Jess Bahr and Cait Law are the ultimate marketing duo.
With Jess as Senior Director of Growth & Analytics, and Cait as Senior Manager of Global Field & Events, these client-first marketing pros bring years of experience to NS1, the traffic management decision making platform that makes connecting applications a total breeze.
At NS1, events have historically been a key revenue lever, generating one-third of the company’s pipeline with a higher average ARR. We caught up with Jess and Cait to find out how they succeeded in maintaining their event program’s crucial revenue position, while making the switch from in-person to virtual.
Jess Bahr’s resume reads like a who’s who of the world’s largest media publishers: The BBC, The Economist, Hulu, Conde Nast, Bloomberg — the list goes on.
But when she landed at NS1, Jess found herself facing a whole new challenge: quantifying event ROI.
“Events influence so many different areas that I think a lot of people view them as soft metrics… The reality is, you can tie events to hard metrics, but not if you’re working with the wrong vendor who doesn’t give you the data to make those connections,” she explains.
Combined with Cait Law’s vast event experience across field and event marketing, Jess’s knack for data would prove crucial to getting buy-in for some of the team’s most engaging event experiences.
“We're not just event planners, we're event marketers. And in reality, it’s the obsession with data and impact that sets us apart,” says Cait.
By 2019, this field marketing dream team was killing it, solidifying events as a key revenue-driver at NS1. But they had no idea 2020 would prove to be their biggest challenge yet.
“We had a pretty firm process that we repeated year over year… and then COVID hit,” Jess explains.
Suddenly, the world went virtual.
“Cait went on vacation and when she came back, all of her events for the year were canceled,” laughs Jess.
While the pair can joke about it now, that’s one big post-vacay problem to have.
But Jess and Cait aren’t ones to shy away from a challenge. They’ve been known to push the boundaries and go beyond what’s considered possible for their events—and they’re extremely discerning about working with partners who have the same focused mindset. “As a brand we're always looking to push the envelope, so we look for partners that are also doing the same,” Jess explains.
With the pandemic in full swing, she and the team set out to revamp the event calendar in a way that would feel right for everyone, even virtually. “We're always evolving to try and meet people in the spot they want to be and, right now, virtual events are the de facto option for a lot of people.”
But when it came bottling up the magic of an in-person event and capturing it in a virtual setting, Jess and Cait knew they’d need a platform that could go beyond a classic webinar format and truly execute their unique vision.
“We had a very specific idea of what we wanted the event experience to be,'' says Jess. “Our goal was to create an event where people didn’t feel like they were being sold to. But the challenge is, a lot of platforms out there don’t give sales teams the opportunity for 1-1 conversations.”
Luckily, that’s when she and Cait discovered Goldcast.
“The most important thing, above everything else, is that people are having a great experience,” says Jess.
She and Cait mapped out a complete list of must-have features in a virtual event platform, but above all else, attendee experience was always what mattered most.
By the time they had whittled down their list of potential providers, it was all about choosing the partner who cared about more than just the tech.
NS1 needed a partner who was just as obsessed with attendee experience as they were.
“We don’t accept the status quo,” explains Cait. “While other providers may not put the attendee experience first and only care about a smooth backend, that's not our jam. We want both. And that's exactly why we partnered with Goldcast. They provide a platform where we can create that great user experience for our audience.”
With Goldcast on their side, the team at NS1 had finally found a partner who cared about attendee experience just as much as they did.
“For our first virtual event back in 2020, there weren't a lot of options. We ended up having to piece together multiple technology platforms… and it wasn't perfect. It was still a great attendee experience, but it was hard and we wanted to be better,” says Cait.
With one seamless, fully integrated platform, the team at NS1 could finally integrate all their event data for optimal post-event reporting.
“We wanted a partner who could help make the event smooth and seamless, with integrations to our CRM, Salesforce or HubSpot. We don't see that very often, but we saw it in Goldcast. And that was a really winning point for us.”
Cait and Jess know that, when it comes to events, there will always be bumps in the road. They wanted a partner who was willing to help them handle those hurdles together.
“A lot of other incumbents in the virtual event space take feedback, but they put it on a roadmap. They're not necessarily willing to ingest that feedback and pivot in real time so that we can have our event experience the way that we want to design it,” explains Jess. “With Goldcast we were able to come in and say, ‘Hey, we really need this’, and they made it happen right away.”
With their unique event vision made possible, Jess and Cait began optimizing their virtual events to replicate the sales conversations that had worked so well at NS1’s in-person conferences.
“Goldcast is a bit like a blank canvas — it comes with certain tools you can use, but you can use them any way you want to create your vision,” explains Cait.
For NS1’s latest event Insights 2021, Build A Better Future, Cait and Jess focused on creating more opportunities for organic engagement with attendees:
These features created a guided path for NS1 attendees to easily start one-on-one conversations with the sales team, while also generating deep insights for impactful follow-ups.
“Your job is to facilitate attendee flow, just like you would at an in-person event. With Goldcast, it allowed us to create a really natural user experience,” says Cait.
But the cherry on top for Jess and Cait was the level of data they could access via Goldcast after the event.
She and Cait had grown tired of using patchwork systems to track referral registrations and other key data. “A lot of platforms are really lacking in their analytics and the reporting we can actually pull from the event itself,” Jess explains.
Here’s how the event team at NS1 used Goldcast to capture key revenue insights:
Despite the many challenges of taking in-person events virtual, Jess and Cait delivered on the attendee experience NS1 is known for, while preserving the role of events as a core revenue function for the org.
One attendee quote pretty much says it all: “It was a great learning experience… and I was still able to engage with everyone in a natural way. NS1 created a great platform for that.”
“It’s a huge testament to the NS1 and Goldcast partnership that we could create that space for our community,” says Cait.
The team’s experience-driven strategy has kept events center stage for NS1, both externally and internally.
“Events are top of mind for everyone, even non-marketers,” she continues. “We gave our customers a sneak-peek of the platform and their response was, ‘Wow, this is fantastic. You guys always do great work and create a great experience for us. We're so excited to attend.’”
While others in the industry have seen attendance dwindle, NS1’s numbers are rising. And if you ask Jess and Cait, at least some of that is “because Goldcast made it such a phenomenal user experience.”
NS1, an IBM company, delivers premium DNS and traffic steering solutions that let enterprises do more with DNS by turning the workhorse of their network into an engine of innovation. Companies around the world depend on NS1 to help them keep their businesses online all the time, identify network performance anomalies, and lower the cost of delighting audiences. NS1 is headquartered in New York and has more than 850 customers across the globe.