In our 2nd episode of Aventri's Event Strategies podcast series, we interviewed Christina Dieckmeyer, the Director of Marketing for North America at iGrafx. In this episode, Christina talks about iGrafx's in-person & virtual event strategy, and how they determine ROI from their event programs vs other channels, their decision to format iGrafx's annual event as a virtual event, even before coronavirus became a global reality, and finishes with Christina's thoughts & predictions on how coronavirus will continue events and marketing into the future.
Watch the video, listen on the go, or read along with the audio transcription below.
Event Strategies: Episode 2 Audio Transcription
Aventri: Welcome everyone to Aventri’s video podcast series I'm John Kearney, your host, and I'm very excited to have with me today. Christina Dieckmeyer, who's the director of marketing for North America for a company called iGrafx’s. Christina, welcome to the show.
Christina: Thanks John. I'm glad to be here.
Aventri: And as we both are here sitting in our homes today, which is a common theme this day and age due to the pandemic due to coronavirus. So how's everything going at home?
Christina: You know, I get to be a marketer working from home. I was lucky enough to work from home before this. But then on top of that. I also get to be a homeschool teacher to my kids now, so it's a juggling act but we're doing all right.
Aventri: Yes, yes. Well, my kids are home online doing schoolwork as well. So, I think I don't know about you, but the last week has been a little crazy just getting everything set up and hopefully we're going to find a routine at some point soon.
Christina: Exactly, that's the hope.
Aventri: Alright, so again, thanks for joining you know we like to keep these somewhat brief. So, there's just a few kinds of high impact questions that I wanted to talk through with you and get your take on. A lot of our viewers are interested in what marketers are doing today, especially given the pandemic. So, we're definitely going to touch on that. But first, I guess I want to understand, you know, from your vantage point, what types of meetings and events, iGrafx’s hosts and really how you think about those events and how you even measure the success of those events?
[1:36] What kind of meetings & events does IGrafx host and how do you measure event success?
Christina: You know, like a lot of companies, we do the typical trade shows within our industry, you know, around topics such as digital transformation or business transformation. We also a couple times a year, do what we call an exchange, which is like an executive level event where we set up one-on-one meetings at different locations with different buyer personas. We also have in previous years what we call our in person innovate customer conference. So, we pick a central location and kind of meet and greet and have some sessions you know about what's coming up with iGrafx’s and with our customers and look at some customer case studies at a big in person conference.
We also do a lot of virtual webinars, you know, on different topics; business continuity, business transformation and have those every couple months and then actually this year I know our innovate conference will actually be a week-long digital conference which will also be nice. But looking at the measures of success for all these events is something that is a big part of my role at iGrafx’s, so how we do that is really looking at a bunch of different factors and kind of determining you know the cost per lead overall or ROI of each event and we look at things like the overall cost of the event, the number of leads that can be directly attributed to that specific event. And then most importantly we look at their progress through the funnel.
So, you know, when do they become sales qualified, do they become actual opportunities for the sales team. And then, when is the revenue actually brought in, so as we look through that funnel and we continue to measure it and we have reports you know that we look at it on a monthly basis or weekly basis, just depending on what the different events and actually follow those specific leads through the funnel to get an overall picture of cost per lead and the ROI on each event, which then in turn, you know, as we're planning for the next year, kind of, we can look back at that and say which ones were profitable, which ones were not and it really helps us determine where we're going to spend our marketing dollars on events and shows for the year.
Aventri: Well, that's a very robust way of looking at ROI. I think you hit on a lot of the key points. So, I guess one question on that as you're planning, year to year. How do you consider the ROI of events versus the ROI of digital or you know any other marketing dollar you could spend?
[3:53] How does iGrafx consider the ROI from their events vs other marketing channels?
Christina: You know we have kind of a specific bucket and amount that we put towards each just to kind of start the year off so yes, they kind of compete against each other, but we also realize they're different sources of leads and each need their own type of budget. Events specifically, I think the harder part for us is we know what we want to spend, but where to spend it. So, which shows are going to be the most profitable? Which event should we host? I forgot to mention we also host some like regional events where, you know, business, breakfast is or things like that and where are we going to get the most ROI, the most bang for our buck for those events because we know what we want to spend. Um, it's just really looking at where we got the biggest return and where to continue spending or even expand our spending, if we want.
Aventri: Okay, so that make sense. Alright, so you've done a lot of planning, you put a lot of thought behind this. You've
set up systems to measure and figure out ROI and etc. And then all of a sudden, the coronavirus presents itself and all of that, or some of that at least goes out the window. So, could you talk about the coronavirus and what impact that is having on your meetings and events strategy and marketing generally?
