Doing More with Less in 2023 with Cvent CMO, Patrick Smith

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Episode description

It's harder than ever to break through the noise and get noticed. With shrinking budgets and the rise in event costs this year, it truly seems like an impossible task.

Patrick Smith, Chief Marketing Officer and SVP at Cvent joins hosts Alyssa and Rachel to share his perspective on what marketers and event planners should pay attention to in 2023. You’ll learn some high-impact tactics to overcome the daunting challenge of gaining attention and sales in a budget-constrained environment. Along the way, you’ll also hear how to maximize your event even after the doors have closed.

Show notes

  • Strategies to break through the noise and capture attention in a dynamic industry
  • How events can be used as an engagement tactic and build community
  • 2023 event and marketing trends and how you should be thinking about them

Things to listen for:

[01:16] Getting to know Patrick
[03:53] Tactics to cut through the noise
[07:45] What to do in a budget-constrained environment
[15:00] Using events as a way of building a community
[19:03] Utilizing people and technology to the fullest
[23:32] Final advice

Meet your hosts

Rachel Andrews Cvent Senior Director, Global Meetings & Events
Alyssa Peltier Cvent Director, Market Strategy & Insights and Cvent Consulting
Paulina Giusti Cvent Senior Manager, Global Meetings & Events

Meet your guest speaker

Patrick Smith Cvent CMO and SVP

Episode Transcript

Alyssa: Hello everyone. What is going on in this wide, wide world of events? We're back from a little hiatus. My name is Alyssa and I am super excited to be kicking off our 2023 podcast season. Woo woo.

And today I am joined by my fellow host of the Great Events podcast, Rachel Andrews.

Hey Rach!

Rachel: Hey! Glad to be here. Excited to kick 2023 off.

Alyssa: Yay. We made it. And we are also joined by our very special guest today, and what I hope we'll become an annual tradition to kick off our, our seasons of each year. My former boss, Rachel's current boss, and Cvent's, very own CMO and SVP Patrick Smith.

Welcome to the podcast, Patrick.

Patrick Smith: Thank you for having me. It's great to talk to you again.

Alyssa: Alright. So just a little background on Patrick and why we've chosen him here, besides the obvious. Right? He is our CMO and certainly events fall under that umbrella, but Patrick is, this SVP and Chief Marketing Officer at Cvent.

He brings more than 20 years of experience in developing and managing those marketing strategies for enterprise SaaS firms, at Cvent specifically. Patrick leads our global team of hundreds of marketers across demand generation, he's also involved in corporate communications, product marketing, customer marketing, content marketing...and oh, by the way, obviously events marketing.

Patrick giving that rap sheet right there, I can't believe it's taken us this long to get you on the podcast since one of our main listener groups is marketers, but atlas, here we are. I noted this in my notes here, but as Lizzo would say, it's about damn time, right?

Patrick Smith: Good song.

Alyssa: Okay. So knowing that time is precious, especially for an executive like yourself, I would love to just jump right in here.

So, let's talk, big picture, what's on the minds of marketers, and specifically at the leader level as we move into 2023. I'd love to have a conversation today on the three.

Big picture things that CMOs like yourself are thinking about as we move into 2023. So what's the first thing that comes to mind?

Patrick Smith: Yeah. You know, I think the first thing, Alyssa, it's interesting how we, in such a dynamic industry, and so much is going on around us and there's so much noise. People are getting hit up constantly with offers and promotions and it's really hard to break through the noise. What we're seeing when I talk to my peers in the industry, it gets harder and harder to get attention these days.

We're seeing more people involved in sales cycles. I'm hearing this, from around the B2B software landscape. It takes more touch points, as people are interacting and you get them interested and there's just more things going on in general. You know, you just have a lot of noise you need to break through, and that's why it's really important, I think, for organizations in marketing to capture what they're good at and what they really know that no one else does.

And that's thought leadership content, and that is really understanding the space you're in and being a solutions provider to the marketplace beyond just the software that you offered. A lot of that is the knowledge you have, the relationships you have, the people you can bring together, but it's just this idea that it's harder to get deals across the line in some cases, and I'm just speaking generally across the industry now because there's just more touch points, more people involved and it sometimes takes longer to make decisions, too.

Alyssa: Are you finding that there's any tactics or channels? You just mentioned thought leadership from a content strategy, but are there any tactics that seemingly cut through the noise as we move into 2023?

Patrick Smith: Yeah, from a tactic perspective, really looking at the buyers that you want and what are they interested in, tailoring your message, personalized message, the account based marketing type of play, knowing that it's not just one person you need to interest, but a buying group.

