Attendee data analytics biggest challenge for event marketers: Kristen Alexander, Certain

Kristen Alexander, CMO, Certain explains how marketers struggle to demonstrate complete return on investment from events

Certain CMO Kristen Alexander

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A tech savvy humanBOT, Sharmistha is a professional writer

Live events continue to be a top area of spend for today’s marketers, accounting for almost a third of all yearly marketing budgets. According to a new research by Forrester, in-person events accounted for nearly 20% of all marketing spend in 2015 and that year nearly 30% of marketers admitted that they treat events as one-off experiences rather than as part of an integrated digital and physical experience.

Event automation solutions provider, Certain, believes that the inability to capture event-based buying signals in real-time to determine prospect and customer intent inhibits marketers from personalizing event experiences and mapping them to the customer buying journey.

Kristen Alexander, CMO, Certain in an exclusive interview with Techseen, explains how marketers struggle to demonstrate complete return on investment from events.

Techseen: Studies show the vast majority (82%) of marketers still struggle with quantifying the ROI of costly investments. What are the reasons behind this?

Alexander: Without the right tools to collect event data in real-time, quantifying ROI from B2B events is notoriously difficult as marketers cannot measure which elements of an event generated the most engagement and revenue. This is a major problem as almost 70% of CEOs now expect CMOs to lead revenue growth, according to recent research from the CMO Council.

One of the biggest challenges for marketers is that they need to analyze huge amounts of attendee data that go well beyond registration numbers — ranging from invite open rates and click-through rates, to conversions not only after the event, but before and during as well. If this attendee data is handled manually, it requires time and resources that marketers are constantly short on.

It’s also difficult to get the sales team the insights they need to quickly act on critical buyer insights, which affects conversion rates. Many marketers lack the ability to access and streamline accurate data in real-time — hindering their ability to react in real-time to signals from potential buyers. Such an ability would allow them to see a clearer impact on business goals, to demonstrate proven ROI, and to consequently run more, effective events.

Additionally, marketers face challenges streamlining the event management process and standardizing their global branding to present the same look and feel across all regional events, roadshows or user conferences. For many marketers, these are time-intensive tasks that take away from their ability to process and analyze the data necessary to prove ROI from events.

Techseen: What kind of data analytics and filters do you use to provide instant analysis of an event’s success?

Alexander: Marketers can view analytics dashboards from marketing automation and Salesforce CRM, which pulls data from lead-generation information and business intelligence gathered throughout the event. These reports allow marketers to see information at a glance — such as the number of live check-ins for an event or session, or after an event is over, view reports on factors such as registration volume, attendee engagement and revenue driven to prove the event’s success.

For example, a brand might have a VIP who has registered to participate in sessions that are associated with an upsell and cross-sell track. Based on this interest, they can then trigger an email that recommends other sessions specific to the attendee’s interests, or a demo with a salesperson. By focusing not only on what event attendees are engaged in, but also how they are interacting with brands, marketers can ultimately achieve higher conversion rates.

Techseen: What according to you are the major hurdles in event marketing and what methods do you suggest to overcome them?

Alexander: Marketers often work long, which tends to result in errors when manually managing event campaigns and programs. Instead, marketers should look for opportunities to automate the processes that go into building an event such as leveraging event technology that includes templates and methods that can replicate pre-existing campaigns in a marketing automation system at the push of a button. This allows marketers to scale their events by replicating campaigns for a set of regional user conferences taking place in cities around the world and changing only minor details specific to that city.

Many marketers today also struggle to personalize the event experience for attendees and track ROI due to outdated technology. It is not uncommon to see marketers still relying on manual processes such as using paper forms to track event data. This outdated approach leads to major challenges, including messy, fragmented data that is siloed from the marketing automation platform.

Techseen: In April last year, Certain launched Event Automation and EventStream as a new software category. How is the success rate so far? Can you name some major clients using the suite of solutions?