[5:10] How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your meeting & events strategy and overall marketing strategy?
Christina: We actually just met on this yesterday. Several of our events that we had planned in the second quarter and even, you know, early third quarter are being postponed either to the fall or even 2021. We've already committed to those shows the dollars have already been spent. So, you know, we're just going to continue to be committed and when those shows take place will be there, you know, as planned. There's not much we can do about those, but then for other shows that we haven't actually committed or, you know, signed the contract or paid for, a lot of them are being cancelled. A lot of them are being postponed, indefinitely, so right now, we're really kind of took those dollars back into the marketing budget and I would like to call what we have saved a reserved fund because it's everything is up in the air right now, it's such an unprecedented time. We want to make sure that we have, you know, a little bit of a cushion. We've kind of cut back on our discretionary spend as well. And really just creating that safety net, so as this progresses you know, we have the funds and kind of can reassess you know where it's going to be best for us to spend our dollars.
So, you know, whether that ends up being more digital advertising more content syndication our specific content campaigns entirely possible or whether or not we're going to need to outsource some of our marketing efforts as we kind of expand our strategy that wasn't necessarily originally in place, but I think a lot of our focus and you know some of our dollars will go towards our content syndication our content campaigns and even additional digital events such as webinars and maybe a bigger push towards our digital innovate event this year and really kind of pivot some of the topics on that to things that are going to be more meaningful for people that are struggling to get through this coronavirus things such as for us, you know, our company what we do. I think we can really help other companies with their business continuity and kind of figuring out their processes and how they're going to change based on this kind of unknown environment that we're all living through right now.
Aventri: Well, it's great. And it's great that you can help those that are struggling with that today. So, on that note, who's, who's involved, how are you having those conversations. What kind of what voices are coming into to decide in these uncertain times. You know how you're going to shift and reallocate?
[7:24] Who has been involved in the decision-making process?
Christina: So, we have a very open and transparent executive team. At the top level we've got our CEO and my direct boss, the CMO who is over the global marketing team. And then it kind of trickles down, yesterday in the meeting it was my CMO and then myself, who I handle the North American budget, but also my counterpart in EMEA who handles the EMEA budget and then our product marketing director who also really is very involved with especially our events our trade shows, so it kind of became a group conversation and some of it obviously was predetermined for us the shows were cancelled. They were postponed, but then for the rest of us to kind of just talk out how to best spend the money and it may be a little bit different in North America, you know, then what works and EMEA, so it's really just a team effort kind of figuring out where to adjust those dollars and where to spend and where to hold back.
Aventri: Okay, that makes sense so it's collaborative and you're bringing in you know the right voices into the conversation, and you mentioned the reserve fund. I think a lot of organizations are asking themselves, right now, you know, what do I do with this, should I spend it somewhere else should I hold on to it. So, you know, being prudent and you know, spending some of those dollars but maybe keeping some just, you know, for what may come.
Okay and so next question, is about your annual event. So, whereas a lot of companies right now are scrambling with their annual events, their user conferences, trade shows, etc. You know you are in somewhat of a better position in that you made a strategic decision this year to host your event virtually to begin with. So, for all those out there that are considering virtual events and trying to understand the impact that they can have and what that does for engagement, could you just speak to you know your plan and how you came about deciding to have your annual event be virtual from the beginning?
[9:26] Tell us about your annual event and how you decided to go virtual to begin with?
Christina: We were having problems with logistics to be quite frank and we have a large EMEA customer base we have a large North American customer base in finding a location and time that works for both sides of the pond became really difficult and we noticed the last couple years attendance was a little bit down so we decided, you know, an easier way to widen that net to get more customers, you know, on both sides of the pond and even to expand it into prospects that we're talking to would be to do a week long digital virtual event. So, not to mention the cost savings. You know when you're flying people in and sometimes depending, you know, if the client was paying or we were paying or even just bringing in our own team, because we are very spread out. We have three offices across the globe. So, you know the expenses add up quickly. So, we decided this year to test out the virtual event. It's going to be a week-long Monday through Friday, we still have the same type of speakers keynote speakers, you know, internal speakers, some of our customers are speaking, you know, to explain their case studies and how they've used iGrafx’s to achieve their business transformation goals.
