IN-PERSON tells the stories behind the world's most daring events and the people who make them happen.

 

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1

DIVERSIFY YOUR METRICS: The Revenue Marketing team at Yext closely looks at registrations, attendees, leads generated, leads qualified, NPS, anecdotal feedback from internal stakeholders, and—ultimately—how deals advance through the pipeline as a result of a specific event. “Everything that we do goes through SalesForce, and that's the ultimate source of truth for us.”

2

GET PRECISE: Whether it’s a large user conference like ONWARD or a smaller event, Lindsay and her team aim to bring a white-glove touch to every event the produce. This is to guarantee a memorable attendee experience and to maximize business goals. “We're really thinking strategically about who [our attendees] are going to meet with, what we want to talk about when they come on-site with us, how do we drive the right business discussions when we have that really crucial time with them.”

3

MARKETING AND SALES ALIGNMENT: At the highest level, Lindsay’s team shares the same underlying goal as the sales team: generating more revenue. Additionally, the Revenue Marketing team assigns team members to work closely with regional sales teams and both teams share overlapping onboarding sessions. “We know that we need to do everything we can to help the sales team, but they're also going to help us achieve our goals to make it a great experience for everyone.”

ABOUT Lindsay Niemiec McKenna

Lindsay is the mastermind of ONWARD, Yext’s award-winning annual flagship conference. In 2018, ONWARD brought together nearly 6,000 in-person attendees and over 1,000 virtual ones. Lindsay is a Salesforce alum and was named to the 2018 list of DMN’s Marketing Hall of Femme & Women to Watch.

Episode Transcript

LINDSAY:

Thanks for having me, Brandon. I'm so excited to be here.

BRANDON:

Excellent. So, a lot to talk about in terms of Yext and how you folks are scaling your events, to finding an event brand, how you're going through a rebrand now with the company. But for starters, I'd love to take it back all the way to college and your undergrad experience there, because it seemed like all the way back then you had a very specific focus in business and marketing. You studied marketing and international business for a degree in business administration, you were the president of marketing for the Young Executives Club, and you were an active member of the Student International Business Club, and you participated in Toastmasters International, in addition to a bunch of other volunteer experience. So I'm curious, how did you decide to so actively dedicate yourself to this path so early on?

LINDSAY:

So, when I was in college I knew that I loved business and I knew that I loved marketing. And I started immersing myself in a lot of different clubs and programs where we could take projects with local organizations, businesses that needed rebranding, and kind of come up with a new concept for them. And one of the pieces that I really loved around it was the networking aspect, and bringing people together and presenting.

So when I graduated college and I kind of luckily fell into technology, I did three rotations at the company that I was with: one in HR doing recruiting for college students, one in customer sales and support, and then the third one was in marketing. And I fell in love with creating experiences for employees and companies, and I knew that that was kind of my path.

BRANDON:

Was this sort of part of the program that you were participating in that you had these rotations? Or did you seek them out?

LINDSAY:

So it was part of, it was the new college graduate program where you go through these rotations, you get a sense of the business, you understand how it works and functions, and then they pair you with a function that makes sense based on your passions and where the need is for the business. So luckily they were working on a sales kickoff at the time, and then the user conference for the company, and it clicked as a fit. I don't know that anyone pursues events and experimental marketing right out of college, but it just felt like the right thing to do.

BRANDON:

Great. And so today, you are the vice president of revenue marketing over at Yext. Could you tell us a little bit about your role there, and how events fit into it?

LINDSAY:

Sure. I own all of the global events for the company. So everything from our intimate field marketing events to our sponsorships to our corporate events like our annual user conference ONWARD, and then also thought leadership, culture, and internal communications and customer advocacy. Everything falls into my realm. So I like to say that I am responsible for the brand experience once it becomes tangible. Any time that someone's going to come through our door is an experience Yext in a tangible way, that's something that my team owns.

BRANDON:

And so, this is something else I'd love to learn a little bit more about. You were part of the Revenue Marketing team, and I understand it was a new team created at Yext. How does it differ from the typical marketing team?

