How to Fix The B2B Event Attribution GapWhat do you get when you combine B2B events returning to in-person along with better, smarter, and more advanced technology? You have a greater opportunity to fix the event attribution gap, chances to engage your audience, and many other ways to leverage the different parts of this burgeoning ecosystem.
Join us in this week’s conversation with events expert Jonathan Kazarian (Founder & CEO, Accelevents), who talks to us about how B2B marketers can fix the event attribution gap. Jonathan also talks about what mistakes to avoid, how the events industry has evolved, the importance of using personalization in your event follow-up, why first-party data is so crucial, as well as which key metrics and major trends to focus on.https://youtu.be/Mq7ksWpAO-s
Topics discussed in this episode:
Companies & links mentioned in this episode:
Christian Klepp, Jonathan Kazarian
Christian Klepp 00:00
Welcome to B2B Marketers on a Mission, a podcast for B2B marketers that helps you to question the conventional, think differently, disrupt your industry, and take your marketing to new heights. Each week, we talk to B2B marketing experts who share inspirational stories, discuss our thoughts and trending topics, and provide useful marketing tips and recommendations. And now, here’s your host and co-founder of EINBLICK. Consulting, Christian Klepp. Okay, welcome, everyone to this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast where you get your weekly dose of B2B marketing insights. This is your host Christian Klepp. And today I am joined by someone on a mission to create unforgettable event experiences no matter where you are. So coming to us from Miami Beach, Florida, Mr. Jonathan Kazarian. Welcome to the show, sir.
Jonathan Kazarian 00:47
Thanks for having me on, Christian.
Christian Klepp 00:49
All right. Great to be connected Jonathan, and I’m really looking forward to this conversation. So let’s dive in.
Jonathan Kazarian 00:56
Let’s do it.
Christian Klepp 00:57
Okay. So Jonathan, you’re an expert. When it comes to sharing insights, I’m going to say on how B2B companies can drive and measure growth through an event strategy. But for today’s conversation, let’s focus on the topic of the event attribution gap. So why do you think many B2B companies don’t know how to measure if they’re successful or not?
Jonathan Kazarian 01:18
Yeah, well, I mean, it stems back to really the initial uses of B2B events. And up until really 2020, data, when it comes to events was basically MIA. That’s completely changed over the past few years, the expectation has drastically changed. And when you look at events, they make up on average 25%, of B2B marketing budgets. So it’s a massive segment. And at this particular point in time where corporate budgets are shrinking, there’s a greater focus on measurement and ROI. It’s incredibly important that event organizers and demand gen teams understand the impact of the events that they’re hosting. The mechanisms for actually being able to understand that impact, they’re here today. But the biggest issue I see is that organizations go into their event program. And they don’t know what the purpose is of the event that they’re hosting. Some events are focused on brand building, some of them are driving leads, some events are customer events, and you’re just trying to deepen the relationship with customers, or maybe the event is an opportunity to launch a new product and find opportunities to expand sales within your existing customer base. So the first question in determining how to even measure the ROI of an event comes down to understanding why you’re actually hosting that event.
Christian Klepp 02:44
That makes total sense. But it’s interesting, to your point, how many companies don’t do that. I have a follow up question for you, Jonathan. Like I mean, it’s… they’re slowly coming back here in Canada, I’m talking about like in person events, because we’re, you know, we’re, we’ve got Collision going on right now, here in Toronto. What are you… And I mean, like, you know, that one, they put that one on hold for about two years now. But what are you seeing? You know, in the United States, are you still seeing a combination of like, you know, these hybrid events? Are people, you know, is in-person like completely back or what’s going on?
