Strategic Event Execution with SmithBucklin

Validar enhances efficiency of SmithBucklin’s user group client organizations.

SmithBucklin, the world’s largest association management and professional services group, is the only company in the world with a specialized technology user group practice. With its unparalleled skills, best practices and experience, as well as the industry’s most comprehensive resource base, global software giant VMware looked to SmithBucklin’s expertise to enhance growth and maximize the potential of its fast growing VMware user group program (VMUG). The VMUG and SmithBucklin relationship transformed what began as loosely affiliated groups of VMware customers to a self-sustaining, global nonprofit organization.

Today, VMUG has an independent board of directors and an ever growing number of individual members and regional chapters around the world. With the help of Validar’s resources, including On-site Registration Manager, Exhibitor Lead Capture, and Event Insight Manager solutions, VMUG efficiently executes more than 300 regional events each year. “We love that Validar solutions are scalable for any event size in an efficient, affordable way,” says Victor Bohnert, VMUG’s executive director. “And, at each event, Validar solutions capture metrics that allows us and event sponsors to gauge performance—which is quite unique and valuable.”

With the help of Validar solutions, SmithBucklin and some of its client organizations like VMUG have been able to:

  • Reduce overhead costs
  • Attract high-caliber sponsors
  • Downsize or expand resources quickly to support VMUG growth around the world.

Streamlining World- Class Events

SmithBucklin helped VMUG look for ways to orchestrate dozens of events efficiently and affordably, and using traditional event solutions was not an option. “You’d typically need five to seven temporary staff to check in attendees waiting in line,” notes Bohnert. “The staff would manually sort through stacks of paper and print badges. It’s highly inefficient.”

In contrast, Validar’s On-Site Registration Manager speeds and streamlines the check-in and registration process. Registered attendees quickly check in and print badges at self-service kiosks, reducing the need for staff resources. “The efficiencies and cost savings are huge,” says Bohnert. “We can cut on-site staff resources by up to 60 percent, which drastically reduces travel expenses. The attendees also think it’s cool; it’s amazing how many people comment on it.”

Because VMUG events are admission-free and increasingly popular, they attract numerous walk-ins. With On-Site Registration Manager, attendees can easily be accommodated—without bogging down the registration phase of an event. Validar requires no manual collection of registration information from walk-ins. Staff simply directs walk-ins to designated kiosks to provide their information and print out badges. There’s no interruption to the registration flow.

Hot Leads, No Lag

VMUG finances its events in part through corporate sponsorships. Providing a simple way to capture lead information from attendees is crucial to attracting enthusiastic sponsors. To assist in this process, Validar offers sponsors scanners the size of a USB jump drives, making them unobtrusive for sponsors who may have only a tabletop dispay at their booths.

Sponsors have been impressed by Validar’s Exhibitor Lead Capture. Sponsors see how quickly and accurately Validar scanners capture lead information and they often ask for more scanners. Plus, sponsors receive near-real-time access to lead information. Validar uploads attendee information from scanners to the Validar Event Insight Manager and provides each sponsor with login credentials to view their leads. Sponsors appreciate the efficiency and the fact that they can leave an event with hundreds of leads in hand.

Real-Time Event Dashboard

Validar solutions also help on-site and remote staff keep tabs on events in real time. As attendees register at kiosks, the data is sent to Validar’s Event Insight Manager, which can be accessed by VMUG, other SmithBucklin client organizations or sponsors from anywhere with an Internet connection. “Processing and reporting data from events becomes effortless,” says Bohnert. “Validar’s exceptional solutions let you easily determine, at any given moment, who’s attending, where they are, what they thought, and what they’re telling others.”

Proven Flexibility and Scalability

SmithBucklin, on behalf of its client organization International Avaya User Group (IAUG), selected Validar to help support the 2011 International Avaya User Conference, 10 times larger than a typical VMUG event.

In a day and a half, 3,500 attendees’ badges were printed with help from Validar’s On-Site Registration Manager. In addition, Validar drastically improved lead retrieval, which once took a week or two after the event. With Validar’s Exhibitor Lead Capture, leads were delivered to partners almost immediately. Also, Validar’s pricing allows improved capability at a lower cost.

Strategic Partnership

When asked what makes Validar such a good partner, Bohnert explains, “Validar offers a multifaceted solution that not only spurs efficiency, but it also transforms registration from a utilitarian to strategic function. Validar gives us exceptional registration, lead retrieval, and segmented reporting capabilities all tied together in a single environment. Plus, Validar provides an easy way to measure event performance against specific objectives.” Bohnert concludes, “Our events require a high degree of efficiency and scalability, and Validar’s solutions work just as well for 300 attendees as they do for 3,500.”

MTI-Interactive: Smart Lead Generation

MTI-Interactive uses Validar solutions to improve lead collection, justify marketing budgets, and effectively assign leads to sales reps.

