We recently spoke with Cari Goodrich, the Senior Director of Global Marketing Programs at Looker. Looker is a business intelligence software and big data analytics platform that helps people explore, analyze and share real-time business analytics easily. Since its earliest days, the company has used live events to drive sales acceleration and increase brand awareness.
Today, Looker hosts an annual user conference and stages key regional events, among other activities. Cari has overseen much of the growth of Looker’s events program. After experimenting with several event strategies, she is currently employing a method called Territory Development Management that provides a novel way of accelerating sales, increasing event ROI and applying account-based event marketing strategies.
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Bizzabo: Do you think events are useful for generating leads?
Cari: I think they’re critical. They end up having this effect across the board, across all of the funnels that you might not notice at first. What we notice, is if we don’t do events, it affects everything—our organic dips. People aren’t visiting our website as often. So, I think that events are one of the most critical components of lead generation.
Bizzabo: And how long has Looker been implementing events?
Cari: Since the beginning. They’ve actually been one of our earlier drivers for sales acceleration and net new. We’ve been big proponents from the beginning of producing our own events as well as sponsoring. We typically tend to sponsor partner trade shows versus industry trade shows.
“Instead you’re keeping it really intimate, the cost point is a lot lower, and you’re getting the right people in the room to connect with each other.”
We found a couple that work really well for our space, but doing partner shows allows attendees to really understand the holistic platform so they can kind of paint their whole picture, and it’s a lot easier for them to walk away with actionable insights into how they can then go back to their company and implement this whole thing, versus just one component of it.
Bizzabo: Is your sales structured more by pipeline or are they more account-based?
Cari: What I like to do is something I call Territory Development with my reps. And this is more of a field marketing event strategy. We have different phases as we develop territories. And the first two phases are all about getting to know the prospects in your region—meeting them face-to-face, kind of collecting your tribe and building your tribe. And then the second phase is hosting really intimate events, live events, with really important members of your executive team. I’m throwing agenda out the window. There is no agenda.
The message is just, hey, we met a lot of really smart people in your area. Let’s just use Atlanta as an example. They’re all passionate about data, they all want to implement a data-driven culture. We’d love to get you all together over dinner or breakfast or lunch, or whatever you want to do. Meet our CEO, meet our Head of Products, and just talk analytics. And like geek out on it. And they’ve been working really well for us. I’m kind of seeing these are now replacing what typically companies do, like roadshows and city tours.
Instead of spending a lot of money on trying to make sure you get 200 people to walk through a door and maybe hitting them with content that may or may not resonate—instead you’re keeping it really intimate, the cost point is a lot lower, and you’re getting the right people in the room to connect with each other. And this has been performing really well for us.
Bizzabo: At conventional events, you’re bringing in hundreds if not thousands of people and you’re just trying so hard to say, “Hey, stop by my booth. Check out what we’re doing.”
Cari: And I’ve had a lot of discussions with attendees and I'm like, "What makes you sign up and register and why do you go to these events?" And the answer is the same across the board: “Because I want to meet like-minded people. I want to learn from them. I want to understand how they’re implementing Looker or a product in a way that I haven’t thought of yet.”
So it’s all about networking and like bringing these people together. And when there’s 200, 500, 1000 people, it’s a lot harder to do that. So, if we can take our time and find them ourselves and then bring them together in these intimate things, magic starts to happen, right? And they get really excited to have found each other, which is really magical. And then we sit back we can help connect them moving forward. We become more consultants to them versus business people, and we build a trust with them that I don’t think is possible to do at a larger scale event.
Bizzabo: And also, time is so short.
Bizzabo: So you have these two phases of territorial development.
Bizzabo: And this is something in coordination with your sales team?
Cari: Correct. I threw out the term Field Marketing Manager. That has gone away. I call them Territory Development Managers, and their job is to sit with the sales force. They don’t sit with marketing. And they know everything about each rep, their region, their deals. And it’s their job to push the needle and move the needle from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel, right. And events play a critical component. From the top of the funnel and the bottom of the funnel. Because we can do the same approach for net new as we can for accelerating the deal, right?
“The three pillars of a successful event are people, places, and things that prospects usually don’t have access to.”
