February 23, 2023

The B2B Customer Event Episode

What’s a surefire way for B2B brands to grow customer champions, drive cross-sell and upsell, and spread brand love? A robust event marketing strategy will do the trick. Especially in a world where budgets are being cut and CMOs are being asked to do more with less, a well-run event (virtual, hybrid, or in-person) can get you the most bang for your buck. 

Tune in for an insight-packed episode—we explore everything from event planning and promotion to being a stellar host to post-event follow-up with a customer obsessed CMO panel: Shirley Macbeth of Forrester, Olga Noha of SplitMetrics, and Marca Armstrong of Passport.

Speaking of customer events, CMO Huddles is a proud community partner with Forrester’s 2023 B2B Summit, in-person in Austin, Texas from June 4-7th, with expert keynotes, specially curated breakouts, a live band (Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats!), and a whole lot more. Huddlers will get a special discounted rate, with access to exclusive networking opportunities, VIP status, and more. 

What You’ll Learn  

  • How to market B2B customer events 
  • The important role CMOs play at events 
  • How partnerships can enhance events 

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 333 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned 


  • [4:39] Forrester’s customer events   
  • [8:44] Event marketing best practices   
  • [10:50] How partnerships can enhance events  
  • [15:07] SplitMetrics’ customer events   
  • [18:36] The emotional side of events   
  • [20:37] Delivering value post-events   
  • [26:07] Passport’s customer events   
  • [28:46] Being a great event host  
  • [32:57] Learnings: Event follow up and client panels    
  • [37:19] Why CMOs like CMO Huddles  
  • [40:50] Kiss Marry Kill: In-Person, Hybrid, Virtual  
  • [42:55] The CMO’s role in events  
  • [44:39] Nightmare event stories   
  • [47:36] Most memorable customer events  
  • [50:12] Words of wisdom on event marketing

Highlighted Quotes  

“People want to hear from their peers about what's been successful and what's worked.” —Shirley Macbeth @forrester Share on X “Customer events if done right are super great for retention, but also for cross-sell and upsell as you think about other ways that you as a valued partner can help your clients.” —Shirley Macbeth @forrester Share on X “We build events with our customers in mind. What format, speakers, sessions, structure will bring the biggest value to our customers and make them feel valued.” —@OlgaNoha @SplitMetrics Share on X

“When we planned our event follow-up, we asked ourselves what we could do to drive value to our customers and prospects and structured our follow up activities with that question in mind.” —@OlgaNoha @SplitMetrics Share on X 

“As the CMO, you become the ambassador if you see a client sitting out there a little lost.” —Marca Armstrong @PassportHQ Share on X

“Your partnership with your sales and your client success folks going in is super, super important.” —Marca Armstrong @PassportHQ Share on X 

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Shirley Macbeth, Olga Noha, and Marca Armstrong


Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew. And I’m guessing that as a podcast listener, you will also enjoy audiobooks. Well in that case, did you know the audio version of Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands, was recently ranked the number one new B2B audio book by Book Authority. Kind of cool, right? Anyway, you can find my book on Audible or your favorite audio book platform.

And speaking of audio before we get into today’s show, I do want to do a shout out to the professionals that Share Your Genius. We started working with them several months ago to make this show even better, and have been blown away by their strategic and executional prowess. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast or want to turbocharge your current show, be sure to talk to Rachel Downey at shareyourgenius.com and tell her Drew sent you.

Okay, let’s get on with today’s episode.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand, and just plain cut through. Proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing Renegade Drew Neisser.

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers! Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite the top-rated podcast for B2B CMOs and other marketing-obsessed individuals.

You’re about to listen to a recording of CMO Huddles Studio. Our live show featuring the CMOs of CMO Huddles, a community that sharing, caring, and daring each other to greatness every day of the week.

This time we’ve got a conversation with Shirley Macbeth of Forrester, Olga Noah of SplitMetrics, and Marca Armstrong of Passport.

Okay, let’s dive in.

Welcome to CMO Huddles Studio, made possible by our friends at Restream! I’m your host Drew Neisser live from NYC. It’s early in the year but I’m not sensing a lot of optimism in the B2B world right now. Every day another tech company announces a sizeable layoff. Not surprisingly, marketing budgets are getting cut and CMOs are once again being asked to do more with less. At the same time, there are real opportunities out there to not just survive but to thrive. How, you ask?  Well one proven way is to lean heavily into your customer base – make them so happy they not only want to spend more with you, they want to help you grow.  Or as I like to say,  “when the going gets tough economically, the tough get going on their customer marketing.” And one of the critical ways to do that is via customer events – which gets us to the topic of this show – and our amazing CMO guests. 

With that, let’s bring on Shirley Macbeth, CMO of Forrester and star of episode 21 of the predecessor to this show Renegade Marketers Live. Hello, Shirley, how are you?

Shirley Macbeth: Hi, Drew, good to see you. Thanks for having me on.

Drew Neisser: Oh, it’s great to have you here again in the newly christened CMO Huddles Studio. Now, I noticed you graduated from Colby College in Maine, where you double majored in English and French. So I was thinking we would just do the rest of the show in French if that’s okay.

Shirley Macbeth: Oh, gosh, I’m a little rusty, I have to say.