Alexander: We’ve experienced tremendous success since launching the event automation category as our event automation technology is directly solving common pain points that all marketers face. We’ve received extremely positive feedback from existing customers, and in many cases, our event automation software offering — Certain Oracle Eloqua Edition with EventStream — has given us the competitive edge to demonstrate value to new customers.

One of our large enterprise customers, National Instruments, recently selected Certain EventStream because it saw real value in providing its marketers with the ability to launch pre-built, brand-compliant, event marketing campaigns directly from within their marketing automation platform that are fully configured all the way from the initial invite to the post-event follow-up. This saves marketing teams hours of time in manual data entry across each event, and allows National Instruments to scale their programs globally.

As another example, Rockwell has set aggressive goals related to upsell and cross-sell of customers who attend their events and are using Certain EventStream to pull customer attendee data into their marketing automation system to send personalized, targeted offers.

Techseen: Large enterprises typically produce hundreds if not thousands of events globally. How well does Event Automation scale?

Alexander: Large global event programs typically host or sponsor thousands of events a year with thousands of attendees per event and often include complex localization issues. In fact, these events often involve hundreds of employees working thousands of hours managing logistics, sending communications, and ensuring events are properly branded in disparate geographical regions.

One particular large enterprise event program hosts over 6,700 events per year. Another large enterprise hosts over 2,500 events per year, which translates into 10 events per day as well as 6,000 manual emails sent every year focusing on events. Not many platforms can handle event programs of this size, but Certain’s platform is designed for scale. For example, Certain Event Automation has a rich feature set, including bulk API, templates and cloning, and single-sign-on, that easily allows an enterprise to grow the number of events they produce a year, increase the amount of attendees they can host per event, and expand the number of event locations.

Techseen: For event automation, how important is it to integrate with Marketing Automation to capture behaviors/scores of the target audience?

Alexander: When marketers are able to capture event-based buying signals from event attendees in real-time, they can determine prospect and customer purchase intent. Without an integrated event automation solution, marketers are unable to leverage data to personalize event experiences and map them to the customer buying journey.

Furthermore, without this critical data, which indicates key outcomes such as engagement, pipeline acceleration and revenue creation, marketers struggle to demonstrate ROI from events. By having data pushed live in marketing automation or CRM software rather than being siloed, marketers can improve conversions and prioritize their leads through progressive profiling.

Techseen: Has marketing through emails become completely obsolete with the rise of other means like app marketing? What do your observations suggest?

Alexander: Email and app marketing are both effective platforms for building awareness and retention in target audiences, especially through enabled push notifications. According to a survey in Demand Wave’s recent benchmark report, 63 percent of respondents found that email is still very effective.

While email is still very effective, we also recommend taking advantage of other channels such as app marketing and including it as part of an integrated marketing strategy. Adopting technology such as event automation helps businesses integrate both email and app marketing seamlessly, in real-time and at scale.

Techseen: You have partnered with companies like Oracle and Relationship One to boost your solutions portfolio. How do partnerships help you in increasing the efficiency of your services? Do you plan to add more partners anytime soon?

Alexander: Our partnerships with Oracle and Relationship One strategically help us provide marketers with the most advanced solutions to build a better, data-driven marketing technology stack. Our technology works seamlessly with our partners’ software, providing the best experience to our customers and saving them time and money as data is flawlessly integrated across platforms.

Our partnership with Oracle, for example, enabled us to create the first two-way fully integrated event application built inside Oracle Eloqua, making it easier for marketers to create and launch campaigns without the need to leave the Oracle Eloqua canvas. Furthermore, our partnerships enable us to deliver the depth of integration marketers demand, ushering a new era for marketing and event automation.

Techseen: Can you comment on your engagement with start-ups, SMBs and non-traditional innovators in the space?

Alexander: We’re definitely getting a lot of interest from the mid-market. We just rolled out new competitive mid-market pricing and packaging within the last two months and have been very active in recruiting leads. Additionally, we’re actively working with a number of smaller start-up partners who have innovative and exciting offerings but are not yet at scale. We’re always looking to add more partners to our ecosystem.

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