In this podcast episode, we interview Martin Larsen, Chief Executive at Conferize, an event-based marketing technology platform.

Martin shares what led him to join Conferize, and provides some insights into why Denmark is a hotspot for marketing technology startups.

He also shares tips and advice on how B2B marketers can show the RoI from their events, why it’s important to focus on the outcome as an organizer, and whether hybrid events will be the key approach for the future.

Transcript: Interview with Martin Larsen – Conferize

Mike: Thanks for listening to marketing b2b tech, the podcast from Napier, where you can find out what really works in b2b marketing today. Welcome to the latest episode of marketing b2b technology, the podcast from Napier. Today I’m joined by Martin Larson. Martin is the CEO of Conferize Welcome to the podcast, Martin.

Martin: Thank you so much good to be here.

Mike: Great. I mean, maybe first of all, I don’t know if people are familiar with the company. Can you just explain what Conferize does?

Martin: Yeah, I can do that. So Conferize is a things based marketing technology company, we deliver an event technology, mainly to take care of all of the aspects from invitation to planning through communication, basically taking care of for an organiser for all of the aspects into SMD management. So that’s what we do. And we’re pretty proud of that part.

Mike: Cool. And I mean, the first thing to say is that, you know, you mentioned that is a Danish company, Denmark seems like it’s a bit of a hot spot, particularly for marketing technology startups. And why is that? Why is Denmark doing so? Well?

Martin: Well, it’s really a good question I see not only in marketing technology, but also in financial technology, fintechs, health tech, etc. I think there’s been a change in culture, also, we’ve had a few changes in the education system over the last 10 to 15 years. And, and we are on top of all of that really blessed of, of the fact that we are having quite a few of the big tech companies having their development centres in Denmark, it really enables a lot of communication, knowledge share, and just enthusiasm in in just creating a great environment where you’re trying to, you know, credit a difference with, you know, smaller pieces of technology. So it’s it’s, yeah, it’s really a vibrant scene. I think it started in many ways with FinTech and really moved into many new industry areas.

Mike: Interesting. So in terms of view yourself, I mean, how did you end up a conference? Can you talk us through, you know, your career journey and what you’ve done in the past?

Martin: Yeah, well, yeah, it’s interesting. Yeah, it’s funny just to to be a conference, I’d say, I really started my career at Accenture, I’ve been with a couple of those major world consultancies, technology companies like Accenture have been there for more than a decade in with Microsoft in their consulting department and with Gartner as a partner in their operations. And that has really been quite a few of the foundations, and here were recent years, have had a transformation roles as CEO, CFO. And now I’m here conference where it really started off as a part of her reconstruction, where we wanted to dedicate even more effort in simply just going to the market, simply wanted to make sure that we are getting some presence, and we really wanted to create the delights our system can deliver. And that’s the journey we’ve started off with, I’d say, I’ve done a lot of, you know, making an impact by, you know, delivering change. And I’m this what we do here as well.

Mike: Amazing. And so, you came to Conferize, I have to ask, and this is maybe a bit unfair, but but you joined earlier this year in the middle of a pandemic, and you joined an events company, basically. That seems a very brave move to me. Why did you decide to join?

Martin: Well, I was approached by the board, some investors, they were conference were really struggling due to the pandemic, and they needed to really find a new direction. So we had a few discussions towards the end of last year, around New new direction, what could we do? Did we have a belief in in the platform in the customer base and the actual market, and I spent some time just looking at the platform, did a you know, simply due diligence, and said I do believe that there is a need for this. I think if we can take the pandemic and the fact that the vaccinations were on its way, it would be a matter of months or maybe half years before we were really getting back to some kind of normal and for me, that was really the time where it was about rebuilding the organisation and start prepare for the future after the pandemic. It’s it’s really going to be different I’m sure about that. But I just believed it was a great opportunity to take and of course, it’s With some risks of being in the event industry, during the pandemic, I think it’s pretty fair to say that what we all come out with after the pandemic, is really a need for, for having much more engagement, it’s about getting our processes, digitised even more so. And I actually think we would have a fair portion of those tasks we can help with.

