B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast
B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast

Episode 1730 · 5 months ago

Maximize Opportunities Pre, During, and Post Event, with Jonathan Kazarian


In this episode, Benji talks to Jonathan Kazarian , the Founder and CEO of Accelevents. 

Discussed in this episode: 

  • how to best collect and leverage event data
  • how to leverage events as a core of your B2B marketing strategy
  • Utilizing the data to create forums for targeted groups

Conversations from the front lines and marketing. This is be to be growth. Today I am joined by John Kazarian. He's the founder and CEO of Excel Events. John, welcome to be to be growth. Thanks for having me on. Excited a chat with you today to tap into your expertise and I'll just tell our listeners up front what I want to drill down on and then we'll get some of your story. I'm hoping today, and because I know you have so much expertise in the area of events, that we can just talk about leveraging data from those events. I know that's something that marketers are trying to continuously get better at. Also want to talk about leveraging events as this core piece of our marketing strategy. And then, finally, meant there's so many ways we could really get personal with the data that we collect, to maybe it's create forums for targeted groups or just these other ways of using the data. So that's where we're going. But to get there, people need to be know who you are a little bit, and so I want to hit rewind. Maybe we jump into time machine for a second, go back to two thousand and fifteen, because I, as I understand it, this was kind of your gateway into excel events. Basically, you kind of sad, but your cousin was diagnosed with cancer and you're going I've got to make a difference, I want to hell hope in this situation. Tell us a little bit of that story so we have some background on you, John. Yeah, it's so. That was I was two thousand and fourteen that happened. She was seventeen at the time and when I found that out, it just thought about, you know, what can I do for her, and ultimately concluded that if I hosted event, that was going to be how I can raise the most money. And I had hosted a bunch of events in the past, you know, generally like the one hundred to two hundred person range, but this is the opportunity to go big. So I went down to the aquarium in Boston, where I was living at the time, put my credit card down. I was I was twenty four at the time. I had to sell a hundred eighty five tickets to break even, basically to be able to pay my credit card. Built and and did it in and we went into that event, you know, again knowing we had to sell one hundred and eighty five, but ended up getting eight hundred and forty people to show up that first event and in the process we raise sixty five thou dollars for Dana Farber cancerans to that's fantastic. One of the reasons we were able to do so was the technology that we ultimately built in order to help us raise money. I had looked around for solutions to help us run the auction, the RAFFLE. There wasn't anything that was either affordable or easy to use. We had already had enough trouble and frustration with a ticketing system that we were using, and this is one of the now publicly traded companies, so you know, sort of would have thought it was best of breed. But when you're hosting a large scale event, you've got enough frustration, enough pain points, enough things to worry about. Technology doesn't need to be another one on top of that. So I ended up building out the solution for us and it worked really well. Again, we raised a bunch of money and ultimately, after the event, realize that we should be offering this other folks. We're doing the same thing. So watched a company and continue to build that nights and weekends while working full time and another job. At the time that was much more focused on the fundraising space, but as things progressed we started to focus more heavily on for profit events, the festival's trade shows, concerts, conferences and whatnot, and and continue to go down that route until we ultimately came to the point where at today, which I want to highlight one other part of that story, because the last three years hit sort of Oh crap moment and you hit a like wow, we're really growing at a quick pace. So just give people an idea of what that three year journey has been like. Yes, so in two thousand and nineteen, again I was, you know, still working full time at another company building this nights and weekends and we had we ended up closing out that year.