Drew Neisser: Well, if you’re rusty, I’m really bad. So I’m thrilled that you did not pick up on that. But at any point in time, were you thinking, ‘Gee, I was gonna live in France.’ Or you were gonna have some fun with that language.

Shirley Macbeth: I lived in France for a year way back in the day. My French is a little rusty, as I said, but with French menus, French movies, it all comes right back. So, you know, good stuff.

Drew Neisser: Well, I have one story I have to share about a French class in college. It was a French conversation class. And I had not been at that point in time much of a star student. But I decided to sort of memorize a whole series of conversations and then have a beer before the class. And that was killer. I ended up getting an A- in this class just on the oral final thanks to I think the beer.

Shirley Macbeth: Beer always helps.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. All right. Well, let’s get to the subject at hand, which is customer events. And I’d love to sort of get a high 10,000 foot view about how you approach customer events at Forrester.

Shirley Macbeth: Sure, yeah. So we use customer events as a showcase for our product. And our product at Forrester Research is our research and our analysts. We think of our events almost as like our Apple store. Going in person and touching and feeling and learning from our analysts. If you think of that, it’s a great way to think. We think of it primarily as an engagement event. So to really get to see your clients, be able to teach them something new, that’s always the idea that we want people to walk away with new ideas and think about their worlds differently because we’ve been able to help them with that.

We always want to expose them to new areas. And then a big part of our events as well is to create networking opportunities to bring like minded audiences together. So we think of it as a great showcase of our product. And I’m sure a lot of the other CMOs on the call think of it that way as well.

Drew Neisser: There’s so many things that I want to unpack there. But first, I love that this is sort of your Apple Store. Because most of the time I’m imagining these days, they’re getting written reports, they might be having one-on-one conversation, but it’s a lot of Q&A. “I have this question, I need this answer.” Where the event is much more serendipitous, “Oh, I could go look at the iPad over here. And I could look at the new Apple watch over here.” So it’s such an interesting thing to think about it as a increased engagement, exposure opportunity.

Shirley Macbeth: It is. And I think one other thing I’ll add is, we always like to highlight successes. So we use our platforms to do annual awards. And we put out call for entries well in advance to showcase examples of companies that have done amazing things and innovation and we have criteria around that. And that’s really one of the most popular parts of these events. People want to hear from their peers, and what’s been successful and what’s worked. So that’s been another great piece of our events that we look forward to every year.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s funny, I actually watched, I think, last year, a couple of the awards presentations. And we ended up having one of the winners at a Bonus Huddle, because the framework that this individual presented for actually setting up the tech stack and basically a RevOps team. It was really a great story.

So you’re exposing them to the product in a different way. I’m imagining also one of the issues that—you’re not a software company, but a lot of issue companies and software is people might use 20% of the product, right? And forget about 80% of the product. I’m wondering if there’s any of that in this is making them sort of understand or appreciate the full breadth of the Forrester offerings?

Shirley Macbeth: Absolutely. I mean, I think any company, you know, Forrester, like we’re not technology in the same way. But there’s a lot of other things that we offer that we like to showcase as it you know, to add value to our clients. And these events are a good way for people to learn more about what we offer, and most importantly, how can we help. And in those moments in times that are transactional on the phone, or what have you, you may not have the opportunity to bring or showcase that value. But the events are a great way to do that through one on one conversations, you know, different sessions that may help people think of new challenges that they are tackling and then want to engage, you know, so I think for anybody a customer events have done right are super great for retention, but also for cross sell, and upsell as you think about other ways that you as a valued partner can help your clients.

Drew Neisser: So obviously, you need to have a really good content program plan. Which is both educational and ideally a little bit entertaining along the way. But before that, you got to get them there. You got to market the event. And I’m curious in terms of marketing the event, what kinds of things could other marketers learn from you in terms of how you market the event. Whether it’s channel or messaging and so forth. Because, again, there’s a lot of different stories that you could tell about the event. So I’m curious how you pick the story from that standpoint and then how you get the word out?

Shirley Macbeth: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think, especially now, every year is a little different these days. You know, last year, we were trying to convince people to come back in person. A lot of people came back to our B2B Summit event and it was the first event that they did in person. And now coming into this year, I think it’s going to be a lot about travel. You only have one budget, smaller budget than probably the year before given the economy. So part of what we’re doing is positioning not only the events for why it’s going to help them. And especially in this moment in time, how do you choose this event over other things?

One of the things that we think about a lot is for one of our target audiences, Chief Marketing Officers. And if we think about the CMO may only be able to go to a one event a year and they have probably less internal travel as well. So part of the way we’re marketing of the event is not only the value they will get, but also perhaps the value of bringing their teams. So you choose an event as a destination, to not only come yourself, but to bring your teams together. Travel budgets are going to be less. Training budgets, that’s another way to think about it. Your events, can you use that and think about it as a training opportunity? So we’re playing up on some of the other ways to really get the most out of your spend and get the most out of your travel.

Drew Neisser: It’s such an interesting time for events. I do remember, last year, several huddlers were at the event, and all of them said it was the best marketing event of the year. It was hands down that and that kept saying, “Hey, Drew, are you coming? Are you coming?” And I was like, “No, but maybe 2023.”