Mike: Fascinating. So I mean, obviously, you know, Conferize can support both virtual and physical events. I mean, what do you think is going to happen? are we all going to go back to face to face physical events? Or are we going also virtual is it gonna be somewhere in the middle,

Martin: I think we are going to do all of that, really. And I really enjoyed here. Early, early September, we enjoyed being at conflicts in London, which worked really great. It was fantastic. As a Dane, coming back to the UK, first time since Brexit, by the way, also, but it was really good fun to be there. But but it was funny also, to see a London sub being super, super quiet. And just see the excitement of just going out again, meeting people. Having fun having fun, I think that level of personal interaction, you you probably don’t probably don’t want to miss that part. But I think you want to make sure that when you go into events, you are becoming even more aware that you’re spending money, you’re spending your own time. And you’ve learned so much about the fact that you can actually do a lot of great inspections by doing that virtually, I think doing virtual events, or doing events in any form is not just about whether you do hybrid virtual or physical events, it’s really about getting the right level of support. And being able both as an SMD, as an organiser, to make sure that you are actually getting, you know, content out of it, you’re getting good learnings. You’re getting good contacts. If you’re an organised and un and marketing organisation, you actually want to make sure that you’re getting leads, and you’re getting a better conversion out of those. And that’s not just a matter of whether you’re going virtual or physical or hybrid, for that matter.

Mike: That’s fascinating. I mean, you, you talked about some of the challenges there that people organising events face. And I think a lot of people listen to the podcast, there’ll be marketers inside b2b organisations who are organising either physical or virtual events to drive new business. So typically generating leads and things like that. I mean, what do you think are the biggest challenges for marketers in that position?

Martin: But what right now, I, I, what I do hear in our conversations are really a lot of marketing organisations has really been hit by the pandemic, just as we did as as, as countries have been redundancies, there have been changes in budgets, etc. So it’s really about a matter of getting back to, to a new type of normal, you know, trying to understand what can we do, how can we do it in the best possible way. But also it so I think that’s really like an immediate structural problem or challenge you need to take care of. But on the longer run, it’s probably also a matter of making sure that you are getting even more insight, and you’re getting no information about what’s actually going to convert what’s going to help you getting the right attendees to your events. What’s actually, how can you actually make sure that you are not just building an event based on assumptions? You’re building that event based on the data from your previous events, but probably also the data? You’re getting out of the facts that what will actually convert when you’re starting to send out invitations? How can you actually engage with your smds? Before they have the meeting up at an event? Would you be able to reorganise your your content to ensure that it it actually becomes as relevant as possible? So I think a lot of the challenges are really that we’re we’re starting to learn now, that going to events to confer conferences, and what have you, is really not just a one way communication, we kind of expect that we will be able to influence the content, and we as attendees as organisers actually want to get more out of it. I think that challenge of making sure that you as an event organiser, when you go to your gf, CSO or whoever you go to, you’ll be able to articulate we actually did what we promised and we did even better so

Mike: I’ve that’s fascinating is a lot of things there and I think I’d like to kind of break that down into some of the different points you made. So the last thing you talked about was effectively showing return on investment showing you achieved what you wanted to achieve. So how can marketers show that their events have delivered a return and how can come fries help with them?

Martin: Well, there are a lot of ways we can help and us as a markets here can make a difference, what we do see is that there are still a lot of marketeers that are simply just using different tools, different components in the entire journey of their SMB engagement. And that’s, that’s really one way where we can help we create this one simple tool that will be able to capture all of the information. And by that use, you also capture all of the data from first engagement to registration, you capture all of the insights. And we’ve enabled, you know, analytics components behind that. So you’ll be able to get from just like you get from any other website, you’ll be able to retrieve a lot of good Google Analytics out of that. But the other thing is really it’s it’s it is about data, it’s about making sure that what you will get out of as one computer system like conference is you will get a data set, you can reuse to reassess and correlate to your, to your marketing automation systems and to your CMS and what have you. So by that you’ll be able to get potentially a bigger data set. And you’d be able to drive that out of your systems.

Mike: So it’s interesting as a couple of things you said, I mean, the first is, it sounds like one of the big benefits is you’re actually handling the whole process within one system, you’re not trying to pull multiple reports out of different systems to work out how well, an event has gone. Yeah, so. So that makes a lot of sense. I mean that that’s really clear. But then you talk about taking that data and passing on try the system. So like your CRM or premium information. So are you building integrations with those systems? Or how does that data get shared?