So how do you strategize around getting in front of that entire buying group. With the right message to the right people. So the more you can personalize, the more you can rise above the noise with perspective that no one else can offer, the more you'll be noticed.

Alyssa: What about videos? I know that was a big thing we were talking about last year, especially because just the amount of content that events were generating as a result of being virtual or certainly being hybrid. Rachel's team was jostling a lot of that last year in our AV budgets. Is that something that you think is still gonna be a big bet going into 2023.

Patrick Smith: People are consuming so much of content through video, short video snippets to get people interested. But it's interesting, I'm a reader. I tend to like to consume things more on the written page online than I do watching a video, but that's just more of a preference thing.

But video is absolutely important, but it's what's behind that video. What perspective can you give? What unique ability can you demonstrate that shows someone the ROI of what they're going to receive? And is that video compelling enough and hard hitting enough? Not biz buzzy. You know, are you talking plain English when you're talking about what the perspective is or what the offering is, is that something that resonates with people? Are you confusing them? Are you sounding like everybody else? Those are some things you need to avoid. So while video is great, it's only as good as the video itself ultimately.

Alyssa: Yeah. And also knowing your audience and the content, the preferred content method that they want. Right. So not all audiences are equal, and it's kind of what you were alluding to earlier were personalization is still the most important thing to consider. Don't just do video to do video, do video because it's resonating with your audiences.

Rach, I don't know if you had anything to add there.

Rachel: No, I think it's also a generational thing too, like you need to provide different types of mediums from both an accessibility perspective, but a generational perspective. Like I know you know, millennials and below, their attention spans really short with everything that we've been through, through the pandemic and through social media.

Expanding the marketing lens there, and just getting people faster and getting them the information, like you said, Patrick, in a concise way, where it's like actually targeting the people that you want and getting them more than that. Getting them the information that they actually need to read or hear or watch.

Alyssa: Yeah, that's a fair point too, considering that Gen Z is maturing now when they're kind of entering that buying cycle as well. They are part of this consideration of engagement as we go into 2023, I would say more so now than previous years. They're making up a much more significant portion of the workforce now.

Patrick Smith: Yeah. And Alyssa, I would say too, study buying patterns. You know, there's so much science to be had in marketing, especially in the B2B world, where you can look and see - how many people, does it take inside an account to get someone really interested? What's the path? Can I take them down from top of funnel, middle of funnel, bottom of funnel, look at those patterns and really try to emulate that pattern with the next account you're going after.

That tells you a lot what content works in this stage. What case study work great there. What tactic allowed you to engage widely? So all of these things can be harnessed. And in a world where you have less budget than ever, probably, um, the more you really go all in on the things that work and you know what works, the better off you're gonna be.

Alyssa: That is a great segue to what I'm predicting will be your second big picture or takeaway for this conversation, Patrick. So give me number two that CMOs are thinking about.

Patrick Smith: Yeah, I think it is, what are you gonna do when you have a budget constrained environment? I think the answer there is what I alluded to earlier, when you have a budget constrained environment, and oh, by the way, for a lot of us in the industry, this just happened, you know, two or three short years ago during the pandemic, when you couldn't go to events and you couldn't use a lot of your mix, and I think what got great companies through that timeframe is harnessing what makes them special and what knowledge they have doing your own webinars. Doing your own content, creating your own content, blogging about it, that doesn't cost a lot of money to put a great hard-hitting blog out there that people want.

Really harnessing that thought leadership and, and being the authority on the world that you're in, that allows you to do your own marketing through your own channels and still get a lot of attention and a lot of engagement. Things that are low cost but get a lot of reach are the things that really work in this timeframe.

Patrick Smith: If you do have constrained budgets, if your pay per click budget is less than it was, this leads to things like the importance of building a pretty big database that you can mine, and so forth.

SEO is a great one too, where you can use some tactics that don't cost a lot of money to get a lot of attention and bring people to you.

So it's all these kind of low cost, but high impact marketing. that people really need to gravitate to, and you might experiment less as well these days if you have budget constraints.

Alyssa: Now, not to shift this into a negative direction, but this is a podcast about events and event costs are rising and those are hard costs that we have to confront.

And yet, I know based off of conversations that I'm seeing within our own customer base, that there is, undoubtedly belief that the power of face-to-face is real and that we must do in-person events. We must have in-person meetings.

And so the C-suite and CMOs are asking for more face-to-face, in the face of what is a recession and major inflation across all of our buying centers. So I'd love to just talk to you about that and how you're thinking about that.

