Today’s #EventIcons guests recently launched a conference in 90 days, growing their attendance from 0 to 5,000 people. That event was a fantastic PLX conference focused on event partner marketing.
Event partner marketing is a strategic relationship between two entities that aim to accomplish common goals, like increasing event attendance, building brand awareness, or marketing your products. And while you may be familiar with influencer marketing in B2C, a popular approach to event partner marketing, event partner marketing in B2B spaces is also growing in popularity.
In this #EventIcons episode, Will brings together three people who played critical roles in the PLX conference: Nicole, Jared, and Isaac. Keep reading to learn more about the partner-led event, how they emphasized co-creation in their content and more iconic insights.
Meet the People of the Hour
Before discussing the event and the dynamics of event partner marketing, let’s get to know today’s icons. Will starts with Endless’ very own Nicole Seymour. “Nicole, you probably have a quicker answer to this since you started at Endless. Then we’ll get into the Partner Hacker story.”
“It’s been a journey that’s evolved over about 12 years now,” begins Nicole. “I started with bartending and then worked my way to wedding planning, a whole different ball game. After that, I worked my way to food-based festivals and tradeshows. Then I landed here as Senior Events Manager, and I love the caliber of events we do here at Endless.”
Next to share is Jared. “I don’t know if I want to start with why Partner Hacker was created as much as why I hate go-to-market as a function of B2B companies, this debate between sales, marketing, and customer success. Sales blames marketing for not having enough leads or bad leads, marketing blames sales for not closing enough leads, and then they both throw that mess over to the customer success team.”
“I’ve always thought great relationships happen when you’re driving value and working with people who have been places your customers want to go. Everything in business (like marketing, sales, and generating leads) has nothing to do with helping that person get to where they want to go. It’s about some internal thing. I’ve always loved partnerships. I’ve always been doing it. So why start partnerships? I got sick of people worrying about their internal stuff more than helping people get to where they want to go.”
“Isaac and I have known each other for 10+ years,” continues Jared. “He’s the content God, and I’m the partner hacker. Our podcast started to take off during the economic downturn. And all of a sudden what was once the third wheel became the first chair. We spun up a newsletter, and the rest is history. So we’ve gone from that to a multi-million dollar media business in less than a year.”
Lastly, Isaac shares how he joined the events industry and eventually teamed up with Jared to help launch the successful PLX event.
“I have a 15-year history of entrepreneurship, but not in the B2B space,” says Isaac. “I didn’t know anything about partnerships at B2B SaaS companies. So I built a bootstrapped company and a venture-backed company, which I built with zero paid marketing. It was 100% from content, community, and events.”
His venture-backed company couldn’t quite gain traction and scale on the product side, but the media side was successful. “Our newsletter, a daily newsletter for jobseekers, saw 200,000 subscribers in less than a year.” After starting that company, Isaac reconnected with Jared, who was building his Partner Up podcast. Jared convinced Isaac to join him in building his media company. “He convinced me. I’m like, we’ll go in this together, I’ll cohost the podcast with you, and then we’ll spin up an email newsletter. I modeled it after things I’d seen work before.”
“We spun that up in February,” continues Isaac. “In March, we were like, ‘Huh. There might be something here.’ In April, we launched the website, went full-time, and saw something was happening in this space. Now here we are. Events are the core, and all our content is geared toward those.”
The Co-Creation Variable in Event Partner Marketing
Next, Will wants to talk about how PLX managed to co-create content with its partners. “I think a lot of people want that. They want their attendees or their speakers to help create unique content. If someone’s looking to do this, what are your tips for them when it comes to getting those speakers wrangled so well?”
“Well, it’s not an easy task,” responds Nicole. “Get involved early and often, which is easier said than done. Once we could connect partners and get people together in documents or meeting virtually, you could see the wheels turning, and people were creating this content.”
Jared agrees that co-creation in partner marketing is a challenging task. “This thing was an utter shit show behind the scenes. Nicole can attest. We had an AirTable where we’d manage the schedule on. I would have dreams of the AirTable. It was a mess, but we did some things right and many wrong.”
The first thing he says they did right was to have an underlying plan driving the event’s schedule. “It was very important to have an idea of what we wanted each day to accomplish and to have a narrative arch from that day’s sessions. The sponsors and partners we worked with appreciated that.”
Here’s where it didn’t go well. “We’d say, ‘You have a session about how marketplaces can work for a product team. Let us know what you want to do with that session.’ When we did that, we’d hear nothing back,” explains Jared. “But when we said, ‘Here are our ideas. We just sent you a draft of what we think your session should be, with a list of 15 speakers we think would be good. Let us know if you want us to tweak or adjust that. That was the way to start co-creation.”
“It is hard to ask someone to ask someone to market this thing for me,” adds Nicole. “We need to offer them something that would lead them to think about their content. I think more often than not, people are looking for some guidance on what you want.”