Martin: Yeah, so we do have integrations. And we see that the major integrations we do with the CRM side of this world, it’s very typical all for that matter, if you have particular marketing automation systems, we do have the integration there. And, and it’s one that a lot of good reasons for that, of course, because we’re we’re taking care of customers, or attendees. But we also see that, given given our open data platform, we give the access for you to take our information and input that into your data warehouse system. So if you want to work further on that do your bi and analytics activities, you’d be able to do that. And by that you can sort of put that together with what else you do in your sales funnel, with your with your leads and your prospects.

Mike: Perfect. Okay. That’s I think that’s really clear in terms of how that data will be taken and reused elsewhere. So I’m now we’re going to get to I guess the question everybody wants to ask is, how do you get more attendees to an event? I mean, you see a lot of events, what do you see as being the ways people use Conferize to maximise the attendance?

Martin: That’s really a good question. I think that there’s something about the data, there’s something about the fact that if you’re able to monitor behaviour, you can get a lot out of that. But but one, if I could call it more like our trick is this really that? Sometimes it’s also just about the event organisers, and with, it’s about getting the speed, the oversight on when you’re starting to get an impact when you’re getting the level of engagement. So a lot of what we actually do with our, our system, is really enabling you as an organiser, to make sure that, of course, we do know that you probably need to take care of logistics, you need to take care of speakers, you need to take care of all of the communication and so forth. But what we can do is really to automate all of the process around the smds. So you have done that, whether with with your planning, you know exactly when they register, what emails will come out, when should we send logistics, you wish to send follow up emails, or send reminders, etc, all of that communication are really elements, we can build an early in the process, enabling you as the organiser, to take care of some of the most important elements, which really work to deliver the right content. Is this prepare to perfection? This is actually what people are in demand for. Because that’s that’s another question. That’s probably where you actually want to pose a few questions. Engage with your with your audience, and we can help with that as well. But it’s really that level of communication, enabling you to focus on content on delivery. And then we can sort of speak streamline the communication behind

Mike: That’s fascinating. I think you made a lot of good points there. So it sounds like one of the things comprise does is to build this registration and attendance into a process. And certainly I think, you know, one of the challenges a lot of people organising events have is people register and then don’t attend. I mean, is that fundamentally down to sending those email reminders? Or is there anything else people should be doing?

Martin: I think you need to do much more. But I think, you know, we shouldn’t underestimate the fact of, of doing those elements as well, right. You know, sometimes it’s just about reminding, and I think you can do a lot about that. But I also think we talked about earlier about the fact that you want to make sure that you are getting, you know, return on your investment, that also applies for the smds, you actually want to make sure that you as an SMD, are attending an event, a conference, a webinar, have you that’s going to deliver what you actually are looking for. And a good part of what we do deliver without platform is really an insert into action component, which enables you to start the dialogue, we actually have the right elements in our agenda, that’s our schedule, actually look to your needs. And make sure that you’re starting to retrieve feedback as early as possible. So you can start enhance your agenda, you can probably prepare your speakers even better. I just had one example, recently, where I spoke to one of our clients, we when we have our people, when people are registering on our platform, which enables that you can, for instance, ask a question, what’s the most important for you to attend this session? What do you want to get off that they just learned that they had like was that 25% increase in attendance, just to the fact that they could actually communicate like three, four days in advance that this is actually what you do, smds has said you, you want to get out of this, this, how we’re going to respond to it. They, they as organisers start to give some guidance, and suddenly, they created like a more lively conversation. And that was quite helpful. So So I think it’s about engagement. And it’s really about making sure that you get your nose up, and make sure that you actually focus on outcome as the organism

Mike: That’s an amazing uplift, just by asking what people want to get out of it. And I think, I think some organisers are a bit afraid to do that sometimes, you know, it feels like, like they might might decide that they’re not gonna deliver. I mean, do you see that? Do you see people changing the content based on that sort of feedback?

Martin: I do see some changes, you know, sometimes, maybe, maybe you don’t want to change your speakers. What could happen, right, but, but sometimes it’s just the benefit that you can give, give back to the speakers or what you really have that you’re saying that this is actually what the attendees are looking for. And suddenly, you can have better engaged speakers as well. Because you, you know, you suddenly know much more about what’s going on. And, and it’s in comparison to being on, you know, just posing a lot of questions on social media. By getting into this more safe environment, you’re getting even better and qualified questions. And I think just posing that question is just like, you know, being in sales, if you’re not willing to ask that question, just like, if you don’t want to ask for the deal, you’re never going to, right? So it’s, you know, think about it as selling, you need to make sure that you are prepared to be on the right foot. When when the customer is there.