Which, of course brings us to the exciting part of this conversation for us. CMO Huddles is a community partner of the Forrester Summit in Austin, TX this June. Talk a little bit about partnerships in general and how marketers can leverage them. Even to help from a marketing standpoint, but enhance the experience.

Shirley Macbeth: Absolutely. So first of all, we’re so excited to have the CMO Huddles team, I’m a member of CMO Huddles, and I thought—you know, Drew and I have been talking about it—huddles is virtual, but there’s nothing that replaces coming together in person. We wanted this to be the big debut where, you know, on a US national scale to bring folks together. I think the value is pretty evident to both Forrester and CMO Huddles, and most importantly, our CMOs that are clients of both of ours. You know, how can we use the event as a way to draw a bigger audience for both of us to showcase ways that both of our organizations can add value to CMOs.

So it’s just a natural thing. And when you think about a partnership, you want to pick a partner who can amplify your brand, and then also give added value while they’re there to your client. So we’re super excited about the possibilities together.

Drew Neisser: Yay!!! It’s really cool. I do hope it is the largest gathering of face to face because you’re right, I mean, huddles launched virtually, at the very beginning of the pandemic. And if you said we were actually going to be able to get together in 2023 at a conference of—frankly, it’s funny that I know of this conference from the serious decision days. And again, going back 5 years, this is the marketing conference of the year where folks talk about really getting in depth and coming away, not just inspired but informed. So I couldn’t be more excited to, one, attend and, two, bring the huddles community into it.

Okay, awesome. Let’s keep the conversation going. I’d like to bring in Olga Noha CMO at SplitMetrics, star of episode 44 of Renegade Marketers Live. Hello Olgo! Welcome back.

Olga Noha: Hi, Drew. And thanks so much for the opportunity to be part of the show again.

Drew Neisser: And first, just where are you? I mean, I’m guessing that’s a virtual background.

Olga Noha: It is. But I’m in Boston, and it’s very warm here. 55 degrees, like, unbelievable. I cannot believe we are in the middle of winter now.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, no, it’s it’s crazy. It’s the same in New York. This is just kind of wrong. But anyway, we’re gonna go back to your master’s degree in science. Now that, to me is so broad. You studied at the National Technical University. I’m curious, what branch of science did you study? And how did you get from there to CMOing?

Olga Noha: Yeah, well, indeed. I’ve got a degree in electrical engineering from the National Technical University of Ukraine. Sadly, when I was a 3rd year student, I’d lost my father, who was an electrical engineer as well, due to an accident at work. So that prevented me from pursuing that career path. But at the same time, I still had passion to numbers and analytics, as well as genuine passion and fascination by people. So I felt marketing combines these two passions. And this is a discipline on the verge of numbers, metrics and analytics from one hand and people’s psychology from the other. It’s a big people puzzle. And I believe that the combination of these two sides that makes marketing so appealing for me and makes me live in peace marketing for over 17 years now.

Drew Neisser: I love that and it’s so true. It has become very, very data driven, but the people aspect and importance of the people aspect. Whether we’re talking about management of people or understanding and insight of people to market to them as in your customers. Which is a natural segue into customer events, which are all about people. So let’s talk about SplitMetrics’ overall approach to customer event.

Olga Noha: Thank you. Thanks Drew. Customer events play an important role in the strategy of SplitMetrics. If you’re not familiar with the company, we’re in Apple’s search ads partner and offer products and services that serve as a growth engine for large mobile first companies. So customer events provide us with the opportunity to connect with those current and potential customers, build brand awareness, showcase our products and services.

Our overall approach to customer events reflects two key aspects of SplitMetrics strategy. First is our educational mission. Second is our 100% focus on the success of our customers.

And now, let’s start with the educational mission. There are a lot of events in our nation that are designed for different purposes, tech solutions selection, networking, even parties and fun. Our focus is, first of all, on the educational value from the events. SplitMetrics has deep expertise in mobile app growth, the deep industry experience and access to actionable insights. We serve as a go to experts for all mobile marketing needs, and our customer events are this vehicle that helps us bring this educational mission to life. So that’s the reflection of one aspect of our strategy.

The second aspect of our strategy, and basically, our unique differentiators, this 100% focus on the success of our customers. We leverage events as a platform to establish and strengthen our relationship with the existing and prospective customers. When we are designing our own events, we build them with our customers in mind. What former, what speakers, session structure will bring the biggest value to our customers and make them feel valued? So I mean, accolades to brag about the first, largest, the most well known events on planet Earth, this is all good and to praise your ego, right? But the genuine goal of customer events, as we see them, is to make the life of each individual in the audience, at least a little bit better than it was before the event. So that is our vision.

Additionally, customer events provide us with valuable insights into customer needs and preferences and allow us to meet those needs and preferences even better, and make our customers happier at the end. So this is the approach that basically reflects these two goals.

Drew Neisser: So what I’m hearing—it’s interesting in this sort of consistent with what Shirley was talking about is we’re doing everything we can to educate and give value, and do things as part of that education to help them be more successful in general. And obviously more successful and say, using your product. Those are very rational things.

I’m wondering if this is part of the thinking, because I think about certain events that I’ve gone to. And the ones I remember, are the ones where I had amazing interactions within individuals and really memorable experiences, right? And it might have been a great speaker, but more likely it was something else. Do you think about that emotional side of connecting with these customers? And what kinds of things do you think about for those?

