SalesTechStar Interview with Brecht Fourneau, Senior Director of Marketing for EMEA and APAC at Aventri
Covid-19 will leave a lasting impression on the worldwide tech and B2B marketplace, that much is certain. When it comes to sales and marketing roles and martech / salestech technologies; how much will the pandemic impact the future of these segments and in what ways. Brecht Fourneau, Senior Director of Marketing for EMEA and APAC at Aventri joins us in this interview to share a few thoughts and to discuss the growing opportunities that virtual events can have for marketing and sales.
Can you tell us a little about yourself Brecht? What is the one thing about marketing in the B2B/Tech space that you absolutely love and one thing that you detest?
I love bringing innovative technologies to market. This is one of the things that makes marketing B2B tech exciting. To succeed in this space, you have to keep redefining yourself to align with the needs of a changing market. Successful companies listen to their customers and look at what’s happening in the market. Then, they pivot to come up with the solutions that best meet their customers’ needs.
I enjoy sharing ideas with others who are also passionate about innovation and coming up with strategies to bring much-needed solutions to market.
We’d love your thoughts on how you’ve had to pivot your marketing plans during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic; how has the team at Aventri found ways to circumvent some of the most common challenges that have affected global teams during this time?
There’s no doubt the pandemic has been hard on the travel, hospitality and events industries. Being flexible and responding quickly to customer needs is all-important, especially in the current market.
In January, we thought we had everything set with a great business plan for 2020. Then, the following month, everything changed.
Aventri was the tech provider for Mobile World Congress Barcelona, slated for February. This was one of the first major events to cancel. So we knew early on COVID-19 was going to be a significant blow to the industry, and we moved fast to mitigate the impact.
First, we partnered with leading virtual event platforms Intrado and Evia to help our clients pivot to virtual and avoid cancellations. These companies have a long track record of success with highly produced, flagship events, including large exhibitions and tradeshows.
Next, we surveyed our customers and conducted focus group research. In our global survey of 150 meeting professionals conducted in April, 91 percent of respondents said virtual will be critical to their post-pandemic events.
If the unexpected happens and a large segment of the audience can’t meet face-to-face, organizers want to have a back-up plan and be ready to go with a virtual event.
Based on our research, we developed our own native solution, which we announced in June. It’s the industry’s first all-in-one virtual/hybrid/in-person event solution. Our platform targets mid-size events – a vast, underserved segment of the virtual events market.
Simplicity is the goal of the Aventri Virtual Event Platform. If an emergency arises, marketers can switch on a dime by clicking a box that says, “enable virtual event.”
Now, we’re busy building out the platform. Today, it can host virtual events with more than 5,000 attendees across the globe and dozens of sessions on multiple tracks.
Aventri believes hybrid is the future of meetings and events. Our goal is to support our clients as needed in the current environment and in the future. Event marketers can use the same platform for virtual events now and for hybrid and in-person gatherings after the threat of the pandemic has passed.
Our flexibility has been rewarded in the market. Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to help clients switch to virtual as an alternative to cancelling their events. Even in this challenging economy, we have signed on new enterprise customers, including including leading organizations in the global trade show space.
Last month, we announced that we closed a strategic growth equity round with our current investors HGGC and Level Equity. The capital will strengthen Aventri’s investments in core product development and the expansion of our virtual and hybrid event platform.
According to you, what should tech marketing and sales teams be doing more of during this downtime to help ensure better results in the next few quarters?
First, they should make sure they’re using their technology to its fullest advantage. Many teams don’t. They rely on manual processes and miss opportunities to boost efficiency and improve sales and marketing.
This was the case with many meeting professionals, faced with the job of cancelling and rebooking countless events in the wake of the pandemic. Done manually, managing all the changes – dates, venues, content, agendas, etc. – was an overwhelming task.
So we provided free training for customers on how to lean on their event platform to streamline the process. In addition, we produced a video series, packed with tips and strategies. Our customers also receive free, unlimited, 24/7/365 support. Help is available on-demand and via live trainings and support, so planners can quickly get the job done.
Other tech providers offer free training and support, too. Now is the time to take advantage of these opportunities and optimize your team’s tech skills.
I also advise sales and marketing teams to use this time to refresh and regroup. Review your strategic plan. How has it changed in the new environment? If you’re going to become more online-focused, what is your new norm? Take some time to reconfigure your strategic plan and set the right course.
When things start back up again, you’re going to be very busy.
What are some of the ways in which you still see marketing and sales teams in tech not utilizing the full capability of their tech stack…how would you tell them to fix this?
In many companies, meetings and events departments work in silos. The event management software (EMS) platform isn’t integrated with the marketing automation and CRM platforms.
If your event and marketing solutions aren’t talking to each other, a prospect could walk up to a tradeshow booth sales-ready. But the events team wouldn’t know it, and the prospect could slip away unnoticed.
The good news is, event tech providers have made great strides in improving their interoperability with marketing automation and CRM systems. Robust integrations now link events to the company’s overall sales and marketing strategy. Data flows back and forth seamlessly. The platforms enrich each other and deliver valuable insights. So event marketers have insights they need to enhance business outcomes in real time.
