From College Startup To Serving The Fortune 500: Marketing Lessons From InEvent

Events are a significant marketing channel for businesses of all sizes. While events are changing dramatically in 2020, they remain an essential channel.

InEvent, founded in 2016, is a SaaS tool to help companies get more leads and value from events. Pedro Góes from the company recently sat down with us to share his marketing insights.

1) How did InEvent get started?

We started the company while studying computer engineering at the University of São Paulo. If Mark Zuckerberg did this at Harvard, we could do it!

Before starting InEvent, we tried five other ideas. For example, one idea was about improving restaurant delivery, one reminded us to drink water every hour, and another was focused on fan sponsorship. Eventually, we focused on events and came up with InEvent.

We explored the market for a couple of years and, in 2018, one major American customer found us online and decided that our product was a great fit for them. Eventually we didn’t close the deal, but it was a great eye opener for us of our global potential, which we have been focused on since then.

Now, with the outbreak, we launched the Virtual Lobby feature in March 2020 after coming up with the idea in late 2019.

2) What are some of the marketing angles you use to promote InEvent?

Fundamentally, InEvent is your event revenue platform, helping you generate more business, leads and conversions.. You can track results from your events and manage your budget more effectively. We’re working mostly with the business manager or the marketing manager, mainly the person that is using events as tool to get their KPIs delivered at the end of the year / month. 

3) In the past year, take us inside a marketing win that you’re most proud of?

Joining Y Combinator was a major win for us. The organization has an excellent track record of helping to launch successful companies like Stripe, Airbnb and Dropbox. By participating in Y Combinator, we’ve increased our credibility, and we’re able to open more doors as a result.

The next big win is moving our business model to long term contracts, which comes from implementing a clear revenue strategy for our customers. In the event industry, there’s a structural challenge because events tend to be one-off arrangements. Right now, we’re focused on building deeper multi-year relationships with customers. 

4) How has the COVID crisis impacted the product and marketing?

On the event side, there’s a lot of focus on virtual events because that is the only option in the short term. There was a recent article in Forbes [BH1]  (e.g. Innovate Or Die: How A Lack Of Innovation Can Cause Business Failure) some companies are being forced to innovate because there is no alternative.

I think that that there will be an impact on business events even after the pandemic subsides. As a result, companies are going need to move more of their events online to fill their pipelines.

From our customer base, we’ve observed the following trends. About 40% of customers have postponed their events. The remaining 60% of customers have migrated to online events in some form. We’ve seen good results in producing own virtual events engaging with our audience through that channel.

5) What are the customer service implications of scaling up virtual events for your customers?

People are asking questions about how to deploy these events. For example, they want to know about achieving reliable HD video today. People also want advice on Internet providers and vendors that can help them with new providers.

From a strategic point of view, we want to keep a cap of about 15-20% of revenue as professional services. For customers who need further in-depth assistance, we have a network of third parties who can provide additional support.

6) What are the most important marketing channels for InEvent?

Our blog and LinkedIn are the two most important marketing channels for us.

  • LinkedIn. I like the fact that you can get excellent distribution for content. When somebody likes a post, it goes through their network. You don’t get that level of distribution on other social platforms. Content also has a longer shelf life on LinkedIn. On Facebook, content largely disappears from view after a day or two. On LinkedIn, it can last much longer.
  • Question and Answer Websites. I’ve also seen some good results on Q&A websites like Quora. We have had success in writing detailed answers on those websites. For example, we posted an answer to this Quora posting asking for a ticket selling platform that is GDPR compliant
  • Membership Associations. There are also private membership forums from organizations like the Event Management Association. Typically, you pay a few hundred dollars for a membership. Once you are a member, you can gain access to a membership. That is a great value! Think about how far $500 in ad spend would go on LinkedIn where you can have $10 cost per click. With a professional association membership, that membership fee will give you access for a year, and you build connections with people in the industry.
  • Business Software Review Websites. We also see good results from websites like G2 where users can share their comments.

7) Your website lists some major brand names as customers – like Citibank and Dupont. How did you land these customers?

Closing deals with more substantial companies can take a long time. We had one example where it took 2.5 years to close a deal. To move these deals forward, it is critical to find the key person within the organization.

From a credibility point of view, it’s essential to have all of your certifications in place when you sell to larger companies. For example, these companies will ask you about SOC 2, GDPR and Privacy Shield.

Once you deliver an excellent service, many of these companies tend to have a high renewal rate. Keep in mind that these companies typically have an annual budget for events and related expenses. Once you are in the company and deliver excellent results, you have a good chance of being used over and over again.

My sales approach leverages focus and personalization. I start by choosing a company that might be a good fit. Next, I send personal notes to people at that company. In those messages, I reference other events that will be meaningful to eh client. When possible, I also go to events and connect with prospects in person.

8) What is a marketing software app or tool you rely on every day, and why?

LinkedIn is my favorite tool. Use it every day. Everyone in our market has it. It is critical to developing relationships as well. Within LinkedIn, pay attention to comments and content because that presents an excellent opportunity to connect with people as well.

9) Who do you follow or study in marketing for inspiration, ideas and insight?

There are some Slack groups that I’ve joined that I find helpful like the Y Combinator Alumni Group. For insights on the broader industry and marketing, I like websites like MarTech Today and SaaStr.

10) Where should readers go to learn more about you and InEvent?

They can reach us at InEvent.com and start a free trial today. You can connect with me on LinkedIn.

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