TAM) is somewhat constrained to companies of a certain scale. Many companies simply don’t have the budget to invest in events / event marketing such that they’d consider paying for much more than a low-level tool focused on planning. The long-tail can use tools like Splash or existing CRMs to handle the logistical issues, but higher-level functions like auto-managing suppliers or analytics simply aren’t a mandate given that events isn’t their core marketing channel. In addition, many companies of mid scale just don’t care much about events due to precedent in the industry, whether or not that’s a somewhat myopic or misguided view (tech / media seem to be vastly more active than others).

Don’t Ignore Historical Data:

Even for the big spenders / believers (ex. SFDC, AWS), actually getting to a reliable ROI is incredibly difficult. SFDC, for example, recognized that in order to do so, they had to collect years of event data and tie it closely (sometimes in a manual way) to CRM data. Even then, big attribution problems still exist (ex. they same person attended an event, viewed a webinar, and talked with a salesperson 4 times… what % did the event actually contribute to the sale?). This raises a big sales issue: if the core (or at least future) value prop is turning event marketing into an ROI-measurable channel (ex. proving profitability or not), and you can’t prove it one way or another, how do you convince them an extra cost for a tool on top is worthwhile? Keeping integrations into existing CRMs in mind from day one may be a start.

Prove To CMOs They’re Missing Something:

For most CMOs, events are simply not top-of-mind. SFDC, AWS, Rackspace (and other large / fast-growing tech companies like Box) are way ahead of the curve. But even for the largest players amongst them, many other emerging solutions are more important (ex. web analytics, email marketing, CMS, etc.). What’s the best way to maximize attention? Incorporate some proof of lost opportunity into your pitch / trial / test period… maybe perform some free analysis of data off the bat to show events-driven sales lift. Surprise money on the table is a quick priority in any book.