Jonathan Kazarian 03:19
Yeah, Collision is an incredible event, I think they have about 35,000 people there right now. What we’re seeing across the industry, is events are only bringing in about 55% in-person events… 55% of their 2019 attendance. So actual attendance is down fairly significantly. And there’s a variety of reasons for that. One of which is that some people still aren’t comfortable attending those events in person, others realize that there’s additional mechanisms, ways to access that content they didn’t have in the past. But the other part factor is just it’s so expensive right now, it’s so expensive to host the event, to attend the event. And again, you’ve got to get corporate budget approval in a world where your boss is saying, Well, is there an alternative for you to access that information, to access that community that content? So for that reason, in person events are being impacted. However, they’re very much back. And we’re incredibly excited to see that . The biggest change that we’re seeing right now is that it’s not just about those one or two flagship events per year, organizations are thinking about their entire event program now. So what is that mix of events that are using virtual events and webinars and building that community throughout the year in addition to Field Marketing and targeted events in different cities throughout the country or the world, and then bringing that all in with those couple of flagship events per year. And as organizations start to think about events as frankly the most powerful mechanism within the company for lead gen. They are thinking about that holistic program.
Christian Klepp 04:58
That’s really interesting. So it means, if I understood you correctly, are you saying that it’s eventually started to evolve beyond what events were let’s say back in 2019?
Jonathan Kazarian 05:10
Yeah, very much so. Unfortunately, for event planners, they had, many of them had half their team cut during the pandemic, for obvious reasons. And they figured out how to tackle virtual events. Today, they’re expected to bring back the same level of in-person events that they were doing pre pandemic. But tacking on them that virtual event, so their workload is basically double. And really our mission is, if we can make life a little bit easier for them, then we’re doing what we should be doing.
Christian Klepp 05:40
Yeah, no, absolutely, absolutely. So going back to the topic of event attribution, and trying to fix that, like, talk to us about some of the common mistakes and misconceptions that you’ve seen out there.
Jonathan Kazarian 05:52
Yeah. So a lot of organizations just use what I call vanity metrics for measuring events – how many registrants did we get? How many attendees did we get, but the conversation sort of stops there. Now, it’s almost the same way that you would measure the success of something like a white paper. But that’s not how you should be looking at events. There’s 1000s of data points that you’re getting access to, as part of that, that event, that program that you’re putting together that you need to be looking at throughout the entire funnel of your, of your marketing stack. We are seeing that sales operations and Rev ops are involved in 50-60% of our enterprise customer onboarding today, which is, you know, it’s awesome to see that that adoption is taking place. And I think one of the other ways that we’re seeing organizations starting to figure this out, is by bringing demand gen into the fold. So event professionals aren’t saying, hey, I need to tackle this entirely on my own, who are the other people within the organization that I need to bring into the fold so that we can work on this together and understand where the events are falling within, again, within our funnel. But in terms of some of the obstacles that we’re seeing, I mean, the first, again, is just that people are measuring the wrong things. They’re just looking at those vanity metrics, and not taking it a step deeper, not understanding how engaged those attendees were, what content they were looking at, for example, you may have a product launch event or customer event. And I’ll use HubSpot as an example. Right? HubSpot has the sales hub, the service hub, the marketing hub, if you’ve got customers who are on say, the sales hub, in the marketing hub, but you notice that they’re checking out a bunch of sessions related to the other hub that they’re not already using, well, that’s an opportunity right there to have your account managers reaching out to those folks. And when you start to look at some more depth into understanding attendee engagement throughout the event, it allows you to basically build an attribution model on something else. The other thing is just the acceptance that you can’t track everything. And that’s the world of marketing right, we get that we know that. But you can start to think about how to build a model, a resampling model, which, frankly, is essentially what Google Analytics does to take the information that you do have and extrapolate that out further, to get a better population of your event program.
Christian Klepp 08:14
Yeah, no, that’s absolutely right. That’s absolutely right. So basically, what you’re saying now is that the events industry per se, has kind of evolved into this. I guess it’s a… you can call it like an ecosystem, which basically means like, okay, it’s not just the sole responsibility of one function or one department within an organization. But it’s use…. It’s leveraging multiple departments, right?