Olga Noha: Yes, and it’s the same for both offline and online events. We do our best to treat each person in the audience as our valued guests, not a headcount, not a number on paper to brag about the volume of attendance that we’ve got. As an individual guests that I want to see at home, that I want to see as part of my friends and community I’m with thats the way we treat our guests at the events.

And when you have this approach in mind, you actually build out your engagement and interaction that way. In offline events you can get it when your staff from the organizers side treats you like that. Or with online digital events, it’s the same. We want to address the needs of each and every individual in the audience. We make our staff available to answer all the questions the individuals in the audience have real time, we’re as fast as possible. If we don’t have the answers right now, we definitely follow up with them. That’s how we make these events memorable for people by treating them as our valued guests rather than numbers on paper.

Drew Neisser: Cool. Okay, so one of the things that have just picked up there and this word I want to throw out is ‘respect’. And the respect of their time and where they’re coming from and I think that’s such a great framework for any structure of events.

Let me ask you a question. A recent interview on Renegade Marketers Unite with Amisha Gandhi, she shared this about events, “Follow up is where you make it or break it.” And I’m wondering what you did, because I know you did this virtual app growth week pro conference for customers, how did you ensure you were continuing to give value after the event?

Olga Noha: Absolutely. And just as you mentioned, let me just give you some context about what kind of event it was. Last November, we hosted an App Growth Conference, which is a unique week long—as its name says—online conference, largest digital event in the industry. We had five days in a row, each day dedicated to its own topic. Mobile growth, user acquisition, Apple’s chats, retention. And we structure the event to have more than 25 sessions, 45 speakers, including Google PicsArt, Squire. And we structured it in a way to deliver this educational value that I mentioned, more than 4 people join the events over the course of 5 days. And they were engaged and ready to step into the discussion. So that was our approach to the event itself.

But to your point about post event follow up, this experience is definitely not less important than the event experience itself. So all of us probably are familiar with the research finding that when B2B buyers are considering the purchase of your products or services, your sales rep have roughly 5% of customer’s time during this process. So we wanted to make sure with our post event for that, within this absolutely short time, we provide the biggest value to these prospects and customers.

So when we planned our follow up, we asked ourselves, what can we do to drive value to our customers and prospects. And we structured our follow-up activities with that question in mind.

For example, we analyzed all the responses of each attendee to our event polls to service. The questions they asked during the event highlights from the post event survey, each individual customer or prospect shared and restructured our post event outreach based on this data. Not just a templated outreach, but we are addressing solutions and offering solutions to specific needs these customers and prospects shared during the event after analyzing all this data.

Another example, we made all the content of the event, over these 20 sessions, available on our YouTube channel. We could of course, keep it gated or even paid as many other organizers do. But in our case, we decided to make all these insights, best practices, real life experience shared at the event, we wanted to make it available to our customer community as part of our overall customer care effort.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. Okay, let me stop you for a second and discuss a couple of key takeaways, and then we’re gonna bring on Marca. So one—and I love this—you knew you had a follow up plan, you were ready for the follow up plan, but it was personalized and customized based on what happened. And so you’re planning but you’re also spontaneous because you’re taking advantage of it. All right. That’s awesome. Thank you, Olga.

Okay, now let’s bring on Marca Armstrong, who is the CMO of Passport Inc. and star of episode 45 of Renegade Marketers Live. Hello, Marca. Wonderful to see you again!

Marca Armstrong: Hi, Drew. Thanks for having me.

Drew Neisser: That’s awesome! And where are you just out of curiosity?

Marca Armstrong: I am in the beautiful queen city. Otherwise known as Charlotte, North Carolina. And I think it’s colder down here than it is up in Boston or New York right now.

Drew Neisser: That’s crazy as well. Now, I couldn’t help but notice on your LinkedIn profile that you volunteered as a sailing instructor. Now, what a cool skill to have. How did you get so good at it?

Marca Armstrong: So I grew up in the northeast and had the opportunity as a kid to sail a little dinghies on a lot of the freshwater lakes that are up in the New England area. And I had a chance to enhance that skill during summers as a teenager. And then I befriended someone during high school whose family had a keel boat out on the Long Island Sound. So he was a good friend to have. Rather than owning a boat it’s better to have a friend who has one, right? So I spent a lot of time with him and his family sailing on the sound and racing during the summer. So I’ve been able to sail both small boats and big boats. It has been a lot of fun.

Drew Neisser: I love it. Yeah, growing up in a sailing town of Newport Beach. I never owned a boat. But all my friends did.  Yeah, I spent a lot of time sailing. It’s such a wonderful, relaxing, and challenging sport.

Okay. Now speaking of relaxing and challenging at the same time, let’s talk about customer events at Passport. What’s your overall approach?

Marca Armstrong: So for Passport for folks who don’t know, we service, the government technology space. So our clients are largely municipalities around the country. And so when you’re working in government, for those of you who have this experience, you know that FaceTime is super, super important. And relationships are paramount to driving business. So for us, it’s all about driving that thought leadership, as well as that networking across clients. Because despite all of the many industry events that happen in the GovTech space, there’s very little time for these government technology clients to actually talk to each other and understand what each other’s problems are, so they can solve them together. So it’s really about thought leadership and networking.