LINDSAY:

Sure. So when I first started at Yext, I was brought in to do event marketing. And I think the really important thing about event marketing is that you're creating experiences for customers and partners and prospects that go beyond just interacting over the phone, right? So, when you're creating events, we always look at how we're going to drive revenue from those events. We hope that people come in, they're able to experience us beyond our software and get to know us as a brand.

But everything we do has goals and metrics tied to it to ensure that we are creating opportunities to close business for the company. So whether it's an internal event, which now is in my purview as well, where there's no ROI associated, aside from the fact that we want our employees to be happy and have exceptional employee retention to the events that we do, they hyper-focus is growing revenue for the sales team within all of the activations that we have.

BRANDON:

I see. So, some of our listeners might not be familiar with Yext. It's a great organization doing some great work with some amazing customers. Could you fill us in a little bit?

LINDSAY:

Sure. So Yext is an incredible company. We went public in 2017, and we have 1200 employees to date, headquartered right here in New York City. Essentially, we're a software service platform that allows companies to ensure that they have correct brand-verified answers. So we like to say that there's a paradigm shift that's happening in search. There are chaotic results when you Google things, and we want to create structured answers.

So it's happening every day when people are using Google or Bing and looking at their knowledge cards or asking Siri for directions, right? But do we know that those answers are correct? So we are the ones that are helping those customers getting their questions and answers correct. We're giving businesses the ability to deliver brand-verified answers within search experiences to be the single source of truth.

So when customers, or when you, Google in Google Maps for business hours or asking Uber for a drop-off address or you're asking Alexa what time McDonald's stops serving breakfast, they'll find the correct information direct from McDonald's because they're putting that into Yext.

BRANDON:

I see. So, the right information directly from McDonald's, this is to say that, as opposed to another search result that might pop up? Or is it something that, say if I'm in Yelp and I'm looking for a review of a restaurant or a large, you know, like say a McDonald's, I want to see how this McDonald's is in Flatiron. Is it helping us find the right results for that?

LINDSAY:

Yeah, that's exactly correct. I think what people might not realize is that when you're Googling a business or some store hours, it's not always the correct answer. Google might be grabbing whatever they think is on the web, but that's not verified necessarily from the business. So we're helping businesses make sure that they have verified, perfect answers everywhere across the web. So when you do Google that business in Flatiron for that sandwich or to find out when you're open, you can feel confident knowing that it is open because it's been verified by Yext, and that that business is using Yext.

BRANDON:

Very cool. We talked a little bit about how you are making sure that you're participating in activities that are helping sales generate revenue. How does this come across in events?

LINDSAY:

So all of the events that we do, like I said, we have the idea that we want our customer or our prospect to have an incredible experience. So from an experiential perspective, we want to design the event so the moment that somebody walks in the door to the moment that they leave, they have that white-glove service that we would deliver as a company. And that they also feel the embodiment of the culture of the people that they work with, and can feel confident in us as a software partner.

But on the other side, we also want to make sure that when they're coming in we're really thinking strategically about who they're going to meet with, what we want to talk about when they come on-site with us, how do we drive the right business discussions when we have that really crucial time with them, because they're busy and it's a really amazing opportunity when you're creating relationships to also focus on how you're driving business. It's not just a party, it's not just a cocktail hour. It's the opportunity to really get some business done and drive revenue forward.

BRANDON:

Sure. So, is revenue the main goal by which you're evaluating your events, or are there some other metrics that come into play?

LINDSAY:

So we do look at everything, but revenue's the main goal. So every event that we do, we of course are setting goals for the number of attendees that we want to have register, and then ultimately attend. We're looking at the dollar value that we want to hit. So what we call an average contract value, we set that target, and then we look at how people are coming in the door. And then, over time, how deals are advancing through the pipeline. And that basically shows us how successful an event has been.

So whether it's any of the formats that I talked about, a field marketing event or a sponsorship, all of that flow is very much similar in that capacity. Also how leads are being generated and qualified.

And then, to go one step farther, we also have an anecdotal scorecard for some of our events where we're filling out information about, you know, how was the food? How was the conversation? So when we look back on an event, we have the metrics that are there for us to understand how successful it was. But we also have the anecdotal piece. So if we see that we had an event that we invested in that we know maybe didn't go as well as we thought, but the numbers were there, we want to go back and qualify why.

And on the other side, if we see that there was an event that was absolutely incredible in terms of ROI, we want to understand, you know what anecdotal things happened that made that so successful.

BRANDON:

And this is filled out by members of your team?

LINDSAY:

Yes. It's all internal, so all of the members of the team would fill that out after the event has taken place.

BRANDON:

And so you mentioned that you're attributing revenue, you're looking at contract value generated by these events. I know that attribution can be very, very tricky when it comes to in-person experiences. How is your team tackling that? Are you using a business intelligence tool? Integrations with sales force? How are you able to sort of tie that event action to that account?

LINDSAY:

So everything that we do goes through sales force, and that's the ultimate source of truth for us. So every event has a campaign that is tied to it, every dinner. Sometimes we have events with events that have their own campaign, and so we're running results off of sales force to understand how the business is generated. And then beyond that, for our annual user conference, we also use a survey to do an NPS score so we understand not only the feedback, but how our rating in terms of our NPS score to our peers in the markets.

BRANDON:

So, I want to pivot the discussion to defining an event brand. I understand this has been a big area of focus for you during your time at Yext. Yext is a huge company. Since 2006 when the company was founded, you've secured an IPO, the organization has grown to 1,000 plus employees, and you mentioned that there were just 120 events that have happened this past year.

So at the same time, Yext is still in some ways defining their brand in this space. What have been some milestone moments in helping Yext establish their brands with events?

LINDSAY:

So I think one of the things that makes a software company like ours unique is one, we're B2B, and two, you know, when you look at a lot of other large companies that are doing events or doing pop-up experiences, you often know who the brand is, and so you might be coming because you want to learn more about the brand or you know what you're going to expect.

As Yext is still growing and evolving and defining our vertical and our place in the market space, we don't always have that luxury, and so it's really important that every single event that we do, we lead with an experience. So for example, if we're going to do an executive forum or an executive dinner, we're not just going to pick a beautiful private room at, you know, a Michelin star restaurant in New York City. We're going to find an experience where we can bring those people into the chef that earned that Michelin star's home.

LINDSAY:

Something that just leads with the idea that people really want to do this event, so they come in the doors being very excited about the event itself, and they leave with this incredible experience that Yext has delivered and understands the value, prop up the business, and wants to learn more about the company itself. So over time, as we've created our events programs, that's been our leading charge, is creating really memorable experiences that have every fine detail nailed, everything delivered. And my team is incredible about finding those moments from these Michelin star chefs to branded fruit and other really fun things that just...

BRANDON:

Branded fruit?

LINDSAY:

We have a fruit guy. Things that just take it to the next level where people really think about all the details that we put into it, and associate that with the brand and the product that we're selling.

BRANDON:

So these have been some great examples of creating an amazing experience on a smaller scale. How do you take some of these same elements and scale them upward for a large event like your annual conference ONWARD?

LINDSAY:

Yeah. So ONWARD, we had 1,200 people last year. We're expecting 1,600 people this year. And I think, you know one of the things that I've taken away from going to a lot of user conferences is, once you start to scale these events you can really lose those small touches, and that experience, it becomes, I mean it's still an amazing event but you kind of lose that experience factor. And one thing that we note is that every single individual that's coming through the doors at our user conference, all 1,200 people that came through the door needs a different experience to feel like they had an incredible, valuable two days with us.

And so, when we put together the agenda for ONWARD, our conference, we think about every single moment in that journey. So from the moment that they get to their hotel room in New York, what are they going to experience? A hotel key card, a custom room drop or a welcome gift to New York City. When they walk into the hall to register, what is that registration experience like? How are they getting their badge? What does it feel like? What other things are they getting with it? When they walk through the expo hall, how are they being greeted?

And so we literally map out every single touch point along the way for those two days to make sure that no detail is unturned. And I think, that's the way that you take a smaller, you know, field event or something else that you're doing, and still create that white-glove moment, so you're delivering that experience to 1,200 people. And they're experiencing it differently, but they still all feel like they were guests, because at the end of the day, we're kind of opening our home and our doors to our customers. And we really want them to feel like, have this warm welcome and that we're really grateful for them to be there because we are.

