Natalie Elliott joined impact.com as Event Marketing Manager in January, with a focus on engaging prospects and customers through paid and owned event channels. She speaks to The Digital Voice about the value events can add to the partnership economy conversation and the prospects for a mainstream return to in-person action in 2022.
What is your role at impact?
My role is to come in and make the most of the events we already run and do more – ranging from sponsored client events to smaller hosted events for impact, virtual and in-person. It’s about engaging with current customers, but also about turning prospects into customers – building and strengthening relationships and creating new ones, ensuring we’ll always be at the forefront in the minds of these people when they need business solutions. It’s about delivering engaging and creative experiences so they remember impact.com and what we stand for.
Over the past few years, impact.com has earned a reputation as a thought leader in the partnership economy. What is the narrative that you, as an event marketer, are tasked with telling?
The fact that the partnerships have grown so much, but they continue to evolve all the time. This year is all about solidifying the concept further, not just with relatively early adopters, but with big and small brands of all possible sorts. Our own CEO, David Yovanno, is in the process of launching a book on partnership economics (February 15), and I think the point is that, despite all the progress, it is still in its infancy. It’s going to grow by leaps and bounds, and we’re going to see the continued rise of partnerships across all sectors, with many brands getting involved for the first time. And because many are only getting involved for the first time, this is another year of growth.
In terms of the split between new and existing customers, where does the event team maintain its focus?
I think probably 60:40, with the emphasis on new. Events are usually for lead generation and then brand awareness. And then we also need opportunities to deliver value as a thought leader, and events are a great way to do that.
What are the challenges of generating leads through events, and what is the art of doing it?
The challenge is that you are competing with so many other noises and you have to stand out. So you have to be so different, so creative to get their attention, and then once you have that, you have to have the team that can keep those conversations going and nurture that relationship, turn it into something.
Finding new leads is probably the hardest thing we do, but with your existing customers, you have to be on your game – everything still has to be 100% to keep them happy and engaged. We are well aware that this always has to continue, and again, you have to have a team that is focused on that.
The past two years have forced a lot of innovation into events, but now we’re back in a situation where the debate is increasingly about virtual vs hybrid vs in-person. Locally, in the UK, do you think this year will mark a comeback in person?
I have a feeling it’s going to be a good year. Given where we seem to be right now, in terms of restrictions, I think things will move forward because life seems to be getting back to normal. Some people will still want to have that virtual backup. The problem, however, is that you’re doing triple the work of making sure you have something online just in case the person doesn’t move on. And quite a few people I’ve spoken to, in terms of sponsorship, have said that if we go into lockdown, they just won’t go ahead and the event will be moved.
But then there are some who keep this version online as well, because obviously not everyone feels comfortable attending events in person, and that’s totally valid. So I think this year it’s a lot more in-person, with a number of hybrid events, but probably less of a tendency to use virtual as emergency relief.
impact.com has such a global reach and huge footprint across Europe. How many of your events across Europe are likely to take place in person, and do you expect people to start traveling for events again?
I think in a lot of cases people are desperate to get to events and be on the ground with people. As much as virtual events have been a lifesaver during this time, and they’ve worked and we know we’ve gotten a lot out of it, nothing beats in person. Nothing changes and it will not change. I think people who are comfortable with the situation will want to go back there and see the people.
Today’s marketing manager is pulled in many different directions. What excites you most about your role?
What excites me personally is trying to create something really engaging, that stands out and having fun with it. This year I’m looking forward to robot bars and interactive wall games – all mind blowing things. That’s what excites me, because there’s not much you can do on a Zoom. I’m just excited to get back to fun experiences. I heard about the puppies at the Influencer Marketing Show last year (impact.com hosted a team of Work legs sausage dogs at last year’s event for enhanced puppy networking) and I love the sound of it.
You joined impact.com during lockdown. How did you bond with your team and the different divisions?
Well, I actually think it’s been amazing, integrating into a virtual world. It’s a first for me, but everything has just been so organized, so well put together. I was given a plan of people to meet, across the company – a whole list of people I need to go talk to. So there wasn’t a single day that I felt lonely – it was really, really good. Little messages on Slack, people logging in all the time – everyone is so warm and welcoming. And they are busy, but they have time. Everyone had time for me. So, I literally couldn’t fault it.