How Penguin Strategies Built Out a New Virtual Conference Offering in Three Weeks

We caught up with David Yahid, Director of Business Development and Innovation at Penguin Strategies, a diamond partner, to learn more about how they quickly shifted focus by leveraging the “survive, adapt, grow” framework to build new marketing strategies that match today’s reality.

But first, a little bit about Penguin Strategies.

Penguin Strategies specializes in working with B2B technology companies who are interested in selling complex technologies to medium to large enterprise clients with long complex sales cycles. Since they don’t work with a specific industry per se, their clients usually work with long sales cycles. That means they don’t really see seasonality peaks and leads. 

How has Penguin Strategies been impacted by the current global health and financial crisis? 

Like the rest of the world, we’ve seen people start to behave differently. Our customers range from risk-taking entrepreneurs who quickly adapted to the situation by doubling down on everything, to customers that took a more conservative approach and cut back on spending. Fortunately, the tech industry is built by entrepreneurs who are used to bumps in the road, and know how to pivot and bounce back. We’re seeing many of our clients start to normalize. 

How did you use the “survive, adapt, grow” framework to shift your marketing strategies? 

The week the lockdown went into effect, we chatted with our colleagues at HubSpot and Vidyard to start brainstorming ideas. With the help of HubSpot, we put the “survive, adapt, grow” framework to use right away. This framework helps identify what phase of impact our customers are in based on their industry - whether they’re surviving, adapting, or growing. This helped us tailor our conversations around the ways we could solve different immediate industry-specific challenges.

Trade shows have always been an important source of leads for many of our clients. They’re a key part of their marketing strategy. The events industry has been hit hard, so face-to-face events like trade shows simply aren’t feasible right now. Few companies had figured out how to adapt and replicate the trade show experience virtually. Seeing this gap ahead of time, we recognized we could step in to fill it early on by offering a virtual conference service experience. 

But before we could build out a virtual conference offering for our clients, we needed to pressure test it ourselves. We pulled together a virtual meet-up aimed at identifying new marketing strategies, Steering Marketing in Times of Uncertainty. We documented the whole process so we could then build out an end-to-end solution for our clients based on our learnings from the event.

What findings did you uncover as you started to build out this new virtual conference service offering?

We’ve wanted Kipp Bodnar, HubSpot’s CMO, to speak at one of our events in Israel for awhile now, but it’s been tough to coordinate travel between Boston and Tel Aviv. With the pivot to a virtual event, this was the perfect opportunity to get Kipp involved. 

That was our first ah-ha moment. While virtual events like trade shows may lose their face-to-face aspect, companies are now able tap into resources and presenters that were normally less accessible for in-person events.

We pulled together a 500+ attendee virtual event in less than two weeks for a fraction of what it’d cost us to produce the same event in-person. We hosted more than 20 speakers from around the world, covering topics that would resonate with our prospective CMO buyers. There were presentations covering everything from how to adapt your management style while remote to CMO survival kits.

We used Zoom as the core platform and incorporated elements that attendees know and love from trade show events. This helped mirror the face-to-face experience that they’d have on a trade floor. We created breakout tracks, rooms to replicate demo booths, and intimate workshops to increase attendee engagement. 

What kind of results did you see as you built and executed this virtual event offering?

Using HubSpot, we ran multiple cross-channel promotions with email campaigns, social media posts, LinkedIn advertisements, online video, blog posts, and more. As a result, we saw 1,282 new leads, 1,016 of which were brought in organically, and high engagement rates with our email campaigns.

As some early indications of success post-event, we saw peaks in web traffic in the days surrounding the event and great engagement on social media. We also saw a large spike in leads and now have a healthy pipeline of prospects to nurture at various stages of the funnel.

But most importantly, we now have a new, fully vetted offering for virtual events. Of course it won’t replace the trade show experience, but it’s about learning to adapt based on the challenges you’re given. We’re hopeful this type of event format can be a great demand generation channel for our clients.

What advice do you have for your partner peers as they face similar unknowns? 

Be empathetic. The term “compassion marketing” has been around for awhile, but we’re really leaning into that now to adjust how we talk to customers and prospects. 

Invest more calories in keeping your current customers happy. Now, more than ever, it’s important to retain your current customer base. It’s unlikely - or at least much more difficult - to acquire new customers in this climate. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and take on work you might not normally do to make it easier for your clients to survive, adapt, and grow their business. 

Be proactive. By now, you should know your clients. Proactively reach out to them with suggestions on what they should be doing or could be doing better on a marketing front to adapt to this new environment. 

If you want to learn more about the “survive, adapt, grow” framework or other strategies to adjust the way you run your business during uncertain times, visit For Partners, By Partners for more resources.