BRANDON:

I can imagine, with the sense of scale, and all of these different moments, these different touch points, it could be really helpful to have those anecdotal reports that you mentioned to see, okay, you know, could something have been improved with that hotel drop off. Could you give me a specific example of on the ground at ONWARD, how the conference experience might differ a little from some of the other B2B conferences that are out there?

LINDSAY:

Sure. So as I mentioned before, when they come in and they check in, everybody has a room drop in their room to welcome them. We often create cards that have different places that they can go for coffee or to get lunch, but we really, what we do besides what the event captures and the things that they're getting at the event, we work with the sales team to create customizable templates for them to host their clients.

So all of our salespeople and our customer-facing people that come to the event are equipped with customizable agendas and encouraged to take that template and drop in the company name, what sessions they recommend they attend, where they're going to go for dinner, and things of that nature. So we're not only taking it from the event level, but we're putting it into the individual that owns that relationship with the person that's coming to the event to make sure that you know, when this person that's coming from a retail account hits the ground running and they're excited about ONWARD and they want to see some retail sessions, it might be vastly different than the person that owns healthcare or the person that owns an agency and it's reselling technology.

And we want to make sure that the ultimate person that understands those accounts is the customer-success manager, is the sales rep. And so we help them, enable them to create that experience so everybody feels like they have a unique direction of how they can experience ONWARD.

BRANDON:

That's great. So, speaking of this infrastructure that you're starting to put in place, like these email templates, ways to empower other members of the organization beyond just the events team to really play a role in the event, what are some other ways that you are building out the infrastructure, or have found infrastructure for events to be helpful?

LINDSAY:

So one of the biggest things that we've done that's been tremendously helpful is actually create a playbook, a step-by-step guide for how to run a field event, how to run a sponsored event, how to run a corporate event, how tiering out the ways that we create custom materials, swag and things like that. And it's almost like the ultimate guide for my entire team. So anybody that comes onto the team, aside from the training that they're going to get, they're going to receive this playbook.

I've often shared it with sales executives that come on so they understand how we run our playbook and our events and then globally. So as we scale, not only does every single event still kind of follow the same flow and format that is expected at the corporate level, but everybody's on the same page about the expectations, and the details aren't dropped because it's scalable and repeatable. It's one of the best things that we've done, and it's really kept everything consistent on brand, and kept the level of events where it needs to be, no matter how big we grow.

BRANDON:

For sure. This might sound kind of boring or geeky, but you know, these playbooks are huge. They're so huge. But how do you go about creating them, right? There are so many different variables for any different events, you know if it's a different audience that you're speaking to, it's a different location. How have you created this universally applicable playbook?

I'm sorry, I don't want to...

LINDSAY:

You're going to give away my secrets.

BRANDON:

Yeah.

LINDSAY:

I'm just kidding. So you know, I actually sat down with my team, and it was laborious. It was definitely a labor of love, but we sat there for almost an entire day during an off-site and went through the step-by-step mechanisms, and really discussed what was really important for Yext.

So I had built this playbook at my previous company that I was at called ExactTarget, which was then acquired by Salesforce. I took it over, but it was really important that it was customized to what was really important for Yext and the business. And so we sat down and we went through every single step from, what is a field marketing event? How would you define that to a salesperson? How many people go into a field marketing event? How many weeks out do you start the invite process? What is the invite process look like?

It's every event planners dream to detail out every single step, and that's basically what we did. And it's been incredibly helpful because it is step by step, and there are some moments where, for example, we want to invite plus-ones to an event, and some that we don't want to invite plus-ones to an event, and we detailed that out as well, like an if-then situation.

BRANDON:

Having come up with a lot of processes myself, I know that one of the challenges is consistent implementation. Yes, the checklist is there but, do we need to refer to it? So how have you sort of guaranteed with your team that the checklist is consistently adhered to?

