In Conversation with Bethany Murphy- Director of Global Events at Drift.


0.01: Introduction

01:09: Early life and story – How Bethany got into event marketing…

02:44: Event Strategy and portfolio at Drift

06:02: Thoughts on a virtual events strategy vs an in-person events strategy 

07:55: Studying conversion rates and outcomes 

10:32: Creating awareness around events…

13:26: The importance of having a review platform for B2B events  

Ankush: Hi everyone. I’m Ankush. I’m the founder at The world’s first event review platform and our guest on the Building Awesome events podcast today is the very talented Bethany Murphy- Director of Global Events at Drift. Drift as you all know, has really created the category of conversational marketing, not just chatbots. Welcome, Bethany. Welcome to the show.

Bethany: Thank you. I’m really excited to be here today.

Ankush: Wonderful Bethany. Our podcast, as you know, really delves into the event marketing side of producing events, and putting on events and we like to, go a little bit deeper, into the audiences that we really want to attract.

Ankush: What are some of the channels that we use to go after these audiences? And we’ll come to those questions in due time, but first off, tell me a little about how you got into event marketing. I saw prior to drift and starting right at premier and then Forester, you’ve pretty much been an out-and-out event prof from the start.

Ankush: How did that thinking come about and what attracted you to be so focused on getting into events and remaining an event pro?

Bethany: Yeah, it’s a funny story. I actually went to the university of Michigan for my undergrad and I was a political science major. And I was really focused. I was going to go to law school and actually one of my best friends in college, she had a really good family friend that happened to own her own event planning company.

And so she introduced me to this woman and she said to me, and I’ll never forget. She was like – “I found the perfect career for you. You’re going to be an event planner.” And I was like -“No, I’m going to be a lawyer. That’s what I’m going to be.” And it just happened that I ended up being really lucky. I interned for this woman on-site at a couple of events.

And I just absolutely fell in love with events. And I think for me still to this day, it’s really kind of, you know, doing all this work, coming on-site and being able to see it all come together and see everyone there. And that’s just really special. And ever since then, I actually was really lucky after college.

Bethany: I spent almost a year traveling abroad and I came back and I was super focused “I’m going to find an events job.” And I ended up at Primer doing educational conferences there.  And then I was at Forrester for five years. And moved over to log in where I headed up. The events department and I’ve just kind of continued and been super focused on.

Ankush: I think that’s wonderful. That’s not so common for me to come across this kind of profile. I mean, most of the people I meet, start off in marketing and pivot into events, and then, they realize they like events and then stay there. But just to be in events, you know, from the beginning is just incredible.

Ankush: So Bethany outline for me what drifts event strategy and portfolio looks like in, in terms of the proprietary and third party, and what are some of the key corporate objectives around both of these?

Bethany: Yeah. So, at drift here, I would say we have a pretty good mix of events in our portfolio.

So we sponsor a lot of third-party events. And in my time here, I’ve really focused on developing a strategy for those events at which we, pick one kind of tier-one event per quarter, that we invest more heavily on. And then we fill in with another kind of ties- two and three-tier smaller events for that quarter. So that’s kind of from a third party’s perspective,

Ankush: How do you really decide what is the tier one event that you decide to invest in? As a partner, as a sponsor, what are some of the considerations that prompt you to put this into tier one?

Bethany: Yeah. You know, I think we look back at historical data

Bethany: So, we look back and see what events have performed well in the past, that’s harder now given we had two year period where events obviously drastically changed. My team partners really closely, with our demand gen team. So we really try to align our events to campaigns that the demand gen team is running.

So, what targets are they focused on for that quarter, what’s the attendee profile like etc? We look a lot at the prospects. We have conversations with the folks from the show site, and really try to figure out. what’s a good fit and it’s hard. There are a lot of shows out there.

It’s certainly hard, but you know, we know our attendee demographic, we know our focus and we kind of try to figure out what investment is going to give us the most ROI at the end of the day.

Ankush: Yeah. That’s about the third-party events, I suppose.

Bethany: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say.

You know, Drift was really ahead of the game and shifted super-fast into the virtual event world when COVID hit. Starting April 2020, and every quarter since Drift has hosted a virtual event. And, we did not do one in Q2. So Q2 was the first quarter that we did not.

But we’d seen really good success with the virtual events. I mean, we were getting thousands and thousands of people to register, I think over time. That started to change.

Ankush: Yeah, initially it was a novel thing. And everybody’s like, you know, I can wear my pajamas and watch all of this wonderful content, and then they’re like, oh not another one.

Bethany: Exactly. Exactly. And, you know, I kept kind of saying that, right? Like the virtual event, fatigue is a real thing. And we really need to focus on the kind of shifting away, so we did rely pretty heavily on virtual from a demand gen perspective throughout.

We also are really trying to spin up more field events. So during COVID we again did kind of a virtual, not always wine tasting, but events like that.  Kind of a V I P virtual event and we had success from the beginning. I think again, people felt like- “how much wine and cheese can I do virtually.”