Mike: That’s great advice. I, I’m interested now, I mean, we’re obviously you know, still within the pandemic people are struggling with, with face to face events for all sorts of reasons. I mean, how much of a difference Do you see between organising a face to face a real physical event versus a virtual one?

Martin: Well, it’s out of all of the logistics that comes with that, of course, I actually, you know, in terms of process, I actually do see that many differences. I see that, you know, getting attendee engagement is is just as important on virtually engagement as on physical ones. You know, it’s as difficult to make sure that if you’re sitting on a screen or you’re going to a fail conference, that you’re having people engaged, all of that is not really changing due to the fact that you’re going virtual or physical I think one of the elements I’m starting to see where people are testing off at the moment is probably as much an hybrid, you know, everybody’s talking about hybrids, and it’s really a great component. But I think that’s really where you should be aware of the fact that it comes with a cost, the cost is the price, the cost is probably more that you need to set up the production facilities to make sure that you have the right lighting, you have the right sound, make sure that when people are being engaged, you know, and you know, on in a hybrid environment, that you’re actually listening to the ones that are, you know, listening in from Singapore. And it’s, it’s a complete different, you know, production scenario you need to focus on. But coming to engagement is about the same.

Mike: Fascinating, so, do you see people in investing more in virtual events? I think prior to the pandemic virtual events were, frankly, in in Europe as a second class citizen, and people tended to focus on physical Yeah, do you think that’s changed?

Martin: I think it has changed, we see we see customers, we had a university we talked to last week, who would really wanted to test it out. They have a lot of their students who are not yet back at EDD college at university. And we do see that they still want to make sure that they can create those hybrid events to make sure that they can really engage due to the all of the restrictions that are still in play. And I also think that people are a little more cautious on travelling on cost. I think the sustained sustainability aspects shouldn’t be forgotten, either. So we would probably see that, especially their hybrid infrastructure technologies would play a bigger role in making this equip production. But I think a hybrid is really like you say, a second citizen. And it’s somewhere something where you actually probably need to spend a little time prepared, right? Because it’s easy to go to virtual. And we’ve seen more and more people do that, by going to hybrid is the way you actually need to make sure that you get a tried and tested out the small form and get your own experiences. And I’m pretty convinced you as a marketeer would do well on that as well.

Mike: Absolutely, I think from my experience, quite often hybrid offers, you know, some real benefits in terms of a little bit of excitement around the event actually physically happening, people attending, but also I think the speakers at events get much more feedback, even it’s just through body language. And that can result in much better presentations. I’m sure we’ve all done the the webinar presentation, you have no idea whether the webinar attendees are even paying attention to its stuff.

Martin: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, I believe people are, yeah, yes, you say you can shut off your screen and so forth. And it’s not really beneficial. But by you’re completely right. I’ve seen an we have a quite a few good partners, we have one partner who’s really focusing in on hybrid, they’re having like their own virtual universe. And just getting that interplay is something different, but it’s worthwhile. And when you’re getting there, you’re getting, you know, the excitement of doing something new. And you shouldn’t take that away. It’s that’s, that’s, that is really cool.

Mike: Brilliant. So I’m interested in terms of your customers, I mean, typically, who would be a normal conference customer, who would you typically see using the product?

Martin: So what, what would you say is that our customers use Conferize when they have more than 10 events per year. You have customers who are looking into having, you know, Beyonds the scale of 50 events per year on our platform. And they are they’re really from different industries. We have as mentioned before, we have some from the educational systems, we have festivals we have, we have, you know marketing, bigger marketing organisations. So it’s really a good variety. We also have some agencies will really use us for, you know, just particular events, where it’s useful just to have something you could probably do relatively fast. You do not need to invest in your own infrastructure to make things happen. So typically, what we look at are really organisations are hosting more than more than tournaments per year.

Mike: And that is that because people then use the system frequently they get more familiar with it.

