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

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Top Takeaways

1

CREATING TARGETED STRATEGIES WITH ABM: When creating a targeted ABM event strategy, Nani and the Demandbase team think about the volume of target accounts within a specific region. This number will inform the best channel of engagement like field events, national events, or direct mail. “The reality is there are major adjustments that can be made both to developing your overall national events strategy in terms of which events you want to go to and how you're actually activating at those events that are informed by an ABM strategy.”

2

SETTING KPIS THAT ALIGN WITH YOUR ORGANIZATION’S GOALS: Measurement is another key area of any ABM events strategy. As Nani discusses, setting up 400 meetings with accounts that should not buy from you is not going to be useful as setting up ten meeting with accounts who are likely to close “[We make] sure that we're not doing things purely to get a count but to get to something that's going to help the business overall. So where we can, thinking about things like pipeline becomes our primary KPI.”

3

ENCOURAGING EVENT MARKETING TEAMS TO THINK MORE LIKE A SALES TEAM: During her six years at Demandbase, Nani has made her transition from the sales side to the marketing side, gaining valuable exposure to how both teams operate. Having an ABM-first strategy means that marketing needs to shift its point of view and to focus on accounts that are most valuable to the sales team. "We’re giving the [sales team] insight into the accounts they care about...so they know that when we talk about being at an event, we as a marketing organization only see it as a success if sales sees it that way.”

ABOUT Nani Shaffer

Nani Shaffer brings a decade of B2B Marketing experience across Marketing Operations, Product Marketing and Demand Generation. As Senior Director of Demand Generation & Marketing Operations at Demandbase, Nani is responsible for the measurement and optimization of the Marketing organization, and she oversees the strategy and execution of integrated programs designed to develop and strengthen relationships with prospects and customers. Nani hails from Silicon Valley and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Environmental Studies.

Episode Transcript

BRANDON:

Hello and welcome to IN-PERSON, brought to you by Bizzabo. In each episode of IN-PERSON, we explore the world's most daring events and the people who make them happen. In case you and I haven't already met, I'm Brandon Rafalson. We originally recorded this episode in February, back when it seemed like the events industry was in a very different place. Since then, Covid-19, the disease caused by a novel strain of coronavirus, has cut a swath through the industry, forcing many planned events to be postponed and others to be outright canceled.

BRANDON:

It's absolutely terrible and by no means do I think the impact should be overlooked. But throughout all of this, I think it's super essential to keep in perspective that the events industry has weathered worse in the past, from the financial crisis of 2008, to security concerns, to hurricanes, earthquakes, and any number of other natural disasters. Event marketing and event marketers are resilient and there's data to prove it. Over the past three years we here at Bizzabo have surveyed mid to senior level marketers to create a comprehensive picture of event marketing, and each year the data has shown that business leaders and their teams believe that in-person marketing is an irreplaceable channel.

BRANDON:

2020 is no exception. In this year's report, we saw that the majority of respondents in leadership roles have identified in-person events as critical for their company's success. You can get ahold of these stats and more in our Event Marketing 2020 Benchmarks and Trends Report. Just visit the Event Marketing Resources Page at bizzabo.com. It's bizzabo.com/eventresources.

BRANDON:

Now this episode with Nani Schafer doesn't mention the coronavirus at all. Instead, we focus on the value that events, be they huge conferences, small gatherings, or virtual meetings, bring to larger business strategies, specifically in the context of account based marketing, or ABM. As Senior Director of demand generation and marketing operations at Demandbase, Nani is responsible for the measurement and optimization of the marketing organization there. She also oversees the strategy and execution of integrated programs designed to develop and strengthen relationships with prospects and customers.

BRANDON:

In this episode, we discuss creating targeted event strategies with account based marketing, how to set KPIs that are aligned with your organization's goals, and why event marketing teams should think like sales teams. This is definitely one of the most in the weeds conversations about ABM, metrics, and operations that we've yet to have on the show, and it's also one of the most eye-opening. Okay, let's get to it.

