Episode 3: In conversation with Lindsey Cohen, Event Marketing Director at Snyk

Introduction 

Ankush: Hi, I’m Ankush. I’m the Founder of eventible.com, the world’s first events review platform, and you’re listening to the Building Awesome Events podcast. Our guest today is totally awesome and very brilliant. Lindsey Cohen, Director of Event Marketing at Snyk. Hi, Lindsey, welcome to the show.

 Lindsey: Hi, thank you so much for having me.  

Ankush: Our pleasure, Lindsey. Before we begin, just for people wondering, did I just say that right? Is it Snyk? S.N.Y.K.? 

Lindsey: It is and it stands for- So Now You Know.

Ankush: I have a bunch of questions for you on this podcast. We try and stick to the Event Marketing theme. It’s a podcast made for event marketers to get insights from their peers, learn a little about, what’s been working and try to apply some of these ideas to their own set. 

The first question for you Lindsey is – how did you get into event marketing? I was taking a look at your LinkedIn profile earlier, and it looks to me that your earlier role seemed to be sort of more traditional marketing roles. And then you made a pivot into events. Is that right? Or have you always been there?  

Lindsey: I’ve actually always been in event marketing, I think some of my earlier roles had more broad titles, for sure. And, I definitely had a wider scope of responsibilities. But events were always part of my kind of marketing scope of responsibilities. 

Honestly, this may sound a little cheesy, but I have been in events for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a family that loved hosting all of our family events and friends’ events in our neighborhood. I grew up with a love for hosting, gathering, cooking and entertaining. 

So, this was a pretty obvious fit. It’s what I wanted to do, which is not traditional from an adult’s perspective. And I went to college to study Hospitality Management with an event marketing kind of focus.

Ankush: Yeah, wow, I think you just all seems so perfect. Like you were cut out to do events and event marketing right from the start. I’m trying to reminiscent what I 

did that brought me to marketing – maybe writing since I always loved to write, share. One thing I remember is making these kiddy newspapers and sharing them with people in the neighborhood and stuff… 

Yeah. So, I think there’s, there’s something in all of our pasts, right, that really has a bit of a pointer as to what you’re going to be good at.  

Lindsey: What inspires you as a child definitely plays in what you end up spending most of your adult life doing. At least if you do it right, in my opinion. Right.

Ankush: Amazing. So, Lindsey, next up – outline for me Snyk’s events strategy and portfolio in terms of the proprietary and third-party mix? And what are the large, like, you know, 30,000-foot view of the corporate objectives?  

Lindsey: Snyk is a tech company. It’s not too old, but we’re definitely not necessarily a little startup anymore. We have just about 1500 employees now globally. Our event strategy has evolved significantly as the company’s experienced hyper growth in the past years. When I think about it at a high level, there’s kind of two arms of the strategy. 

The third-party side of our portfolio was the kind of core backbone that we were built on. We sponsor and exhibit and speak at a variety of events. Snyk is a little unique in the fact that we market to both the security audience and the developer audience. 

So, we have a strategy from a third-party perspective towards both of those audiences. And then on the other side is our proprietary event portfolio, which started just three years ago, honestly. We created what we call our annual conference called SnykCon, that was started in 2020. During which was, obviously, very ambitious. 

Part of our marketing team preceded my joining the organization. I was interviewing with them when they created it, but they set out to really kind of make a splash in the developer security space. And they did just that, luckily for me I was able to inherit or inherit a really kind of strong event when I started shortly thereafter, and have been now growing that year over a year accordingly. And then coming out of SnykCon last year in the fall of 2021. 

With the success of it, we decided as a business that we needed more, we couldn’t wait to do that every year. We have been building out our proprietary events’ portfolio by creating a series of other proprietary events on a smaller scale, right, rolling them out this year in a program we call Synk week, which is essentially a global roadshow. 

We’re taking over six cities for a week at a time. There are a lot of brand activations and brand awareness that goes into it. But these events are kind of the core components of what happens in those cities each week.

Ankush: What does the scale look like in terms of the number of roadshows, or the events that you sponsor?  

Lindsey: All in, if I’m combining the proprietary and third-party side, we’re easily going to be sponsoring like upwards of 100 plus events, as well as the ones that we’re hosting. 

And that doesn’t really take into account the smaller adjacent events that we plan around the larger third-party ones. So, the team has a lot on their hands, and they are executing very, very well considering, and it’s been fine, a wild ride, but very fun.

Ankush: You mentioned the team, tell me a bit about the team – what does the composition look like? How large is the events team? And where do you pull in the support functions from? 

Lindsey: We are a team of seven strong, including myself now. We have one-person leading SnykCon – the annual conference and another leading the Snyk week program. The rest of the proprietary event portfolio. 

And then on the third-party side of the business, we have three individuals, one that focuses on developer community events specifically, and the other to share the globe from a security events perspective. Our final player is really kind of the glue that holds it all together. She’s our Event Operations Manager and has helped the team scale up 

And she has helped the team really scale up, well, how we stand these events up and how we work with all the cross-functional partners internally. She’s a rock star, I’ve had the pleasure of working with her previously, as well. And so, it’s great to, you know, have that relationship base and know that she can come in hit the ground running and really scale us. She’s been here for just over three months. It’s impressive to see how she’s enabled our team to really grow that quickly. But from an event standpoint, I mean, I think no stranger to all other companies I’ve worked in or for anyone else in the industry. 

We work with so many teams across the organization and I think of all marketing as our extended team. But typically, our demand gen function and our marketing operations function. And our regional marketing teams, I would say, are the ones that work mostly with an everyday basis. Everything from procurement and legal to finance, we are very tight with the Snyk team globally.

Ankush: That’s great to hear. That’s perfect to hear well done. Team Snyk. And well done, Jen, that was the name, correct? 

Lindsey: Jen. Yeah.

Ankush: I‘m going to come back to the team in a while. But for now, you know, I have to come to this mandatory question, especially given, you know, what we’ve been through in the world. We’re now a couple of years into the whole virtual events’ scenario. What are your learnings from this and how would you view a virtual strategy versus an in-person strategy, what would you choose and why?   

Lindsey: I think there was already a shift towards virtual events being a very realistic part of this industry before COVID was anywhere near so the fact that COVID hit us so out of left field, I think it really forced this industry to accelerate on a lot of fronts. 

And, change is hard, but change can also be very good and from my perspective. It wasn’t an easy road from the kind of abrupt nature of it, but at the same time, it was happening anyway, so we just had to adjust to it much quicker.  

I think more than anything what I’ve learned throughout the companies I’ve worked with during COVID is you can’t kind of rest on your laurels with your strategy, your virtual, it’s a constantly changing beast and you know, being experimental, knowing that you’re going to have to kind of be super nimble from one event to another and some tech. 

Ankush: When we started out with virtual events, there was a lot of excitement, everybody was like yay we get to sit at home in our pajamas. And now we’re going to zoom in and watch all this cool stuff. And then came the Zoom fatigue, you know, and then, you had to really tide over and fight all the Zoom fatigue, right? 

Lindsey: Yeah, it’s real. And I think it will level out at some point, as we now are going back to in-person events. But I don’t think virtual is going anywhere. And I talk about this often with the team. 

Hybrid is the obvious kind of way of the future and we have to cater to both audiences. We have to expect that we’re not going to get everyone we used to get in person to want to return for their own personal reasons, the ease of not traveling, whatever it may be. And so, really trying to understand what hybrid means to us as business. Yeah, and I don’t think that that is a universal rule of thumb, I think we are adopting hybrid event to event for us. 

So, some of our proprietary events, they are fully in person, but they are hyper regionalized in order to accommodate for the larger event like SnykCon, we’re doing global activations on a hyper regionalized scale, while still maintaining a global virtual presence. So, it’s a fine balance. And I encourage everyone to kind of keep testing what works and what doesn’t. 

Ankush: Right. Yeah, that’s great. And, you know, I think hybrid can be tough. Trading, especially an immersive experience, both for virtual and in person at the same time can be very challenging. Is the feedback I’ve gotten.

Lindsey: Yeah, it’s planning to events that need to overlap to some degree.

Ankush: The natural question follows, Lindsey, is that when we started off with virtual, you would have come across a gamut of solutions. And, someone told me recently that there are more than 300 virtual tech platforms, event platforms, that are in the market now. We don’t really have to name specific vendors here. But how did you really make the choice? How did you how did you narrow down? What is the process of picking the right platform for your needs?

Lindsey: Yeah, at the time, when we went to RFP, ahead of our annual conference, Snykcon for 2021, we had a pretty robust scope of work that we knew we needed to fit the bill of, and it was very much a focus on that one event, and that one iteration of the event, knowing it would evolve over time, but not knowing how it would evolve yet. I think making the best decision with all the cards that you know, in front of you is all you can hope for. 

But the one kind of add on there that we were very cognizant of is we do want a platform that is evolving, and that can grow with us. Understanding the kind of organizations that were going to bid for RFP, yeah. Where are they in their lifecycle? Are they in a similar stage of hyper growth? Can they accommodate this? Or are they going to kind of plateau right now? Are they? So that was an important piece for us at the time. 

And I think now, it’s very much trying to understand the hybrid nature and what solution won’t fit every need that we have, but what will fit the majority of the needs and how you can layer on additional smaller tax to supplement here and there.

Ankush: Are you happy overall, with the solution that you’re using now? Have they really been growing? You know, hitting all your requirements?   

Lindsey: Yeah, for sure, I think we went into it very much looking like a partnership. And we’ve had a very open line of communication, which is always what I would strive for with any vendor. The more we grow, the more they’ve grown and vice versa, but we definitely, you know, need to continue to see what’s out there and continue to do. Every event portfolio is changing. Now that person is coming back. 

Ankush: Do you give them feedback that, you know, these are some of the features that you might want, or you know, you’re networking, which seems to be broken with every platform can be better?  

Lindsey: Yeah, for sure. I made it a point to spend a significant amount of time after our annual conference last year sitting with not only our account team and giving feedback, but then getting connected to the product team internally to say, here’s what worked what didn’t and what I’ve seen work better.

Ankush: Right. I think that’s perfect feedback. Easy for anyone tuned in listening – how to really pick the right platform, how to deal with them – that’s valuable input. And now, Lindsey, I’m going to come back to the larger team that you work with the larger marketing team, demand gen team. 

My next question is, you know, in terms of traditional marketing, really, and this is the marketing part of event marketing, how do you really create awareness for your proprietary events? What are the channels that you think work best around audience acquisition? As you mentioned, this is a cross-functional activity. How involved are you with this? 

Lindsey: The marketing of events is a team sport, I like to say, we are very fortunate to have such a wide array of skills across the marketing organization that we partner with. Someone from the campaign’s team within demand generation, shout out to Sarah wills, she is a full Rock star as well. And she has really partnered with the events team to be able to scale up what that promotional cycle and plan looks like. Everything from like a bottoms-up strategy, channel by channel, actually be execution of all of those moving parts, and it is no small feat. 

There is no magic bullet, like, it’s never going to be the same thing, event over event, but we have seen is trusting in your own database – yeah, people that have opted into your database have opted in for a reason. So really nurturing that and not abusing it.

We also have experimented a lot with third parties. So which other media organization partner organizations are the right target audience that can be an extension of our database? Okay. And then lastly, I mean, really empowering our sales and customer success teams. The kind of the whole go to market function of the business. Yeah, empowering them with content and an understanding of what the value add of these events are, to go out to their contacts at our customers, at our prospects in the community.

Ankush: That’s really the last part that you mentioned, empowering your sales team with the content. Give me an example of that, how, you know what, what kind of content you send them a way to share.  

Lindsey: We go as far as write like suggested invite copy. And it is just that it’s meant to be adapted and personalized from rep to rep. But here’s kind of the basics of like, what the value proposition is for why some of Ivana attend this, right, and we do it based off of the persona.

We kind of get down to this level of a security executive versus this level of a developer, that’s more of our practitioner end user. But here’s why it’s important for them, so they can highlight sessions and speakers that they may be interested in hearing from very, very granular. And that’s, that’s been working, I mean, I get that person-to-person relationship that really helps the conversions to registration.

Ankush: My next question is that if somebody wants to join your team – what are the key attributes you are looking for? For instance – the work culture in your company. 

Lindsey: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think one of the reasons that and probably one of the main reasons for that matter that I joined Snyk to begin with was the culture every person I interviewed with in the process was so genuine and so smart. And I knew I would not only enjoy working with them, but learn from them and be pushed by them to be a stronger marketer myself. 

When I was building the team, now, I think it was really thinking, you know, snyk is still kind of startup mentality. We’re moving really fast and are going to wear a lot of hats, and we’re not going to necessarily have a roadmap of how to do all the things you’re going to do. So that kind of adaptiveness and really the ability to understand the full picture and still be able to execute on the minutiae. 

That, to me is like the real Triple Threat of like, you can do it all I know, you can plan an event I know operationally, logistically, most event managers are in this for a reason. That’s who they are by nature. But are you nimble? Are you creative? Are you adaptable? Are you outgoing, so that you can find the right person internally that can help you with what you’re trying to achieve? Especially knowing that I work for a globally fully distributed organization. 

I think that and really just people that understand the business and want to really make exciting events, I think it’s been fun the past couple of weeks, I was able to get the entire team together in Boston for what we call small hands. And the energy of the seven of us together in a room, kind of walked away from those small hands, looking at each other and saying, Let’s go plan some really cool events together, like what we love to do. And we’re fortunate that we get the creativity, right, in this space to do what we like doing. 

Ankush: Absolutely. And, you know, I love that you mentioned creative, nimble and outgoing, I look for these attributes myself, you know, you don’t come across, you know, all three of them together very often. And my instinct also would be to jump at the person, you know, when you do. Finally, Lindsey, you know, coming to a final question for this podcast today. You know, and we’ve spoken about this a little bit, that we are the world’s first review platform.  

And our goal really is to help event marketers, further their brands to the power of social proof and community marketing, you know, because we live in a review economy today. And what used to be word of mouth earlier, is probably an online review today, in your parent’s time, you know, you would ask people for help and suggestions. And you know, nobody has the time to do that.

So, which is why we started when trouble because we thought the events’ industry could do with a review platform where people could, you know, read peer reviews before making a participation decision. Right. And on the other side, event organizers can also then tell their audiences that our attendees genuinely love us, and they’re expressing all this love on a neutral third-party platform. So, what does social proof mean to you? How important is social proof in your arsenal? And you really think that your attendees care about it?

Lindsey: I mean, absolutely. As an individual outside my professional work life, I still rely on word of mouth for most things that I do, and that kind of social proof. So, I think about it on a very individual basis, as I’m the person in my family and circle of friends that people come to as to which restaurant to go to. For me, they’re not going online to Yelp anymore. They’re asking someone in their circle that they know and trust, which I love, because that’s something I love to give recommendations on. 

And I think I know enough about the food and restaurant industry to cater it to the person asking, right, and this team is applied to work. I think, when we’re looking at these events, it’s very much an influential kind of word of mouth that we’re hoping to get. One of the tactics, if you will that we use in marketing a lot is, you know, we have Jane Smith in our database that has obviously opted in and is interested in Snyk events. Yeah, well, when we, when we email Jane to tell her to snyk week coming up, we tell Jane, invite your team, invite your friends, because it’s gonna sound better coming from you anyway.

Ankush: Yeah. And we’re doing some cool stuff. Now, I think a couple of weeks back, we actually started taking in, you know, what we call micro audio reviews, you know, like 20 second reviews of people actually talking about the events that they attended. Right. And, you know, it’s been amazing to just see that come through, it was just an idea. 

We just put in a record button on our survey form that we send out. And people actually started clicking on that and talking about what they enjoyed about the event. 

And we are now thinking of making it embeddable for event organizers. Right? Yeah. So really excited about it. And I’m happy that, you know, you identify with the concept of social proof as well. Yeah. And so that’s about it. Lindsay, thanks a lot for taking the time today. You know, this is all the time that we really had today. We like to keep it crisp and short. People don’t really tune out. Absolutely. It’s been a pleasure. And you know, we hope to do this again soon. It’s been a lot of fun. Thanks, Lindsey.

You can watch the entire conversation below…

Episode 3: In conversation with Lindsey Cohen, Event Marketing Director at Snyk

 

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