What’s the current situation?
Nearly 300 events have been canceled at an unprecedented rate; everything from local meetups to large global conferences have either been delayed to the fall or canceled altogether for the year. This puts event and demand generation marketers in a very tough spot.
Here are the facts:
- According to TOPO, 34% of ABM marketers’ budgets is allocated to events, and half of all B2B marketers overall report using 26-75% of their budget for events.
- Marketers see anywhere from 10%-40% of their pipeline coming from events. It depends on who you ask, but I’ve spoken to quite a few people about it (which is why the number varies so much). This post from Jason Lemkin at SaaStr is a good take (https://twitter.com/jasonlk/status/1236379685497401345).
- The effects come in multiple forms: direct pipeline from the show, brand/pipeline influence on existing deals, and people you meet who aren’t ready to buy but can still turn into opportunities later down the line. Marketers can expect to see 10% to 30% of the deals they are responsible for sourcing in jeopardy due to events canceling in Q1 & Q2 of 2020.
- The rest of the marketing mix consists of the usual suspects: email, content, digital, direct mail/gifting, and outbound.
What will marketers gravitate towards now that events are out of the question?
- Virtual events: Many events will move online. This will be great for making the best use of content, but it will not drive the same amount of engagement, relationships, or pipeline.
- Micro-events: Many events will now be local to small groups and communities. This is a great strategy; however, we are seeing that local communities are also canceling field events.
- More digital: According to TOPO (same report as above), 28% of budgets are tied to digital. Marketers will try to find ways to expand their paid digital, but will quickly realize that everyone is doing that. Cost Per Acquisition will go up significantly for any digital ground they may be able to gain … the truth is that most digital programs are maxed out with little room for expansion beyond optimizing campaigns.
- More email: Marketers will get creative and run more nurture tracks to drive engagement and conversion. But, as we know, open rates are going down—not up.
There’s a complete list here that our marketing team wrote here. But even with all of the above, this still won’t make up the 10%-40% pipeline gap that marketers are seeing disappear with their events.
So what will marketers do to make up the gap?
1. Optimize and expand your current digital-centric programs
Paid digital will need to evolve beyond keywords and display. The best marketers will get account centric and start targeting accounts with specific paid digital campaigns, leveraging tools like Google Adwords, 6Sense, PureB2B, Terminus, YouTube, RollWorks, Madison Logic, Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn, etc.
Marketing automation and email are at the center of most demand generation strategies. Finding new and interesting ways to nurture prospect interest and drive urgency will be key here. We’ll see predictive analytics, engagement, and intent data (made possible with tools like Engagio, Bombora, G2, and EverString) start to be a driver as marketers will be able to isolate audiences and take action.
Content (webinars, blogs, eBooks, checklists, etc.) that is highly relevant and helpful to your audiences will never be out of style. Now, more than ever, this will be the best tool to fuel your paid digital.
2. Lean heavily on your outbound initiative, again leveraging an account-centric approach
They say when you lose one of your senses, the rest of your senses get stronger. That is exactly what needs to happen here. In-person events have been removed from the marketing quiver, and scaling your digital presence is an immediate and natural response. Don’t stop there. Make sure you strengthen other key pipeline generating tactics alongside it.
If your prospects can’t come to you at trade shows and field events, go to them instead. Focus on developing an assertive outbound effort and look to grow not in volume, but in accuracy. If you haven’t already, shift to a more account-centric strategy, targeting key personas within key accounts. This way you can make up for lost pipeline without overburdening your sales development reps and ultimately use this as an opportunity to fortify your relationship with them.
Don’t expect alignment just because you’re looking in the same direction; you need to tackle these accounts alongside your sales counterparts.
Creating Sales and SDR alignment starts with clear goals and agreed-upon target accounts, but it comes to fruition through joint efforts. Allow sales to select the accounts that matter most to go after, and help them prioritize their efforts by surfacing leads and accounts with quality buying behavior and intent. Leverage intelligence tools like Everstring, Bombora, Engagio, and 6sense, and make the data both accessible and easy to digest.
Then partner with them in the outreach process by developing relevant content, concerted sales plays, and follow up sequences. Roll your sleeves up and write email copy. Tools like Outreach, Salesloft, Zant, and others will help create alignment and remove some of the friction from their daily outbounding.
Finally, be sure to mirror all of the sales development conversations across your digital ads and content, striving for an integrated omnichannel approach. One channel should always pick up where another one leaves off, ensuring a cohesive experience for potential customers during their buying journey.
Mature companies that use outbound as a driver and support it through enablement, intent signals, data enrichment, and content see their pipeline numbers grow exponentially rather than incrementally.
3. Direct mail and gifting powered by Sending Platforms
Direct mail, gifting, and other forms of sending can connect your digital and outbound efforts by bridging online and offline experiences. They also enable you to engage with people in a very personal way when you can’t be in person.
This is often a forgotten about, overlooked channel in most marketing toolkits because of the manual processes involved, inability to measure ROI, and fear of costs.
Sendoso automates the manual processes of fulfillment and has the ability to integrate with your marketing automation (Marketo, Hubspot, Eloqua), CRM (Salesforce) and sales engagement tools (Salesloft, Outreach, Zant) to add digital and physical sends as part of your engagement strategy, as well as to measure the return on your investments in direct mail and gifting.
That last part is crucial: Compared to CPC, sending seems more expensive upfront. But the ability to measure ROI has enabled marketers to take a closer look at Customer Acquisition Cost. Suddenly, a $50 send that leaves a meaningful impression doesn’t seem as prohibitive when you realize that the number of digital impressions you paid for to acquire an account can go well into the hundreds of dollars.
Use some of the budget no longer going toward events to run some hyper-targeted direct mail and gifting programs (or a lot of smaller batch tests to see what resonates most with your audience) that are integrated and orchestrated with your digital and outbound campaigns. For the opportunity to connect directly even though you can’t meet in person, I’d consider that money well spent.
And the results are clear: our customers are saving time (vs. sending manually), seeing up to a 60% response rate when sending is part of an integrated strategy and a 5X increase in close rates when Sendoso is a part of the mix.
Some proof points from our customers:
- Liveramp saw a 33% response rate to a cold list using Sendoso as the central part of their outbound campaign (https://sendoso.com/success-stories/liveramp/)
- Tipalti saw a 25% conversion rate from target accounts using Sendoso and a 10% conversion to closed won (https://sendoso.com/success-stories/tipalti/)
- Blend saw a 62% conversion rate from cold lead to opportunity using Sendoso. (https://sendoso.com/success-stories/blend/)
- Tray.Io saw $130 in pipeline return for every $1 spent on Sendoso campaigns (https://sendoso.com/success-stories/tray-io/)
There’s a lot to take stock of here. The good news is we are in a world where change can happen quickly. The bad news is that the same holds true for your competitors.
From my perspective, fortune has always favored the bold. The bold are not afraid to make decisions and rally around a strategy that will win.