When it comes to the choice of a balanced martech stack to help marketers create and run more wholesome multichannel campaigns, what are some of the thoughts you’d share with them, to help plan and align a more end-to-end strategy and an optimized martech stack while at it?
Most advertising models only track digital marketing and how customers connect with brands online. This approach provides an incomplete picture of the customer journey because it overlooks how people interact with brands in the physical world.
But event technology is undergoing a seismic shift. New event intelligence platforms provide unprecedented visibility into how customers interact with brands in the real world, as tracked at in-person events.
Let me explain how this works.
Wearable devices, such as NFC badges and wristbands, act like fitness trackers at modern events; they provide a read on performance in real time.
Wearables enable event marketers to passively track actions and collect engagement data to better understand the journey of each attendee who opts in. For example, you can capture business intelligence on digital networking, dwell time in sessions, repeat visits to exhibitor booths, marketing material downloaded, traffic across the show floor, and more.
Attendee engagement data provides valuable insights, such as: products attendees like, companies they want to do business with, problems they need to solve, content they prefer and want more of.
Savvy marketers bring event data back into a customer record. The goal is to quickly find trends that help make future events and year-round marketing stronger.
As you can imagine, these insights can help inform everything, from product development to content marketing, email campaigns, demand generation, sales and marketing prioritization, digital advertising and more.
Bottom line: Event intelligence gives sales and marketing professionals the insights they need to convert more customers faster and retain them longer.
As a tech leader, in a challenging environment due to the Covid-19 pandemic: what are some of the ways in which you are enabling a balanced remote work culture, while maintaining motivation levels?
At the start of the pandemic, we set out to solve a huge industrywide problem: How can organizations stay connected with constituents during a travel and meeting lockdown?
As mentioned earlier, we partnered immediately with leading digital event platform providers to help our customers pivot to virtual. We also developed a native virtual/hybrid/in-person platform, and now we’re working hard to build out the platform with exciting new capabilities.
Team members all know we’re solving a major challenge for our customers. Having a shared mission keeps motivation high. Team members adapted quickly and have remained extremely productive throughout the pandemic.
While remote work is still largely in place due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic even though businesses and economies are slowly inching towards reopening, what are some of the thoughts you’d like to share for businesses in general?
In addition to having a unified mission, we take measures daily to make sure remote team members stay connected for both their productivity and personal wellbeing.
For one thing, we use messengers and task managers to streamline workflows and enable speedy information exchange on vital issues.
Teams throughout the company also have frequent video calls, so people continue to feel connected.
When everyone is working from home, it can be hard to separate work from home life. A healthy work/life balance is important to avoid burnout. I like to share stories on team calls about biking on scenic trails near my home. Other people who are runners, swimmers and yoga enthusiasts chime in about their activities as well.
Innovation requires collaboration, so we make an effort to find creative ways to maintain social interactions and have fun.
We have virtual happy hours on Friday afternoon. We also make a point to celebrate team members’ exceptional efforts and milestones like work anniversaries, promotions and birthdays. These are other important ways to bring remote workers together and enjoy each other’s company.
How according to you will the face of marketing change because of the ongoing pandemic?
Marketing will become more digital. This is certainly true of event marketing.
Aventri believes B2B meetings and events will return at record levels in 2021. The world’s leading enterprises, tradeshow companies and associations continue to demonstrate their commitment to in-person meetings as the market slowly recovers.
The fact is, for maintaining continuity with customers and getting business done, nothing beats in-person meetings and events. And so, post-pandemic, Aventri is planning for pent-up demand in the marketplace and a strong rebound.
That said, COVID-19 will leave its mark. When meetings come back, they’ll be different.
For one thing, as mentioned, we believe hybrid is the future of meetings and events. Event marketers agree virtual will continue to play a role as a valuable addition to the in-person experience. Post-COVID-19, online and offline formats will work hand-in-hand.
For instance, sales and marketing teams can leverage hybrid events to:
- Offset reduced occupancy while social-distancing restrictions are in place
- Reduce risk
- Offer new sponsorship opportunities
- Supplement face-to-face events with a virtual experience for constituents who want a lighter-touch version
- Expand reach to new geographic regions and to people who can’t travel and would otherwise miss the event
- Offer valuable breakout interactions and one-on-one meetings supported by virtual
- Generate ongoing revenue via digital libraries that sell access after live events conclude
So you can see, in-person events will be more valuable because they’re supported by rich virtual experiences.
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Aventri is the global leader in data-driven, end-to-end, in-person and online event and meeting management solutions. Their award-winning SaaS platform and service offerings have enabled more than 40,000 event professionals to plan, promote, deliver, measure, and optimize over 90,000 events annually. Aventri’s integrated platform’s capabilities include venue sourcing, registration, virtual events, marketing, logistics, onsite services, attendee engagement, and data analytics. Headquartered in the United States, the company has offices in the United Kingdom, Europe, and Asia Pacific. It has delivered customer events in more than 120 countries. Aventri is a portfolio company of private equity firm HGGC.
Brecht Fourneau is senior director of EMEA and APAC marketing at global event technology provider Aventri. He leads the company’s marketing efforts in these regions. As a tech entrepreneur, Brecht co-founded mobile app company TapCrowd, which Aventri acquired in 2015.