Jonathan Kazarian 08:36
Absolutely, yeah, the companies that we’re seeing that are getting the most value out of their event programs are getting other departments involved, maybe that’s customer success, maybe it’s sales, it’s definitely the rest of the marketing team. And if you as the event organizer, are training your team on what to do with leads, how to follow up, what information is available to them, particularly in the case of the SDRs (Sales Development Representatives), and the sales function, you’re gonna get a lot more value out of it. Often, we just thought of events as hey, we’re going to host this event, we’re going to collect these leads, maybe we’ll put them into some nurturing campaign, something like that. We’re not acting on that information in the way that we need today. But the companies that are are able to measure the success of that and see it translate into dollars, which helps make the case for why they need to continue this, this area of focus.
Christian Klepp 09:27
Yeah, no, absolutely. Absolutely. So on to the next question, um, talk to us about a challenge, and you probably have had many, but talk to us about the challenge that you and your team have managed to solve in the past 12 months.
Jonathan Kazarian 09:40
Yeah. frankly, when we realize what was being put on the shoulders of event organizers, as events start to return to in-person, our entire focus has been let’s just, let’s just do what we can to help them sleep at night. Events are one of the most stressful things that you can take on I mean, there’s few professions that have the sense of urgency of event organizers, obviously, like the military and ER doctors, first responders. But in the world of events, you spend three months building an experience that culminates and often three hours, you don’t have 10 minutes to wait for a response. So we’ve put a huge focus into ensuring that our team is always there 24/7, 365 less than 30 second response time, so that we’re basically an extension of your team. The other thing that we’ve done is just really focused on how can the software that we’re delivering be there to save you time, you know, if it’s even a matter of, you can download a report and format it the way you need, so that you don’t have to spend 20 minutes at 1am, doing vlookups the night before your event, that’s going to make your life better. And that’s been our area of focus. And we went down this mission of of increasing NPS. We took our NPS from from 7 to 62, over the past eight months with that real sole focus of let’s see what we can do to help event organizers. And by doing that, it allows them to really focus on bringing it back to the attribution side of things, focusing on creating that experience, creating something memorable, and driving results for the business that they’re best at.
Christian Klepp 11:22
Did you say 7 to 62 for the NPS?
Jonathan Kazarian 11:26
Christian Klepp 11:27
Woo! Can you can you walk us through how you manage that? If you can?
Jonathan Kazarian 11:32
It’s been it’s been frankly, you know, our sole area of focus. It’s like, when I started the business, I was hosting… I hosted a bunch of 100-200 in-person events in the past. But when I was hosting the first 1000 in-person event, I was looking around for technology, and I just couldn’t find anything that was either affordable or good. And like I said, you know, events are so stressful that you just…. you can’t take that on. So I ended up building my own very lightweight solution for the specific purpose I needed. And, and ran with that. And that’s been our area of focus since that. So it’s a big part of our culture, and how we deliver and how we support our customers. And we’ve just really put that, you know, we host events ourselves as an event company, obviously using our own product. Anytime that there’s an area that’s a point of frustration, something that can be done better, quicker. We have a bunch of Slack channels, where we just like, identify these things, immediately, we put them into Jira, and we get them addressed. And that’s been the sole mission of the company for the past couple of months. And it worked.