BRANDON:

Typically, we start off and talk about something that's a little on the lighter side. In my research I couldn't find anything that really stood out as being sort of nerdy or geeky about you, but what are some things that you typically wouldn't share on a B2B podcast?

NANI: 

Well, speaking of ... I don't know why this was the first thing that came to mind when you said nerdy, but I'm particularly proud of my fourth grade spelling bee win, so that's definitely a highlight of my life for sure, if we're talking about the nerd factor.

BRANDON:

Oh wow. I have so many questions for you. Obvious one, do you know the winning word?

NANI: 

Dictionary, ironically enough. And I won a dictionary, which also felt ironic because I was sort of the only person who didn't need one. But yeah, that was a pretty big moment in my life. Yeah.

BRANDON:

Wow. I guess that's a pretty symbolic gift.

NANI: 

Yes, it was pretty exciting.

BRANDON:

That's amazing. And how does your passion for the written or the spoken word stick with you to today?

NANI: 

I never actually put that together. But now that you bring it up, I mean there certainly is an awful lot that goes into being a good writer and a coherent human being that is important for any marketer. So I guess in a way I should have been able to predict that a little bit better.

BRANDON:

Nani Shaffer traces her career in marketing all the way back to fourth grade.

NANI: 

Exactly.

BRANDON:

Okay. Well at the time of this interview, you've been with Demandbase for about six years. However, some of the first steps in your career were in environmental studies. So how did your professional journey lead you from fourth grade spelling bee to environmental studies to where you are today?

NANI: 

Yeah, it's a good question, and frankly one that I've thought about quite a bit. When I was in college ... I went to UPenn and I ... as most typical college students, couldn't quite figure out what I wanted to do. And I liked the sort of blend in environmental studies of science and math, but also leaving room for action and creativity and momentum. And so that really appealed to me and it was something that I enjoyed a lot. And so coming out of college, it was kind of a question of, okay, well if you've got an environmental studies degree, typically you're either going to stay in school forevermore basically, right? Move onto postgrad and do that for, in this type of an industry, essentially decades, right? Go into teaching, that type of stuff. Or I had the option to go out and see if I could find a job.

NANI: 

And frankly, I always in the back of my mind just assumed that I would go back to school. I loved school and really thought that the postgrad path was the one that I was going to go on, but frankly kind of stumbled on, of all things, an event marketing job right out of college and I just completely fell in love and it felt like unless I need to, why would I go back? So I haven't really looked back from that decision since, but it's been a wild ride and I really, really enjoy it. And that was kind of an eye opener for me to kind of realize that I liked this work world and I thrive and enjoy and get energy out of that just as I had in school.

BRANDON:

So you started off in an event marketing role and then I know you sort of made your way through to marketing and demand generation and today you are currently the senior director of demand generation operations at Demandbase. What was that transition like from being more on the events side to being this larger, more, I guess, central role in a marketing organization?

NANI: 

Yeah, it's a great question and I have had kind of quite the journey around the marketing department both at my previous role and this one. I sort of, as I mentioned, started in event marketing and then came over ... when I joined Demandbase, actually, I joined initially, of all things, in sales operations. I'd been working with a man at my previous company who owned sales operations there and he brought me into Demandbase to work in sales operations and as that ... which was great, totally new experience, totally different types of challenges, and actually in hindsight it was awesome to start on the sales side of the house to understand how the business works and how sales reps are incentivized.

NANI: 

That was a very helpful background to have. Within a few months really of joining at Demandbase ... I joined at the same time as our CMO Peter Isaacson ... he was building out a marketing operations function, or wanted to build out marketing operations, and so I sort of slid into that role, building that function out net new, and spent ... the bulk of my career at Demandbase has at least tangentially been in operations.