Three hundred seventy five came revenant. So boos drap. Frankly, still very small, but it was looking like we were going to be able to do a million in revenue in two thousand and twenty. And then the world ship the bed. So in March to two thousand and twenty, with all the canceled events, the refunded tickets, we ran out of money and fortunately I was able to convince my father, would recently retired, to invest k out of his retirement, basically at the bottom of the stock market in March of one thousand and twenty, so that we'd have a chance to pivot and chance to stay alive. And we knew what we were going to do because we were talking to our customers nonstop. They were going through the same problems and challenges that we were, essentially, so we knew what we were going to do and and this this money, it gave us the second win, to second chance, and we pivoted and we built a solution to facilitate faci take conferences and trade shows for a number of different types of organizations, but at the time primarily be to be businesses that just needed a way to stay top of mine, stay in front of their customers, to be able to generate leads and create opportunities for sales folks to get in front of potential buyers. And it worked. Hmm, I love that. And it worked. I mean you say it work, but it I think it went way beyond like what you were imagining in your head, if you'd like you. I mean you're hoping for a million and you've gone on and what you hit? Three million. Is that right? Or you're on path? Yeah, a little bit, a little bit beyond that, we did a little over three point two and two thousand and twenty. Wow. Okay. So then that that provides perfect context for where we want to go, because you're thinking about events, you've been hosting events for years at this point and now you've built this platform as well. So, with all of that sort of as backdrop, I want to tap into the lessons you've learned and I want to start with this. If you're thinking of most betb companies, they're allocating part of their budget, may probably a significant portion of their budget, into some kind of event. In if you're looking in from your vantage point, John and going all right, this is why, if you're not prioritizing events, you should or you should prioritize events more like make your case. What's your main talking points? Yeah, I mean, historically twenty six percent of be to be marketing budgets are events. So it is a massive segment. But as you think about companies like generally sort of the series a, series B threshold, they have really ventured to take the step yet, and it's actually very interesting about the opportunity that virtual events provide is it's an opportunity to dip your toe in the water at a much lower barrier to entry, a much lower price point, much lower risk. And what we've seen is a number of organizations that have done just that, you know, on part of timing over the past couple of years, but today now they have this audience already ready to go when it is time for them to host their in person events. So, yeah, as you're thinking about building that, it really comes down to thinking about the programming and how you're going to engage your audience throughout the year, how you're going to build opportunities to interact with those folks. And you know, one of the you know, the hot topics these days is the conversation around the dark funnel, and we're your audience is coming together your customers, your potential customers, and having those conversations. That one of the things that events do better than anything else is they provide an opportunity for your customers to sell on your behalf. Take your best advocates, give them a voice with in your event. It's going to deepen the relationship with them, but it's also going to give them an opportunity to talk to those prospects in ways that about your product and ways that they never considered before. HMM, okay, so one more question on just events more broadly. What are some of those main misconceptions you think people still have, like, what are people still getting wrong, because I do a totally agree with you that in this time, the last couple years, it's just shown a spotlight on the power of a virtual event, but I still think there's, especially in be to be...

...some old ways of thinking about events for people that are like afraid to still dip their toes in the water because they're going like a man. Maybe the barrier to entry is really high, or the cost, like, what are some of those misconceptions? Well, one of the misconceptions is the cost. But regardless of the cost, the the investment, the time that you need to put into creating that experience, whether it's virtual or in person, is in many ways the same. You're just shifting where you're spending your time on, because somebody's attention is obviously so limited in the virtual space. You need to make sure that you're putting content together, that you're bringing great speakers, you have an agenda that's going to really engage folks. The other part is, whatever you're thinking about this event, this program of events, you need to understand the purpose of it off the bat before you even start to think about the programming. And that's one big gap that I see a lot of a lot of folks face when they're starting to build event programming for the first time. The other thing is to back up is Depp and look coalistically your entire marketing stack, your marketing program the way that we do marketing has changed quite a bit in the past year just because of well apples, war against facebook and now Google tagging in with the the reduction third party cookie tracking, the ways that ad platforms are changing. Tacks are going up. If you think about what that means, it's a shift towards first party data and when you're considering the different mechanisms for getting first party data. Yeah, you've got, like you know, White Paper downloads and ebooks and other form fields, sometimes even webinars, but all you're really capturing is a point in time, single interaction that that person took, not really any more context than that. But you think about the spectrum of an event, there are so many more touch points that you're able to capture, and this applies both to in person and virtual events, that you can then use to build personas and segment your audience and create personalize follow up and messaging. That just goes vastly outside of what you're going to be able to do when you just have that single point of contact or information about somebody. Yep, it's exactly right. Okay, so kind of jumping into action mode here, then let's let's just imagine for a second a Welldone, ideal event here and let's go beforehand, during and after. Will take this in three chunks to maximize that opportunity. What do you see? Beforehand, during, in after? I'll let you kind of just walk us through, if this is done well, what the connection to those attending the event can look like for the company and how you can really start to maximize this. Yeah, definitely, and again I'll stick in the virtual event realm for this one. But Zappier, for example, zapp beer, as a customer of hours. They hosted a huge product launch, annual product launch event on the platform and there's a couple of things that they did really well, and thinking about that. But one of them was the way that they brought in evangelist speak on behalf and promote the event because, yes, this is a product launch event, but they're also introducing a lot of thought leadership and really resonating with the audience in in the way that they promoted the event. So even if these folks don't attend, this is still an opportunity for you to go out there and get your voice out there and get your brand out there and promote yourself as a thought leader in the industry. So it started with that. And now the other thing is, and again this is given that it's a product launch event, but nobody ever posed a screenshot of an email from a new feature that a company pleas on like lengthy ender twitter. Right, whether it's in person or virtual, the number of screenshots I see from folks who are or checking out an event and this product that they use day and day out as launched this new feature that's going to save them five hours a month, right. That's huge. That's life changing for that allows them to focus that much time on something else. When you bring a whole bunch of people together and create hype and noise at the same time, and that's exactly what Zap you're did with this event. It create...

