MarTech Interview with Ashleigh Cook, SVP of Marketing at RainFocus

How does one create a marketing strategy that truly stands out? Ashleigh Cook, SVP of Marketing at RainFocus, shares her insights in our latest interview.

One of the main benefits of event unification is consolidating all information and data within a single source of truth. In doing so, event marketers gain a holistic view of all their events’ performances – and thereby, know how each one will impact their target audience during specific moments in their customer journey.

In today’s comprehensive and diverse marketplace, it can get pretty chaotic to track the performance of all your marketing events. RainFocus, a unique insight-driven event marketing platform is here to your rescue in this chaotic business environment. We at MarTech Cube sat down with Ashleigh Cook, the SVP of Marketing at RainFocus to discuss the offerings of this unique platform that unifies and manages all your virtual, in-person, and hybrid events seamlessly.

Dive in to unveil insights from one of the brightest minds in marketing!

1. Could you share a bit about yourself and your career before RainFocus?
Before joining RainFocus, I worked as a marketing and communications professional for over 15 years. Throughout my career, I have been focused on helping mid-sized to larger enterprise clients effectively measure and improve their brand, demand, and enablement efforts at each stage of the funnel. I have led marketing teams spanning GTM strategy, demand generation, ABM, client marketing, and operations. I received my bachelor’s degree in business marketing from the University of Richmond. I enjoy traveling, gardening, and spending time with my family and friends in my spare time.

2. Can you tell us more about RainFocus and how has the company evolved over the last couple of years?
RainFocus is a leading event technology platform helping brands, organizations, and marketers plan, execute, and measure the success of their events. Since its founding in 2013, the company has experienced significant growth through client expansion, key partnerships, and funding rounds – to evolve our product capabilities and further our global reach to serve Fortune 500 customers worldwide. RainFocus continues to innovate and improve its technology, releasing new features and enhancements — informed by market needs and client feedback — to its platform on a regular basis. These updates have helped RainFocus’ clients streamline their event planning and execution processes, and have enabled them to deliver more engaging and memorable events for their attendees.

RainFocus’ growth and success have been recognized by a number of industry awards and accolades. Recently, the company was included on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States for the second time and listed as a representative vendor in the 2022 Gartner(R) Market Guide for event technology platforms for the second consecutive year. These recognitions are a testament to the company’s commitment to delivering exceptional event technology solutions to its clients and their end-users.

3. What’s your favorite part about working in this industry?
There are many aspects that I enjoy about working in the events industry. One of my favorite things is to work collaboratively with our clients to develop and implement new innovations in events as well as observe how technology enables events to succeed, but also the chance to connect with people.

Events continue to play a pivotal role in creating opportunities for marketers to facilitate meaningful interactions between a brand and their target audience – but now, thanks to digital transformation, the format in which these connections can be made have expanded. I enjoy seeing this shift as it’s enabled marketers to personalize their content and messaging on a deeper level utilizing emerging technologies and anticipate upcoming trends – which keeps things interesting.

4. How does the unification of all events together help companies?

One of the main benefits of event unification is consolidating all information and data within a single source of truth. In doing so, event marketers gain a holistic view of all their events’ performances – and thereby, know how each one will impact their target audience during specific moments in their customer journey.

Unification allows companies to see how each event contributes to their overall goals and objectives, and to make data-driven decisions around which strategies, content, and event formats are the most effective.

Marketers that adopt a unified platform not only streamline processes and integrations, but improve tracking efficiency, event logistics management, and communication with attendees. This saves time and resources, freeing developers to focus on other areas of the business such as creating a cohesive brand experience for attendees across all events, which can be especially important for companies looking to build long-term trust in their relationships with their clients.

5. How, according to you, has the marketing space evolved after the COVID -19 pandemic?
One of the main changes the marketing space has experienced during and following the COVID-19 pandemic has been the digital transformation of events and how zero and first-party behavioral data is captured, integrated, and activated. When in-person events and traditional marketing channels were disrupted, companies had to find new ways to reach and engage with their audiences online and harness that data in the most effective way.

The pandemic also highlighted the importance of agility and adaptability in marketing. Companies have had to be flexible and responsive to changing circumstances, and find new ways to connect and re-engage with clients whose attention may have faltered. Requiring marketers to adopt a more customer-centric marketing approach that uses data and analytics to deliver personalized decision-making. Many of these changes are permanent – and brands see the importance of offering experiences that work best for their clients. While we see the return of in-person events, there are many, including RainFocus, that offer virtual and hybrid experiences internally, as well as options for our clients.

6. According to you, which forms of events have been the most preferred for marketers: virtual, in-person, or hybrid?
Keeping in mind the shifts experienced in the last two years, I’ve seen virtual events become the most preferred type of event for clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. With in-person events largely unavailable due to social distancing measures, many companies developed virtual events to connect with their audiences and achieve their marketing goals. Marketers learned the advantages of virtual events – most importantly, the ability to make content more inclusive for audiences worldwide. They’ve also become highly appealing for brands due to the lower cost and fewer resources required to produce the scale of these events compared to traditional in-person events.

That being said, it’s important to note that different types of event formats are best suited for different client needs and objectives and while virtual events have been the most preferred form during the pandemic, hybrid events (which combine virtual and in-person elements) and in-person events will play an important role just as much for stakeholders looking to the future. Ultimately, the best type of event for marketers will depend on their specific needs and the preferences of their audience as well as the organization’s objectives.