So, if we’re just trying to get prospects in the door we can do a prospect event. A small dinner or breakfast for prospects, where they’re meeting a customer in their same space. So we’ll centralize it around a vertical or an industry. And then if we’re accelerating it, we bring them together with customers, too, and then they see, oh wow, they’ve been really successful with the deployment. They can ask questions that they might not feel comfortable asking us. They can ask the customer that and then get kind of answers. And we’ve seen deals close immediately the next day after doing something like this.
Bizzabo: Wow, that’s great! And how do you get people to come out to these events, the prospects and customers?
Cari: It’s all about the relationship. So, I find that direct communication with the sales rep to the prospect or the customer success manager to the customer, moves the needle with registration a lot more than any blanketed marketing blast. And there are ways you can automate this. Through systems like Marketo, you know. You can set up an email blast that looks like it’s coming from the rep, and that’s really nice. But the more the rep or the CSM takes time in building the relationship, the more successful it will be.
The three pillars of a successful event are you give them access to people. So people they don’t normally have access to. That’s typically an executive. Or a really smart engineer, someone from the tech team that can talk about the roadmap. You give them access to things, so a sneak peek into a feature. Usually that works. It’s like come and meet this person, they are going to give you a sneak peek into a product roadmap, and then you’re going to have dinner at the restaurant that you can never get a reservation at. You have to make it worth their while to show up. Places, right? You want to get them into a place that’s really hot. And it doesn’t always have to be a restaurant. Maybe it’s a museum or you have an exhibit. You just have to create an environment that they’d really want to go to, right?
So, yeah, it’s my access pillars. People, places, things that they don’t normally have access to. Because why would they skip dinner at home with their family? That’s how I level set myself. Like what is going to make them say, “Sorry, honey, I can’t come home for dinner tonight because I've got to go to this amazing event.” So you have to make it almost like a no-brainer to say no.
Bizzabo: That’s awesome. So, I think it’s really fascinating how you have this sort of territorial setup. And so, you’re working with these territorial marketing managers, territorial managers?
Cari: Territory Development Manager is what I call it.
What I’ve done is my approach in finding a good Territory Development Manager is actually from the sales side. So I’m kind of flipping this on its head a little bit. And instead of teaching a marketer how to think like a sales rep, I’m teaching a sales rep how to think like a marketer. Because they know what it takes to develop a territory, and then we give them the right tools to market within that territory, and we’re seeing a lot of amazing things come from it.
I look for a rep that’s been successful. And I pull them away from what they’re used to. “Okay, you’re not going to have to have a quota anymore. You can have a more steady career here. But you still get that strategic sales side.” Which is something that some people really enjoy. So, it’s like how can you really look at accounts and decide, okay, we need to throw this type of an event in the south that might not necessarily work in the north. Or it might not work out west but it works really well in the east.
“A lot of user conferences have to comp tickets because they have unrealistic registration goals.”
The only way you’re going to really understand that is if you’re sitting with the field, and you’re listening to demos and you’re really understanding the prospects and the customers’ needs. And then you’re creating these custom event experiences based on that. And it’s really hard to do if you’re remote at headquarters, and you’re not living the day-to-day like all the reps are.
Bizzabo: Okay. And you mentioned there’s not a specific quota, but could you tell me a bit about the specific goals that are set for these managers?
Cari: Well, there’s a few goals. It’s how can we improve the time it takes from an opportunity in trial and then from a trial to like a customer. So, we’re tracking those metrics. Basically, how are we tightening up the sales cycle for the reps? How are we breaking into the top accounts that these guys have been going after? How are we getting to that CXO, your, you know, top company that you’ve been going after for a long time? And it’s really just understanding what does that company’s ecosystem look like, what makes their analytics team tic? It’s marketing 101. It’s know your audience. Not just know your audience, but how to talk to them, and then how to give them custom events that they would actually want to attend. And that typically involves getting their peers to come as well. Because they’d rather meet their peers than they would us, to be honest. We’re just there to help make the connection.
Bizzabo: This is fascinating.
Cari: I hope so. I hope it’s interesting and not you’re like, "You’re crazy."
Bizzabo: No, I mean I’m totally taken aback. It sounds like you folks have a very well oiled event marketing machine.
