MarTech Interview with JR Sherman, CEO at RainFocus

JR Sherman, CEO at RainFocus talks about the evolving B2B event landscape and what marketers should focus on to drive robust event experiences through 2022:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat JR, tell us about yourself and more about being CEO at RainFocus…

Thank you for having me, Paroma! I’m the CEO of RainFocus, an end-to-end event marketing and management platform that captures, analyzes, and harnesses an unprecedented amount of behavioral insights to significantly amplify the customer journey. We are dedicated to creating innovative technologies that unite teams and increase event impact and marketing value. As CEO, I’m focused on recruiting and enabling the best executive and functional leaders and creating a global team that embodies our culture of client-first commitment, high-performance, and work-life balance. At last, I am committed to enabling the integration of the experiential channel in marketing technology and the customer journey.

Why in your view are event marketing platforms crucial to marketers who focus on online/other events as part of their marketing strategies?

Marketers tend to make the mistake of siloing event marketing tools away from their marketing tech stack. The limitations of event technology solutions have encouraged marketers to focus exclusively on an event vs. focusing on their customers.  An experiential platform like RainFocus places the customer at the core and enables the orchestration of content and experiences to match that customer’s need based on where they are in a decision process or their journey with your brand. The lack of martech integrations in event tech has also led marketers to bypass and waste rich behavioral insights instead of repurposing them in events and other marketing channels.

RainFocus’ ability to match the most relevant content with the optimal experience enhances relationships with your customers at any point along their journey with your brand – from awareness, interest, and evaluation, to decision and renewal. Ultimately, with a comprehensive platform, marketers are equipped with the ability to deliver personalized human content in memorable experiences, all as part of their existing campaigns.  I can’t say it enough – experiential data is paramount even beyond an event. It supports marketing strategies year-round, and through personalization, it brings increased efficiency and value to customers as you grow their affinity for your brand.

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Can you share a few best practices that first time users of event marketing platforms should keep in mind when adopting these types of tools?

First-time users need to understand that the strategies for the events channel have evolved at an unprecedented pace, especially over the last two years. That said, you can thoughtfully deliver content and experiences that meet every customer’s profile.

To achieve the level of integrated personalization discussed above, it’s critical to consolidate to a platform and unify the profiles of the customers engaging in your experiences.  By augmenting a customer profile with behavioral event preferences, data from your event channel can be utilized in real-time to inform your digital marketing platforms and campaigns, delivering the ultimate seamless experience to customers. It’s not about simply consolidating vendors.  An event management platform must offer your marketing teams the flexibility and confidence to deliver content and networking opportunities through virtual, hybrid, and physical experiences at any scale.  Security, scalability, and simplicity are paramount in selecting a platform for your event channel.

With the event landscape undergoing a shift again as companies consider hybrid/in-person events through 2022, what do you feel marketers and brands need to keep in mind?

In this current event landscape, marketers and brands must keep three pillars in mind – flexibility, engaging content, and data insights. Our industry is constantly shifting – industry leaders must match the cadence. We’ve seen events canceled or shifted to virtual in the last two years. Brands that successfully pivoted owe it to being flexible and customer-focused vs. event-focused. While the content shared through these experiences may be different, your goals and stakeholders’ expectations remain consistent and aligned.

Event organizers must invest in delivering thoughtful, relevant, and personalized content that caters to attendees’ interests, past behaviors, and the current stage of their unique journey with your brand. As marketers, we have access to vast data on our customers, their preferences and interests, and their journey with our brands, but on its own, data from a single experience or engagement isn’t actionable without reference to its role in the broader relationship.  Synthesizing behavioral event data with broad customer insight completes that customer picture. As we embrace a new ‘blend’ of experiences with flexibility, connecting these dots allows us to deliver personalized content to the right customer at the right time. At last, this is all possible when we consolidate and simplify technology and enhance the integration of the event platform with our martech stack.

A lot of leaders at the start of the Covid pandemic shared views on how online events would remain and now most industry enthusiasts can’t seem to wait to get back to in-person gatherings. What thoughts would you share with brands planning their event strategy in 2022? Should they lean toward hybrid models or in-person events more?

Looking beyond the pandemic and current global climate, the events industry is forever changed. The past two years have taught industry leaders to be prepared for anything. As an industry, we’ve normalized constant change. In the early days, events were canceled altogether, and more recently, we’ve seen events move from physical venues to virtual and hybrid reasonably quickly and seamlessly. In the long run, human nature will play the greatest role in the return of physical events. To expect virtual to remain the primary event content vehicle begs us to question why athletic stadiums and concert venues are once again filled beyond capacity. Certainly thirty 4K camera angles, viewed from the comfort of your home sound like an easy choice, yet the venues are packed.

Marketers must transcend binary thinking (virtual or physical) when it comes to event experiences and focus instead on matching personalized content and experiences with individual customers in the format they prefer. We will see most organizations continue to offer virtual and hybrid options based on engagement data and what they have learned about their customers throughout the pandemic. We will see organizations start with relatively smaller events but quickly grow them to overtake their historical attendance numbers as their confidence returns.

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We’d love to hear a few predictions you have in mind for the future of martech and B2B marketing!

Technology is no longer a decision for an event…it’s a decision to integrate experiences and human content across a customers’ unique journey with your brand. Like CRM and Marketing Automation, event technology is now a platform decision for organizations that have recognized its value and contribution.

The pandemic has changed how we work and manage events – however, I know the industry is not done evolving. I believe in providing solutions that work for organizations, brands, and customers. Whether investing in hybrid, in-person or entirely virtual events, industry leaders must be prepared and have the capabilities to support these objectives and ensure it’s engaging their target audience. We’ve learned that if we aren’t agile and ready to pivot at a moment’s notice, we’re bound to fail.

Some last thoughts, takeaways, before we wrap up!

At RainFocus, we partner with our customers to orchestrate and optimize their event channel, whether they’re planning the annual conference or a portfolio of targeted virtual and physical experiences. I’m eager to accelerate and enable the next generation of event marketing technology as experiences, and personalized content evolve around the customer journey. I’m looking forward to what’s next for RainFocus as we continue to innovate and deliver ultimate experiences. As leading brands embrace event management platforms, I believe we’ll see exciting innovations designed for customers to be successful, and marketers must have an all-encompassing and integrated platform solution that delivers content and receives real-time engagement insights.

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RainFocus

RainFocus helps you manage your virtual, in-person, and hybrid events seamlessly with their insight-driven platform.

With more than 20 years of leading highly impactful service and SaaS businesses, JR is highly regarded for his expertise in SaaS, events, marketing, and experiential marketing. JR educates marketers on how they can transform event marketing from an isolated investment to an integrated customer experience that drives top-line revenue growth, builds brand equity, and accelerates the sales funnel. As CEO of RainFocus, he is also focused on creating and nurturing a culture that is grounded in pride and dedication, balanced with a commitment to supporting family and private lives.

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