LINDSAY:

That's a good question. So like I said, everybody has the playbook. We refresh it about every six to 12 months to make sure it's consistently on-brand. Every quarter, or every two quarters, we also take a look at the events that we're doing and evaluate what worked and what didn't work. There are some consistent winners we know are always going to be in that playbook, if you will, and some that we test and we might stick with or throw out.

The other thing that's really important is that my team is aligned by sales region. So every sales region, or every couple of sales regions, has someone that is responsible, almost their bridge to marketing. And so, when the sales reps come on, we also enable them on what to expect from an event, what to expect from the custom materials that they're creating, how to request a campaign or swag. And so every single time that someone's come on board, the hope is that, that consistent training is not only on the marketing team and my team specifically, but then it is also shared with the sales team and those sales leaders so everybody is in the know on what to expect.

LINDSAY:

And then furthermore, one of the reasons I love Yext is that the sales and the marketing team are very much aligned. I know that that's not always the case and sometimes sales and marketing can butt heads, but I have a seat at the table at all of my sales leaders' meetings. We are part of the sales team, and I think that's really helped us to create goals that are aligned for both marketing and sales to be successful, and kind of walk in lockstep and respect. We know that we need to do everything we can to help the sales team, but they're also going to help us achieve our goals to make it a great experience for everyone.

BRANDON:

So, we're talking about this sales and marketing alignment, or this very special case of, marketing is a part of the sales team. Could you speak a little bit more about how ABM is playing a role in the Yext event strategy?

LINDSAY:

So one thing, I think that as events have become so popular and you look at the investment that companies are making with events, you're seeing every company's doing events. People understand that human connection is really important, especially as we're becoming a more digitized world. So events are everywhere, and I think that the key piece here is how do you make an event special and different for people that are potentially coming that you want to invite?

So one of the things that we do in terms of ABM is, we custom invite every single person to an event. It's not sent through any type of an email blast or just you know, posting a website to register. We do some of those things as well, but every single person would get a custom invite, and we copy the sales team and we encourage them to reach out as well and pick up the phone and call people. So it's still that human approach. They know that they're not just a number getting an invite, but we really want them there for a specific reason.

Some of the other things that we do around some of these events is we'll actually send campaigns, you know, like a mailer campaign that has something very specific to them. So we might know that you love playbooks, and so maybe we're going to send you a kit that has a, we'll find out what you're favorite sports team is, and maybe it's a play—Well I don't know if they would publish those, but it's something around your favorite sports team with a custom note to you. Hey Brandon, we'd really love to have you at this event. Here are the details. We hope you can come. Something that, you know, you are an individual, you're not a number. You get invited to hundreds of events a month, I'm sure, and your time is limited. So, how do we show that we really want you there and that, as a human, we care about you and your business and your time.

BRANDON:

You send me an email with the playbook for the UNC Chapel Hill Tar Heels basketball team. That's how.

LINDSAY:

Perfect. Noted.

BRANDON:

So you know, in a previous conversation, you mentioned that there's a difference between an event planner and someone who is a strategic event manager. Could you share a little bit more on that?

LINDSAY:

So I think, you know what, anybody can throw an event. You can throw a birthday party, a dinner party. I mean, I think that if everybody looks back on their life at some point, you've thrown some type of party or an event. I think the difference is, when you're doing an event, really thinking through the strategic reasons of why a business is investing in that event, and how you get ROI from that. Whether it's simply a brand-building play and you just want people to understand who you are and experience the brand, if there's some type of business that's being driven behind it, you know hopefully increasing the revenue for your team, it's really important that you look at an event not only from the experience the people are going to have, but really what you're driving from it to make sure that that investment is turning into ROI for your business in some capacity.

BRANDON:

That totally makes sense, having that really strong business focus. I know in the past, there was this idea of the event strategist as opposed to the event planner, but I mean we're seeing this more in B2B in general. Like you said, there is such a focus on tying events to the bottom line, tying them to a very specific goal. It's become a lot more important and complicated than it might have been in the past to put on an event.

BRANDON:

So, what's one thing that businesses do not focus on enough when it comes to events?

LINDSAY:

I think it's the experience that people have. I think that people can focus so much on the idea of having an event and just getting people in a room, that they don't think about all those small details that I think can go unturned. My team and I were just talking about this because we say, let's say it takes 40 hours to plan a field marketing event. It's that extra three-hour investment that turns it from dinner to an experience.