Drew Neisser: It’s such an important part of this. And having gone to a lot of events in the last four decades, I will say that one of the tendencies that events is to over program, big things in the big centers and not give enough time to the smaller things where there is a chance for the people-to-people that happen. But it’s a tricky balance, because you’ve got lots of stories to share. How do you try to—when you look at your customer events, balance that sort of great content and help them get smarter and do their jobs better? And at the same time, let them help each other by just spending some time?

Marca Armstrong: Yeah, exactly. So when you put the programming together, I think the tendency is to—and I’ve been to a lot of events where you just go from session to session to session to session. And then you put your head up and go, “Wait a minute, who did I talk to?” So what we do is we build in actual group discussion sessions where people get around the table and say, “Hey, what did we learn? Who do you know?” That kind of thing. You don’t have to make them super, super long. But 15 minutes is not enough. What we found is it’s more of a 30-45 minute time for people to actually get up, stretch their legs, go find a partner or somebody that they heard from on a panel.

It’s also important just to host dinners, cocktail hours, what have you. And that the people who are there from your company representing Passport, Forrester, SplitMetrics, or whomever it may be that you’re all spread across that event and you’re making sure people who don’t know each other, are getting to know each other. And I serve that role. I know I’m jumping ahead on your questions. But you become as the CMO, the ambassador, if you see a client sitting out there a little lost, you go over and tag their shirt sleeve and say, “Hey, let me bring you to this table. So you can talk to these people. And this is who they are. And here are the things you have in common.” It doesn’t always work. But that’s what you got to do.

Drew Neisser: You know, I think it works like 99% of the time. And the reason I think it works is—so my parents through a lot of open houses when I was growing up. And, as a kid, we were all expected to be hosts. And you just get used to very quickly asking someone what they’re interested in and figuring out who you can connect them with. And I think that accepting that responsibility is something some CMOs might shy awat from. Because not every CMO is an extrovert. When we focus on that for a second, what things do you find actually work when you’re playing that role of host? And by the way, I think the message that it sends to your employees is so positive. Oh my God, look, she’s connecting people!

Marca Armstrong: So I think just the way you start this conversation, where are you? What are you doing? What interesting skill do you have? I think that you need to understand where people are coming from and what their background is. And that also goes in the preparation, right? So if you’re hosting an event on behalf of your organization, know who’s coming, understand, are they a client? Are they a prospect? Understand how large—in our case—how large or small the city is. I might not want to connect Boston or New York necessarily with Lawrence, Kansas because those two are are not equal in terms of what their approaches. But I probably want to connect Lawrence, Kansas with maybe Austin, Texas, who are both college university towns, they’re both looking for ways to continue to innovate. And I can get and go grab that person and bring them over to the table. So you need to have a game plan going in. I think, if you’re really, really good you can wing it on the fly, but just understand who’s there.

And then when you see somebody that’s looking a little lost, and I actually experienced this, with our most recent event, back in November, I was sitting with our CEO who was engaged in a conversation with one of our clients. And I saw a client kind of wandering around, and I just got up from the table and went and grabbed this other client and brought him to another table. I abandoned my CEO, I’m like, “You got this, I need to go take care of this.”

Drew Neisser: And I love that. I’m thinking more about the preparation. And I’m wondering how many folks actually—this is, you know, if you’re hosting an event—actually prepare a dossier on every customer that’s coming and make people memorize their face. This is what a concierge would do, right? This is what a country club manager would do. And this is what they do on a high end cruise ships is they literally memorize the names of the people and maybe even where they come from. But there is a way of taking it that far, right?

Marca Armstrong: There absolutely is. And the preparation, I mean, I have the luxury of being a small—I don’t want to say we’re a startup, we’re kind of in those teenage years right now. But our events are right now sub 100 people. And I work very closely with our client success organization to target the attendees. So we know going in who is coming and who we’ve targeted based on their profile. So it’s a lot easier to handle a list of sub 100 versus when you’re dealing with 1000. But I think your partnership with your sales and your client success folks going in are super, super important. Because I can’t be at every table. But I can—you know, people will literally come to me, “Marca, where do you want me?”

“I want you over there. All right? See that table of clients that doesn’t have a Passport person? You need to go insert yourself.” My product head is really good at it. She’s like, “Okay, tell me where to go.” And I’ll just plop her down with a bunch of people. And then I’ll go check on her later. And she’s holding court and I said, “Okay, I don’t need to interrupt.” So it’s a partnership with your colleagues on the sales and the client success side in advance.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it feels like it. And I think the key is, if you’re scaling this, and let’s say you had 1000 people, it’s not to think of it as 1000 people, but to think about it as 50 or 100 people pods and how you’re going to shepherd that group. So interesting. I didn’t expect to go into family hosting challenges. But it is definitely something that makes a great party, right? When you have a great host, a great host makes a great party.

Marca Armstrong: Absolutely! And I grew up like you. I’m north of New York City, my parents were very involved in the international community. So there were a lot of people from the UN floating through our house on any given day. And I had to learn to pass those hors d’oeuvres.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, and have a conversation with all sorts of different people.