So we’re really looking at the kind of shifting those to in-person events moving forward. And working closely with sales, to identify, key customers and prospects to attend that kind of high-ticket event.

Ankush: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I think we’ve already covered some of this, but we are now a couple of years into the whole virtual event scenario as you yourself just mentioned. And how would you now view a virtual strategy versus an in-person strategy what’s your go-to, and for what reasons?

Bethany: I think the key question these days, right? You know, I think for me, obviously, I’m an events person, so I love in-person events and I will always kind of hedge toward the importance of in-person events. With that said, at Drift at least, we’ve been able to substantially extend our reach through virtual events. You know, again, we got thousands and thousands of people to register. We wouldn’t have gotten that at an in-person event. I think I’ve been a little hesitant to do kind of true hybrid events because I think unless you have a lot of money and a lot of time, that’s really hard to please two audiences at one time.

Right? So, what we did is we hosted an in-person event in March in Miami. We had great keynotes, and external keynote speakers. We had our own Drift executives speak. We recorded a lot of the content from that event. And then a month later we kind of reproduced a virtual event using some of that content but also integrating some new live content, a live post, just again, to try to bring interactivity to the event. So, I do think there’s still a place for virtual. I think a lot of people still are not comfortable traveling. I think what’s really hard is, is replicating the engagement from an in-person event to a virtual event.

And so I just don’t think in-person events are going to go away. Sure. Like maybe they’ll become smaller and more regional and more targeted. I think people will need more of a reason to go, but I think there still will be a place for virtual, for the foreseeable future.

Ankush: Absolutely. And since you mentioned that you’ve had so much success with virtual events, you’ve probably collected a ton of data from these events about, people’s attendance and preferences. And so has anything really surprised you from that? Has anything really jumped out from the data and said- I really didn’t expect that!

Bethany: I don’t think so.

I think as we’ve kind of talked about, and as has been expected, our conversion rates, which I watch really closely, like our registration to attendance rates have been steadily declining. I do think, and it does kind of still surprise me when I attend even our own virtual events.

Like there’s some people that are gung-ho, they’re in the chat, they’re commenting, they’re answering the questions. They’re at the polls. Right. They’re really engaging, with the event content. And I think. That’s rare these days. And I think for us as event professionals, we really need to find ways to kind of bring out that engagement and, continue to kind of redefine what virtual events are moving forward to just kind of keep that engagement going.

Ankush: Absolutely. And the next question is something that we just have to ask and, you know, there are some people who’ve declined to answer. There are some who answered openly. From a tech perspective, just because there are now of like a gazillion tech platforms out there. And I’m sure you’ve, you’ve been at the receiving end of a lot of these pitches. What’s the one that, you’ve come to rely on the most for your virtual events?

Bethany: Yeah. There is a gazillion out there, right? Yeah. I would say none of them are perfect. At, at drift, we use a gold cast. And they’re a really, really good partner of ours. They integrate with the drift technology, which is super important for us, obviously.

Just having that. We partner really closely with their product team. They’re a Boston-based company, which…

Ankush: Yeah, I know Kishore. I think he’ll be super happy and thrilled to hear that. Right.

Bethany: Yeah, he’s awesome. And the team has been really, really great to us and the platform, it does what we needed to do, you know? They’re continually making product improvements, allowing for cool integrations into the platform for games and photo booths, things like that.

Ankush: And are you involved, you know, are you and your team involved with that process? You give them that feedback that, you should have this and you should have that as well.

Bethany: We do. We do- Sarah who works on my team works really, really closely with the gold cast team. I always joke that they’re going to steal her to be like a product manager over there. I recently joined Goldcast as an advisor, so we really do partner closely with them. And, and they’ve been a great partner for us in this crazy time.

Ankush: Yeah. Well, well done. Kishore. Well done. Gold cast.  So let’s now come to, you know, the marketing part of event marketing in terms of traditional marketing, how do you really create awareness for your events? What are some of the channels that you think work best around audience acquisition or working your demand pipeline? Is this a cross-functional activity? How, how involved are you?  

Bethany: Yes. I mean, certainly a cross-functional activity. You know, my team works really closely with the demand gen team, the digital team, and we pretty much rely on every channel out there. Right. We use email, organic search pages, social, right.

Bethany: Everything you could possibly think of. Yeah. What I would say, you know, we’ve seen the best success with is email. Our emails drive a really good percentage. I’m just kind of looking at historical data, like yeah. Close to 25% of our registrations come from our emails, which is pretty good. I would say, you know, you

Ankush: would want to give a shout-out to your copywriter.

Ankush: I bet at this point we

Bethany: It’s true. We drift have, have a brand, right. And the brand comes across in, in the copy. And I think they do our team does a great, great job with that and partners. We rely really, really heavily on our partner network and they’ve been amazing in helping us drive a pretty significant.

