His first client came in 2002. The company was awarded a contract to provide a mobile event guide at a big conference and delivered on a Palm device.
While most of us take conference registrations, badge scanning, and conference apps for granted as attendees, there’s a lot more to the underlying technology. More importantly, at the time, this was all brand new: putting a show guide on a mobile device that featured his client Cisco as the lead sponsor would have provided incredible visibility.
Then came the bad news: the event organizer felt this would be too much. It would put Cisco competitors at a disadvantage during the conference and therefore disallowed the guide.
He was devastated – this was his first client and the project was ended for reasons beyond his control. Still, he knew the client had six figures in a budget that hadn’t been spent. He also learned Cisco would be interested in a mobile device that would help capture contact information and notes from people visiting the booth at the show.
And that’s how G2Planet got started in creating technology platforms to manage marketing events. Nearly two decades later, co-founded Mark Granovsky is still at it. I had a chance to ask him to answer some questions about what he’s learned in event marketing over the years. He’s my guest for this edition of the Off Script Q&A series.
1) In the grand scheme of marketing priorities, where do you think event marketing should rank?
I think live, face-to-face events should rank at top of the marketing food chain. They are the most powerful, impactful, and meaningful form of marketing, and the richest in terms of opportunity for content and experience.
There’s nothing like having an experience. Philosophically, there’s this concept of “thought, word, and deed.” Saying something is more powerful than thinking it. Doing something is more powerful than saying it. When you do something and you have that experience, it’s more impactful.
Live events are not only the most widely used enterprise content marketing channel, they are also viewed as the single most effective B2B marketing tactic.
2) How has event marketing evolved or changed over the course of your career?
First, event marketing has become a whole lot smarter. There’s a science behind it. Today’s event marketing is informed by data and analysis that didn’t exist when we started, which frankly is why G2Planet was founded.
The progress made in the last 20 years in moving emotion to science in event marketing is incredible. Event marketing is now far more refined in terms of the science and data analysis enabled by all the technology advancements with mobile and wireless.
With the technology evolution, the events industry has exploded because people are out of their offices. They’re having experiences. The tsunami of digital information has paradoxically increased the craving for live, human, face to face interaction.
The other thing that’s occurred is the events industry has evolved from being logistics-oriented to being opportunistic. When we began 20 years ago, clients just wanted “something that works” – a website that reliably captures names and information, a more efficient way to produce badges.
Today, people are taking advantage of the opportunities event data provides to run their business better. For example, you can know when a specific large customer or important prospect arrives and send people to greet him or her at check-in and grab a cup of coffee. On day two or three, you can see what that VIP customer or client has been doing at the event – what activities they’ve engaged in, which sessions they’ve attended, what kind of feedback they’ve provided on surveys.
The event marketing team may look at higher level metrics to improve the event overall, while account managers can use data at the individual level to do better manage their client relationships, deliver better service, and increase account value.
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3) What impact has the emergence of digital media had on event marketing?
I would say the emergence of digital media has had at least four significant impacts on the events industry:
a) Personalized information delivery: The ability to personalize digital information has been extremely powerful for the events industry. We can place digital signage in hallways that read RFID badges or wristbands and show advertisements tailored to each attendee by industry, geography, or job title. We can display personalized welcome messages at break-out sessions. Digital media makes the event experience more personal and impactful for guests.
b) Event-related social media: Today, the real-time experience of an event can be extended beyond the attendees through the tweets, live blogging, Instagram photos, and all the other bits of information being shared. Meanwhile, giant social media monitors at the event enable all of the attendees to see the tweets and social updates other attendees are sharing.
c) Attendee journey maps: As an event marketer, I can see the breadcrumb trail of what each individual has done at an event: when they checked in, which welcome gift they chose, which breakout sessions they attended, what exhibits or booths they stopped at, and which evening events they went to. The associated sales rep can look at an individual journey map to gain insights so they are better able to connect with that attendee. If multiple employees from one company attend an event, we can aggregate data to discover what the company X contingent did collectively.
d) Facial recognition check-in. Instead of checking in guests by scanning a printed confirmation or even checking in via a mobile device, they can simply walk up to a monitor that’s capturing their image, processing it algorithmically, and welcome them by name. No typing, no scanning, just look at the monitor. How impactful is that? How much more quickly does it move the process? And what does that do for the brand image of the event organizer or sponsor? It’s an opportunity for companies to further the power of the brand in the minds of their clients by using advanced technology.
4) Are there any hidden, overlooked or underrecognized benefits to event marketing?
Events are a microcosm of an industry. They are a congregation of the most active participants in an ecosystem – customers, vendors, influencers, products, industry media – gathered together.
But many corporations are still trying to figure out how to build a stable website, what size badges to print, and how they should design their badges. The majority still haven’t focused strategically on what the event medium can bring to their business, in terms of recruiting employees, gaining competitive insights, identifying potential partners, and deepening engagement with clients. The evolution from a logistics focus to being opportunistic isn’t even near done.
The problem is CMOs and marketing executives don’t really crawl into event marketing, for whatever reason. And most events people are logistics people; they’re focused primarily on pulling off the event on-time and under budget – not leveraging knowledge for the corporation. That’s going to come from strategists, from big brain thinkers, and sadly, we don’t have enough of them yet focused on what’s possible with event marketing.
The next opportunity isn’t so much better or faster collection as it is how to make better, more strategic use of the event-related data companies are already collecting.
5) Tell us a little bit about the software product your company develops and how it adds value to event marketing programs?
We really don’t develop “products” so much as platforms. Event people don’t want point-solution products. Event pros want to constantly evolve, while product vendors want stability and profitability. This is why software companies have so much trouble serving the event department at a higher level.
Sure, there are basic ticketing systems that are free or nearly free, and adequate for small, simple events. But at the corporate events level, enterprise event marketers want it their way and they want the ability to change it, to evolve it, and to continually push the envelope. That’s what marketers do. It’s not what software is built to do.
So, products aren’t a good way to think about the proper solution for corporate event clients, which is why we bring configurable platforms on a project by project basis: single-tenant architected solutions for our clients.
We can configure, customize, adapt, adjust, and personalize to each client’s exact needs. Our approach is a little bit more expensive and definitely higher in the stack, but way more powerful and it helps our clients to really push the envelope.
6) Just for fun; fill in the blank:
- If you suddenly got 10% more marketing budget you’d spend it on…event marketing.
- If you suddenly got 10% more time, you’d spend it on…analyzing my event data.
- If you had a free pass to a one marketing industry event it would be…the Gartner Digital Marketing Conference.
- If you weren’t doing what you do now you’d be…fishing.
* * *
- G2Planet Blog: Running Events with Flexible Technology Makes Them Better
- G2Planet Blog: Six Compelling Stats and Facts About Enterprise Event Marketing
- Heinz Marketing: Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 80 Q&A with Mark Granovsky
- Sand Hill: Mining an Untapped Vein of Enterprise Big Data
- Webbiquity: Event Data: The Last Massive Mine, Hiding in Plain Sight
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