NANI: 

But as you mentioned, building out skills as well across broader demand gen. So whether that meant I ran our webinar program or advertising, I've worked in email. The direct mail was a big channel of ours and so leading the charge there. I've also worked in product marketing, so just kind of getting an understanding across really as much of the organization as I can has been really helpful. And so now in this current role in demand gen and operations, kind of bringing all of those skills together and understanding how we can be as efficient and effective as possible in supporting our broader business initiatives, whether that's with new business sales or customer retention and growth with building our brand and establishing ourselves as category leaders. So there's just been a lot kind of picked up along the way in all these different roles.

BRANDON:

Operations is something that seems like it's becoming more and more important. There are a lot of new tools out there that are better serving the operations community. There are a lot of events out there that are just dedicated to operations or even specific branches of operations, customer operations or revenue operations. All that said, I mean, from your perspective, what are some of the biggest misconceptions about marketing operations in demand generation?

NANI: 

I think for me the biggest misconception is probably that marketing operations is marketing automation. There is a lot of ... sort of an assumption there that operations that's related to the sort of broader business happens in sales, might involve finance, there's growth of the customer operations role as well. But marketing operations really has every ability to take the lead in that type of an environment. I am a big believer in the concept of revenue operations and having a sort of ... it's not that you necessarily need a centralized single role that sort of spans across all of those, but understanding how the pipes work and how those different teams communicate. That's really where the strength of a successful revenue operations organization lies. And so if you've got someone in marketing operations, they need to be able to understand not just the button pushing of how do we put on a campaign.

NANI: 

And again, misconception is that often that's really limited to email campaigns. This needs to be a person who understands how we can think about things like attribution, how we can think about things like how we're impacting close rates or funnel velocity or deal sizes, who can piece apart how different channels are having an impact and then can also aggregate those up together and understand how we're impacting, in the case of an account based marketing strategy, an entire segment or group of accounts.

NANI: 

So all sorts of really important questions that go so much beyond tactically getting something out the door. That is an element of the job, right? I always sort of divide marketing operations into sort of three functional areas. One is typically related to technology. One is related to building out scalable campaigns, campaign processes. And then the third, and in my opinion, most importantly potentially, is in understanding performance. So how do we think about whether our marketing team is actually as effective as it can be? And there's so much power in being able to cover those types of insights that change how it is that we budget, that change how we prioritize different channels, that prioritize or impact how we work together across the entire marketing organization and across the business.

BRANDON:

It's very energizing just to hear how passionate you are about operations and about ...

NANI: 

I love operations. I really do.

BRANDON:

I mean, like you said, there's so much that's going on behind the scenes and it really is multifaceted from the technology to the processes. Something you mentioned as well is account-based marketing. Now I know on our conversation, we're going to spend a good amount of time talking about the intersection of account based marketing and events, but before we start talking about events, I'd love to hear in your own words how you would define account-based marketing. And I'll just caveat this by saying that in the past, we have featured guests who have spoken on ABM and we've definitely covered it before, but Demandbase is very much an industry expert on the subject matter. And I know that you are very clearly an expert at Demandbase, so I would love to hear it in your own words.

NANI: 

The way that I tend to think about account-based marketing, and there are a lot of different definitions out there, and as ABM as a category has grown, we're starting to sort of coalesce around something more discrete and defined. But that's taken several years, right? And so when I think about account-based marketing, really it stems from concepts that we've been aware of and been activated upon for decades. Right? The idea that we want to invest resources in particular accounts that are likely to buy from us just make sense. Right? And we've been doing that in a lot of ways for many, many years. What that has translated to until recently has mostly meant that sort of one to one ABM, right, where you're having dedicated individual marketers who are tasked with essentially supporting their sales counterparts on individual specific accounts. And that has worked well, has been an important part of many marketers' strategies.

NANI: 

What we're seeing today and what I think about account-based marketing today is that we've been able to now move beyond that one to one ABM approach into a scaled approach where really ABM can now encompass the concept of going after any group of accounts that are particularly important for you. And I do tend to think on the lines of ... and this could be a little bit ... not everyone feels this way, but I do tend to think that for most ABM practitioners, they've got a core, typically single list of their high value accounts.