So I’m curious, the events that you did in November, what was some of the learnings that you had from the events in terms of whether it was the marketing of the event, or the actual event, or the follow up event that was a moment for you where you felt really good, or you thought, “Oh, here’s an opportunity.”

Marca Armstrong: The follow up is critical. I think Olga was talking about that just a bit ago. So you need to—we’re really, again, as a small company be really good at the upfront and the execution piece. The follow up piece we need to get better at. And in this particular case, we had an event the first week of November, and then everybody went heads down into quarter and year end close, and then the follow up got lost. So that was a takeaway for me in terms of holding my sales and CS Client Success teams accountable. For that follow up, my team did the outreach. But we can only take it so far. We really need to have our sales folks to do that follow up, engage, and make sure that we have our clients become advocates for us in the future. So that was a lesson learned.

I think from the parts that work really well was the engagement that we had with clients on the panels. Like I said, this is all about thought leadership. So it’s less about, “This is the Passport parking application and how I use it.” And more about, “I’ve got a really crowded street, how do I manage it?” And so putting the right people together on a panel with the right moderator to have that conversation was super, super important. It’s a ton of work going in, but when you get it right, the conversation is really fantastic. And that was brilliant for us back in November. And also previously in the spring, we did an event in Raleigh back in March and it also worked out really well from that perspective.

Drew Neisser: You know, it’s funny as you’re talking about the panel, I was thinking about seating charts and who you put next to each other. But the same thing applies here with a panel because there’s an opportunity not only to get good content out of those individuals, but they’re bonding because they were on a panel together and that creates a different thing.

You know, we’re talking about content in huddles this month. And as we tried to make more out of less and events being very expensive. I’m curious—because you mentioned the panel’s—how you looked at extending the value of the content or creating extra content while you are at the event.

Marca Armstrong: Yep. So, everything we get recorded, and we get permission from our panelists to do that recording. As well as to then turn that recording into snippets that we can use as outbound marketing pieces. So we do that not just with our panelists who in large part are our clients or our prospects, but also our guest speakers. So that all happens on the upfront piece. And then we do direct follow ups to the people who participated, and were there in the room, and we provide those full recordings. But we won’t provide the full recordings to people who did not participate. We use them as outbound marketing tools. And then the whole nurture campaign and process that we go through to say, “Hey, look, this was a dialogue that we had about managing fleets on your street. To learn more, click here or come participate in a roundtable session that we’re doing virtually.” As an example.

Drew Neisser: And it’s great, because you’ve got this audience captive for a moment. And it really helps to think it’s not just that content at that moment, but to think about, “Hmm, maybe if I interviewed him and took them off site and got a quote here or there, I might have my own my case studies.”

Marca Armstrong: You bet. And one of the other things we did for the folks that did participate in panels, we went back—my teams in the middle of this—but we went back and got video testimonials from a lot of those people so that we can use them to build out the next event. We’d like for 2023 to be an event that’s larger in scope and scale. And that was the one piece of feedback where clients said, “I love the fact that it’s this intimate 50 person event, but I’d really like to hear from more people.” So they challenged us with getting more people there. And we said, “Great, we need a video testimonial from you to help us do that.”

Drew Neisser: Perfect. It’s a win win. And yes, and part of that about this conversation has been customer events are marketing, but you have to market the marketing. And you have to think about marketing the next one while you’re doing the current one. And this is what the story about getting the customers to say how much they’re enjoying the event. So just another thing to add to your list.

Okay, it’s time for me to talk about CMO Huddles. Launched in 2020, CMO Huddles is an exclusive community of over 100 highly effective B2B CMOs who share, care, and dare each other to greatness.  One CMO described huddles as a cross between an executive workshop and therapy session. And given how hard things are getting out there, who doesn’t need a little reassurance they’re not alone. Everything about CMO Huddles is designed to be a force multiplier, helping you to make faster, better, and more informed decisions.  Since no CMO can outwork this crazy  job, CMO Huddles is here to help you outsmart it. 

Shirley, Olga, Marca – so are you on the therapy side or the executive workshop side?  I’m wondering if you could share a specific example of how CMO Huddles has helped you.

Shirley Macbeth: I’m all in on therapy, I would say. I’d say it’s lonely at the top sometimes as a CMO. And I love the ability to kind of workshop and think and talk to others. So maybe it’s a little of both, but that opportunity to really talk to your peers is invaluable.

Drew Neisser: All right, Marca, Olga, any thoughts on on that? Or if you have an example. One of the things that, you know, it’s funny, this is a show when one of the things we’re talking about is it’s a hard job. It’s a really, really hard job. There’s so many aspects of it. We’re just been talking about events. And if you think about it, we probably come up with 15 different aspects of it. So I’m wondering, as you’ve had conversations and CMO Huddles, if there’s been a moment where something came out of a huddle that solved a problem or it helped you do something quickly. Marca, you’re shaking your head.

Marca Armstrong: Yeah. Well, I’m shaking my head because I wanted to add to what Shirley articulated. I mean, I came into it and and joined huddles because of the executive workshopping opportunity. I think therapy is an output of that, because you get into dialogues around pipeline discussions, we’ve had ABM discussions, we’ve had managing young team discussions. No matter what the dialogue has been, you always come out feeling like you’re not alone. I think, Shirley, that’s what you were poking at. So one of the things I remember was a conversation when we first started, was just around the marketing automation tools that people were using. And I had made a comment that I ditched Marketo and brought in HubSpot. And then I had like 2 or 3 other people ping me and say, “Oh, I need to talk to you about that.” And so it’s just an example of how you realize others are faced with similar challenges. And it’s just super helpful to know that there’s a community out there that you can reach into to find some good advice and conversation.

