A lot can happen when it’s a live event. Some things you can prep & plan for, but others … not so much. Live events are unpredictable but always encompass two things: a) the event dates don’t change and b) you need a plan A, plan B, and at least a plan C, for when something doesn’t go accordingly to plan. Not only is this true for us here at SaaStr as the hosts of the largest B2B SaaS community conference on the planet— SaaStr Annual, but it’s true for our sponsors.
Take sales intelligence platform, Dooly, for example. They had incredible ROI from this year’s SaaStr Annual, including a brand re-launch on-site and meeting hundreds of new prospects, but some things didn’t go according to plan. They had a last-minute speaker switch for their session, they had to swap team members who couldn’t travel last minute, and they had to rally their entire team behind creating collateral and product features in time for the live event.
Here are some of their top takeaways and techniques they shared with us for creating an impactful live event strategy.
Live events are a forcing function for your entire team, not just sales, and marketing.
Mark Jung, VP of Marketing for Dooly, told us that “having a forcing function is one of the best things you can do as a leader and within a business. Saying we were going to launch our brand and bring it to market at SaaStr… we were showing up and we were launching a new brand. So it had to happen. It really galvanized all the teams between product and engineering, customer success, sales, and marketing, behind one unified goal.”
At SaaStr, both internally and with our partners, we’ve heard this again and again, and it’s a great reminder. The dates of the event don’t change or wait for anyone, so rallying your team behind one common goal acts as a forcing function to make the deadline is quite powerful. It can make your team all the more stronger for it once the milestone, or event, in this case, has been achieved.
Visit your customers, wherever they are. Go to the events they’re going to.
We asked Dooly why they decided to not only attend, but also exhibit at SaaStr. Mark answered, “We’re in SaaS. A lot of our customers are the Cloud 100, the post IPO, the Intercoms, the Airtables, the Asanas, the Vidyards, and so forth who are at SaaStr. We knew that our customers would be at SaaStr and it would be an exciting moment for not only us to launch our product to the public, but also to loop them in beforehand and have a celebratory moment where we could finally get together in person and really get together and celebrate.”
When it comes to live events, expect the unexpected.
Zoë Hartsfield, Community Manager at Dooly got into the technical details with us when we asked what didn’t go according to plan? “You have to have a plan A through Z,” Zoë said. “Nothing is ever going to go exactly the way that you plan it. You want it to, but when does that ever happen? So the ability to pivot very quickly to solve problems on the fly is super important in our team. The outcome was what we wanted, but the path to get there was not exactly perfectly linear, but we accomplished the goals that we set out to. And it was so fun, such a good experience.”
Mark added: “We had some third-party vendors that delivered a lot of what we needed for the event to a completely wrong location. So we had hundreds and hundreds of packages that were just not in the right spot when they needed to be. We had some folks on the team that got sick, plans changed. Our keynote speaker wasn’t able to come, so we had to pull a last-minute audible and pull something different together. Have plans A through C at least as a starting point lined up and invest time accordingly. Don’t put eight hours into plan C, but have something on paper as, if this happens, then X. Think Zapier. You want to have this workflow out for all of the key variables, as long as it’s not a two-way door. If you can go back and fix it, all good, but if you can’t, you’re going to do this other thing and pivot.”
On how to achieve real ROI from a live event:
This point from Zoë rings home: “The energy of the SaaStr is totally different than any virtual event I’ve been to in the last year. Definitely double down on the surprise and delight moments. There’s so much going on at the conference itself, and you’ve brought so many interesting people together. Your prospects, your customers. Have a game plan really, really tight in advance. Ask yourself, how are we going to have the partnerships team approach partners? Are we going to set up meetings in advance? Are the sales teams researching their accounts in advance of going to SaaStr? Who’s going to be there? Are you setting up meetings with those people? And should do that in a way that’s interesting, not just ‘can I have 15 minutes of your time? I’m going to come here, let’s chat.’ Can you do something more delightful? And Mark can actually speak to this in more detail, but yeah, I think we would double down on sort of those offsite events, because SaaStr has done such a great job bringing everyone together, it’s on us to make that count.”
Mark added: “I was really surprised by how engaged people were, not only at the SaaStr event but in the morning and the evenings after. So what we kind of call the golden hours, after the event’s wrapped up, the post-party, that type of stuff, from eight until midnight, people were really actively engaged, going to (side) events. And wherever you were in the radius, even 15 minutes outside of SaaStr, we would come across groups of people. And that really surprised me. And coming back, I was looking at what where we’d double down and what I would do again. We hosted a really fun karaoke party and we had standing room only and it was a packed house. It was great, but I (originally) wasn’t sure what engagement would look like. I would hands-down plan something days one through three, and potentially even before and after, knowing how people stuck around.”
“Create as much focus as you can. So, because this was our first true event, we had never done field marketing, we didn’t know what would resonate with the SaaStr audience. We were doing LinkedIn headshots at our booth. We had a sweepstakes activation with the Chainsmokers. We had hot sauce tasting, swag, all these fun things going on. But when I look at the brands that have tested (this) through the years, it’s come down to having one core activation that’s simple, that’s memorable, that’s striking.
SaaStr is a multi-day event. Don’t just flash in the pan once. Think about something that can evolve where it’s like, hey, how do I get someone by my booth on day one? How do I make sure they come back on day two? How do I make them come back and bring people on day three?
Think about something that does that and ties back to your story. So I wouldn’t say don’t pitch your product. Create an experience. But think about a story and an activation that links back to, when people remember Dooly, what are they going to be thinking about? And how do I make sure that that memory lasts?”
Listen to the full podcast interview with the Dooly team below: