By Experience

eCommerce Week LA ’21

Creating a Community Through Digital & Experiential Marketing

Happily CEO & Founder, Sarah Shewey, hosted a session at Hawke Media's eCommerce Week LA 2021

eCommerce Week LA is a virtual summit hosted by Outsourced CMO and Marketing Consultancy, Hawke Media. Over the week of September 27 to October 1, 2021, each of the five days focused on a different theme. There was Marketing Monday, Tech Tuesday, World Impact Wednesday, Team Efficiency Thursday and Finance Friday.

Our CEO & Founder, Sarah Shewey, appeared on Marketing Monday with her session, Creating a Community Through Digital and Experiential Marketing.

Watch the full playback below to learn how to utilize digital marketing to create an engaged and connected customer base

For more on this

October 18, 2021

Happily events David Spinks

The Business of Belonging with David Spinks

The era of businesses powered by community is here and we are excited by its potential.

David Spinks chats with Sarah Shewey, Happily CEO and Founder, about what makes a community-driven business as well as his new book The Business of Belonging: How to Make Community your Competitive Advantage.

A sense of belonging, connection, shared purpose, feeling like you are connected to a group of people. And that’s the foundation of this work, you need that, that’s the fuel that makes it all work. And businesses are starting to become aware of that and make community a really core value for both internally - how do we make employees feel like they belong - and then externally - how do we make customers, partners, investors feel like they are all connected and they belong.

David Spinks, Co-Founder of CMX and Vice President of Community at Bevy

David Spinks is a rockstar in the community-driven business movement

As a 3x startup founder and an experienced community leader, David has spent a decade advising and training hundreds of organizations (such as Google, Facebook, and Airbnb) in community strategy. Simply put, he is an expert on the intersection of community and business.

In 2014 he co-founded CMX, an international hub for community professionals to support each other through education, and events. Bevy, an enterprise software to power community-driven events, acquired CMX in 2019. David now serves as the Vice President of Community at Bevy to assist companies launch and scale event-driven community programs.

David is now an author with the release of his book, The Business of Belonging, How to Make Community your Competitive Advantage, which is the #1 New Release in Direct Marketing on Amazon! He shares all he has learnt about what makes a winning community strategy, from the fundamental concepts to practical engagement techniques.

For more on his book and for all the expert insights listen to David on Happily Live with Sarah Shewey, CEO and Founder of Happily, and read on for a quick summary.

A few fundamental notes from their chat

There is a difference between building an audience vs a community

Instead of constantly explaining or showing the value of your business or product to people, a strong community will allow members to create and share that value for you.

Traditional businesses have always been about marketing and building an audience and to build an audience you essentially just help people, you create value, a product, something that they consume. To build a community you help people help each other. You create spaces and platforms for them to create value for each other rather than you, the business, having to create all the value for them.

David Spinks, Co-Founder of CMX and Vice President of Community at Bevy

Success lives where business and belonging overlap

The sweet spot to build a community is the place where the value to the business and the value for the members balance. It is the space where they overlap that opportunity and success can be found.

If you go into building community and you are only optimizing for profit you’re not really focusing on how you serve members and really give them a true sense of connection and belong and value, then your community is not going to have engagement...

David Spinks, Co-Founder of CMX and Vice President of Community at Bevy

Have clear business objectives for your community

By their very nature, a community grows towards a level of self-sustainability. Starting with a solid foundation of business goals for the community, and a clear understanding of the ways in which you want community to benefit the business, is essential in knowing how and where to guide this ship once it leaves the dock.

If you only focus on creating engagement and you’re not starting with an understanding with what is the business objective you’re trying to drive, how it will ultimately result in ROI, you’ll end up having a community that is engaged but you can’t justify the investment, you don’t know what the return is…

David Spinks, Co-Founder of CMX and Vice President of Community at Bevy

Some stats and figures for you

  • Companies with a Vice President of Community have grown to approx. 50 - 100 around the world
  • Globally companies with a Chief Community Officer role have grown to approx. 10
  • Only 12% of community teams feel confident in their ability to measure the business value of community
  • 88% of communities have at least one dedicated community manager
  • 86% of business say community is critical to their mission
  • Community saw more investment through the COVID-19 pandemic with 56% of companies now viewing community as more essential

Have a framework to calculate the ROI of community

Being able to clearly see the value of your community to your business will give you the confidence and information you need to justify and invest more in it. Although gathering these metrics can be tricky, David has developed a framework he refers to as The SPACES Model; Support Product Acquisition Contribution Engagement Success. He dives deep into that in his new book, and has a summary here via the CMX website.