For the last 30 years, MTI-Interactive (MTI) has developed SKU-activated merchandising that helps both retailers and manufacturers sell complex products by letting consumers interact with products before buying them. When Helen Stonhill signed on as the marketing communications manager at MTI, she quickly realized that the company needed to jettison manual, paper-based lead capture processes and import leads more effectively into Salesforce.com. By adopting Validar Lead Capture, Validar Lead Source Manager, and Validar Lead Import with AnySource, MTI has been able to:

  • Ask leads qualifying questions at the point of capture
  • Develop web forms that collect and categorize qualified leads
  • Pass leads to the appropriate sales person
  • Justify marketing budgets by quantifying initiative impact

Losing Lead Intelligence
In the past, MTI collected a lot of unqualified leads at large trade shows such as CES and GlobalShop using wands that swiped badges to capture contact information. The wand also printed paper the MTI sales person could use to write notes. “After the show, all the notes went into a box that nobody ever touched again,” says Stonhill.

At some shows, MTI used lead management software provided by organizers, which at least allowed employees to electronically capture notes. However, importing these into MTI’s Salesforce.com application wasn’t straightforward. “There was a lot of duplication and other problems when records didn’t match up exactly,” adds Stonhill. “I knew there had to be a better way to collect qualified leads and get them into Salesforce.com.”

Qualification Through Questioning
When MTI began using Validar Lead Capture software, the company gained the ability to ask prospects questions at the point of lead capture. “We find out if they’re familiar with us, what type of product they want to merchandise, whether they already use an MTI product, and what exactly they are looking for,” explains Stonhill. “Do they want to resell our product? Are they looking to integrate our technology into their fixtures? By getting answers to these questions, we know how to follow-up.”

In addition, asking these questions helps MTI put leads into the right Salesforce queue. Because Validar Lead Capture lets MTI add notes from the show floor, no intelligence is lost—allowing sales people to follow up appropriately with the prospect. Furthermore, sales people know that when they get leads, they are worth pursuing.

When asked whether companies that don’t qualify leads at the point of capture are at a disadvantage, Stonhill doesn’t hesitate. “Absolutely,” she says. “You should be asking prospects questions when they approach you for the first time. If you don’t ask, you don’t know whether you should follow up. And, if you call prospects who talked with a sales person at your booth for 20 minutes, but you don’t know anything about it, they’ll likely feel you’ve wasted their time.”

Salesforce.com Integration
Getting qualified leads into Salesforce.com was no longer a huge headache once MTI implemented Validar Import for AppExchange with Anysource. It interfaces directly with Salesforce.com, identifying duplicates and simplifying distribution to sales teams with lead categorization functionality. “I love the fact that Validar lets us customize our import process and decide how we want things imported,” says Stonhill. “And we can have the process happen automatically—we don’t need to get the Salesforce.com administrator involved.”

Stonhill continues, “Getting our leads into Salesforce.com is seamless and easy now. At CES this year, we loaded leads into Salesforce.com the same day we collected them.”

Not only were leads passed to the sales team quickly, Stonhill had an immediate view into the show’s performance thanks to Validar Lead Source Manager. “Every night at CES, I could send a report to the CEO about how many leads we gathered and which products interested them,” notes Stonhill. “I even had bar charts that made it very easy for me to illustrate the show’s performance.”

More Than Events
Noting how easy Validar makes it to capture and qualify leads at events, MTI began using Validar software to create AnySource forms to capture qualified leads on its website. The company has a basic form on the contact page and another for a video demonstration. People can click on the video when they see something that captures their interest. “The form lets us know right away how we should follow up with the prospect,” says Stonhill. “We not only know which part of the video was compelling to them, we ask them questions about the type of product they want to merchandise. As a result, we can send leads to the right sales rep.”

Justifying The Marketing Budget
Stonhill also appreciates the fact that Validar solutions have helped her quantify the value of events and other marketing initiatives. “Measurement is very important because marketing can be one of the hardest line items to justify to the board,” explains Stonhill. “Validar lets us assign our leads to a campaign or event when we import them into Salesforce.com. As a result, I can show how different campaigns have influenced a sales opportunity. If a prospect visited our website and came to our booths at CES and GlobalShop, then I can easily say that these three marketing touch points influenced the opportunity. It also helps me amortize my web and event costs.”

“I can even attach a dollar value to the leads we’ve generated through various campaigns,” continues Stonhill. “For a given event, for example, we could show that we gathered 250 leads, which created 15 opportunities with potential revenue of $10 million.”

Stonhill concludes: “Validar has helped us capture qualified leads, get them into the hands of the right sales people, and quantify the value of our marketing efforts. There’s no downside to Validar solutions.”

