What’s In Your Event Tech Stack? Featuring Guru
More than 10 years ago, Scott Brinker founded the Chief Marketing Technologist blog, and consequently revolutionized the marketing landscape. The term “Martech”—which stands for Marketing Technology—came to define the tech solutions and software marketers leverage daily to streamline processes, collect and analyze data, and enhance the customer experience. In 2011, Brinker began producing a yearly map of the global marketing technology landscape. By 2015 he introduced The Stackies, an annual awards program that celebrates how digital marketing teams build their Martech stacks (the different platforms they “stack” together to get and keep customers).
But where do event marketers fit into the picture? Unfortunately, the concept of an event tech stack—or the various applications and platforms event professionals use to boost productivity and enhance the attendee experience—has received much less attention than its Martech cousin. Until now, that is! As part of our mission to bridge the gap between event marketing and digital marketing, we’re kicking off the “What’s In Your Event Tech Stack” blog series. We’ll be interviewing some of the industry’s most innovative professionals on how they’re using technology to plus-size their events and providing a comprehensive map of their event tech stacks. You’ll learn what’s working vs. what’s not, and walk away from each piece with a bagful of tips and tricks your team can put to work.
First up is a chat with Chris Anderson, Director of Community Learning & Love at Guru. Founded in 2013, Guru is a knowledge management platform that unifies an organization’s collective insights and gives teams the information they need to do their jobs. Last May, Guru launched Empower—a conference for sales enablement, customer support and knowledge management leaders—to 300 attendees. Here’s how they used tech to streamline operations and enhance the attendee journey.
- Founded: 2013
- Headquarters: Philadelphia, PA
- Employees: c. 125
- Industry: Software, SaaS-based knowledge sharing solution
- Size of event team: 5
- Signature event: Empower Conference
Team Attendify: Tell me a bit about the Empower conference. Why did you start it?
Chris Anderson, Guru: Core to everything we do at Guru is being outcome-oriented. We call it the “Art of the Outcome.” We don’t ever want to be a company that just sells our software and says, “Great, here it is. I hope you’re successful with it.” We care a lot about adoption and if our customers are actually realizing the value we promise. We’re also growing this amazing community of companies and people doing exciting work with Guru. We want to be a facilitator and say, “This customer is doing something really exciting that these other customers would benefit from learning about.”
That’s where our event strategy comes in—bringing our customers, future customers and partners together in different combinations. We see tremendous value in having those in-person experiences, in building meaningful connections and relationships among people who are facing similar challenges. Events are a great way to foster those connections, and that’s why we launched Empower. We’re well-positioned to bring customer-facing leaders together around how to best empower their teams.
TA: What did success look like for your event team? What were your core KPIs for Empower?
Anderson, Guru: They fell into a few buckets. The first was around attendance. We had a goal for overall attendance, and segmented goals for customers and prospects. Another bucket was new sales opportunities created—people who otherwise hadn’t engaged with a sales rep before, who raised their hand with interest in Guru as a result of the conference. We also looked at whether Empower helped accelerate the sales cycle of existing opportunities and affected our win rate.
We really want Empower attendance to have an impact on product usage and adoption. So did coming and learning and connecting with other people result in our customers using [Guru] more? Account expansion is another important metric we track as a company. So, if you came to Empower and you primarily use Guru for your Support team, hopefully, you left with ideas and inspiration about how your Sales, Customer Success and other teams could benefit from Guru as well.
TA: Okay, let’s talk tech. Specifically how you used technology during different phases of Empower 2019’s lifecycle. Start with pre-event.
Anderson, Guru: HubSpot is our marketing automation tool. We hosted the actual web page within HubSpot, and used Eventbrite for registration. We’re reassessing things for next year, but this year after someone registered, that data would flow back into HubSpot and then would also flow into Salesforce, our CRM. We utilized Asana as our project management solution. And of course, we used Guru as our knowledge-sharing tool and for all of our documentation. We also used Slack heavily. We had a Slack channel specifically for Empower, and every time we got a registration I would do some silly boomerang video on Slack to keep the Guru team excited and engaged. We also used SalesLoft as our sales engagement platform, and Intercom to send out in-app communications to customers about the conference.
In an ideal world, we would have spent more time and done more due diligence on what our event tech stack looked like, to ensure we were using the best tools for our needs, and they all integrated together seamlessly and efficiently. But this was the first year we held our Empower conference, and we had to move quickly. Next year, we’ll have time to be more thoughtful about the stack.
TA: You all used Attendify and created a beautifully branded event app, as well as Lead Retrieval by Attendify. What other tech did you leverage for event management or to enhance the attendee experience?
TA: What tools did you use for event analytics and post-event nurturing?
Anderson, Guru: We used Mode for our event analytics. I’d give our business intelligence person a list of questions I wanted to answer, and the data lived in a bunch of different places, like Salesforce and HubSpot. Mode allowed us to see how we stacked up against our KPIs.
In terms of our attendee follow-up, it was a mix of processes. We tiered up the contacts that people made at Empower, and depending on their tier some got direct mail, others got a handwritten note or a personalized video that was part of the SalesLoft cadence.
TA: For Empower, how did different Guru teams work together to integrate technology, prevent data silos and optimize the event?
Anderson, Guru: About a year ago, we built a data warehouse that pulls data from all of our different systems using Amazon Redshift. Then we connected Mode to build our data visualizations. A big part of the process is just making sure we can draw insights. Not only in terms of the outcomes, but also having an understanding of who came to the event that we didn’t necessarily capture in registration forms. For example, for prospects [who attended the event], what stage are they in and what’s their use case? We have a lot of data on prospects that lives in different tools, and we’re mashing it together to get a better picture. That will help inform projections for next year.
We also really tried to reconcile that not everyone who registered attended. We wanted to make sure that our communications to people who actually showed up were different from those who registered but didn’t attend. Not only the immediate follow-up that the sales team was doing, but also surveys, sending out the Resources page with all the event videos and slide decks, and the announcement we’ll be making soon about Empower 2020. Having those lists organized in a way that allows us to send the right communications to those folks on an ongoing basis is helpful. There are a lot of nuances based on having good lists to draw from.
TA: Final question: What’s the top lesson you learned in your first year of Empower about building an event tech stack?
Anderson, Guru: I always try to bring it back to what was the attendee experience? One of the definite areas for improvement was our check-in process. There were just too many tools, and it was a little bit too fragmented. If someone showed up and we didn’t have a preprinted badge or the badge needed editing, it was five steps [to get it printed]. And the check-in experience is really important, because it’s a big part of the first impression of a conference.
Having an app like Attendify was huge—to be able to fuel attendee and sponsor engagement. That’s definitely something we’ll continue to have for sure—the in-person engagement through the mobile app.
As we plan for next year, we’ll look with fresh eyes across the whole stack. [For Empower 2020], we actually did an RFP for an event management firm. Last year we managed a lot of Empower internally within our team, although we outsourced some parts of it. We’re looking to more than double the size of Empower next year, and we want to make sure we’re being smart about our capacity. [In 2019] our Marketing team was pretty absorbed with Empower. Which meant other projects outside of Empower had to be pushed back. That’s something we want to be mindful of next year and why we’re doing some smarter outsourcing. One of the first things I want to figure out is who the event management firm will be. They’re in this [type of work] day in and day out, and can help inform our decisions around our event tech stack.