Virtual events are considered more valuable and powerful than ever before

Largely due to the pandemic, virtual events are a format that both companies and participants are now more comfortable with. Businesses have seen the lasting benefits of virtual events; they are highly scalable, they are more affordable, more people can be reached, it has much greater accessibility, and they can be held more frequently than in-person events.

I think virtual events themselves are here to stay because they provide a really scaleable balance to the very time and cost intensive in-person events.”

David Spinks, Co-Founder of CMX and Vice President of Community at Bevy

Hybrid event programs will become more popular

Moving forward event programs for communities will be a mix of virtual and in-person events. There will always be a certain sense of magic that happens when a group of people meet in the same physical space, and so, in-person events are important to communities. Ideally the yearly events calendar for a community would have some events as 100% virtual, and others as 100% in-person.

The reality is that virtual tools do not give you the same sense of proximity, connection and serendipity that you get in-person.

David Spinks, Co-Founder of CMX and Vice President of Community at Bevy

David is sceptical of hybrid events

The idea of a hybrid event that simultaneously creates an equal sense of connectivity for both the virtual and in-person participants is not something we are likely to see a rise in. They are really two separate events happening at once with two separate experiences for those participating. If the goal of an event is to nurture connections between members, it is ideal to separately utilize the strengths of in-person and virtual events.

[A hybrid event is] a lot harder to do than people think, it’s a lot more expensive to do than people think, it’s not an ideal experience for people because people who are watching online generally just feel left out from the in-person experience, people in-person feel overwhelmed by all the online people and they just wanna talk to the people there in-person.

David Spinks, Co-Founder of CMX and Vice President of Community at Bevy

Would you like some more?

Here are links to resources and things mentioned in this Happily Live:

April 7, 2021

Gina Bianchini

How to Build a Mighty Strong Community Online with Gina Bianchini

Community development online is a craft. It is many many moving parts should fold and flow together to create a structure that supports, uplifts and serves each one of its members.

Gina Bianchini, an expert on network effects, chats with Sarah Shewey, Happily CEO and Founder, about what makes a community thrive online, the changing nature of communities in the digital space and how to reframe your approach to community building for your business.

I define community very narrowly… which is; are you creating the conditions by which people can meet and build relationships with other people? Think about it as member to member connections.

Gina Bianchini, CEO and Founder, Mighty Networks

Gina Bianchini is a pioneering woman in the tech space

She is Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Mighty Networks, a flexible web platform and community management tool that ‘brands with purpose’ can use to embrace and nurture their community via online courses, events, memberships and subscription content all in one spot. Their mission is to guide in a new era of digital businesses that are built on the power of community.

The precursor to Mighty Networks was the 2004 pioneering social networking website, NING, which Gina is the founder of NING with Marc Andreessen. It is a platform which allows an online presence and community to be built from the ground up.

For all the juicy expert knowledge listen to Gina on Happily Live with Sarah Shewey, CEO and Founder of Happily, and read on for a quick summary.

Some inspiring takeaways from the chat

Be the ultimate dinner party host

Think about building a community like hosting a dinner party. Not all your guests know each other, but you know all of them. You know what they have in common and what makes each one of them amazing human beings.

So as the ultimate host you would carefully craft an environment in which organic conversations can be fostered, in which your guests feel comfortable and especially in which connections can grow independently of you - so the party can continue even while you step away into the kitchen to check on dinner.

What is our ultimate goal? It is to create a community or a network of people that gets more valuable to every member with each new person that joins and contributes and we are gonna use many different tools in our toolbox to make that network as valuable to as many people as possible.

Gina Bianchini, CEO and Founder, Mighty Networks

Social media is for gaining followers, not for building interconnected communities

Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are, as Gina describes, ‘moving in the opposite direction’ to building communities. They are certainly powerful digital marketing tools and important for brand awareness.

However, they are mostly one sided conversations without much significant relationship building happening. If your business goal is to build a thriving community with a sense of belonging, social media platforms are wonderful tools in your box, but they are not the best ones for this job.

So if you think about DMs and the fact that you have Stories and DMs, that’s actually, ‘I talk out at you, you talk back at me’, but nobody's meeting or building relationships with each other. The comments sections, people continue to try to build communities in comments sections but the reality is, it’s really hard.

Gina Bianchini, CEO and Founder, Mighty Networks

A simply recipe for a mighty powerful community

All successful communities, as Gina explains, have cultivated the same sort of environment and culture for strong online community engagement and connecting members. Here are some common threads:

  • People feel part of something bigger than themselves
  • There is an overarching common goal or objective
  • Everyone is learning something new together
  • It is a safe space and a support network

Communities are built online before they can also be successful in the real world

A community with intention blossoms in the digital space, and in-person events are just another way for members to connect with each other through their common interests. By saying ‘online community’ we are focusing on ways in which a community stays connected and interacts in the digital space, in-between or in spite of real life events.

When you focus primarily on the online interactions of the community you are cultivating lasting connections by establishing strong patterns of communications for long after an in-person conference or event has passed.

When you’re thinking about a conference you are better off thinking about how you get people before they come. Before they come. The energy around joining something online that is digital, is before the event, not after.

Gina Bianchini, CEO and Founder, Mighty Networks

Did something spark your interest?

Here are links to resources and other stuff mentioned in this Happily Live:

March 31, 2021

Best practices for virtual sales kickoffs hero image

Best Practices for Virtual Sales Kickoffs

The whole team is thrilled for 2020 to be over, but you’re still stuck in Zoom.

If you’re feeling the fatigue just thinking about planning your annual sales kickoff virtually, chances are that you just need a little help refreshing your programming to make the most out of your time in 2021.

Happily has produced thousands of hours of virtual team meetings for startups with small founding teams to global tech giants with tens of thousands of employees. We’ve taken enough creative risks and made enough mistakes to promise you that your virtual meeting can be really great and maybe - gasp, dare we say it?? - better than ever.

Welcome new faces

It’s tough joining a team these days, so designing a special experience for the noobs can go a long way:

  1. Create a special networking session before the SKO that has no agenda except to help your newest co-workers forge relationships as part of the “quarantine cohort”.
  2. Build a special webpage that features your new coworkers, boost their visibility just like you would a keynote speaker - with a picture, bio, and links to their social channels.
  3. In breakout moments when you’re doing a round of intros, ask people to share their name, department, location and how long they’ve been at the company. Play a little airhorn sound when a new team member pipes up.

Story-driven updates

Virtual events will end up as a recording you can simply press play on, so the narrative quality of your experience is more important than ever.

  1. Whenever a speaker takes the mainstage, coach them into starting with a story. It’s the fastest way to draw people into a shared space despite the physical distance.
  2. Finesse each presentation to have a clear beginning, middle, and end that supports one main call to action with new plot points presented within 90 seconds to three minutes.
  3. Don’t be shy about using voice over narration on video footage or image-driven slides, we’re all a bit tired of the talking head. Camera switch to close-ups of your speaker’s face at emotional moments to underscore a point and leave the rest of your updates to graphs and video.

Synchronize your global team

Curb your desire to bring everyone at exactly the same time and instead embrace a regular work day schedule on the regional level.

  1. Work with a local MC and moderator to introduce pre-recorded segments live and interact with attendees in real-time.
  2. Be willing to support your MC to speak in their native language and be prepared to live caption and subtitle pre-recorded videos in English.
  3. For times when you just can’t avoid a live sync across time zones, ask your team what time they prefer - you might be surprised at their answers!

November 10, 2020

How to Build a Global Program for Sustainable Events

How to Build a Global Program for Sustainable Events

In last week’s installment of the Happily’s Learning Series, our CEO, Sarah Shewey, sits down with Ryanne Riley Waters of the US Green Building Council.

USGBC are the guardians of the LEED certification, which is respected worldwide as the best in class among sustainable building and structure oversight. To date, they are responsible for having certified over 100,000 projects across 176 countries. LEED is a system and set of guidelines that help people understand how to build and operate buildings and communities in a more sustainable way.

Sustainability is ensuring the needs of today are being met, while also making sure you’re not compromising the needs of tomorrow. It’s trying to increase the good and decrease the negative consequences of your actions and inactions.”

In this conversation, Sarah and Ryanne discussed how the USGBC’s international conference and expo, Greenbuild, is measured for sustainability and adapted to suit countries around the world. Greenbuild uses its events as a way to reach the market, provide education, and connect people with one another. As Ryanne puts it: “Events bring people together to help solve global problems.” Climate change and economic and social sustainability are the global challenges that Greenbuild was developed to help address.

They now operate events in America, China, India, Europe, and Mexico, and have had to learn to adapt their conference to the needs of each market. They do this by enlisting teams of people in those regions who are intimately familiar with the cultural differences, definitions, expectations, and resources in the area so they can tailor the events accordingly.

As an event producer, you might not always have the benefit of staff on the ground in different regions who know everything there is to know about sustainability. But what you can do is put together a team of really trusted friends and colleagues to help you localize your event.

Ryanne credits a lot of Greenbuild’s success to having a core set of concepts on which their events are built - a kind of framework that can then be adapted as necessary for each market in which they plan and host events. And this method can be applied to any industry. Ryanne suggests:

"Relate it back to your core mission. If you're working for a healthcare organization, or an entertainment industry event, or a non-profit that fights hunger and homelessness - there's always some sort of social or environmental (or both) initiative that you can start thinking about. Just start there and then build on it.”

Here are Ryanne’s recommended basic concepts about sustainability that you can apply to the various aspects of your events.

Consider the lifecycle of a material or product before purchasing:

- Where did it come from/how was it made?

  • What am I using it for?
  • Is there an alternative?
  • What will happen to it once I am done with it?

To help you understand how to source event materials safely, here is Ryanne’s list of preferred material content from best to worst:

  1. Domestically Sourced Recycled Content (ie. 100% post-consumer recycled paper, recycled plastic, etc.)
  2. Domestically Sourced Organic Material
  3. Domestically Sourced Virgin Material
  4. Internationally Sourced Recycled Material
  5. Internationally Sourced Organic Material (ie. 100% organic cotton from India for US show)

There are a lot of things that go into the recycling stream that aren't recyclable.”

CopyofAprweek3-specialistimages

It may surprise you to hear that recycling isn’t necessarily the best solution to our waste woes. Ryanne advises to focus on the forgotten R: Reduce.

  • Reduce first. Think, “do I need this, can we make it digital, can we redesign this process and eliminate the need for this material?”
  • Then Reuse. Think, “do we have something in inventory we can reuse, can we design something that is evergreen (i.e.: lanyards with generic show logo, no dates)?”
  • if you have to produce something new, make sure it is made in an environmentally and socially preferred way and can be recycled, reused, or donated.
  • For more information on waste, visit the TRUE (Zero Waste) website

When it comes to knowing your impact, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. It can seem daunting to find ways that measure the impact of an event on a community, but for example: hiring local labor, businesses, or ordering supplies locally, puts dollars directly back into that area’s economy, and you can measure that. Pounds of leftover material that are donated to the community can be tracked. Get this information in writing, even in a contract if you can.

"You can reduce the amount of your printed program guide by a certain number of pages, and that's great, and you can say that. But what's the impact of that? What's the total number of pages you save, or the total number of trees you save, or the pounds of wood that you saved?

Whatever you measure, don’t make up your own standards or definitions. Ryanne recommends that you follow credible sources’ guidelines like EPA, United Nations, USGBC, Green Seal, etc.

Remember, communication and stakeholder engagement in your sustainability mission is key. Be clear with everyone along the way about what your goals and needs are. Be sure to communicate it up your event supply chain, and all the way down to your end-users, attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, etc. for transparency and accountability.

sustainability report

For a quick summary of the inspiring scope of Greenbuild’s events, and a peek into their sustainability report, check out these Post-Show Reports from some of their events in various parts of the world last year.

  1. Mexico 2019
  2. Europe 2019
  3. GSCExIMPACT 2019
  4. Rocky Mountain Green

Whew! We learned so much in this fascinating conversation - this summary is just the tip of the iceberg!

Check out the video for more details from Ryanne and Sarah, and be sure to visit the USGBC and Greenbuild websites for more information.