...an opportunity for this global audience to come together and rally behind this this new feature that they released, and it really it just it took over linkedin for a day, almost two days, which was just incredible to see. So that was sort of during the event and then post event. What it enabled them to do is because they not only had this sort of apple style keynote address where they want this big feature, they also had breakout sessions where they were addressing some additions or enhancements they made the existing functionality and as different attendees went and checked out those different breakout sessions and when asked questions, they had this really targeted list for follow ups. Their account managers in customer success team knows exactly who to go and follow up with and they cross reference that with up spot, their crm, so they can see, okay, well, this person checked out this session for this feature that they're not currently using or not currently subscribe to. So it tells them exactly what type of information the AM team should be using to up upsell their existing customer base. Way Hmm. The back end of that is so interesting and again because you have that information. Now, you have interests, you have actual content. You could hit them with post follow up that you're actually adding, adding more value in one sense, and then also on the back end, you know upsell value is right there as well. Okay, so I guess to one thing in that example that sticks out to me as far as like what would I push back on, John Mon? Yeah, Zapp you're such a big company that they have the ability at scale to jump into an event and and like just have massive success. But when you think of companies that are like, Oh hey, I don't know if we would have that critical mass of raving fans to show up for an event like, especially a product launch, what would be your pushback on my thinking? They're what would be like an maybe not so global company, if that makes sense. Yeah, definitely Zapp here as a larger organization, but we've seen companies of all sizes have success with this. Yeah, and if you create an experience it's worth talking about, you're going to do just that. We've seen some organizations that have a very hard hyper targeted like the IP list of people that they want to get excited. They've even gone as far as to ship out like a box to every everybody who's going to be maybe it's an audience of two hundred folks, and ship out a box to all of those people. Get inside of that box is a bunch of envelopes and every half an hour and they're labeled with the person's local time zone. Everybody who's attending and participating in that event gets the opportunity to share an experience. So maybe to you know, chocolate tasting at thirty in the morning, and the next one is whatever, a candle that everybody gets to light together, something like that. We're creating that shared experience. Is another way that you can just get everybody rallied behind something together and create that excitement that's going to lead to them promoting and posting about your event, even if it's not just because of the sheer mass number of folks that are there. This is a huge point because I love how you said that experience worth talking about and be to be we have a tendency to just slap event over the word Webinar and call it good and you wonder why you weren't aren't creating a room of raving fans, why you aren't able to like really capitalize on these, because there's so much at an event can do for you, both in the connection that you have to potential customers, to current customers, and as a content strategy post if you did it correctly. There's limitless potential here. But to make it an experience worth talking about. That's really to me. That's like spend all your time there, know your why and then create an experience we're talking about, and you will elevate yourself above so much of what's happening right now in be to be marketing in events and, to your point, know your why. This is why it needs to begin with. What is it that you're trying to get out of that event experience? Is he getting people to talk about it and post on social media, or is it we're more focused on figuring out what breakout sessions are people going to,...