NANI: 

Now, that doesn't mean that list isn't segmented or prioritized or tiered, right? You might have tier one, two, and three. And often there might be sort of a sub segment of that list or a separate one that might be your customer base, right? That's a really great use case for account based marketing. But anytime you're thinking about a discreet universe of accounts and investing resources differently against those than the accounts that are outside of that, that's really ABM.

NANI: 

And so it is becoming so much more broad and in some ways I think it's intersecting just with B2B marketing in general, that this is an acknowledgement of something we've all known, which is we can't sell to everyone, right? We're selling into businesses and often specific types of businesses. And that acknowledgement, which has vaguely always been there in B2B now can actually be acted upon, right? There are different ways, again, with leveraging different types of technology that enable us to actually do that and to focus things specifically and only on that list.

BRANDON:

100%. And I really appreciate the point about this has somehow in some ways existed for a great amount of time, but it's just more scalable than it was in the past. So with that in mind, how does demand base look at a national event strategy with an account-based marketing lens, and how does field marketing compliment this?

NANI: 

I think there's really interesting things in both worlds. On the field marketing side, what I think is really interesting is that field marketing in a lot of ways ... and often what we'll see is that they're the drivers of an ABM strategy. They're already hooked in very deeply with the sales organization. They understand the concept of those supporting sales cycles, right? Of meeting with accounts that are in sales cycle are hovering on the edge of it, that are maybe existing customers.

NANI: 

Field marketing is often looking through the same lens as their sales counterparts anyway, and so they make sort of a natural combo there that lends itself well to an ABM strategy. The ways that we see field marketing, and I'll get back to national events, but the ways that we see field marketing strategies adjusted as organizations really lean into ABM is that when they're thinking about which territories they should be supporting, it's a pretty good first step to take a look at your target account list and overlay that on a geographical map and see which cities have ... cities, regions, whatever it is, whatever makes the most sense, to see which of those regions have the highest concentration of your target accounts.

NANI: 

And those are the areas where you're going to be wanting to have those field marketing events, where you're going to want to do things in groups. That doesn't mean that field can't support things outside of those sort of core cities, but it does mean that they might think about them differently, that they're not going to think I'm building a huge audience or getting 50 people in a room in a city where there's only four target accounts. If there's a city with only four target accounts, you might be doing direct mail drops, taking tacos to the office, or whatever it may be, that you're running field in a much more concentrated way in those less populated cities.

NANI: 

And then saving the bigger bang for your buck types of field events for the ones where you've really got easier targets because there's more of them. National events I actually think is maybe even more interesting in a lot of ways because for many marketers, that's sort of something that sits outside of ABM, right? That's like, "Well, we're going to this event and it is what it is and we can't ... this is our [inaudible 00:16:58]. We don't have much choice over this." The reality is there's major adjustments that can be made both to developing your overall national events strategy in terms of which events you want to go to and how you're actually activating at those events that are informed by an ABM strategy.

NANI: 

So if you think about the first thing, which events am I going to go to? This is less geography, because trade shows, national events, people are flying in from everywhere. But getting your hands on ... as you're evaluating conferences and sponsorships, thinking about, "Well who's been there in the past, who am I likely to see again?" Often it helps to look at who's speaking, who's sponsoring, because often in a B2B world, sometimes it's the sponsors that are your targets, right? Your fellow sponsors could be your target accounts.

NANI: 

And so doing as much research as you can to understand in the same way that you did with field in particular regions, now looking at events and understanding what percentage of those attendees are likely to come from your target accounts, that helps with your evaluation process for whether or not it even makes sense to have you sponsor an event.

