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Real Time Marketing at Live Events


In Michael Lewis’ book Flash Boys, Lewis describes the practice of High Frequency Trading - an equity trading discipline that depends on speed-to-market to deliver outsized returns.  Flash Boys begins with the story of Spread Networks, a telecom company that was investing $300M to build a fiber link to connect Chicago to New Jersey with the goal of shaving just 4 milliseconds off of the transmission time of data between those two hubs.  

Why would Spread Networks invest so much for such a marginal gain? Because speed-to-market is everything in the world of investing, and they knew that investment firms would shell out big money for access to such a network. The concept is simple; when major company news breaks, your return as an investor depends on how quickly you can make the trade, and every millisecond counts.

For digital marketers and salespeople, it is not news that speed-to-market is crucial in guiding prospects down a marketing funnel.  In “The Drift Lead Response Report: Why Every Minute Matters For Sales Teams In 2018,” Drift writes elegantly that for every minute that passes between an inbound lead and a touch, your sales conversion rate falls.  Relatedly, every top salesperson knows that the right time to close a deal is when the prospect is ready to buy, not five minutes, five days, five weeks after.  There is a whole domain around this concept called real time marketing.

Real Time Marketing at Live Events (1)

But live event marketers have been a bit slow to the party.  The marketing workflow for most corporate events goes something like this:

  1. Plan and promote your event.
  2. Execute your event.
  3. Take a breath when the event ends, as events are exhausting.
  4. Do your event follow up.

To a modern digital marketer, this is the equivalent of running at 3G speeds in an LTE world.  As your event attendees board planes and trains and go back to their real lives, the magic and excitement fades.  Every day that passes between the electric event experience of learning about a new product or service and targeted marketing follow up means decay to your conversion rates.

“Events can be an incredible accelerant for the marketing funnel,” says Dave Peterson from Play Bigger.  “At the best events, it’s as if the attendees have been dipped in this magical Pixie Dust that makes them ready to buy, engage, partner, whatever.  But that Pixie Dust has a short shelf life, and you have to move fast.”


It was a conversation with DoubleDutch board member Mike Maples two years ago that got me thinking about how event tech could bring the speed of digital to event marketers.  He called the concept High Frequency Marketing (“real time” may be more descriptive) - using technology to listen for marketing signal, and then front run the market by acting in near real time.

But it is only now that we are beginning to see our customers execute these sorts of instant campaigns at live events.

Here is an example.

A Fortune 100 customer of ours uses our mobile event app to engage attendees at a series of marketing roadshows designed to identify what they call “hand raisers” - attendees who are literally raising their hand to request more information about a product or service.

In order to effectively instrument their event series to listen for these hand raising signals, our customer built a custom UI in the DoubleDutch event app using DoubleDutch Developer Platform with a big “I’m Interested” button next to a nice visual describing the product.

Real Time Marketing at Live Events (2)

But here is where things get interesting.  

Instead of simply capturing these leads for follow up post event, our customer uses a reporting dashboard to identify the leads as they come in, in real time.  As the hand raisers self identify, they are routed to product specialists onsite who connect with them live via the mobile app and immediately offer up additional information and set follow up meetings at the event.

This is High Frequency, Real Time Marketing.  This is accelerating people through the marketing funnel.  This is reaching the right people, at the right time, with the right message.  This is moving before the Pixie Dust fades.

The concepts presented here are simple and in reach for all marketing events today, and are surprisingly easy to execute using a modern event tech platform like DoubleDutch.  

Why more companies are not moving to reduce latency in their response time around live events is beyond me.

Editor’s Note: Laying these thoughts on paper was triggered by this piece on DemandGenReport talking about how companies like Hubspot, Marketo, and WorkWave are thinking about live events.

By Lawrence Coburn | 2 July, 2018

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About the Author: Lawrence Coburn

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