Thanks again, Ryanne!

April 8, 2020

Happily's Event ROI Calculator

Is Your Event Strategy Paying Off? How to Calculate Your Event ROI

by Sarah Shewey, CEO of Happily & Dustin Varty, Happily Braintrust

Originally published on TechCrunch

Events have increasingly become an important channel in the marketing mix, despite how notoriously “impossible” it is to measure the ROI, or return on investment.

When people show up to your event, they are willingly giving you their attention for hours on end - not trying to avoid attention-grabbing ads.

A well produced experience provides a great way to reach outside of your existing networks, build a pipeline of new customers, transform existing customers into superfans, and position your brand as a thought leader. In 2017, only 7% of marketers said that events were their most important marketing channel. Last year, that number rose to 41% according to a survey done by Bizzabo.

As the founder of Happily, the largest network of event producers in the United States, I’ve had backstage access to thousands of events - some wildly successful like TED and others that didn’t ever get traction in building an engaged community.

Happily's Event ROI Calculator

What has defined the successful ones?

The experiential marketing industry has long struggled to measure success in a meaningful way. They propose all the same KPIs (key performance indicators), but rarely do those KPIs provide a benchmark to determine if an event is successful or give marketers the ability to tell what worked and what didn’t. They especially fall down when customers aren’t won until months after an event.

While increasingly important, events require a lot of time, resources, and exhausting weekly meetings to do them well. The per person cost for a modest conference with lots of donated services will cost around $350 and an upscale conference experience costs about $1,500. For one day. Per Person. So how do you know when putting on an event is worth the effort?

I started kicking around this question with one of the members of Happily’s network of executives called the Braintrust. Dustin Varty, who led experiential marketing campaigns at Impossible Foods and Samsung. Together, we came up with an ROI calculator to help you determine the efficacy of launching an event marketing campaign. Read on to step through our top line thinking behind the numbers.

Start with LTV

Events engage customers, creating an environment to build a relationship that can last for years.

How many people do you know who have met a co-founder, employee, or even life partner at events? Now, how many of those have you met through an ad? Probably very, very few.

LTV

So we start to quantify the value of events by measuring the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer.

A simple way to calculate this is take the average purchase size and multiply that by both the frequency rate of purchase and customer lifespan.

So, if your customer usually spends an average of $1,000 once a month on your product and stays loyal for 6 months, your LTV will be $6,000.

Convert your NPS score

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is historically the most accurate measure of a consumer's perception of an experiential event. A high NPS score of 10 means that a customer is extremely likely to recommend your experience to someone else, increasing network efforts that contribute to organic growth and reduce your cost of acquiring new customers.

NPS measures customer experience and predicts business growth in a very effective way, but what it doesn’t do is take into account your event’s performance relative to cost.

For a successful event where your average NPS score is 10, we know from industry research that 85% of people are likely to purchase your product.

Event Marketer

Let’s take a conservative estimate that actually only 10% of these people will spend the LTV we calculated above:

$6,000 LTV x 10% conversion x 1,000 attendees = $600,000

This suggests that your well-received event would yield $600,000 in increased revenues in the future.

Sum up your expenses

When calculating expenses, we add up these costs:

  • Production costs like venue fees, catering invoices, services and goods.
  • Marketing costs such as paid ads, social media content creation, PR fees.
  • Employee time being spent on the event.

Most people don’t take this third factor into consideration, but we caution against that. One of the most expensive parts of an event is the time to plan. At Happily we’ll see an average of 100+ hours of planning time for every 1 hour of event time.

Hours

Bringing it all together

To calculate the final ROI, you’ll divide the net profit from the total expenses.

  1. Net Profit = Total Revenue - Total Expenses
  2. ROI = Net Profit / Total Expenses

So for example if you made $600,000 in revenue and spend $350,000 on production, marketing, and staff hours then your net profit would equal $250,000. Your ROI would then be $250,000 / $350,000 = 71.4%


We’ve created a free Event ROI calculator online for you to make things a bit easier for yourself at happily.io/roi.

The simple calculations above are also supplemented with logic around any social and PR media impressions earned as well as weighted by the duration of your event. Try it out and let us know your feedback!

June 12, 2019