Martin: Yeah, that’s that’s essentially it’s also due to the fact that if you as you say it, you need to You need to learn how to do events. And if you are having just one system for it, it actually helps you to to enable your processes much better. It also comes with a cost, of course. So it’s it’s also an opportunity to elevate your costs into the number of events you actually do. And you know, if you’re just a small organisation doing one or two events, of course we can, we can help as well. But the bigger question is really, do you have a budget to really do that in a big scale? Or is is that where you would look into use the features and functions you would find at Facebook or LinkedIn or what have you. So I think it’s really a balance, we are really there to help organisers who believe events are really a key part of their business.

Mike: I’ve got to ask you, you talk about a being a reasonably priced product, in terms of size of company or budget. I mean, what sort of costs are involved in in using something like, comprises a dedicated platform rather than cobbling together? Multiple existing systems?

Martin: Yeah. So since we are Software as a Service, technology, it’s something you would apply relatively easy, you buy that on our subscription base, our starting price, you know, when you do more than 10 events per year, is around 400 euros per month. And then of course, depending on complexity. We have a few parameters, but always glad to discuss that. But we are, as we would say we are we are reasonably priced. And oh, that’s the elements if you actually want to do that on your own. If you, for instance, want to build your own website and so forth, you’d come to the same cost anyhow.

Mike: Yeah, actually 500 euros per event, which is I guess, roughly what 10 would work out as I mean, that’s not looking at huge events. I mean, that that can be valuable for, you know, really quite small events, particularly with valuable attendees.

Martin: Sure, sure. Yeah, exactly. And, of course, we know that there’s a level of scalability into this. So it’s, it makes quite good sense.

Mike: Yeah, yeah. And I can imagine the time savings once you’ve got a sequence of, for example, reminder emails for webinars, that they’re always pretty much the same. Each time, once you’ve set that up, that’s gonna save you time. So that sounds great.

Martin: Exactly. Yeah. One of the funny, funny features we actually created last year was really a duplication function. You know, when you’ve created equative, why don’t you just duplicate that so you can create another one? and fantastic. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. Right?

Mike: Yeah. And that that clearly is a huge time saving. So that sounds great. So I guess we’re coming to the end of our time, I’m, I’m interested, you know, do you have any tips for marketers who want to organise events, what have you seen, that might help them make their next webinar, for example, more successful?

Martin: I’d say get in touch, you know, get in touch with us get in touch with potential some of the other tech providers, sometimes, you know, moving into event technology can be a bit of a challenge. And sometimes you simply just find that through the conversation, it’ll help clear your, your mind on what’s possible. What’s, what are you able to do? And the other part I would say, even though it’s always good to plan ahead, if you’re short on time, that’s probably one of the areas of elements where it’s really good to have a conversation with solid tech writers. I think, as an example, we know we can we can help optimization scrolling in, I’d say typically in less than two days.

Mike: Wow. So I think that’s great advice, you know, spend the time engaging with your potential attendees rather than trying to do the the the admin and the logistics, which could be automated

Martin: Executors. Yeah. That’s that’s the that’s really the point.

Mike: Absolutely. I it’s been fascinating. I mean, is there anything else you feel we should have covered or anything else you’d like to say about Conferize before we finish?

Martin: No, not really. It was great being here. I’m glad to have the opportunity to meet you and, and just have these conversations right.

Mike: Now, it’s been really interesting. And I’m sure people will be interested in contacting you about their next events. I mean, what’s the best way for people to get in contact? Reach out?

Martin: We have, our website confides that comm would definitely be a good entry point. If you are keen to look me up at LinkedIn, I do spend time there on a daily basis or be on make sure we’ll we’ll reach out.

Mike: Fantastic. And that’s great. Thank you so much for all the information or the advice. I’m sure a lot of us are looking forward to some physical events in the near future. Yeah, but I think we’re also Gonna be running virtual events as well. So the advice has been super helpful. Thank you.

Martin: Thank you so much. And I’m hoping to see some of you potentially at events sec live in November. That’s going to be a fantastic physical event again.

Mike: And I’m sure there’ll be some beer available there as well. Thanks. Thank you very much, Marty.

Mike: Thanks so much for listening to marketing b2b tech. We hope you enjoyed the episode. And if you did, please make sure you subscribe on iTunes, or on your favourite podcast application. If you’d like to know more, please visit our website at Napier b2b dot com or contact me directly on LinkedIn.