The Business of Meetings – Episode 118 – Events Marketing and Data with Jonathan Kazarian
Today, we have the great pleasure of speaking with Jon Kazarian, the Founder, and CEO of Accelevents!
In this episode, we talk about data, entrepreneurship, marketing, the role of events in marketing, and opportunities for the future of our industry.
We hope you enjoy listening to our conversation with Jon Kazarian today!
Jonathan Kazarian is the Founder & CEO of Accelevents, a leading virtual and hybrid event management platform recently recognized by Inc. 5000 as one of the top 200 fastest-growing private companies in America.
As CEO, Jon focuses on leading the company’s vision of helping event organizers and marketing professionals transform their events through innovative technology solutions.
As an industry thought leader, Jon actively publishes insights on the events landscape and frequently speaks at industry events such as EventMB’s Event Tech Innovation Summit, BizBash Live, and INBOUND.
Jon also chairs the board for the Fall Formal fundraiser benefiting the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Outside of work, Jon has a passion for anything on-water — sailing, boating, scuba diving, and kiteboarding.
Jonathan Kazarianstarted hosting events while in college. After finding out that his seventeen-year-old cousin had been diagnosed with cancer, he decided to host an event at the Boston Aquarium to raise some money to help her. He needed to sell 185 tickets to break even, and he sold 840! Going into that event, Jonathan knew that to raise the most money he could from running an auction and a raffle, he needed to do it digitally. However, he struggled to find an affordable and easy-to-use technical solution. After realizing that there was nothing available to make life easier, he and his team decided to build their own. It worked well! They got great feedback and raised about $65,000.
Launching a business
They realized that they could offer their technology to other similar organizations, so they decided to launch a business around it. Initially, they focused on fundraising.
Everything under one roof
Later, they learned that the organizers wanted to have everything, including ticketing and payment processing, in one place. So they began to focus more on for-profit events like festivals, conferences, and trade shows. They kept on growing and doubling, year after year, but they were still small, and Jonathan was still working full-time at another job.
Approaching 2020, Jonathan intended to go into the business full-time, but, unfortunately, the world shut down. They were a bootstrapped business, so when all the events got canceled, they ran out of money.
Jonathan’s father invested $75,000 in the business. That allowed them to pivot and focus on virtual events. Things started to accelerate, and they closed out 2020 at 3.3-million dollars in revenue. That was ten times more than they had done in 2019!
At that point, they began to focus solely on conferences. Their events ranged from hundreds of people to tens of thousands.
They ensured that everyone, including the organizers, exhibitors, and sponsors, was getting value. As a result of them focusing on the other stakeholders as part of the experience, those stakeholders naturally approached Jonathan’s company when it was time to host their events.
The mission of Accelevents is to make life easier for event organizers. Over the past year or so, they doubled down on their main product and focused mainly on the user experience.
The various elements
They provide all the technology needed for an organizer to host an online, hybrid, or in-person experience. They provide everything from badge printing to check-in to lead capture for exhibitors in the in-person world to the entire venue for the virtual experience.
They also have fundraising technology focused on auctions, raffles, fund-to-need, and text-to-give.
A feedback loop
They built a powerful feedback loop to help them understand the needs of their customers and ensure that they focus on the right developments.
It is vital to understand the customer when it comes to marketing.
The reduction in third-party cookie tracking has led to first-party data becoming much more important. All first-party information does, however, is to tell you about singular actions taken by someone. With an event experience, a lot of information gets gathered about each attendee that can be used in your ads, in your targeting and building your audience, and in the way in which you communicate and personalize your messaging with your audience.
To build a brand and establish your presence, you need more than ads. You need to be there, build experiences, and bring opportunities for people to connect within the industry. Events- either digital or in person, are the best way to do that.
Events are expensive, so virtual events are a good way for people to ease their way into hosting in-person events. Hosting virtual events can help people to build their connections with speakers and sponsors. Then, when they are ready to host an in-person event, those people will already be part of their ecosystem.
Even though there are many opportunities for how event data can get used after an event, there is still a gap in how the data gets used during the event to improve the experience. The people who got that right have been creating some very successful experiences!
An opportunity to re-market to your attendees
If your platform has real-time tracking in place, you can quickly adjust the experience, either in-person or virtually. For example, if you have a speaker who gets a lot of engagement, ask them to host a workshop later that day to re-engage your audience.
Getting increased engagement at virtual events
It is easy to get distracted in the world of virtual. If, as an organizer, you can come up with different ways to re-activate and re-engage your audience and bring them back to the platform, or you create campaigns to bring people back into the virtual experience, you will get increased engagement. That will also keep your sponsors and exhibitors happy and ensure that they get value out of the experience.
Notice the exhibitors who have the most success generating leads throughout the experience. Identify what they are doing differently, and then go to the bottom-performing exhibitors and coach them.
Big trade shows are hard to navigate as a virtual experience. If, for example, you have a software company with many different partners (integration partners, cold-marketing partners, re-sellers, etc.) who can do some type of digital activation in your event experience and drive people to engage and interact, you could be more successful. You also need to be there in video and on chat, and you need to have a platform that will tell you about the person to whom you are talking, and what they care about.
Take all the information you have gathered and make sure that it passes into your CRM or marketing automation system so that you can cross-reference it and figure out how to segment it and market it to the different audiences in the best way.
Marketing operations people are becoming more involved in the procurement process, especially in the mid and enterprise segments. If you are an event planner in that area, set up a conversation with the marketing ops person to understand how that data will flow into their existing systems and how they intend to use it. Then you will be able to offer guidance in terms of other ways to use that information. You can also show them how you can make their lives easier and get better results.
Jonathan Kazarian believes that the Metaverse will create opportunities for events. It is unlikely to happen very soon, however.
Ease of use
Virtual events create a level of accessibility that tends to be unreached with in-person experiences. So, event organizers should avoid anything that could get in the way of that accessibility.
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