Bethany: Yeah. Looking at some events close to 60% of our registrations come from partner-driven registrations. Wow. That’s amazing. Yeah. So that’s been a huge source of registrations for us.

Ankush: Right, right. Bethany, you know, the next question is really around your experience as a leader, as a manager, if someone, what you join your team what are some of the key attributes you’ll be looking for?

Ankush: Right. I mean, it’s you know, it’s a difficult time for all of us. It’s a challenging time. There are so many opportunities out there. You know, what, what really works for you? I mean, how, how does your mind really process that?

Bethany: I think two things, you know, number one is a passion for the events industry. I, you know, as we talked about, I have 20 years of experience in the industry.

Bethany: I can’t imagine doing anything else. And I. Only want people on my team that shares the love for the industry that I have. Yeah. And I would say two is really around kind of organizational skills. Mm-hmm like, I, I was saying to someone the other day, I’m like a mix of like the home edit and Marie condo for events, right?

Bethany: Yeah. Like I’m super OCD. Everything is really organized and you can’t. Teach that like, I can’t teach someone how to play. I can’t teach someone organization. Right. It’s just, it’s just something that like you can kind of, you have, or you don’t. And so I think for me, that’s like absolutely number one. And I always ask, that in an interview, how do you organize yourself?

Bethany: How do you organize your files? How do you organize? Cause like I need someone who’s.

Ankush: So, for anyone watching right. And wants to get in touch with Bethany, you know, before I’m, if you’re not organized, give me right. Yeah. If, if you’re not organized, don’t even try. Right.

Ankush: Finally, Beth, you know that you know what, what we are trying to create, what we’ve created is a world’s first review platform for B2B events. And our goal has been to help event marketers, further their brands through the power of social proof. You know, it’s something that, you know, everybody knows is, is around us.

Ankush: Right. But doesn’t really get, you know, the attention it deserves, I think sometimes and community marketing. What does social proof mean to you? How important has, has that been in your arsenal and you, do you really think that your attendees care about it?

Bethany: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s interesting and we’ve kind of had, we’ve had a couple of conversations before.

Bethany: Yeah. You know, cause now I

Ankush: think, you know, and what we can do and what I would like you to do is really juxtapose social proof. And whether you attend care about it, What is the, you know, giant brand that drift has become, right. So we know that, you know, you have a certain ease with which you can market your events because drift already the brand is doing some of the work for you.

Ankush: Right. So is that all those attendees would care about is, you know, signing up for an event by this, you know, wonderful brand, or do you think that they would still like to hear what other previous attendees have.

Bethany: Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting. You are right. We’re, you know, we’re lucky here at drift that we’ve, we’ve built a brand over the years and our events have become kind of, you know, known in the tech industry.

Bethany: Yeah. That said, I mean, if you think about it, everything has been reviewed these days. Right? Right. Like I was just looking for something for my daughter on Amazon. And there were like 31,000 reviews for these silly Littlerock gits thing that she wants. Right. Everything is reviewed. And I think it’s interesting, I think, as an attendee now, and we kind of touched on this.

Bethany: There has to be a reason more than ever to go to in-person events. Right. Right. Because the content is available in, in many other ways now. Right. And I think reviews play into that. Right? Yeah. Like if I were traveling for an event, I would want to know like, is this event worthwhile? Right. Right. And, and how do I justify this to my boss and my boss’s boss?

Bethany: Right. Absolutely. To get the money to, because again, it’s the expense. More than ever to travel now. And so I think it’s, it’s a very interesting concept, right.

Ankush: You know, earlier a lot of event organizers earlier, just to just a little bit onto what you said. Everyone used to put up this one-page PDF, you know, take this to your boss, print it out.

Ankush: This is how you justify it. Right. But I think that and that’s crazy. I mean, this is, this is probably a better way of doing it. Like, you know look at our page on this site. Right? Look at all the reviews that we’ve gotten. Look at all these people just like me. Do you know what they’re saying? I think that makes much

Bethany: More sense.

Bethany: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Right. It was like, you know, print your PDF. And I still think that does it, that, I mean,

Ankush: every time I would visualize somebody walking with one page into the manager, something, let me go into this event. Right.

Bethany: It’s pretty crazy. Exactly. And, and selfishly, like as a planner. Yeah. You know, I want to know what people have to say about my event and how I can improve and, you know, continuously find ways.

Bethany: To improve moving forward. I think it’s really a, is a great concept. And, and one that I expect will kind of take off again, given like everything, everything has a review,

Ankush: so why not? Right. Why not events? Yeah. Yes. I think Bethany you know, thank you very much for those words.

Ankush: And on, on that note, you know, I think this is the. It was lovely having you on the show. I think we had a lot of useful nuggets, a lot of information, and a lot of experience being shared. I hope our viewers found it useful. And thank you, for now, Bethany. I hope to do this again soon.

Bethany: Yes, it was great speaking with you.

Bethany: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

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