Christian Klepp 12:39
You, well clearly you did something right. Yeah. I mean, no, that’s a really incredible achievement. You brought this up earlier on in the conversation. But you know, there’s that saying that the fortune is in the follow up, unfortunately, follow up from events have have this notoriety to them, right, because it’s always the salespeople trying to like pitch slap you after attending the conference, and like, let’s jump on a 15 minute call. And there was something that you said in our previous conversation, which I thought was so spot on, because again, it goes back to personalization in the follow up. So can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Jonathan Kazarian 13:17
Yeah. So there’s two qualms I have when it comes to follow up. The first of which is that I’m so frustrated as seeing events that have no CTA at the end of that. Like every event should have a call to action. And if you can’t come up with what your call to action should be, your call to action should be getting people to sign up for your next event, right? Do it when they’re gung ho and the energy is there, and they’re excited, give them a huge discount, they’re going to become your biggest advocate. So that’s point number one that should happen at the end of the event. And during the event. The second is, would you have just asked about which is the post event follow up. But that post event follow up shouldn’t start posting event it should start during the event and it should be queued up in advance. So I’ll use an example here, more related to virtual events. But if for example, you’re hosting, say, a 5-hour virtual event, and you’ve got folks who are attending the first session, you notice that they bookmark sessions in the afternoon, there’s a speaker whose profile they’ve checked out three times, XYZ, whatever it may be, you should have sequences queued up, that are ready to go to re-engage those folks throughout the day. Because the reality is you’re going to get drop off. People are busy, meetings come up, they get a call on Slack, whatever it might be, you need to be ready to go and be able to click a button and get those people re-engaged back into the experience because all of that additional information and engagement is going to go into your post event follow up. And this goes back to what I was saying before with the example of HubSpot. If you’re a multi product company, for example, or even if you’re rolling out a new feature. There’s a massive opportunity here to understand what exactly your attendees are engaging in and then feed that information into your CRM, to cross reference it, to see if that functionality is an area of opportunity for that particular customer. And that comes to using engagement metrics from within your event platform. Basically building scoring systems in your event platform based on the criteria that you want to look at. And this doesn’t just have to be in a virtual event setting, this is very much the case for in person events as well. And that’s where we’re seeing technology play a much bigger role. Mobile App adoption for in person events is 3x what it was in 2019. Is the industry stat, not just what we’re seeing. But what that means is that you have access to understand everybody who’s checking into a session, how they’re interacting during the session, are they asking questions? Are they participating in polls, all of this additional information that you have at your disposal now needs to be parsed and deciphered, and it doesn’t have to be a huge lift, you just have to have the structure and system in place to understand how you want to do it. And you do that once and it becomes a repeatable motion that you can use going forward for every event. And a lot of it can be automated.
Christian Klepp 16:06
Those are some really great points. And I think it was something you said earlier, like keeping them engaged is also part of the challenge, right? Because there’s….
Jonathan Kazarian 16:12
Christian Klepp 16:13
There’s so much noise out there. And you know, during all these events, I mean, I participated in organizing events in the past as well, there’s so much going on. There’s so many moving parts, and how do you how do you keep everybody focused? Right. And that’s the first thing. The second thing is something another guest of mine said a couple of months ago, and it was basically like he’s noticed that people are getting back into the same bad habits when it comes to organizing events. Have you seen any of that going on?
Jonathan Kazarian 16:44
More so with the return to in-person events.
Christian Klepp 16:47
Jonathan Kazarian 16:48
It’s yeah, there’s certainly been a regression to going back to just the way things were. And, frankly, I consider quite unfortunate, because there was so much progress made. That said, there’s a lot of organizations that are taking the transferable skills that they’ve learned from hosting virtual events, and using those with in-person. And a lot of this does come down to how you’re structuring your follow up how you’re structuring your event design, and how you’re accessing and using that information, not just post event, but in real time during the event, because that’s, that’s the number one thing that you can do to optimize that experience. And there’s just so much information that people are they’re not ready to act on because they’re not thinking about in advance.
Christian Klepp 17:38
Yeah, no, absolutely. Absolutely. Um, what are some major trends or market shifts? And you spoke about some of them, but what are some other ones that you’ve seen that could impact events? And how data from an event is used to drive revenue growth?
