It took me a while to understand the power of events and field marketing. One thing is clear — events are expensive. Putting on your own event is expensive — and complicated. Exhibiting at someone else’s event is expensive — and bounded.
But the thing is, the right events, done right, can be magical. Why?
- Prospects go to the top events in an industry looking for new vendors. That’s where they hunt, in addition to on-line. CIOs, VPs, CEOs, etc. They are out there looking for the 1-5 new apps each year to bring into their organization to do better and grow faster.
- Customers go to the top events in an industry to learn. And that’s a great place to meet them. Your customers. And their customers. Attending the top events in an industry is one of the most efficient way to meet 10-200+ of your customers in person. Not just on an Intercom chat or a Zoom meeting (as great as those are, too). It’s also a great place to meet your competitors’ customers.
- Your pipeline will often attend the top events, too. The top events absolutely reinforce pipeline. Using your own event to close pipeline is a time-tested tactic from Dreamforce #001 to today. But you can also use it as other leading events, from RSA to SaaStr etc. Meet your pipeline in person at the top industry events, close them 30-60-90 days after. It works.
- Events also create excitement. Around meeting. Around learning. Around buying. And excitement is hard to create. When 1000s or 10,000s of folks fly from all across the globe to attend a meeting, they are excited. That excitement will bleed over to your product if you are part of it.
So net, net yes events are expensive. But if you are good at events, you should do them. A few other learnings and thoughts:
- You can also put on your own events. It’s not either/or. You should do both. But the top events in the industry will draw different folks. So it’s not an Either/Or.
- Deal size is important. Spending $50k on an event with a $25k ACV is a fast path to positive ROI. It’s tougher to get enough leads at $250 ACV. Even with low ACVs, the top events in an industry still can perform. But when you are still small, you’ll find it easier to get positive ROI when your ACV is say half of the cost of the booth.
- Your competitor’s top events are also a >great< place to be. A >great< place to be. Being there will suggest you as an alternative in deals … you might not otherwise be considered. Don’t fear the competition, embrace it. They are a lead source. Some field marketers make it a rule to try to be at events their customers aren’t at. And there’s something to this, if you can make it worth, especially if you are #1 in a space. But if you are #2 or #3 or #4 … go exhibit at the events where #1 is. Yes, their booth and presence will be bigger. But the prospects that also want to qualify another vendor will want to just walk down the aisle and meet #2. Don’t you want that to be you?
- Some folks are good at events. Some aren’t. Learn if you are. Hire someone if you aren’t. At SaaStr, we’ve seen directly competitive vendors have widely divergent ROIs. The difference? Generally, a VPM, Director of Marketing or CEO that is good at events.
- What works: the biggest events, or all the events. The middle? Not so much. There are 2 general events strategies: be everywhere, and go big at the biggest events. The theory on everywhere is it has the biggest brand impact to be everywhere. The theory on Go Big is that it generates the best, highest quality leads and engagements. Both strategies are probably correct. But you’ll probably need to pick one. And if you do the “be everywhere” strategy, you’ll likely end up with a small presence at the top events (vs concentrating your budget in the big ones). Different ways to do it. Most important, bear in mind generally speaking, the leads are poor at smaller events. The buyers just aren’t there. But the brand impact can still be real and worth it.
- Just meeting 20-100 of your customers in person you might otherwise not meet f2f will have strong ROI. Especially 2-10 of your bigger ones. That’s a reason to do the top events right there. I used to think the only point of events was leads. But as time goes by, you will care less. Meeting a dozen of your top customers in person is ROI positive right there.
- The best partners get the best opportunities. OK this last tip is a super insider one. But if you are going long, be a good partner to the top events. At SaaStr, we have a team on only 8 people. 8! We need our friends and allies, as everyone does. Be easy to work with, build relationships. Learn what the secrets and nonobvious parts are of the best events. And from that, over time, you’ll learn about the best opportunities at them. Most importantly, tell the events you work with what you want. We aren’t mind readers. We can tailor an offering, within reason, to hit your goals. We want you to be happy. But we aren’t mind readers.
Finally, yes marketing is expensive. In fact, in 2019, SaaS mktg is more expensive than ever. But so is the cost of doing nothing. Cloud markets are bigger than ever. Now is the time. Seize it.
You can’t win by saving a nickel or dime. You need to be where the customers, prospects and leads are.
It’s so easy to say No to almost any marketing initiative. Everything paid seems expensive. It’s so easy to come up with reasons not to do marketing initiatives. Especiallly ones that are a lot of work.
But if $1 spent today produces even $1 in ACV today … and that $1 in ACV today grows to $10 and $20 over the coming years … well, that’s magic. And that’s magic that went to you, not your competitor.
Just heard story of first $500k deal closed at #SaaStrAnnual19
And we aren't even done! pic.twitter.com/lbo9uFn3a4
— Jason ✨𝚂𝚊𝚊𝚂𝚝𝚛𝙿𝚛𝚘.𝚌𝚘𝚖✨ Lemkin 🦄 (@jasonlk) February 8, 2019