And it's those small touches like I mentioned, the branded fruit, or the neon sign, or what people are going to get when they leave, and how are you going to follow up with them, that really make the difference and make that special. And I think that people kind of lose that sometimes when they're planning events because they're so worried about the big stuff and the big splashy stuff that they don't think about those small moments that really matter.

For example, we always find out that somebody has an anniversary or a birthday or something during one of these events. It's inevitable. And so we try to do a little something. Last year, we found out that one of our customers, it was their birthday, and so we were able to find a branded cupcake and bring it to the rep to bring to the customer. And it's that tiny little moment that I think really makes it unique, and I think people kind of miss on.

BRANDON:

Definitely. It seems like it could be hard to lose it with all the other details that are going on. Maybe at the end of the day, it's hard to remember those things.

LINDSAY:

It definitely is, but those are the moments that really matter. It's those small little moments that matter more than anything else.

BRANDON:

Yeah. So, looking back at your career, what was a piece of feedback that you received that had a positive, and I'd say significant, impact on your professional growth?

LINDSAY:

I had a manager once that told me that you know, when you have a moment that you're celebrating, make sure that you are celebrating everybody that did it. And that celebrating the people around you that had any role in it makes more of a difference than it being an individual win. And with my team, any win that's a win for me or a win for one of them is a win for us, and it unites us, it brings us together, and I think it encourages everybody to support each other. And so that's one piece of advice that I have received that I will carry with me forever, because it is so important.

Events are a team sport, and every single person that leans into it makes it better. And so it's important to celebrate it as a team sport.

BRANDON:

That's huge. Who's another influential marketing or events executive who you think is really a leader in the field right now?

LINDSAY:

So, of course, Elizabeth Pinkham at Salesforce, whose driving Dreamforce is one of my favorite women to look up to. You know, I'm biased because I worked at Salesforce, but even if you read Behind the Cloud, there's a whole chapter in there around marketing and events, and how Salesforce created their brand off the backs of other events and other companies. And the way that they did it was so risky and so unconventional, and it's really inspiring. From hiring actors to fake-picket their competitor's conference with the no-software sign to the things that they're doing now around Dreamforce and the way that they continue to scale that.

Just a couple years ago, they rented out cruise ships for people to stay on because they were out of hotels in San Francisco. And I just think that that is, it's so aspirational and it's so incredible to watch those programs grow. And she's been there since the beginning.

BRANDON:

No, they're huge innovators, definitely. Probably one of the first names that people think about when they think of B2B software, specifically, events. My final question for you is how do you stay inspired and keep your creative instincts fresh?

LINDSAY:

That's such a great question. You know, I think one of the things is, every time that we go to an event, there are things that I take away from it. My phone is always out, and I'm always snapping pictures of things that I loved. Also things that I didn't love, that I can take away and bring back to my team and kind of Yextify it, if you will.

So, from every birthday party that I go to, to every user conference that I go to, sometimes I'll go to events just to see what they're up to, that's one way that I stay inspired. I think also, just speaking with peers about things that they're doing, there's not that many of us out there that are doing experiential marketing. I think more and more every day, but just learning from them and listening.

And also, you know, B2B is so different than B2C, but I try to look at both from the same lens, so when you're doing a pop-up experience for a B2C company and you're walking through the doors, what you're receiving and the way that they're treating you and what your takeaways are, can be translated into the experience that a B2B company has. And so, I'm constantly taking from those experiences that I have.

LINDSAY:

Even, you know, traveling on the plane. How does Delta treat you when you get on board? What are they leaving for you? And those moments also are really inspiring to me, and I just try to always gather those and think about how I can turn that into an experience that we're doing at Yext.

BRANDON:

Wonderful. All right, well, that's our time. Thank you so much, Lindsay, for joining us today. It's been so cool to hear about the event strategy at Yext, how you're scaling everything out, branded fruits. It was a really fun conversation, so thank you for coming in.

LINDSAY:

Awesome. Thanks for having me. It's been so much fun.