Event Marketing Folks Don’t Get Enough Credit

With 25 years of attending tradeshows and launch events, I can attest that the Marketing/Events team does not get enough credit.

  • Booth folks show up and find a massive display ready for them to click their mouse and start talking to customers. And when the show floor closes, the staff leave and the booth magically dismantles itself.
  • Execs show up to private venues that are full of style and ready to ensure that whatever is discussed will be better remembered, because of the atmosphere around them.

Of course, not all marketing events are awesome (or memorable) – but I wanted to highlight a few recent examples of how to really do a marketing event well:

Launch Event: EMC ProtectPoint in London

This should be a case study for launch events: with what I believe to be the perfect combination of style and substance. The style came in the form of its Doctor Who theme, complete with an unassuming Tardis (blue police phonebooth) on the outside of a nondescript building, which immediately led through a tunnel of lights and sound that led you to believe that you were transporting to a different place and time. And on the other end of that tunnel, we learned about “backupless backups” (among other things). The day included:

  • Executive “vision” in the morning
  • Opportunities to meet 1:1 with early-adopter customers in the afternoon
  • Optional technical deep-dives mid-day by product experts

Many launch events include two out of three of the above, but miss the ability to tell the whole story by omitting one of the three facets. Throw in a small plastic Tardis that somehow found its way from one of the many discussion tables to my bookshelf of geekstuff, and it’s an event and a product that will stick with me for a while. See my vBlog from the launch.

Influencer Event: Acronis at VMworld 2014

VMworld, like most major tradeshows, is often capped every night with various parties and gatherings. Many of them are in loud venues that are might show appreciation to customers, but can be challenging to find colleagues or have meaningful conversation — with most often bereft of any memorable-ness.

Acronis took a decidedly different approach that I thought was really smart – they rented out the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. Hint: One reason for IT stereotypes like “we like comics” is because some of us do or did, and all of us “know someone” who likes art.  The walls were adorned not just with classic strips like Dick Tracy but modern exhibits from recent definitive artists for Captain Marvel, the Avengers and Punisher. Even those who didn’t geek out as kids can be impressed at the true “art” when drawings that originally appeared as 3” squares in a monthly comic are blown up to canvas size drawings. Pair that up with a relaxed atmosphere to actually talk to folks and a very cool souvenir from a modern day artist doing caricatures, and it leaves a lasting impression about both the evening and the vendor who sponsored it. PS> for those that think that Acronis is just the image-level migration utility that shipped with your new flash drive, you really need to look again (without blinders).

Sidenote: to be fair, Rackspace had a caricature artist on the show floor. But the difference is that there were likely several folks that got Rackspace caricatures who really didn’t (and still don’t) understand what Rackspace does – good draw, but hard to convert into a meaningful conversation. The Acronis artist was simply an integrated part of a well-planned event, which makes the artist less of an attraction and the hosting vendor more so.

Customer Event: Veeam Party at VMworld

The annual Veeam party at VMworld is described by some as “legend….ary,” but what I find impressive is the balance that Veeam makes between its influencer engagement and the broad appreciation that it shows its customers and prospects. The main party starts at 8, admissible only by the coveted green Veeam necklace – something which I can personally attest to being rigorously enforced by two very inhospitable bouncers. But for a few, there was a second small event that started a little earlier, included candid conversation by Veeam executives for press/analysts, and gave folks a chance to really understand Veeam’s strategy and aspirations before their big customer event happens. In this case, the venue-itself may not be overly memorable (other than the smart layout for the dual events), but the net effect and company perceptions will be remembered long after the battery in my green necklace expires.

Booth Experience: Zerto

There were many well-attended and well-staffed booths on the VMworld Expo floor, often with presumably knowledgeable subject matter experts and some with charismatic or pretty people to pull you in. PS, never, ever assume that those two groups (experts & hosts) are mutually exclusive – which I was reminded of while talking to extremely knowledgeable Zerto booth staffer wearing an “I am not a booth bunny” badge and her horrible story of one attendee who insultingly presumed otherwise – and the humorous retort that put him in his place. Those buttons alone make for an honorable mention on this list, but what really impressed me was what happened after the expo closed.

I was in a meeting until 20m after the show floor closed. When I came out, carpets were being rolled up, shipping boxes were being packed, and not a single booth staffer could be found (except for the obligatory event managers) … and the entire Zerto team. They were in a circle, celebrating each other’s successes throughout the week. Having done show booths for years, the norm is that your collective staff immediately become individuals when the announcement is made. Those with flights run, those who don’t clump together to wind down, but almost never does the entire staff stay – to celebrate each other and learn from each other. And that culture doesn’t happen by accident, nor as a one-off gimmick; which makes me wonder how that highly-energized, community-approach must be within the Zerto team throughout the rest of the year … and how Zerto’s customers must benefit from it.

[Originally blogged on ESG’s Technical Optimist.com]

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