Discover what leading marketers from INBOUND and SEMrush are planning and predicting for 2019. Watch the video preview and check out the highlights.
In January, we discussed the future of events with Elijah from INBOUND and Aleksandra from SEMrush. During the discussion we covered:
- The Power of Events
- Event ROI
- Event Technology
- Email Marketing
- The Biggest Trends of 2019
Check out the highlights below. You can also watch the 2019 Event Trends video for the full discussion.
Meet the Panelists
Aleksandra Panyukhina, Head of Event Marketing, SEMrush
Aleksandra manages everything from budgeting to reporting for SEMrush’s event marketing strategy. She managed over 35 events across five continents in 2018. This year, she’ll be producing SEMrush’s first user conference.
Elijah Clark-Ginsberg, Senior Event Manager, INBOUND
Elijah is the Senior Event Manager at INBOUND—an annual gathering of 24,000+ attendees from across the world. Over the year’s, Elijah has worn many hats at INBOUND. Today, he oversees experience, attendee communications, and technology partnerships.
The Power of Events
Q: Most respondents indicated that live events are the most important channel for achieving business outcomes. Obviously, you both are involved in events and so might be a little bit biased, but how do you see events serving your organization’s larger business outcomes in 2019?
ELIJAH: Yeah, I see events just as an immensely powerful brand-building tool. I think today, more so than ever, consumers, everyone are so busy and attention is so divided and pulled just everything go which way, so to even get someone's attention to read a blog post or watch a three minute video can sometimes feel like a huge win.
So the idea that someone is willing to come and spend a few days, fully immersed in your brand and the experience that you built, that is such an enormous gift and opportunity for a marketer. That to me, I think is really where the opportunity and where the value of events lies, for the most part.
ALEKSANDRA: Yeah, I totally agree. When you have a person at an event, that's when you're getting pretty much 100% of their attention. Obviously events can serve different business goals, and it's very important to align your event strategy with them. The main value of events that I personally see—and that we pursue at SEMrush—is building a personal and emotional connection between your customer and brand. In doing so, the relationship becomes something bigger.
Q: Now, almost all respondents from Bizzabo’s 2019 Event Benchmarks Report indicated that events provide attendees with the opportunity to form connections in an increasingly digital world. Do you organize events with the intention of building communities? If so how?
ELIJAH: One of the things that we know, attendees find so valuable about INBOUND, I think events in general is those peer to peer connections, and the sense that you've kind of found your people and that you're among your flock.
Often people will tell us like, "Hey, I am the only marketer at my company and I feel so alone normally at work. It's amazing to come here and realize that there's other people that nerd out about the same things that I do and struggle with the same things and that also have dreams about SEO and like, I don't feel like a crazy weirdo anymore.
I think that is something that people find super, super validating and super, super valuable from at any event, I think like you said INBOUND is also a huge event and it gets a little challenging at our scale.
I think we really need to do a better job of engaging those people who are more introverted, are more shy or just don't like that kind of situation and help them find ways to find their flock and connect with people in this enormous crowd of people who have a lot of value to get them.
Q: The majority of company leaders (VPs and C-suite) who responded to the survey indicated that they believe events are a crucial component of their organization’s success. Good news, right? However, these leaders were 28% more likely to support event teams who were able to prove event ROI, meaning that those who couldn’t prove ROI were missing out. In your experience does that ring true? How do you win support from company leadership for your event strategy? Going into 2019, how do you plan on measuring ROI?
ALEKSANDRA: At the end of the day, when it comes to the business side of things, it's the ROI that matters and the ability to prove that this specific channel [events] is profitable for this specific company. This is where many event professionals face some challenges and difficulties. I can say I also belong to this group. Through experience, you get more and more understanding and more and more tactics on how to measure
One is cash flow, and that is where you should show that an event can be a self-sufficient channel. Where we show that an event can cover all of the investments and also bring profits. Community building is something that is harder to measure, however, it's really important to find how personal offline connections have had their impact on the business and online visibility for their own. Then, also brand awareness.