But overall, we really just wanted to widen the net. We wanted to include more people. We wanted to reach more people on the topics that we know are important to them. It will be interesting we’re going to obviously lose that the face to face time with those customers, but it looks like we would have lost it anyway; had we've been planning to do a face to face events, so I mean, we'll look at that and will, you know, measure the ROI. As I talked about earlier for this event, just like we will any other and kind of just reassess, you know, at the end of the year was it as successful as our in-person event because we have last year's numbers and we'll compare the two. And then, in addition to kind of supplement it we've got a couple like regional events like breakfast events. I think I mentioned business breakfast, where we kind of get a smaller group of customers together or prospects and still have that face to face interaction. So, yes, we're doing the virtual event, but we also plan to supplement it a little bit with some smaller face to face groups and then we'll just continue to measure and see if it was as successful as we hope.
Aventri: Okay, and so from that vantage point, I think a lot of marketers are asking themselves, will this virtual event will this concept be as engaging and rewarding for our buyers and one thing you point out that is true of these virtual events, whether or not there's a pandemic going on is just the ability to bring more of your buyers together, you know, just by the very nature of logistics and you know you know even regardless of your logistics and your buyers are out there and they've got things going on and can’t always, you know, take a week to fly somewhere and you know take their time away from their family. So, if nothing else, you're going to have a better chance to bring everyone together and to engage them as a group. And, you know, have them share best practices with each other in a way that you know even if you're in person, you're not able to do as effectively. So that's interesting.
And you also mentioned, you know, this is new. And so, and we were talking before we started about, you know, since this is new, we're going to test and you've got five days, you know, to go through this and learn. So, when it comes to engagement, which is obviously one of the risks of a virtual event. How will we keep people engaged and keep people from getting distracted. How are you thinking about that and I know that that could change over the five days, but what are you planning to do to kind of keep engagement up?
[12:45] How do you keep people engaged during a multi-day virtual event?
Christina: Yeah, that's definitely something we've been thinking about. So, currently our plan is to have like the last 15 minutes be an open Q&A using the chat feature on our virtual meeting. Will have some polls at the end, kind of taking the audience's temperature, see what they enjoyed see what they didn't like you see how the topics are resonating and I think the best part about it being a virtual events spread out over five days, you know, with just a certain hour or two per day it allows us to be really agile. So, what we learned from day one from those polls or from that Q&A or something goes wrong with the session, we can really implement changes and improvements on day two. So, again, that's going to be a bit of an experiment, but hopefully we can find different ways. Maybe we end up breaking it up a little bit, doing some QA after the first half, and then at the end there will be different things that will be trying to make sure that we keep the audience engaged will be watching the metrics you know through how many people were distracted during the show how many people like to turn it on and didn't watch versus were actively engaged sending in questions and really try to make the improvements as we go.
Aventri: Okay, well, that's great. It sounds like you're set up for success. You know, I've been telling everyone I've been talking to that there's a creativity boom that is just launching and over the next 3, 6 to 18 months we're going to see just new ways of engaging and new ways of going virtual and engaging buyers and I think one thing that's critical to that creativity is what you've just mentioned, which is testing and iterating and for anyone out there that's moving into virtual events.
I guess that's a key takeaway is that we don't know a lot about you know how well this will go and for a lot of us, we are going to be trying this for the first time. So, setting up those tests in advance and kind of understanding what metrics what KPIs you're going to look at and then quickly shifting on a day to day basis, in your case, which is probably best in class, but the ability to shift quickly on a dime and do things differently, day to day, I'd say that's going to be true of anyone and any marketer out there that's hosting virtual events right now is to set up those tests in advance. Know what you're looking for and have that feedback loop to quickly iterate and come out with, you know, improved engagement strategies from one virtual event to the next. So that's great. So, I think we've touched on a lot of the highlights. So, I guess last question as you're thinking about this new world we're living in and as things are evolving daily any last predictions or thoughts on the future of marketing?
[15:23] Final thoughts and prediction for future of marketing?
Christina: I think we are going to see this shift to digital stick around. I think even as hopefully this pandemic kind of calms down. You know what we learn from this and how we can be effective and how we can widen that reach and reach more people and any best practices I think will continue and it will be a trend that will see for a while, whether it's working from home, virtual webinars, virtual events I just think it's going to be a huge shift in our thinking when we're planning our marketing strategy is going forward.
Aventri: Awesome, agreed and I hope that all my listeners and viewers out there will take that to heart. I think it's going to evolve I think we are going to meet back up in person with folks eventually, but the virtual event strategy and event strategies and marketing strategies will be forever impacted by this. And hopefully for the better in that we're going to find new and better ways to engage in ways that are more inclusive of in your case buyers around the world and folks in different circumstances. So that's, that's my hope of the day.
So all right, Christina will thank you so much for joining this has been really great valuable feedback that I think all marketers can benefit from. So, thank you for your time today.
Christina: Thanks John, it was nice talking to you.
Aventri: Have a great day.
Christina: You too.
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