We’ve previously talked about the benefits of gathering a small peer group focused on solving common challenges in our ABM Guide. In this post we’ll hear a different take on events from Ben Winter, Head of Growth & Marketing at Fairmarkit.
Fairmarkit uses data and automation to help organizations purchase the goods they need easily and efficiently. Early in the pandemic, Ben and Fairmarkit C0-founder & COO, Tarek Alaruri began to notice that people in the procurement space were missing networking opportunities. They saw a chance to fill that need with online events that mirrored the organic nature of in-person networking events that were the norm in the procurement field.
As Ben puts it, “It was about having fun. It was a way for us to connect with prospects we’ve never talked to, people who are in our pipeline, people we know are really interested in our product, and our customers.”
The events were more than a simple nuts and bolts business conversation. They created the intimate feeling of a wine bar meetup with a bottle of wine sent to the attendees beforehand, or even a luau with a coconut, bottle of rum and a lei sent to each person.
The first event gathered 15-25 senior-level attendees. Instead of focusing on Fairmarkit, the conversation was around a topic of common interest, like how to tackle tail spend or supplier diversity. In other iterations of the events, Fairmarkit hosted a speaker for the first portion and then opened up the floor for conversation. The exchanges always started with a pre-established topic and then flowed popcorn style with each person making their contribution as they saw fit.
From the beginning, Fairmarkit’s strategy centered around generosity. “The mantra for the events,” says Ben “was that we wanted everyone to leave having one new professional contact that they can leverage going forward in their life.” This was facilitated by allowing people the space in the event to organically connect.
So far, the response has been positive and attendees have been vocal about the value they’re getting. “I get four or five e-mails after each one telling me how great the conversation is. We usually book an hour and often have to kick people off after two hours or more” Ben continues.
Digging further into the details of how Fairmarkit pulls this off, it all starts with an invite to an event positioned as an exclusive networking opportunity where the topics like ‘Supplier Diversity’ or ‘Tail spend’ are addressed. And all invites happen through personal outreach. Whether it’s a member of Fairmarkit’s own executive team or a sales person, the event is populated with a curated list of high-value attendees, some of whom have previously attended a Fairmarkit Webinar. Using this combination of personal outreach and ‘webinar-as-feeder-system’, Fairmarkit has struck a balance of new and familiar faces. To ensure this exclusive feel remains in place, AEs and BDRs don’t invite people directly to the events. Instead they submit who they’d like to attend to senior leadership. And since the events have been so successful for deal generation and acceleration, competition is usually high to submit new attendees.
Once Fairmarkit hit its stride with the events, they began co-hosting them with partner companies, which meant those partners brought their customers and expanded the depth of conversation and also the pool of prospects. In terms of selecting partners, Ben says “People reach out to us because of the buzz around the events and the strength of the brand we’ve developed.”
Once an event happens, follow-up is as organic as the conversation itself. Ben says “We’ve done follow-ups that say hey, we’d love to talk to you about Fairmarkit if you’re interested, but we don’t do more than that, and it always comes from me or an executive. It’s about striking a balance; we don’t want to look like we’re only doing it to get some deal in the door. We’re a big believer in building community, and in thought leadership, and this is a natural extension of that.”
Nonetheless, the program has still driven results. Ben continues, “We’ll often get a response from our initial e-mail that says thank you so much, I didn’t know much about you beforehand, but I’d love to talk more.”
If you’re thinking shipping wine or coconuts to create the feel of a wine bar or a luau via zoom sounds like a heavy lift, Ben says it isn’t. “We’re getting access to 40 people who are at executive levels. The numbers bear that philosophy out since Fairmarkit has closed several deals with people who attended the events, moved many further down the pipeline and created several net new meetings with prospects.
Since the events have been so successful, Ben expects that they’ll continue some iteration of them even after in-person events are more widely possible. “I think people are going to be used to online networking events going forward. Larger events or conferences pre-covid often took lots of travel and coordination, so being able to get similar value from just connecting through WiFi is going to be really appealing.”