NANI: 

And then once you're there, it's that same approach of taking that lens of the target account list and overlaying that on everything that changes how you act at the event itself. So rather than being ... overly emphasizing things that are going to sort of smash it out in the park with the entire audience, which may only be, say, 30 or 40% from your target accounts, you can focus on that smaller audience and make sure that you're having deliberate outreach in advance from your sales team to make sure that you're getting an audience with those folks that you care about. There's often ways you can do that. I'm kind of going on here, but thinking about different tracks that you might be in, different ways that you might speak, different types of customers you might highlight as well. That can all sort of factor in.

BRANDON:

For sure. Yeah, I've heard of some organizers creating completely separate programs, not only a track, but it would include separate networking experiences, et cetera for individuals who might be part of that target audience.

NANI: 

Exactly.

BRANDON:

Once we have them in person at that field marketing event or at that hosted event, what are some ways that we can further personalize things? We've talked about the content a bit. We've talked about tracks and programs. Are there any other ideas that come to mind?

NANI: 

Yeah, so I do think that personalization is such a big component of account-based marketing in general, and frankly that's the element that we're now able to do at scale. So when you think about that one to one marketing, that is powerful because the people that are helping to support, whether it's a customer or a new business from an individual account, can really take the time to do the research to make sure that they're delivering an experience that's relevant to that particular account.

NANI: 

Now that we can do that at scale, we want to take that same level of personalization, that same ability to understand, to really truly understand what challenges these people in these companies are facing. We can now do that more broadly and more at scale. And so I think the sort of theme, whether that's at events or really any channel is in making sure that we've got a very clear understanding from within our target account list of what specific challenges there are that we can help solve for, to really hit on those pain points and talk about what it is that our solutions can offer for these particular companies that we're talking to.

NANI: 

And that helps both in terms of when you do get a target account by your booth or join you at a VIP dinner or show up at a field event or come to your website, that what they're receiving from you and return the message that they're seeing the content they're being offered is relevant to them, makes sense to them, speaks to them.

NANI: 

In some ways, what that also helps you do is eliminate companies for whom those challenges aren't relevant, which is almost one of the more important parts about a company's marketing in general. It's less about, well of course we want to spend money on these target accounts. They're very high value. We know we want to convert them. Sales are super interested in them. But in a lot of ways what we're trying to do is protect our resources from those accounts that can't or shouldn't buy from us.

NANI: 

And so if we give them easier ways of self-selecting out of presenting them with what solutions we have and what challenges we solve for in ways that make people and companies sort of self-select out, we're already sort of a step ahead there. And so that's, I think in large part, what we might want to do and showcase at events, is make sure that the customers that we're highlighting and the sessions that we're hosting or the ancillary events that we've got going on are really most relevant for individuals and companies that we can help.

BRANDON:

I'd love to learn a little bit more about how you think about measurement and operations around ABM events like this. But before we kind of dive in and start talking about KPIs and all that, why is it important for our listeners to think beyond just objectives and strategies when thinking about measurement?

NANI: 

I do think that measurement for events is one of the most important ways that ABM does have an impact on the overall outcome of that event. So first thinking about the ways that we might measure the success of an event. Typically, it's easy to measure certain things, right? Booth scans, session attendees, dinner attendees, things like that, right? Counts that are easy to measure. What we try to push for as much as possible are kind of engagement ... those might be fine, right? But putting them through the lens of are they targets or not? So having some threshold of we want to make sure that we're getting a certain number of engagements with specific target accounts that are here, and we've had people go down the path of things ... even presetting meetings. Those can be KPIs that are often set related to events with no thought necessarily to anything beyond volume. And as we all know, time is our most precious resource.

NANI: 

And so if you're getting 400 meetings at an event, that's awesome, unless they're with accounts that can't or shouldn't buy from you. And so making sure that we're not doing things purely to get to account, but to get to something that's going to help the business overall. So where you can, thinking about things like pipeline become our sort of primary KPI, or in the case of customer engagements, that's where we go to those deeper level engagements, broadening our sort of footprint in our customer accounts. That shift becomes very, very important because it gets us away from being so heavily focused on this big number that ultimately is irrelevant and frankly takes a ton of resources to generate without necessarily having any tie to things lower in the business. Now if you're getting a high volume of precept meetings from target accounts, rock on, right?