It's so funny because as you mentioned that I was reflecting back to some conversations I had during the pandemic when so many CMOs said to me, the biggest funnel builder that I had was trade shows and the events that they owned and now they were gone and they were really out of at a loss because they got so much of their big leads at trade shows and events that they would host across the world.

Patrick Smith: And that came to an end. So I think what we found was even though costs are higher, pound for pound, there's nothing. Better than a great event. especially one that is very thoughtful. That's a great experience and yeah, it's gonna cost more, but when you really look at the ROI of those events, it pays off.

And even now, it's better than ever because we're digitizing this channel. You can get so much information over, a one or two or even multi-hour event. Then you could in the past if you're digitizing the experience both onsite and online, and you're getting all this information on buying preferences, and when people say, well, why should I spend for events right now?

I ask this question back, what other tactic allows you to get this much information about your buyer in such a short period of time? If you look at the data points that you can generate even before someone even attends an event, if they're registering online and looking at some of the offerings, maybe downloading content, then they go to the event.

Then after the fact, they're inter interacting with the videos you create and other content that you post. You're getting all this information in a very short time. It might take months to gather that through traditional channels of emailing out content. So pound for pound, they're so effective.

You might have to get maybe fewer people there at an in-person event, but better people more, more, high quality individuals based on your buying, center that you're going after and that sort of thing. But still, events are incredibly important. And now you can even do virtual ones too, of course.

that they'd allow, you can add to the mix too. I wanna double down on something Patrick said, cuz I think our listeners. , write this down in their notebooks, put it on a post-it note at their desk. But data is key here. And I think the ROI conversation as a, if you're an event leader, uh, an event organizer, even a marketer, keeping that in mind that events as a channel is, is and prioritizing that, is important, but also speaking the language of, okay, yes, our budget's cut here is.

Rachel: Here's what will suffer. And putting it not on, I don't wanna say chopping box, I don't wanna scare people, but put it, pitting it up against your other events and saying, this one's performing better. Whether it's trade shows, attending trade shows, and going to those, or hosting client dinners or, a pharma lunch, whatever you're planning and going and speaking with your C-suite if you can and say, Hey, we did the research.

Here are the ones that are actually priority. I know that you. , you and some of the other folks said these, this is the priority, but this is what's actually performing. I think with your budgets being maybe constrained, hopefully not. If you're lucky, then you can have that educated conversation with the C-suite and talk through, this is actually performing and you get ROI from this.

Do more of this or do less of these. I think that conversation is important to have.

Alyssa: Yeah, I will triple dog dare that. That sentiment, Rachel is getting really good at telling data stories, feeling very comfortable speaking the language. Like you said, Rachel, of the C-Suite, which is. Cost and revenue and understanding how all of those data points that Patrick was talking about lead to revenue opportunities, whether that's attribution, whether that's leads, whether that's pure dollars generated by sponsorship or ticket sales.

And then making sure that you're tracking all of those costs so that when it comes to the shopping block, your programs don't get cut and you're actually proving the value that they bring in. So it's data stories I. To me would be a huge opportunity that we have across the industry. so that we, we showcase what that true value is of in-person.

Alyssa: It's not just taken as a, as anecdotal or inherent, but that we are, we put it down on paper now.

Patrick Smith: Yeah. And Alyssa, I would add that, it's so important that people understand that events used to be kind of offline. I mean, for so many years it was, well, we have to go to this event. Was it really effective? Well, let me type the business cards I got in a fishbowl. And put it into my CRM system. And then maybe I can do attribution down the line.

No longer is at the world we're in. We're in a world of a digitized channel if you have the right event technology. So you can absolutely do all the attribution work and the ROI analysis that you should do if you have the right technology. So it's digitizing what I would consider one of the last absolute important channels in marketing.

And there's so much to be harnessed. The other thing I'd say too is we, we advise our customers to tier their events. the tier ones should get more attention and investment. Tier twos, tier threes, if you do have to cut, if you tier your event strategy, I think it allows those cuts to be made with a more informed lens.

Alyssa: I think that's also a great segue to, again, what I predict, not that I had any forward insight here as to what your, your trends would be here, but. in the spirit of doing more with less, I think there's, and also digitization and automation and this broader trend of digital transformation.

I'd love to talk a little bit about what you're seeing in terms of event technology and process efficiencies that are coming. there not, and maybe perhaps not just event technology, but MarTech at large. what are you thinking about when it comes to your tech?

Patrick Smith: Yeah, I mean, one of the real interesting dynamics that we're seeing is this notion that people don't wanna say goodbye after an event ends. I'm hearing more and more that people want to create a community around their events. So it's not, it's, you don't just wanna see someone once a year and say goodbye.