Intergraph Corporation: Event Lead Overhaul

Quick qualification and import of event leads into Salesforce.com helps the Intergraph sales process.

How do you more quickly get qualified leads into your sales pipeline after events? Just ask Intergraph Corporation (Intergraph), a global provider of engineering and geospatial software that helps customers in more than 60 countries build and operate plants and ships, create intelligent maps, and protect people and critical infrastructure around the world. By transforming its lead capture process, Intergraph has been able to:

  • Qualify leads at the time of lead capture
  • Get leads into the sales pipeline in minutes rather than weeks
  • Reduce lead decay and leads lost to fast-acting competitors
  • Improve cooperation between sales and marketing teams

 

Inefficient, Paper-based Lead Capture
Every year, Intergraph attends more than 50 events and user conferences in the U.S. alone. While generating leads has always been a top priority at these events, Intergraph lacked an efficient method for qualifying leads and getting them into the sales pipeline quickly after events. “We used paper lead sheets at shows to collect basic demographic information,” explains Faun Langston, the Salesforce.com application manager at Intergraph. “Because we have a global sales force, it was a tedious and time-consuming manual process to enter leads into Salesforce.com after each event,” adds Jeff Paddock, senior event manager at Intergraph.
What’s more, everyone had their own way of processing leads. “Sometimes I got Excel spreadsheets, sometimes lead sheets,” recalls Langston. “We would get countries with different spellings, lines of business, and other relevant information with no standardization of data, making it difficult to import the leads into Salesforce.com. It took hours and hours of work and often we had to call the people collecting leads to clarify information.”

Finding the Right Partner
When Intergraph was ready to make a change, Langston and Paddock looked to a company they thought would have some answers. “At a global event, we asked Salesforce.com employees how they track leads,” says Langston. “They pointed us to Validar’s booth.” It didn’t take Intergraph long to realize that Validar would be the right partner to help Intergraph streamline its event lead capture and qualification process.

Asking the Right Questions
The first step in transforming Intergraph’s event lead qualification process was switching from a paper-based lead capture process to an electronic one. Instead of completing lead sheets, Intergraph employees at events began to use card scanners and barcode readers to capture leads with Validar Lead Capture.

The second step was introducing lead qualification questions during the lead capture process. Intergraph employees now ask budget, authority, need, and timeframe (BANT) questions to assess the lead’s sales readiness and ability to authorize sales. Depending on the answers given, leads are immediately ranked as “A”, “B”, “C”, or “D” based on company-wide standardized criteria.

Importing to Salesforce CRM
At the end of each day or after a show is over, the ranked leads are imported into Salesforce.com using Validar Lead Import for AppExchange, which interfaces directly with Salesforce.com. Whereas it once took up to a week to get leads to the sales team, it now happens within minutes—and takes only a few clicks. Instead of relying on Langston to import all the leads into Salesforce.com, each person working an event does it themselves, removing the bottleneck.

“The sales team can put aside the ‘D’ leads that need nurturing and immediately follow up on ‘A’ leads,” says Langston. “We no longer worry that the sales team isn’t chasing people with a one-hundred-million dollar budget and a willingness to purchase in the next three-to-five months. The sales team knows who they are at a glance.”

Paddock adds, “It’s a lot more efficient than what we were doing before. What’s more, we’re able to capture more information about our leads. Within minutes of a show’s close, we have leads in Salesforce.com that are automatically coded into the right sections for the sales team.”

Making It Easy

One of the things Langston likes most about Validar solutions are their ease of use. Because people on the show floor are responsible for uploading the leads they’ve captured into Salesforce.com, it was critical that the process be extremely intuitive. When Intergraph explained that it still wasn’t easy enough for less technical people to upload leads, Validar worked with Intergraph to modify the solution so that virtually anyone could easily upload leads. “With Validar’s help, we addressed user issues with an intuitive, one-click solution for uploading leads following an event,” says Langston.
“Validar Lead Import includes a wizard that walks users through processing a lead, which makes it easy to get lead information in to Salesforce.com,” says Langston. “Validar also provides metrics about the event for easy viewing and analysis in a portal.”

Benefiting From The Results

Using Validar software, Intergraph has transformed its event lead capture and qualification process into one that’s highly effective in transferring qualified event leads into the sales pipeline. “We are providing ranked leads to sales and marketing in a productive timeframe.
When asked about their experiences working with Validar, Langston and Paddock agree that Validar is much more than a software vendor. “Validar’s customer support makes it one of the best partners I’ve ever worked with—the level of collaboration we have with Validar is amazing,” says Langston. Paddock adds, “We can call them 24/7 and get help. Once they solved a problem we had at an event through no fault of theirs within two hours—on a Sunday. Validar is not just a vendor. The company is a long-term partner that provides Intergraph with a solution vital to our event lead process.”