NANI: 

You definitely still need that to be high and to make sure that your time at this event is not going to waste, but making sure that these aren't sort of junky conversations is really critical. Now you bring up this concept of sort of going beyond the objectives and strategies, which I do think is a powerful thing to think about. Personally, I love the concept of making sure that for events we go to, that we're very clear on what our overall objectives are. And I typically boil those down to ... and each event is a little bit different, but they typically boil down to brand awareness, relationship development, whether that's with partners or with the ... sometimes the event management itself, and then pipeline generation or opportunity generation, those more sort of business-oriented things.

NANI: 

And while that's great to keep those in mind, we do need to establish ways of figuring out what are the steps we need to get there? So if we've got that as our overall objective, it's one thing to say that and that does help in decisions about what it is that we ... what type of a sponsorship we want to sign on for or how we want to drive registrations for certain ancillary events or other things going on. But having a very clear idea of what specific steps we're going to get to and understanding how it is that we're going to measure that ... particularly that third one when it comes to sort of impact on business.

BRANDON:

It's all coming together. It's about the specificity, just over and over again, whether it's the audience that you're bringing into an event, the sort of challenges that you're trying to solve, or the KPIs that you're using to looking at events as well. Just getting more and more specific. I think we kind of touched on some KPIs there. What's one way ... and if we look at a specific example, say for instance, how your team has measured the success of investing in Dreamforce in the past?

NANI: 

For this year's Dreamforce, we actually did a couple of different things from a measurement standpoint. And frankly I'm a big believer in visibility as being a really critical driver for action in general. And so, one of the first things we did just as we were sort of launching ... and as we all know, for any of us going to Dreamforce, this is annoyingly ... it's a huge part of our lives for several months, if not more. Leading up each year to this event, it's a big investment for many, many companies. And so as we were sort of launching that process and figuring out what it was that we wanted to do there and what our point of view was about how we want it to be perceived, how it was that we wanted to interact with our target accounts, with our customers, one of the first things we did was just to set up ... and it sounds so simple, but a dashboard that is showcasing the types of things that we most care about.

NANI: 

And so in leading up to that, certainly we wanted to be driving registrations for our VIP events. We wanted to be setting meetings, we wanted to get folks coming to various lunches or product briefings, things like that. And then as we're going through this whole process, the ... as I mentioned, key component of this was in opportunity generation.

NANI: 

And so we set a goal for ourselves to develop ... and it's kind of an interesting goal, but something to keep in mind as you've got events. This Dreamforce in 2019 was actually quite late in the year. And as a result of that, what we were concerned about from a business perspective is that we knew this was going to be a big opportunity generation driver, but we needed for those opportunities to actually start being developed even prior to the event. We didn't want to wait until basically after the Thanksgiving break to start sort of following up on these.

NANI: 

And so we set out for ourselves to develop twice as many opportunities as we had the year prior by the time Dreamforce itself closed, that week of Dreamforce. And that was something that I think ... it ended up being somewhat certainly aspirational but also inspirational, right? And people could really rally around that, not just in marketing. Because as we all know, getting support for events across the organization can be sometimes a bit of a struggle, right? And we're like, "Please [inaudible 00:27:42] the meetings at the meetings." But in reality this is a huge boon for the business broadly to have this go off without a hitch. And so that rallied really the whole organization around supporting this massive initiative and gave them something concrete to be reaching for. And so our sort of primary rally cry was this SQL2X, is what we called out, our sales qualified leads, which are actually opportunities in our case.

NANI: 

And so getting twice as many as we'd had the year prior by the time the event closed. People were so into that and making sure that they were ... and anytime people did sign up for these events, that they were following up and reaching out to them. We actually ended up generating more than four times the number of opportunities that we had the year prior. And that was huge. And more important ... not ... maybe equally important was the timing of that, so that by the time the event itself had come up, we were feeling really strong anyway, that these were already people who are engaged with us and in sales cycles with us who were also going to be sort of part of our Dreamforce experience.