Your user conference. What are those other. Ways that you can use events as an engagement tactic before an event happens during the event, of course, and then afterwards. and that's why some of the investments we're making at Cvent are things like webinars, because webinars can be that connectivity from a virtual perspective to that next road show you're doing in person or can be a lead in to the big user conference that you have.

Things like video and all those artifacts. We came out with a video center, which is a great place to store videos related to events and allows you to promote your next event and. Who in your community is gonna be at a future event? So it's using events as a way of building a community that you're constantly engaging with.

Patrick Smith: It's not, I'll say, I'll see you in two months, in Chicago. It's, how do I use events as a channel that's always on, that's constantly used for engagement. And of course, with the right event technology, and you're capturing all those engagement, Those are express signals of interest. You act on those because hopefully your event tech is integrated, your MarTech stack and your CRM stack, and suddenly you can take action on that engagement all the time.

And that drives better nurture and better sales follow up. And this is the digitized world of events that we're in, which is really darn exciting. and something that I don't think existed back four or five.

I think like on an engagement front, I keep our harnessing the data conversation. I think you need to know, like, I'll just give an example. We just had our company wide, last week and we, did so many videos and I, we wanna look at. Who interacted with those who actually like enjoyed those videos.

Rachel: And same thing goes externally when you have those, videos. Whether, and it can be a breakout that you repurpose, it could be a podcast like we're doing now, that we repurpose who is actually clicking on those. Who is actually, digesting those and consuming what you're making. And then same thing that Patrick said before, like prioritizing which ones are more important.

We have so many webinars that we do a year, which ones are performing the best, which ones are resonating with your audience? And like really honing in on the engagement there, of that digital world. Cuz it can be really overwhelming, especially if you're straddling the edge of marketer planner or just marketer or just planner.

I think that you have to think through those things cuz it can get a really overwhelming. , all the things that you have on your checklist to promote an event, a webinar, uh, insert any other channel tactic that you're dealing with as a marketer.

Alyssa: I think one of the things that gets me most excited is the notion of all of these technologies that enable you to execute on not only events, but on videos, on community building, are kind of converging and meshing into one. And not only are the technologies coming together, so we're simplifying, we're automating, we're streamlining efficiencies from the technology.

But we're also, getting smarter about how we resource around those things. So event technologists are kind. merging in some way shapes or form too other subject matter marketing operations professionals. and so there's a lot of this natural rubbing of elbows and we're getting better at cross-channel, disciplines, I guess is the best way to put it.

I know that we're doing that within our own teams. Our event technologists are working really closely with our marketing operations professionals now. when in past years they kind of sat with their own technology and they sat with their own tools and those. Despite being digitized, weren't integrated.

And so this notion of consolidation and centralization is one that gets me really excited as we have to shift things to a little bit more of this back to basics, um, so that we can prove the impact of those programs. Just something I'm thinking about.

I was in a recent strategy meeting with a big Cvent customer that's a very well recognized software company, and in the room was the CMO of this organization. Also their head of events and their head of marketing operations because when they were building their event programs, specifically around a big user conference they were going to host, it was all about how do I create an event that's gonna maximize the pipeline, and how do I create an event that's gonna gimme the engagement that I can follow.

Patrick Smith: And it's really great to see these disciplines coming together. and that's one of the outcomes I think of the pandemic in many ways too, is the, the kind of blurring of lines and the integration between the demand gen teams, the marketing ops teams, the events teams to collectively build a program that's gonna pay off for the business in terms of pipeline and ultimately sales.

Alyssa: I think that's fantastic. It's better utilization of the resources that already existed and in a, in an economic. Downturn or what could be a recession. I think using your people and your technologies to the best of your abilities is gonna be paramount. So it definitely comes, comes into a, an alignment here.

Okay. Rach, I know you have a heavy hitting question before we kind of close this thing out here.

Rachel: Yeah, I think we, we talked about this and, and just me as the events champion side of things here. one of the, one of the things I, I wanna make sure we we're speaking to our listeners. , uh, as well here, Patrick, cuz we at Cvent have a very mature events program. we think about it, live, breathe it every day.

It's very not, not surprising. We work for an event tech company, so obviously events are, are, uh, our passion here. But if I were, at a smaller company or someone just starting out, I think, this is a question for. If you are pitching to an executive, about the importance of events, let's say you're at a company that maybe doesn't really realize the value of, uh, of events, how, like what would you value in hearing from somebody coming to the CMO and saying, here's an event that I want to do.