Jonathan Kazarian 17:54
Yeah. So two questions there. In terms of major market trends, we’ve obviously seen this shuffle back in-person events, and we’ve all been cooped up at home for a while now. There’s zoom fatigue, etc. People want to get back in person. I’ll caveat that and say that the people that want to get back to in person are the people that we’re going to in-person events in the first place. And there’s a massive accessibility gain that comes from virtual events. There’s an entire audience that was frankly neglected, because there’s a lot of people who don’t feel comfortable walking into a ballroom and not knowing anybody, not knowing how to start a conversation, what to do with their hands, or whatever else it might be. And virtual gave them that safety net, that level of comfort that allowed them to start participating and engaging. And I really hope that we continue to think about how to build accessibility into our event design, whether it be in-person or virtual. Another trend that we’re seeing, obviously, we’ve had this shift back to in-person. But with the rising cost of energy, rising costs of transportation, hospitality, there was a big shift, workforce shift out of the hospitality sector, you’re now competing for budget in a much greater way. And it’s becoming very expensive to host those in-person events, especially if you’re not going to get the same level of attendance. So with that, and what’s going on the economy, there’s a lot of folks who are rethinking their event strategy and shifting more heavily back to virtual events. We’re seeing that in a lot of our customers programming and a lot of the conversations that we’re having. But the other thing is just to take a step back and look at digital marketing on the whole. Over the past few years, we’ve seen Apple’s war with Facebook, Google tagging in all with the shift towards the reduction in third part Cookie tracking. A lot of people have heard the term cookie this future. What that means is that first party data becomes immensely more important. And just for a quick recap of, you know, the tiers here, so first party data is information that I’ve gathered, because of something I’ve done, I’ve hosted an event, people register, and I own that information. Second party data, you host an event, I’m an exhibitor or speaker, you share some information with me, but ultimately, you own it. It’s not publicly accessible information now. And then third party data is information that anybody can access, anyone can buy, you know, maybe it’s zoominfo Bombora, or it’s running ads on Google or LinkedIn, right? That third party data has diminished in value. So as we think about the mechanisms we have, in order to capture first party data, you know, we’ve always had things like white papers and ebook downloads. But going back to the idea of vanity metrics, you’re talking about a point in time interaction that somebody had, and that is the depth of the information you had, you know that this person might have downloaded that paper. But that’s its PDF, you don’t know how much they read, you don’t know what they care about, you don’t know what they did with it. In the world of events, you have folks who are willing to give up their time, their money, their registration data, and their tracking, all in exchange for access to your content, and your community. And the organizations that are, are realizing that and acting on that are creating a massive moat for themselves because of the depth of first party data that they have, that allows them to build personalized campaigns, and really turn those relationships into a much more human conversation, human relationship empowering the marketing team and the sales team in the way that they interact with customers and prospects.
Christian Klepp 21:51
Just give me a second here. whoever is listening to this conversations… we’ll probably have to rewind this part. Because what you just said, I think is super important. This has been probably like the fifth time that somebody’s brought up the importance of first party data. And I’m hoping that in future, more people are going to continue to bring it up because that’s just how much airtime that topic really deserves. Not just not just with events, but just in marketing in general, right. The first party data. Incredible. Incredible. All right. We’ve touched on some of these already earlier, but like, talk to us about some specific metrics. And I know it really depends on the situation and so forth. But what are some specific metrics that marketers should be paying attention to when it comes to the event attribution camp?
Jonathan Kazarian 22:43
Yeah, so the the other thing to consider when you’re thinking about that is… the marketing impact of your event does not start with the person registering. It starts with the number of impressions that you’re getting, from sharing the fact that you’re even hosting that event in first place, the fact that you’re able to bring in these thought leaders to speak, to be on panels to emphasize whatever mission it is that your brand is driving towards. So understanding and being able to track at the first level, the impressions that you’re getting, if it’s a brand related event. You can start with that. Once you’ve started more into the fold of the actual event experience. Yeah, I mean, then we’re looking at things. Yes, attendance, registration, but we really care about is how engaged are the folks. And the way that we’re measuring engagement. We have engagement scores that are calculated within our platform, but they’re taking into consideration things like the number of sessions somebody watched, how long they watched that session, how involved were they during that particular session, be it participation in chat, polling, Q&A? Were they networking with other attendees throughout that? Were they interacting with sponsors and exhibitors? Were they coming back and watching the content or sharing the content? So it’s really understanding how engaged that person is, and then what it is that they were engaged in. And just to keep things from being too overwhelming, what I would suggest doing is bucketing your engagement into a couple of different categories. So understand areas of focus, and then drive your your marketing messaging from that categorization. So it might be that you’ve got different tracks if you’re running events that have simultaneous content, understanding engagement within each of those different tracks, understanding that people are going to cross different tracks and engage in different types of session. But then it gives you a starting point to build a campaign around that’s not so overwhelming. You might have 50 sessions throughout the duration of your two day event, but you’re not going to be able to create 100 different campaigns to go out. Even if it’s just three, you can use this to build that segmentation that audience and and really drive a much more targeted message that way. One of the other things that we see a lot of organizations measuring these days is repeat attendance from one event to the next. And then also repeat sponsorship. One interesting statistic we’ve seen is the percentage of sponsors that originated from initially participating in a virtual event. And this is another interest industry stat, but 35% of in-person event sponsors year to date in 2022 originated because they sponsored a virtual event for that brand. So it’s a great way as you’re thinking about, even if you’re an organization that hadn’t been hosting events in the past, you’re thinking about developing that event program, start with a series of virtual events, say, Hey, I’m gonna do three events, or five events, or one a quarter, whatever it might be, I’m going to use this as an opportunity to get sponsors in the door, build a following and audience. And then when you make that investment to host that flagship in-person event, you launch it, and on day one, you’ve already got hundreds of 1000s of people registered.