Drew Neisser: I love it. Olga, anything you want to throw in here?

Olga Noha: Yeah, you know, and for me, this very combination of both the therapy side and the executive workshop side is why I love the CMO Huddles community. It’s very hard to find another community of such talented and responsive professionals who are truly ready to share, care, and dare. And for me, the community helps to, from one hand, strengthen my professional skills, but also get this feedback and support from my peers. And this combination is invaluable.

Drew Neisser: Thank you, all three of you for this. We wanted to try something really quick and really different. Perhaps you’ve heard of this game, kiss, marry, or kill? Olga, you’re  nodding your head. This is new to me. But I’m going to ask each of you kiss, marry, or kill in-person events, remote events, and hybrid events. I guess do we start with in person events? Kiss, marry, or kill?

Marca Armstrong: I’m marrying them right now.

Shirley Macbeth: Marry.

Olga Noha: Marry.

Drew Neisser: What about hybrid events?

Marca Armstrong: I think you have to kiss them. We don’t have a choice.

Shirley Macbeth: They have their place for sure and they’re here to stay.

Drew Neisser: Got it. All right.

Olga Noha: Well, I’m killing them. Because it’s very hard to design an event that would do two jobs equally well. The engagement with offline audience and online audience, it’s hard to combine.

Drew Neisser: I’m with you. I know some people have made hybrids work, and I know their role. But I guarantee you, if you’re doing a live show, and you’re broadcasting it out there, those people who are supposedly watching it, are doing their emails. They’re watching it with one eye and they’re trying to multitask. Which we all know, as humans, we can’t do. So I don’t know, I think hybrid events are really, really challenging and I have seen very few that have worked well. But that’s just me.

Marca Armstrong: We’ll have to see how the market shifts as we go back to more in-person. I think is probably what will happen. But for the near term, especially—I’m gonna speak for our space—I’m not gonna be able to do away with hybrid events. Because a lot of cities, for example, if I do an event in Charlotte, and they’re in California, they don’t have the budget to show up. But I want them to participate. So I don’t have a choice to make a hybrid.

Drew Neisser: Again, I’m sure it depends on your audience and what you’re doing and how long you’re doing it. But the whole thing about—we’ve spent the first half an hour the show talking about how important it is to engage with your customers when you’re physically together, right?

Shirley Macbeth: Yeah, nothing beats that.

Drew Neisser: Nothing beats that! It’s why I’m so excited about the summit coming up. It’s just there’s nothing like that.

Okay. So we’ve talked a little bit—or at least Marca and I talked about the role that CMO is play engaging with customers at an event. And, Shirley, I’m really curious, from your perspective, what role did you—because you were at the event last May, right? What role do you play, want to play, or see yourself playing in future events?

Shirley Macbeth: A lot of what was already talked about, I think bringing people together being that host in a way, I think that’s a great thing. One thing we haven’t talked about is using those events to get a bit more feedback. So one of the things we did at our events this year is do what we call co-creation sessions. And our marketing and CX teams, not only trying to engage our clients, but get feedback and have our clients be part of the next iteration of our product. And I think that’s an amazing role for CMO to play. A lot of us have customer experience and other groups under our remit to be that voice of customer. So I’d say that’s another great way to use events is to hear and leverage the ideas from your customers in co-creation.

Drew Neisser: It’s such a great point and reminder and honestly had fallen off my radar and it’s funny because I attended a number of events for like companies like IBM and Marketo as an influencer. And IBM had a program where they brought us together to co-create and it was really a fantastic thing. But I’m just thinking about that when we’re together in June and that opportunity to continue to help CMO Huddles become a better experience. Not just at the event but further on.

Okay, great thought. Co-create at the event, take advantage of that opportunity. Forget the current events that you’ve all done that are fantastic. Do you recall any nightmare event stories from the past where there are some lessons learned? Marca, you already shared the follow up wasn’t quite where you want it to. I wouldn’t call that a nightmare just was weird timing. But anybody have an event story that is topical that we might be able to share all again?

Olga Noha: I have—what I would say a funny one. But it didn’t sound funny at the time. In my previous days, we had a series of offline events, one after the other. And our speaker, who was supposed to fly from our event in Australia, to the next one in Indonesia, couldn’t actually board the plane as his Passport expired Friday, the day before. And he could only fly back to the US. We had to find a way to replace him. Otherwise, the event wouldn’t happen. Nobody from our US or European team would be able to get to Indonesia by the time the event started. Because of the time difference and time needed in travel. So basically, we had to fly our newly hired GM in Australia, on his first day of employment, to make the event happen. That was quite an expedited onboarding. But at the same time, my lessons learned out of it is that, for me, events are one of the most unpredictable part and discipline in marketing, and anything could happen, that needs to be addressed in real time. So you have to be ready to tackle it. You have to have a mindset that is very flexible, but also unbreakable. And surround yourself with such team who are ready to tackle it the same way and have the same approach.