I think a lot of times there's some planners and we've evolved as an industry a lot, a lot further than, Hey, we wanna do this fun party with, decor. And yes, that is one element of it and that what's what some of what makes events great. But if you're coming to C M O and, and asking him for budget dollars for an event, what are the things that you look for, in pitching an event to you to, to do.

Patrick Smith: Yeah, I mean certainly history, Rachel is important if you do have that history and seeing how an event like that performed in the past. But I think ultimately it's kind of what I said before. the pitch I would have doing executive around doing events is what better way to engage someone than face-to-face with an awesome experience or even virtually, but where else can you get this amount of information and FaceTime with your core?

Through another marketing tactic. He can't. And I think that's the power of, of getting together face-to-face or having an awesome virtual event where you're, you have people's captured attention for hours at a time. , and it's incredible. When I said back to the beginning of the conversation that there's more noise in the marketplace, more people are involved.

It takes more touchpoints to get a sale across in many ways. Well, how can you speed that up? How can you collapse all that By having an awesome event, by having someone's attention captured for hours or days at a time when they're experiencing your brand, your story, your essential goodness that they're not experiencing somewhere else because you have their captive.

That's the power of the events industry, and now that it's digitized, it's no longer fluffy, it's no longer qualitative. It's completely hard hitting and quantitative, and that's a great thing for everyone in the event space.

Rachel: Yeah. I wanted to bring this up too, cuz it's kind of a fun thing we did at one of our internal events last week. We did, a pitch off, between sales folks and I was thinking, yeah. And then they were pitch off different things of what could work it from a sales angle.

And I was like, man, we could do this with event planners pitching to CMOs. It would be really cool to like harness that energy. And, but, but then I would say on a realistic front, if you're at your organization and you're trying to propose something to the management team, you need to put together this and pitch it to other people before you talk to the C-level.

Because you need people to pick apart your proposal before you go up to that level. and harness what Patrick just said, of leveraging all of these things that are actually important to driving business community. longevity with customers if you're only targeting your customer base.

Alyssa: Alright. Patrick, what advice might you give to some of our listeners, um, as they're starting out in their careers? Or if you had the luxury of being able to talk to your younger self as you were starting out as a marketer, what would be some advice you'd give yourself?

Patrick Smith: You know, listen, it's a really good question. I've thought about this a lot. I think the number one advice I'd give myself is be confident you got this. I mean, one of the things that that kind of happened to me in my career is you don't start out, at least I didn't start out thinking I'm gonna be a CMO at a couple big software companies.

It was all about how do I just continue to add value? in a company. But there was a lot of times when I second guessed myself, I wasn't sure if I was doing the right thing. Am I adding a lot of value? And it ends up where one day you sit back and say, I know a lot I could be in that chair, but it took some time and an evolution to get there.

And I think I would tell my younger self that you got this, that, you know what? That those times when you were second guessing yourself, , you really were doing a pretty good job and, and I think the results, will end up working out over time. I think we all need to certainly learn the ropes and that sort of thing, but, I would probably tell myself to be a little bit more confident earlier on than I might have been, when I started out.

Alyssa: Oh, I love that. I think going with your gut and following your intuition goes a long way when you're starting out in your career, cuz a lot of us tend to overanalyze and. , look at everyone above us and we don't, we think that they're, we put them on a pedestal, right? We put everybody above us on a pedestal, and that's not always the case.

That just because you have less experience doesn't mean you don't have you. You have a lot to say, right? You have a lot of value to add.

Patrick Smith: Alyssa, you've totally exemplified exactly what I was saying. It's that I can't be that person. Could I really be in that chair someday? And the answer is, if you're talented, if you're hardworking, and certainly you and Rachel are rock stars here at Cvent. You can get where you want to go ultimately, and it'll naturally take shape.

It'll naturally take its course, but confidence gives you the ability to be free with your ideas, to not, be quiet, to really say the things that you need to say, and don't fear that you have the wrong answer. And don't be quiet because you don't wanna say something you think might be wrong.

Lean in.


Alyssa: I think that's awesome. Parting advice and a perfect way to wrap up this conversation with our CMO Patrick Smith. Patrick, thank you so much for joining us today. this was fantastic. Very much appreciated, and I hope you, as our listeners today, felt the same. and that you've got some actionable takeaways that might be able to be inspired or leveraged in your personal life or to infuse, some excitement into your own programs as you work towards your 2023 plans.

Once again, if you do have any topics or people or suggestions or things you'd love to hear on our 2023 season, DM us on LinkedIn, Instagram, or send us a email greatevents@cvent.com. Once again, I'm Alyssa and this is the Great Events podcast. Thanks for another great week.