7. How do you perceive the current Martech scenario in terms of event technology?
In my view, the current Martech scenario in terms of event technology is highly dynamic and rapidly evolving. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital technologies, and event technology was no exception. Companies have had to find new ways to connect with their audiences and deliver engaging experiences, and the innovations created over the past two years alone have played a crucial role in this transition.

There has been a surge in the use of virtual event platforms and tools, as well as a proliferation of new technologies and features designed to enhance the overall attendee experience. These technologies range from basic web conferencing tools to more advanced platforms that offer interactive features, networking capabilities, and integrations with other marketing technologies. At the same time, the demand for in-person events is bouncing back leading to a renewed focus on hybrid events – pairing the capabilities of both formats to better collect and analyze client data enabling marketers to have more control over their measurable event ROI.

8. Are there any metrics that event marketers can use to measure the success of their events?
Yes, there are a number of metrics that event marketers can use to measure the success of their events. Some of the most commonly used metrics include:

1. Attendance: This is perhaps the most basic measure of event success. It’s important to track how many people actually show up to your event, as this can give you an idea of how well you are able to attract and retain attendees.

2. Engagement: It’s not just about getting people to show up to your event, but also about keeping them engaged and involved while they are there. Metrics such as the number of interactions, the amount of time spent on event-related activities, and the level of participation in sessions and activities can all be used to gauge engagement.

3. Satisfaction: Activation of surveys throughout the event enables event organizers to collect feedback on sessions, speakers and overall experience to assess and level up the experiences for audiences (attendees, sponsors, speakers) at the next touchpoint. This is also a critical driver for organizers to gauge sponsorship renewal potential.

4.Conversion: For events with a specific goal or objective, it’s important to track the number of attendees who take a desired action, especially conversion into meetings, pipeline and closed deals are key. This can give you an idea of how well your event is driving conversions.

5. Return on Investment (ROI): Ultimately, the success of an event should be measured in terms of the value it generates for the company. Calculating the ROI of an event can help you determine whether it was worth the investment in terms of the benefits it provided. Looking at metrics such as pipeline generated, accounts influenced, pipeline velocity, ASP, and closed won business are key to demonstrating success.

These are just a few examples of the metrics that event marketers can use to measure the success of their events. The specific metrics you choose will depend on your goals and objectives, as well as the specific nature of your event.

9. Since the pandemic, have businesses relied on events to keep their brand loyalty intact?
Yes, businesses have relied on events to keep their brand loyalty intact during the pandemic. However, many have had to be deliberate about where and how they utilize events and their technology in order to do so. Overall, the rapid change and innovation we see across the industry have created a highly dynamic environment in which the impact of these emerging technologies will be felt by brands and their end-users for decades to come.

10. How has RainFocus’ event management stack benefited marketers in various industry domains?
Many organizations tend to focus on the event rather than the client, and, therefore, need to rely on several event marketing vendors, tools and apps to facilitate different aspects of the event (e.g., registration, mobile, exhibitor management). The RainFocus platform consolidates and unifies all of the elements that teams need to run an event portfolio from registration to seamless experience management, with a key focus on capturing and integrating the data into core martech systems. This enables RainFocus to support clients in delivering personalized content in the optimal experience at the right time.

While events may slightly vary by industry segment, RainFocus works with the leading brands that are transforming the events industry. These brands are innovating with us and informing the roadmap, which drives the benefit the full client base can realize throughout their portfolios.

11. What is the biggest piece of advice you would want to give to other marketers out there when it comes to their event strategy?
One of the biggest pieces of advice I would give to other marketers regarding their event strategy is to focus on the client experience. Events are a great way to connect with your audience and build relationships, but in order to do that effectively, you need to ensure that your events are relevant, engaging, and valuable to your attendees. To achieve this, it’ll be important for marketers to start by understanding their audience’s needs and preferences by asking critical questions (i.e., What are they looking for in an event?; What are their pain points and challenges?; How can you address these through your event content and format?).

Once marketers clearly understand their audience, they can take the next step in creating a seamless and cohesive event experience that meets their needs by using data to personalize the event experience.
Ultimately, the key to a successful event strategy is putting the client at the center of everything you do and continuously striving to improve and evolve your events to deliver an exceptional event experience.

12. What movie/book has inspired you recently?
Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

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Ashleigh Cook, SVP of Marketing at RainFocus
Ashleigh is an accomplished marketing executive with deep experience in best practices and technologies for sales, marketing, and product. She is currently SVP of marketing at RainFocus and is driven by a passion for helping high-growth companies establish and scale marketing functions to deliver an exceptional customer experience that aligns with rapidly changing expectations and technology advancements.

Prior to RainFocus, Ashleigh led marketing teams spanning GTM strategy, demand generation, ABM, client marketing, and operations at SiriusDecisions and Forrester. Ashleigh holds a BSBA in marketing from the University of Richmond.

RainFocus is a next-generation event marketing platform built from the ground up to capture, analyze, and harness an unprecedented amount of data for significantly better events and conferences. As a true SaaS platform, RainFocus simplifies event registration, content management, exhibitor activation, virtual delivery, and onsite experiences from a single dashboard. RainFocus empowers organizations to save time, increase engagement, and maximize event value for every event.

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