Cari: I’m trying, yeah. I’m trying. And, you know, when we do things like user conferences, for example, we have a typical traditional email drip campaign to mark the event. We do all the traditional avenues. But I don’t really see registration needles start to really move until the one-to-one communication is happening between the CSM. If it’s a customer event, it’s between a CSM and customer. If it’s a prospect, it’s between the AE and the prospect. When they get that personal email, that’s when people start buying tickets.
“Let’s get the right people in the door. Let’s get the people we want here to be here.”
A lot of user conferences have to comp tickets because they have these unrealistic registration goals, and I just don’t play that game. I keep my registration numbers attainable, and I focus on growing revenue year over year from ticket sales and sponsorship, before I start increasing my attendance goals.
Bizzabo: So you focus on growing revenue before attendance?
Cari: Correct. I grow attendance a little bit, but I forecast my ticket revenue and my sponsorship revenue, and I focus on growing that year over year. And I use that as my metric of growth, versus how many attendees am I getting through the door. And again, this goes back to my philosophy that attendees want to meet each other, and they want to network, and they want to find like-minded people who are doing similar things with data, versus just getting as many butts in seats as we can. I think that actually ends up diluting the conference a lot.
Because then everyone’s focus is on how are we going to get enough tickets sold. And that usually means you end up comping a lot. So then your numbers get skewed, and you can’t focus on creating really good content because everyone’s efforts are now, “Oh God, we have to fill this room.”
Let’s get the right people in the door. Let’s get the people we want here to be here. And if they buy a ticket you know they’re going to show up. And then let’s focus on once they’re here, how do we give them the absolute best experience they can have? Let’s give them custom content created to their paying point. Let’s make sure they have opportunities to meet each other.
And the other thing I like doing these days for conferences is I take kind of an open source approach to the agenda. And then instead of saying “Here’s what we think you want to learn,” [I say] “Tell us what you want to learn, and let’s spend the first like morning of the conference building the agenda as a team.” Then we’re ready to go, and we have speakers ready to talk about the most important points that our attendees brought up. This is what they want to learn.
My goal is that if they attend an event that I produce, they actually go back to their office with tangible things that they learned that they can roll out immediately, versus what did you do for two days at this conference? And most people are like, “I drank a lot.” “I don't know, it was kind of cool.”
Instead it’s like: “I built this model.” “I can now roll this out across the team.” “I can now train my team on how to use Looker better.” “I met someone at a similar company, and they taught me how to do all these cool tricks.” That to me, is a successful event.
Bizzabo: That’s amazing. I know we were talking about user conferences and more of these sort of grassroots dinners and events. Do you do something in between, like roadshows?
Cari: We don’t. We do partner shows. When you’re selling a product like Looker, the partnership and the full ecosystem is really important. That means having my reps aligned with the partner reps so that if one of our partners is in a deal, they can bring in Looker. If we’re in a deal and we recognize, “Oh this database would be really great for them,” we can bring in that partner. So doing this approach aligned with our partners is super critical to the success of my reps. Especially in territory development when we’re going to a market that we might not have a lot of traction in, we might not have a lot of brand awareness.
Bizzabo: So, you sort of decide, “We don’t have too much of a brand awareness here,” and that’s where you try to get those partnership shows?
Cari: Correct, because they might have better relationships in the field than we do.
Bizzabo: If there’s an opportunity that seems good you have to say no because we already have a really good established brand there?
Cari: Not necessarily. I think it’s still good. I just think we shift our focus a little bit. So, if we already have a really established brand in a territory, then we can produce our own events there. It’s all part of this cycle. As we’re developing the territories, it’s important that we’re everywhere. So that people are like, “Wait, I’ve been seeing Looker a lot.” So they go to the city tour or maybe they’re Googling us, and they’re seeing us all over the Internet now, or they come across an ad. And then once our brand awareness gets stronger then we can start producing our own events there.
But it’s important that we sponsor shows in territory as we’re building our brand awareness in that region. I typically prefer to sponsor partner shows at that time, versus industry shows. But, there are cases where we have proven success with an industry show—Strata Hadoop, for example, or SaaStr is another good one. We know they worked for us. They typically are bringing the right audience. So if I see that they’re an emerging market for us, I will always sponsor that because I know it works and I have the data to back it up.
Bizzabo: So how does the marketing department strategize with the people who are actually on the ground there?