BRANDON:

Wow, that's so amazing. And yeah, I mean that's one of the biggest challenges I think that event marketers face is when you're putting on these great events or you're exhibiting at events, really getting that buy-in from other teams. You mentioned you made this a big focus, you came up with a really fun name for it, SQL2X. What are some other things that you think led to having such great buy-in from other teams here?

NANI: 

Yeah. Other than nagging ... no, I'm just kidding. But it is true. I mean, I think it's a little bit of a balance, right? And just being sort of realistic about it. Sales has a ton of priorities and they're so focused on their extremely visible goals. I mean, sales is an interesting position to be in in that there's really no other job like it where people can ... well, I guess maybe athletes too, but where people can really see basically on a scoreboard how well you did against your own goal. And that's the frightening thing that is powerful as well because it dictates their behavior.

NANI: 

And so one of the kind of beautiful parts about an ABM strategy is that the reality is that's marketing shifting its own sort of point of view to that of a sales organization and saying, "Okay, we get it, you're not interested in pure volume leads. You frankly probably don't care who's clicking on my emails or coming to the website necessarily unless I can promise you that the insights that I'm giving you about those types of engagement and those types of behaviors are relevant to your particular high value accounts."

NANI: 

And so if we can rally behind this single set of accounts that we've all agreed upon, then we don't have to waste time with giving them sort of junk leads. We're really giving them insight into the accounts that they care about. And so starting with that as our base is really helpful in bringing the sales organization into that so they know when we talk about being at an event, that we as a marketing organization only see it as a success if sales sees it that way. And so that's helped us a lot with kind of getting folks to buy in and to get behind these because they are great opportunities for them. And sales people feel that when you're at the event, there's just the high of it, right?

NANI: 

And everyone's all excited and it might last ... you've got that sort of halo effect for one or two days. Everyone's high-fiving and you just feel good, right? There's a very ... it's a physical embodiment of your brand in a way that you can't see in other environments and that's really cool to be a part of. But getting them to understand that prior to that to support you in making that vision come true can be challenging unless you frame this up as a, "Hey, this is for you. This is to give you the opportunity to be in front of your prospects, to be in front of your customers and to show them how incredible we are."

BRANDON:

We talked about dashboards, we were talking about data as well. We talked about how important it is to be able to look at specific data points. What are some ways that you're using technology to assist in this ABM-based event strategy?

NANI: 

So we've actually been experimenting with a couple of different things when it comes to involving ABM in our event strategy. And so one, as I mentioned, is sort of prior to ... as we're setting strategy for the coming year, say, we want to understand which accounts are likely to be at what events and so we can look at things like intent data by our target accounts and understand whether they're researching Dreamforce or Adobe Summit or CMO Summit or whatever, any events to understand which they're most likely to go at, or which they're likely to at least be researching.

NANI: 

And that's data that we didn't have before, that level of intent data about those specific kind of keywords is something that we didn't have access to before, and so thinking through that. I think the other thing that is just a big element of this all when it comes to technology is being smart about our segmentation. As we know, it's very tempting, particularly in the world of marketing automation to mass blast the world, to often relatively depressing results.

NANI: 

And so the more that we've kind of gone through the developing our event strategy, the more focused we are and deliberate we are about those that are most likely to join us, not just in this case, are they on our target accounts list, let's just invite all of our target accounts. But rather either they're in the right geographical location, so let's target them. Or they're showing those intense signals that make them especially likely to be willing to join us. Using past engagement, if they've gone to an event or they've showed up at a webinar, are they more likely to go again? Leaning on all these different sort of smaller micro segments of highly engaged individuals and highly engaged accounts to figure out who it is that we should be targeting for these. So that's something we've leaned really heavily on technology for.

