Martech Interview with JR Sherman, CEO, RainFocus

JR Sherman highlights the event marketing trends and why is it critical to prioritize event marketing in your martech stack

The level of customer commitment to engage in virtual or in-person content for hours or days offers unique insights into content preferences and purchasing cycles.

1. How has your journey been as the CEO of Rainfocus?
I’ve been in the experiential technology space for more than 20 years, creating service and software as a service (SaaS) businesses in the marketing industry. RainFocus is an experiential software company that integrates data management, marketing automation, and strategic event management within a single platform. When I moved to the event tech startup, I knew this was an incredible opportunity just by seeing the technology and what it can do for organizations.
At RainFocus, my journey as the CEO has been remarkable. Our mission is to educate marketers on how they can transform event marketing from an isolated investment to memorable and personalized customer experiences, to drive top-line revenue growth, build brand equity, and accelerate their sales funnel. I’m passionate about what we do and the results we can deliver. It’s wonderful to be a part of a company experiencing rapid growth, and I’m excited for the future of corporate events as we continue to serve users from all over the world.

2. RainFocus is listed as a Representative Vendor in the 2022 Gartner® Market Guide for Event Technology Platforms. What are some unique features that set you apart from your competitors?
Competitors fall into two dangerous traps: Failing to consider the customer and failing to provide a comprehensive, all-in-one platform. What makes RainFocus unique is that it’s led by industry veterans who know the challenges of B2B sales and marketing and have been a part of the last two-plus decades of event marketing, predicting upcoming trends and crucial innovations much easier.
Our platform is not only easy to navigate and implement, but once properly integrated into an organization’s martech stack, it enables experiential personalization at scale throughout the customer journey.
As previously referenced, many large organizations focus on the event vs. the customer, relying on several event marketing vendors, tools or apps to facilitate different event processes — one might specialize in registration, another in mobile interfaces, exhibit management, or even virtual networking.
As a platform, RainFocus facilitates all elements of an event program, from personalization to seamless experience management, and does so with one secure, scalable data integration for real-time insights throughout the customer journey.
Despite the challenge of shifting audiences from in-person to virtual and back, our clients have grown their events within RainFocus, and they frequently praise RainFocus’ scalability, flexibility, reliability, and world-class service team.

3. How can event marketers successfully encourage networking during virtual and hybrid events?
I believe in unique experiences vs. events for all audiences. By integrating RainFocus with your martech stack or CDP, customer interests and preferences drive the experience and map their journey. While community can be an essential facet of any hybrid or virtual event, event marketers must first ask themselves: Why is this attendee at my conference, and what do they hope to learn? Some attendees crave social interaction, networking, and team-building opportunities. Some attendees might also be tuning in during work hours and are eager to pursue knowledge and content but don’t intend to engage with colleagues. For folks in this category, encouragement to network and endless emphasis on networking opportunities could deter this cohort from attending in the first place.
Once event marketers determine someone’s interest in networking, the key is to provide resources and reminders on networking chat groups, event luncheons, and other components leading up to the event. Further, participation should be clear and simple. Whether a Zoom link or an afternoon schedule with people and places, the customer experience must entice users to engage with others. After all, networking can happen online and in-person — but event marketers must determine who is seeking it and provide the best experience possible.

4. Event marketing has changed a lot in the last two years alone. What trends are here to stay?
The pandemic brought about the most significant overhaul to event marketing I’ve seen since I began my career more than two decades ago. There was a time when event attendees had to physically mail registration forms. While we’ve progressed, the shift from in-person to virtual caused an unexpected scramble in marketing teams of all shapes and sizes. With events always being a critical element to customer relationships, this initially presented frantic uncertainty — how do we continue to reach prospects and customers with only virtual options while maintaining the expected level of engagement and impact we’ve delivered?
For RainFocus, we knew events played a far more significant role in marketing strategies and customer relationships than most gave it credit. Showcasing how an end-to-end event engagement platform can completely change how you plan and host events, personalize experiences and content, and utilize data was critical. For marketers looking to keep the customer at the core of their strategies, choosing a platform for your event channel vs. purchasing apps and tools for each event can rapidly enhance and accelerate your overall marketing strategy and company’s growth.
The pandemic helped marketers better understand the high-value insight from their event channel.

The level of customer commitment to engage in virtual or in-person content for hours or days offers unique insights into content preferences and purchasing cycles.

These insights allow us to make the customer the core of any event experience.
Looking forward, more marketing teams will shift their view from siloing their event tech to adopting integrated event platforms that engage customers with personalized content throughout their customer journey. An event technology platform is a cornerstone for orchestrating content and connections with your prospects and customers in experiences that drive optimal engagement and align with your organizational goals.

5. Event marketing is often siloed from other aspects of marketing. Why is it critical to prioritize event marketing in your martech stack?
An integrated event marketing platform is the leading provider of real-time data on customer preferences and interests, providing continuous insight to accelerate engagement and buying cycles in conjunction with traditional digital marketing strategies. Because of the precise level at which marketers can gauge engagement and interest within events, marketers can now seamlessly use event marketing and digital marketing to develop relationships and automate personalization at scale.

6. What are the largest challenges event marketers face when it comes to collecting and using data?
Event marketers have access to valuable data. However, it’s making that data actionable that typically remains the problem. While marketers have made significant improvements in how they collect and use data over the last two years, it would be unsurprising to hear of less sophisticated organizations still putting attendee information in an excel document, only to be never touched again. Collecting data isn’t necessarily the hard part — it’s all about ensuring data is coming in to provide a feedback loop that sheds insight on the customer experience and journey and then how it’s utilized to provide the best experience and keep attendees engaged.

7. What are your biggest predictions for the future of events?
I predict we’ll see significant advancements and increased investment in the event channel over the next few years. AI-backed processes will bring about a new level of sophistication to enhance user experiences and content orchestration. The future of the event channel will revolve around your customers and their journeys with your brand, matching them with content, networking opportunities, and experiences that match their personas and needs.

8. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
While I’m incredibly proud of the platform and success we’ve built at RainFocus, delivering the most significant innovation our industry has seen in over two decades, I recognize that my most significant achievement was to gather a powerful team of incredible individuals and enable them, support them, and learn from them to create RainFocus, an organization truly greater than the sum of its parts.
I’m humbled by my executive teammates’ leadership, intelligence, and innovation. I simply believe in guiding high-performance individuals and helping them achieve their greatest potential by providing a culture and environment that encourages and rewards risk-taking and establishes earned trust. There’s a notable advantage when your team has established a foundation of trust and aligns well with a collective set of goals. Over the years, I’ve worked to elevate events and prove the power of a handshake, but it wasn’t until this team came together that I could achieve it.

9. What advice would you give to event tech startups?
Event tech startups are entering the market during a period of accelerated evolution. The only way to come out on top is to keep a pulse on what individual attendees want from the experiences they invest so much time in. From there, it’s simply about delivering an exceptional event experience. By keeping the customer at the center of your strategy rather than the events themselves, event tech startups can find success and establish their place in the rapidly changing and high-growth sector of martech.

Tune in to Martech Cube Podcast for visionary Martech Trends, Martech News, and quick updates by business experts and leaders!

JR Sherman is the CEO of RainFocus. With more than 20 years of leading highly impactful service and SaaS businesses, Sherman is highly regarded for his expertise in SaaS, events, marketing and experiential marketing. Sherman was named one of the 25 Most Influential Executives by Business Travel News.

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.

Previous ArticleNext Article