Cari: Yeah, so you know what? An important role is QBRs. I’m a huge fan. Everyone on my team should always be listening to quarterly business reviews because you can identify trends, right? So every time I’m at a QBR for my company, I’m saying, “Do I see reps that have a lot of prospects forecasted in a similar industry?” This was true with healthcare a few quarters back. I noticed everybody was in healthcare. I’m like, “This is interesting.” So then I knew there’s this really popular health tech show called HIMSS. I had sponsored it before at another company, and my previous company had a lot of success there.
“Taking notes on the show floor is critical to how well you follow up with your leads after the show.”
So I emailed my trade show manager. I’m like, “We have to get a sponsorship at this show this year. We were seeing a lot of prospects coming from this space. So I wanted to penetrate that market more.” We then sponsored HIMSS, and it has been one of our more successful trade shows that we’ve done to date. And the same thing is happening now in the eCommerce space.
At QBRs I recognize trends and I look for different ways that events can then influence this and get us to the next level of where we need to be in that industry.
Bizzabo: There’s all this elaborate planning that goes into finally getting them there, but once they’re there, how do you folks set them up for success?
Cari: So, I have three different lines. I think SDRs [Sales Development Reps] are great to have on the ground at all trade shows. They are excellent at pulling people into the booth and getting the attendees to come take notice. Once SDRs gets them there, they do a nice handoff to the AE. The AE has the pitch down, right? So they can give the five-minute quick pitch. And then if the trade show attendee is interested in learning more, then we hand them off to an SDR who then has a demo that’s custom built for that show. And it’s also built for trade shows. (We don’t do our full demo at trade shows—it’s too long.)
We create a condensed version that works really well for these quick kind of transactions. “Here’s what we do, here’s how it can impact your business, let’s walk you through a few things. And then if you want to know more, let’s set you up a meeting right now.” And then we can do that all on the ground. We then collect the leads. We put them into the demand gen funnel. And that demand gen machine takes over.
But what’s really important to me is sending an email that’s not a blanketed email that like every other vendor at the trade show is sending. What I do is I have my AEs and SEs, and anyone who works a show, go back and in and leave copious notes, so that the SDRs following up can talk to something that's personal to that person. Taking notes on the show floor is critical to how well you follow up with your leads after the show. If there are no notes there, there’s nothing we can do with it.
You have to hammer that point home to your team on the ground: Take notes! You can even have simple codes. I tend to do that a lot. Things move quickly on the show floor, so if you don’t have time to write all the notes you want to.
Bizzabo: In terms of reaching out to people, do you try to reach out to them the day of the meeting?
Cari: Yeah, you have to do it the next day. You have to do it immediately. Out of sight, out of mind. And you really want to take the energy that happened on the show floor and like use that to your advantage right away. Because, often times you’re on this trade show high or this event high, and everyone’s so excited, and that will go away a week or two later. So, if you don’t capitalize on that immediately, then you’re actually doing yourself a big disservice.
Bizzabo: Okay. A lot of events you put on are your own events. Of course there are a lot of customers coming there, but prospects, et cetera. Are there any specific sales acceleration strategies that you use at these bigger events?
Cari: For sales acceleration specifically, at any event you produce yourself, you need to have an executive briefing center on-site. I tell my executives, if I see you walking the show floor, then you’re not doing your job. You should be in a meeting with a prospect. This is the time where they can actually get face-to-face with you. And if we haven't actually had pen to paper and deals closed on the show floor, then I don’t think that my event was successful.
Bizzabo: That’s fascinating. I mean other people say, no, that'll never happen. But you folks make it happen.
Cari: I’ve made it happen. But I’m different, so. It’s all about how you invite them, right? Leading up to the event, it should be like, “Come to join.” And these are the situations where you would offer a comped ticket to someone. It’s like, “I think this deal’s going to close.” If you get them in front of the CEO, if they’re at your customer conference seeing all the buzz and all that stuff that’s happening, it’s like, let’s take advantage of that trade show energy I talked about, right. Now’s the time. They have to come prepared. It’s up to your rep to kind of nurture the prospect to a point where it’s like, okay, this is going to happen. Come to join, I’ll have my lawyer there, bring whoever you need to, we’ll go through the final terms and conditions, and then let’s sign it here. And then let’s celebrate at the party afterwards. Like what better way to do that? It’s really exciting.
Don’t let people tell you no. Anything is possible
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