BRANDON:

We've been spending a lot of time talking about a lot of best practices around ABM, events, measurement, operations, technology, team alignment. For some of our listeners who might just be kicking off an ABM event strategy or are in the early stages of launching one, what's that first baby step that they could take?

NANI: 

I think it ... and it really does depend on where they are in the journey. I'd say very critical to this, aside from ... step one is always sort of getting buy in across the organization as high up in the leadership org as you can is really, really helpful. But the second thing is to really delve into the concept of the target account list and understand that that's something that can be driven hopefully through the use of data, looking at who your most successful customers are at the very least, and leaning on technology if you can for the development of that list.

NANI: 

And absolutely in any case, incorporating sales feedback on that to validate and make sure that the whole sort of org is feeling good about it. So I'd say buy-in and alignment cross-functionally is definitely step one and then the target account list development is something that your effort is well rewarded if that's selected intelligently.

BRANDON:

Flipping things over to you, who is someone you look up to in events, marketing, operations, or business in general?

NANI: 

So it's kind of funny to say this is the first year that we've done our ABM Innovation Summit at Demandbase, and I'm working very closely with a woman who really takes the entire thing on herself, [inaudible 00:34:56]. And she's been someone who's been remarkable to see that kind of level of intensity that goes into putting on an event versus "just sponsoring one."

NANI: 

And she's been in the business for a long time and is someone, certainly from an events perspective, I really admire. I've been fortunate enough to work the last two CMOs that I've worked with, first was Jill Ambrose and then Peter Isaacson have both been incredible leaders as well in terms of making sure that they've got sort of a high level overview of the why in the broadest sense, but also being willing and able to get into the types of details that every marketer really has to struggle with.

NANI: 

And I think that's been a really impressive and important lesson for me as I've continued to grow in marketing, is that we have to be insanely detail-oriented in a way that's almost unhealthy at times, and that no one can really escape that, despite our ... certainly there are scaling strategies that are important and you have to be able to trust and step back and all of that, but really making sure that everything is buttoned up. There's just no room for error when it comes to marketing.

BRANDON:

Nani, thank you so much for sharing some best practices around ABM and events and opening up about your passion for operations and big detail oriented. If our listeners want to keep up with Demandbase and all the great work that you are up to, how can they do so?

NANI: 

I'd say, I mean, the easiest place always to look is going to be our website. We'll have the kind of latest and greatest there. And also, certainly follow us ... we've got LinkedIn presence and social presence, Twitter, as well. The one thing I would also mention, just a quick plug if I may, is that for those of you that are interested in ABM, and this has frankly nothing to do with Demandbase product itself, but if you're interested in account-based marketing, whether you're just getting started or whether you're an active practitioner already, we do have three different levels of ABM certification and those can be a really valuable place to start. We do talk about what that means across all channels, whether that's events, whether that's webinars, whether that's whatever it is. And so getting sort of a deeper knowledge of that and being able to meet with like-minded individuals who are struggling the same way or trying to take their ABM strategy to the next level, really great program to be involved in.

BRANDON:

Thank you Nani.

NANI: 

Thanks so much.

BRANDON:

Thank you again, Nani for joining us and thank you all for listening. We often hear that sales marketing alignment is important, but we also hear how difficult it is to achieve. That's why it's really impressive to hear how Nani and the Demandbase team have engineered their event marketing strategy into a sales approved science. It's in the way that they set goals and KPIs, the way that they prove their goals tie back to the bottom line, and in the way the event marketing team generally strives to shift their point of view to that of the sales organization.

BRANDON:

When it comes to an event campaign, as Nani says, marketing only sees it as a success if sales sees it that way. Now that's what I call alignment. If you'd like to share some feedback for IN-PERSON or suggest guests to appear on the show, please drop us a line at in-person@bizzabo.com. We always, always, always look forward to hearing what you have to say. You can also find full transcripts of the show, along with key takeaways at inpersonpodcast.com. Until next time, I'm Brandon Rafalson. This has been in person, and D-I-C-T-I-O-N-A-R-Y.