PLX as a Remote Experience (not Hybrid)
Next, Jared and Isaac share their thoughts on hybrid and remote experiences and the single component that helped them ignite a wildfire of social media sharing amongst their attendees.
“At some point, Isaac said, ‘You know what would be cool? If every person got a workbook,’” shares Jared. “I was like, how the heck are we going to keep a spreadsheet on the status of everything?”
Jared continues: “I had to hack this AirTable; it had sessions, titles, descriptions, speakers, images for every speaker, and QR codes and their links. And I got this AirTable and this janky little app to export the AirTable to a PDF file so we could push the event schedule right up to the shipping deadline and not worry about updating this Microsoft Word document, project management system, and this AirTable. There’s no way we could’ve pulled this off if we were trying to do all those things.”
“Next year, we want to level it up,” he adds. “That was a cool learning that was really painful. But hey, that’s what creation and entrepreneurship is. By the way, that’s why we call PLX a remote experience, not a hybrid conference. Hybrid is a lie. You’re either there, or you’re not. You can’t be virtual and in-person, but a remote experience is both. There is an experience here anchoring you so you can take notes and learn, but then you are online.”
As Isaac shares, stoking social pressure, sharing, and the fear of missing out (FOMO) is a challenge with virtual events. With a physical event, “what makes everyone say, ‘I’m going to be at the event. Who else will be there?’ leading up to the event. They get to the event, and what do they do? They post pictures. It’s all this free promotion and marketing in the heart of this audience you want to reach.”
Isaac continues: “With a virtual event, no one’s like, ‘Hey guys! I’m so excited! Let me share this link to this landing page I just registered on.’ By mailing everyone a physical workbook, people posted pictures holding up their workbook. It created the FOMO of a physical experience. Something about that physical component that came before the event, leading up to it made that marketing buzz that you usually get with an in-person event.”
Iconic Tips and Resources
This episode of #EventIcons was jam-packed with information! But unfortunately, it has to come to an end. And as Will wraps up this episode, he asks Nicole, Jared, and Isaac to share their number one tip and favorite resources.
What’s Your #1 Tip?
“There’s been so much information, I don’t know how we’re going to wrap up in time,” says Will. “So let’s start with my second to last favorite question. What’s your number one question you have for someone who’s planning an event this year?”
“I’ll jump in,” responds Isaac. “When you think of your idea for an event, if you’re not super hyped about it, then forget about it. What’s the point? If it sounds boring to you, why would it be exciting to anyone else? When Jared came to me and said, ‘Check this out: PLX. Partner Led Everything. Every day is a different department where the X is the variable that changes. Every day is a different color. It’s synth wave themed.’ He pitched this vision that I was like, ‘Yes! I can’t wait!’ So that’s my #1 tip: don’t run events you’re not hyped to attend.”
“Isaac hit the nail on the head,” says Jared. “I think most events lack a voice. And when you lack a voice, you lack a brand. I truly wanted this to be the moment that partner ecosystems went mainstream. If it’s not an event, then it’s just content. I think you should have a voice and a strong opinion; if you don’t, just go do content. An event needs to mean something. It’s a moment in time. Events are special, they’re experiences; treat them that way.”
“I love what you said, Jared,” says Nicole. “That’s great. The longtime event planner in me will have to say, start early if you can. And get as much out of your mind and front load the work. More work will come up. Trust your team and ask for help, whether it’s from partners or someone else who’s done it. There are a lot of people who are willing to share what they’ve done.”
What are Your Favorite Resources?
“Last question I have for you guys. What are your favorite resources? What are your favorite things in the entire world?” asks Will.
“My number one is Slack,” says Nicole. “The second is AirTable. Jared said we used it in a way that had never been used before. AirTable can be an incredible table for staying organized.”
Isaac’s favorite resource is AirMeet. “And then the other is just people. The first thing we did when we decided to run this event was Jared said, ‘We’re going to talk to some of the people at Drift who created the Drift RevGrowth conference.’ We just found people who had done this and asked for help.”
“I love that. I’m going to extend that answer to working with people who are great at what they do,” says Jared. “The quality of speakers we had at this conference was far above the people who had previously been discussing partnerships. My favorite thing is to work with influencers. Work with people who are in the market and past where you’re at. Make those people famous, and by virtue of that, you’ll make your brand better. It has nothing to do with tech.”
“I like it. Far too often, I lean toward the tech side, so I like that,” says Will. “Wow, guys!” It’s been a packed episode with so many good points!”
Do you want to learn more about event partner marketing and how Jared and Isaac implemented it in their event? Listen to the full episode at the top of this page. And if you just can’t get enough of partnerships, check out some of our other resources on partnerships:
We’ll catch you here next time for another episode of the #EventIcons podcast!