Yeah, I have to say. So in the early days of Renegade, we did a lot of guerilla marketing and Event Marketing. And my instruction to the team was profound paranoia. And so I had this role where I would say, “All right, let’s go through everything that could go wrong. And let’s talk about all of those things. What if the electricity goes off? What’s the plan? What if the speaker doesn’t show up? What is the plan?”

Drew Neisser: And my team hated that. They hated that process. You might get 90% prepared for those things and then something else crazy would happen. You know, we had an event where we had put carpeting on carpeting and guess what happens when you do that? It starts to turn into waves. And it only gets worse as it goes on. And this was a one evening event. We came up with some pretty creative solutions. But it was not pretty.

Yeah, the speaker not showing up. That’s bad. But let’s flip it around. Now let’s talk about the most memorable customer event experience you’ve ever had. Marca?

Marca Armstrong: So the most memorable was during my day at Panasonic North America. And we did an event on the intrepid to launch a brand new technology and our speaker was Richard Phillips, otherwise known as Captain Phillips from the movie that starred Tom Hanks. And when he finished speaking, every law enforcement officer from the New York metro area that participated in that event gave him a standing ovation. At that point I’m like, “Okay, we did something right here. Now, let’s go sell a heck of a lot of…”

Drew Neisser: Yeah!

Marca Armstrong: It rocks. You realize that the world is a lot bigger than you when you’re not an aircraft carrier and you have a guy that got captured by Somali pirates as your speaker.

Drew Neisser: Amazing. Amazing. Yeah, it’s funny, I often keep forgetting we have that Panasonic Toughbook together. For fun, I mentioned this in my book, the day of the launch of the first Toughbook 2 engineers flew it over from Japan. And we proceeded to drive a 6000 pound Hummer over it on live television. It worked great. It works. It survived. We made a lot of progress. But there was a lot of nervousness.

Marca Armstrong: Absolutely. My boss from Panasonic, who you know, was up at the bridge of the Intrepid. Which is, however many stories up 10/8, something like that. And he threw the latest Toughbook onto the deck while the engineers sat there and cringed. Because we had to turn it on in front of the clients. And we only had about 3 samples. So I think he only ruined 2 of the 3. We still had 1 that saved us and the rest of it. Anyway, it was memorable.

Drew Neisser: Very cool. All right. Well, this is the moment in this show where we ask, What would Ben Franklin say? Now, you know, we just do that because I’m a fan. But the way I want to think about this today is Franklin would say, “One today is worth two tomorrow’s.” And what I’m thinking about and why that quote really struck me is put the energy into the event. That is the today. That is the moment. Get your act together. We’ve talked a lot about that on this show is you know, you have to create a really good enriching experience that has a little time for networking that has some time for breathing has met prep time for code creation. So one today is worth two tomorrow’s. Because if you host a great customer event today, you’ll have more customers tomorrow.

Okay. So with that, let’s get to final words of wisdom for other CMOs when it comes to customer event marketing. We’ll go backwards, Olga, first.

Olga Noha: Thank you, Drew. Well, my advice would be when you build customer events, do that with this true care for your customers. Keep your eyes metrics are important, but the real success of the event is measured by your customers getting value from it and being valued at the event.

Drew Neisser: Right, give value and be valued. Great summary. Okay, Marca?

Marca Armstrong: Similar to Olga, I would say be intentional about what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Putting together events is no small feat. They’re expensive. And there are a lot of human resources involved to get it right. So make sure you understand. And in our case, with Passport, we set out to provide thought leadership to our clients. So how do we do that in such a way that they walk away feeling as though they learned something, and making sure that they’ve made those connections that we want them to make while we’re there. So just be intentional about what it is you’re trying to accomplish and hold yourself accountable to those goals.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. And what was great about the way you described it was it is a pretty simple and easy to understand goal. And I just think that’s so important, because then you can put all your energy there. Okay, Shirley, bring us home!

Shirley Macbeth: Great. Well, we’ve talked about this a little bit. But, you know, an event is not a moment in time, it is the experience leading up to that. And then I think even more importantly, the experience after that. So the follow up. Thinking of it as a 6/8 year long container nurture, right? You know, where you’re thinking of your clients, the pre experience, what they got out of it, the value, it’s a conversation and some of its in person, some of it is digital, but just to think about the end to end piece of that as how you retain and keep your clients engaged.

Drew Neisser: And it’s such a great point. And I can stretch it a little bit further. When we’re  thinking about this as a content tentpole with a pre and  post-event. And what’s interesting about the post event opportunity is you talked about co-creation, you can extend community and that it just keeps going. Particularly if you gave an opportunity for the customers to come together and learn from each other. Okay, amazing. Thank you, all three of you, Shirly, Olga, Marca, you’re great sports. Thank you, audience for staying with us.

To hear more conversations like this one and submit your own questions while we’re live, join us on the next CMO Huddles Studio. We streamed to my LinkedIn profile, that’s Drew Neisser, every other week.

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me! This show is produced by Melissa Caffrey, Laura Parkyn, and our B2B podcast partners Share Your Genius. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro Voice Over is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about B2B branding, CMO Huddles, or my CMO coaching service, check out renegade.com. I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade thinking caps on and strong!