Christian Klepp 26:10
Yeah, well, those are some really great insights. And I think it’s also going back to what you were saying earlier, that the events industry as such, has really like evolved to the point where it’s finally like, introduced more of the digital aspect of it. So there is if I may use that term O2O. Right. So there’s ways to like measure results now that, you know, maybe five or 10 years ago, wasn’t even possible,
Jonathan Kazarian 26:38
Right. And events are becoming a part of the Martech stack and data stack, right. We’ve also seen the the increased adoption of Rev Ops and marketing ops within organizations. There’s a bunch of great communities for that to check out and like the MO Pros (Marketing Operations Professionals) organization, I’m in the Slack community there every day, there’s multiple people talking about how events are part of their marketing stack, and how to manage that data flow, as there should be. And when you’re talking about something that’s a quarter of your marketing spend, there has to be.
Christian Klepp 27:10
Yeah, no, absolutely. Absolutely. Okay. We get to this next question about a status quo that you passionately disagree with, and why. Off you go!
Jonathan Kazarian 27:24
Yeah, there’s been a big emphasis on event technology platforms, providing a studio or production studio, so that the event organizers, the people at the company can do production and add a higher degree of quality to the output. I am all for delivering a higher quality of output. But the reality is, you’re going to spend hours learning how to do this, and you’re going to get a marginally better result than whatever, you know, a standard Webinar look and feel is, don’t waste your time. Your time, especially as you’re gearing up for an event is worth far more than finding an expert to do the live production so that you can focus on the things that you need to be focused on during the event. And the reality is you’re gonna get a far better quality output. In a world where we are competing for everybody’s attention. You’re competing against Tik Tok and Netflix, every minute of the day, you have to have that production grade content, especially for your keynotes. And that investment is repurposable when you go to use that content for your follow up campaigns, your social media campaigns, etc. It’s already polished and ready to go.
Christian Klepp 28:41
Yeah, absolutely. That’s a really good point, I’m making the content per se, a little bit more evergreen, so it has a longer shelf life even after the event is done.
Jonathan Kazarian 28:50
Right. And I say that from the perspective of an event technology company and where we have that studio, the production functionality built into our platform, but the reality is a full time video producer is going to be better at it.
Christian Klepp 29:07
Sure. Sure. I mean, I think also in in another aspect of the world of marketing, they would call something like that, like integrated marketing communications, right. They put everything under one roof. And yeah, there’s not so much specialization, there’s more like a generalist approach. Right? Yeah. Oh, fantastic. Jonathan, thank you so much for coming on the show today and sharing your insights and expertise with the listeners. So quick introduce yourself and how folks out there can get in touch with you.
Jonathan Kazarian 29:37
Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn. It’s Jon Kazarian. Also on Twitter, we, you know, I mentioned our chat support before so we respond in 30 seconds, head over to the website, accelevents.com. If we don’t respond in 30 seconds, find me on LinkedIn and let me know.
Christian Klepp 29:54
Fantastic, Jonathan. It’s been an absolute pleasure. So take care, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you soon.
Jonathan Kazarian 29:59
Absolutely thanks for having me on.
Christian Klepp 30:01
All right, bye for now.
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