Q: We found that organizations that use event technology are 24% more likely to prove event ROI than organizations that do not. And (surprise, surprise) top-performing organizations are 1.6x more likely to use event technology. Now, you two work for organizations that are clearly top-performers and I know that you use event technology...So how does event technology help you prove event ROI?
ELIJAH: We're not necessarily interested in using event technology to prove INBOUND ROI to a higher order of business but what we're really interested in is using it to improve INBOUND as its own business and to make INBOUND marketing really effective to make essentially the product that we're offering, which is content the best it can be.
So everything from if we're to use tracking codes to evaluate the effectiveness of the paid advertising we're doing, to being able to look at attendee data and survey responses and figure out which content our attendees are really responding well to and what kind of content we need to lean into in future years, and where we should put more of our energy in terms of cultivating speakers and building out track areas and going after that kind of audience. All that stuff is very data-driven and very enabled by the technology that we use.
ALEKSANDRA: Technology helps us in two ways, there's the indirect impact, where event technology actually helps you improve customer experience before the event happens. For instance, technology can provide an east registration process, with a very clear understanding of what is going to happen, and the communication before the events where the attendee is able to kind of adjust to personal preferences.
That has an indirect impact because the attendee that is satisfied with this process before the event is more likely to actually attend the event and to be receptive to the experience that you've planned for them.
Then of course there are the technologies that helps us prove event ROI directly—where we can actually follow what was happening with the lead afterwards, what was the lead journey and then use event technology to provide a personalized follow-up and provide specific content that would be of interest to a particular attendee.
Q: Aleksandra, you recently mentioned that “segmenting and hyper-targeting events to very specific audiences” is going to be a big trend that SEMrush will be pursuing in 2019. Could you tell us a little about the why and how behind this shift toward personalization?
ALEKSANDRA: Yeah, absolutely. First of all, we think about our attendees. We know that their time is limited, and they will only come to the events if it is tailored to their needs. So the person that was happy to attend one type of event a year ago, is not at the same point right now of interacting with your brand within their professional career.
Another reason why segmenting and hyper-targeting is important for us is that our product is growing and SEMrush is good for any digital marketing professional. You can do SEO or you can be content marketer. However you won't benefit from the same events if you do specialize in SEO or if you do paid advertising.
Q: Elijah, you’ve mentioned that email has been huge in the past—particularly when tied to special offers, increasing prices and the “halo effect” of having a strong brand. Do you foresee email being a key channel for promoting INBOUND in 2019 and beyond? Are there any other channels that you think will become more important in the coming years?
ELIJAH: Yes. Definitely my experience mirrors what you've seen in the survey, that email really is kind of the channel to beat in terms of event marketing. I think people often don't think about event ticket sales as an e-commerce buying process, even though it really is. And I think throughout the entire e-commerce space, we still see email as incredibly dominant as a promotional force.
Q: What are some other trends that you think event organizers should keep in mind for 2019?
ELIJAH: Yeah, I think definitely a huge kind of ongoing focus in my role is around how we bring essentially consumer grade technology to events. I think that's often looked at as kind of the gold standard in technology. People think B2B technology is kind of antiquated and stodgy and like a real pain in the ass to use. And they look a B2C technology and they're like, "Oh, it's so nice. Look how fresh Dropbox is," and that's where everyone wants to be.
Really what we want to do is use technology in similar ways that, everything from airlines and hotels, to shopping malls to dating sites is doing so. That's really the bar that attendees hold everything to, and we want to make sure that we're living up to that bar.
ALEKSANDRA: What I see in the events industry is that the number of events is growing. Every other day there is an event almost on the same topic happening and only the organizers that follow the latest trends around event disruption are going to win. So creating unique concepts for each of your events and never following patterns, always experimenting and adding something new for the experience.
That's it for this recap. Watch the webinar to get the full conversation.