Marketing has transformed drastically over the last few years, with one of the biggest transformations being in a strategic investment area for every marketing organization: events.

As marketeers, we have to be at the forefront of that transformation. We gain a tremendous amount of insights on customers through various touchpoints in the sales cycle, as well as digitally and live, and those insights are what is needed in today’s digital world to enable a borderless business. A large part of this marketing transformation that I’m speaking about has occurred around our in-person touchpoints, and I’m going to start by covering why our focus on events and execution has shifted to meet the demands of today’s customer.

Let me start by providing the context for why we are seeing our focus and execution on events shift. New research proves that customers in both B2B and B2C are expecting, if not demanding, highly personalized experiences. And it’s our job to deliver the insights that will arm our sales teams to help them deliver on this customer demand.

According to Forrester, 85% agree that buyers will dismiss a seller in the first interaction if they don’t receive tailored information.

In addition, customers want the experience to be consistent across all channels – digital and physical. To capitalize on the opportunity that exists, marketers now need to look at physical events through a very different lens to create meaningful and memorable experiences for their customers that will fuel the business pipeline.

Adobe recently found that companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies
enjoy 10% YoY growth, 10% increase in average order value, and 25% increase in close rates.

This data shows us that as marketers we need to show up in more impactful ways, as we are the first touchpoint with the customer and our job is to ensure a seamless experience based on the data and insights that have been captured, both digitally and physically. There are three areas where we can see how this has come to life for us at Cisco.

Making the Right Investments in the Right Events

First, making the right investments in the right events. It comes down to using events as a strategic platform. They have been a strategic investment area for years, but we have to hone in on what that means in our digital world. Events are the ultimate expression of a brand. They are a driving function for launches, consistent messaging and company strategy, they are a forum for us to build relationships with key audience groups, we can create scale and reach, and they are the true intersection of Brand, Products, Sales, and Partners.

For us at Cisco that meant to tier our events. As of 2020 we now have 3 brands that all complement each other but serve different customer audiences and markets. We had thousands of small sales events with different brands, and no consistency. Today, we have a consistent global brand that can be utilized for these events, our brand system is very flexible to account for very focused events and specific sales driven outcomes, and we have a common visual ID so all events look like they are a part of a family.

Bringing Together Digital and Physical Experiences

Next, bringing together digital and physical experiences. In a digital world, events represent critical, face-to-face engagement opportunities. As part of your overall marketing plan, events drive pipeline, provide valuable insights, and accelerate deals. Part of best-in-class event management is tying your events into a broader marketing mix – this is where the digital and physical must go hand-in-hand.

We know that we need to have an omni-channel strategy to be successful which means tying together our event strategy, onsite experience, and audience engagement. Our strategy is a phased approach that escalates awareness and attendance to the Cisco activations through tactics such as demand generation, live content, and influencer engagement. Different targeting happens pre, during, and post-event to ensure that we keep relevant and meaningful engagement flowing.

Emotionally Connecting with your Customers at Events

Lastly, emotionally connecting with your customers at events. If you have a true omni-channel experience and successfully tie together the digital and physical experience you have the opportunity to make a truly meaningful and memorable event through their personalized experience. But we’ve taken it a step further at our events to really make an emotional connection with our customers.

Corporate Social Responsibility has always been a critical piece of Cisco’s DNA, and over the past year with the launch of our Bridge to Possible campaign we have been louder about how we strive to impact communities around the world. A way that we have brought this to life is by incorporating give back activities at many of our events. Last month at Cisco Live Latin America, we had a give back activity around making blankets and filling toiletry kits for the charity Save the Children. These kits went to underprivileged children living in Tapachula Chiapas, Mexico. And just a few weeks ago at Cisco Partner Summit, we had areas set up to package hygiene kits for the homeless living in Las Vegas working with the charity Clean the World. These give back activities allow us to emotionally connect with customers, while at the same time benefit the communities we are in.

I’m very proud of the transformation we have made in our events strategy at Cisco, and I’m excited to continue to build meaningful and memorable events for our customers in the future.