...because maybe they're not using a product that we offer. We think there's an upsetlf potential in whatever it might be. It's really understanding what's the goal of this, and you can't have multiple goals, but make sure that you structure everything in accordance with whatever set of goals that you determine. Okay, let's dive more into the post, the follow up there a little bit, and how you're seeing companies leverage that data in what you would just call like this is an excellent way to do this. And and what I would even say, what's the how, like what's the practical actionable step you'd tell people to take for their next event to really get that data collection correct and use it to its fullest? Yeah, before I tackle that, like I'm almost triggered I get, have to address the most frustrating thing I see, which is what's here about a call to action. Yeah, and if you don't have a like explicit call to action, then your call to action should be get people to sign up for your next event, do so when they're already hyped up and pointing about it. This works even better within person experiences. And if it's like an annual event, then you, and even if you offer like a seventy five percent discount, you've now built this this set of fans, these advocates, were going to sell on your behalf and get others to attempting it back. So I had to go down that path, called action, no matter what. I made a note that exact what was already called action. Okay, in terms of follow up. So in another area where there's a gap is that it's not just the post event follow up, but it's actually preparing your fall up to take place during the event experience. So prebuild the segments based on activity that people are taking in advance, bookmarking sessions, sessions they've attended, assume that there's going to be follow up and have campaigns built out. So Bid Yard, another customer of hours, did a great job of this, passing the data to Marquetto in real time so that they can have campaigns ready to go so that if, you know, somebody shows a lot of interest in a session that's taking place in the afternoon because they really like the speaker and they visited their bio three times, but that person dropped off after the first session. Well, we know they dropped off. Let's send them a campaign to reengage and get them back into that experience. So using the data in real time is, you know, equally as important is it is using it post of that, but from a post event perspective. One of the other opportunities that we're seeing companies take, and this is in the world of virtual but also in person, is creating just smaller, more targeted to vs. so maybe it's a localized meet up, maybe it's an event covering a very specific topic, but because of the barrier to entry can be lower, you can afford to do more customized experiences and with the information at hand of your past event or past series of events, you can figure out exactly what type of content and information to be putting forward, but also how to appropriate a message it. Who are the speakers that make that the most engaging, most exciting, that you want to bring in for that experience, and who are those speakers whose content was most engaging that you want to repurpose both to promote that event but also to promote your brand and thought leadership? Yeah, there's so much there that. I mean like you could just do clearly a whole episode where we just focus on different strategies for the post follow, but I wanted to make sure we give some broad over because there's people that are probably trying to share up all different portions. Right. How do we do pre how do we make the actual event itself experience worth talking about? And then that post to me, people dropping off in the post fall up, which I think you hit on a really important piece of this which is that called action? You wonder why, if you don't have a clear called action, you're going to see people trail off. But also if you're not leveraging the data collection that you actually have, making it a more personalized experience so that they actually know why they would be interested in you moving forward, you're just missing an opportunity there. So I think we're giving people some really practical stuff there. We've kind of talked around something that is I know has come up often as I talked to CMOS directors of marketing, which is in the pandemic hyper focus on virtual events, because that's...

...what it was like. That's our only option. You also saw some live events that just went on hiatus or they trailed off and who knows if they come back. What do you see as the future like? Is it virtual events leading to live events, or what would you be advocating for? Yeah, I'm laughing as I'm thinking about a couple of recent conversations that had with that Director Demand Gen. folks at companies who have spoken to their CMOS and there's their CMOS are looking at them like hey, we're expecting you to bring back the same level in person events that we had pre pandemic. But, by the way, virtual events are easy, right, so you should do those two. Just add the mode of the play. They cut half of the event team in half during the pandemic. Never rebuilt that. So, like the workload is doubled for event professionals. The data expectations, because of date is available, have also increased significantly and it's a lot to tackle. So, to answer your question, it's it's bringing you back to the program how do events fit into our entire marketing stack, entire marketing program and that's the first part of the question that needs to be addressed. From there you can start to think about what's the right mix of experiences. And it's going to be different for every company, right. I mean, if you look at what's going on right now, travel costs are incredibly high. So with, you know, a lot of companies having layoffs, corporate budgets are shrinking, that does make it harder to get people to attend in person events, especially if that to travel. It's a case for doing more localized meetups, especially in your target cities, but supplement that with the virtual event series. That's going to be a really good barometer for you to understand the level of attendance that you're going to get at those events, be it your annual flagship events or any of your localized meetups and in different regions. So you have to think about the entire program and it's you know, it's one of those things where just try it, like you can dip your toe in the water, you can keep it fairly inexpensive, focus on getting great content, great speakers, positioning yourselves as a thought leader in the industry and you're going to make it work. Yep, Yep. Have a clear call to action, I think if that was the main thing from John's side for this episode. Have a clear call to action and experiences we're talking about that's worth it. And then all, we're always talking about sharing up your fallowup process. There, I think, on my side, when I think of virtual events, the thing I'm pushing people towards, because I'm so in content marketing world, it's just when you have an event, get good quality video because it works as a content strategy for four to six months, and I cannot press on that enough, because it can create buzz for your next event, but it is also a way of building your thought leadership it's it can have called actions in the videos. So, like when you think of events in your overall strategy, events are pillar pieces that if you're having several virtual and, let's say, some in person meetups, there's just so much opportunity for that to drive the rest of what you're doing. And I know we know this, but it's like worth harping on again because sometimes we're so in the weeds on our marketing strategy that we don't remember how powerful an event can be. Yeah, a lot of people have been talking about hybrid events recently and they look at hybrid as well. It's so expensive because I have to have the video production crew on site and pushing out the content, but they're missing the biggest opportunity there, which is exactly what you just mentioned. You need that high quality video content. You need to repurpose that contact. It's not just for getting new eyeballs and new prospects and leads in the door, but it's also a way to deepen the relationship with your existing customers in provide opportunities for them to continue to educate and learn. Hm. Okay, so if a listener's hearing this and this is like your opportunity to step up onto a soapbox, kind of final piece of this conversation, and you're going to advocate for our...

...listeners to really hone one skill coming out of this episode. Maybe it's a main takeaway or a question that they should be asking about their next event. What's the thing that you want people to remember? In your own words, John, why are you hosting that event? Bring us back to the y always. That's excellent. All right. Well, let's do this. As we wrap up here. I'm sure there's going to be those that want to stay connected to you and will also be interested in excel event. So tell us a little bit more about excel events and where people can find you. Yeah, definitely. So you can find US Excel Eventscom accyl events. We are huge on customer support, real human response in thirty seconds or last. So I challenge anybody to take me up on that. Head over to the website, send us a message and if you don't hear back from US and thirty seconds, pick me on Linkedin. Let me now nice. Love that and are you it best way to stay connected to you as well? Just linkedin. Yeah, linkedin. I'm starting to get a little more involved with twitter as well. Fantastic. I cannot jump on the twitter train, but I should probably try. I love it. Man. Thank you so much for stop him by, BB growth, drop in your event knowledge. I know our room full of marketers is listening attentively and gained a lot from from this conversation. Thanks for having me on to our listeners. Thank you for checking out this episode. We hope it helps you continue to fuel your growth and innovation. You can connect with me on Linkedin. Just Search Benjie Block, talking about marketing, business in life over there, and would love to check at will be back real soon with another episode. Keep doing work the matters. BB growth is brought to you by the team at sweet fish media. Here at sweetfish, we produce podcasts for some of the most innovative brands in the world and we help them turn those podcasts into Microvideos, linkedin content, blog posts and more. We're on a mission to produce every leader's favorite show. Want more information, visit sweet PHISH MEDIACOM.

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