How Celonis Used Drift to Pivot Their Flagship Event from In-Person to Online & Increase Attendance by 7X

Adaptability and agility have always been critical to success in the software industry, but in the midst of a pandemic, they are more important than ever. Companies are having to adapt on the fly to unprecedented challenges. Creativity, innovation, flexibility, and speed are mandatory not just to excel, but to survive.

At Celonis, our mission is turning business processes into extraordinary experiences in order to remove operational friction through our AI-powered process mining and process excellence software. Industry-leading companies around the world including Siemens, Uber, 3M, Airbus, and Vodafone have embraced our ‘Superfluid Enterprise’ vision and harnessed the power of Celonis to drive millions of dollars of value. And we don’t just help our customers do this, we make it happen in our own company every day.

As an example, because of COVID-19, we recently had to transition our big, annual event – Celosphere – from a real-world venue to an online one. In 2019, our inaugural Celosphere Live in Munich drew 1,000 attendees. For 2020, we had even bigger plans, but the coronavirus forced us to completely reimagine the event. While we knew the pivot would require an enormous amount of work and coordination (all of which needed to be completed within a very brief window), we were excited about the possibilities. In the end, we decided to make the event free to expand our reach. Overall, we drove more than 18,000 registrations, which translated into 7,000 live attendees at the three-day event and more than 40,000 session views within two weeks of the event.

One of our main goals from the start was to maintain the personal, in-person feel of the event as much as possible. With tremendous support from the Drift team, we were able to not only achieve our initial objectives around booking demos, but we were also able to implement Drift in several other ways that we hadn’t even considered at the outset.

Using Drift’s technology, we drove a total of 3,700 conversations (an average of 3.81% total engagement) that helped us get people to the digital event and ensure they had the best experience once they were there. One thing we learned from our first day of programming was that we needed to enable all of our AEs to chat directly – had we realized that from the beginning, our engagement would’ve been even higher. That said, we’re really happy with the numbers we saw. We also had 98 demo-oriented conversations and 56 direct message conversations with people in key target accounts.

Not bad for getting up and running only 10 days prior to the event.

And at the end of the day, things turned out even better than we expected. Our VP of Demand Gen, Christoph Grossbaier, was particularly impressed with the Drift team’s commitment to our success. He summed everything up perfectly, “We would not have been able to get chat up so quickly and successfully without the non-stop support of the entire Drift team,” he said. “Our event ran from 2am to 5pm, but with a dedicated Slack channel that was staffed for 24 hours, you made us feel like we were your only client.” That high level of support combined with Drift’s ability to adapt to new customer situations with quick enablement and a light-weight rollout helped us maximize our opportunities with the event.

Adapting to Change – Acknowledging the New Reality and Finding the Right Solution

Celosphere was scheduled for the end of April. A few weeks prior to the big day we realized an in-person event was going to be impossible due to the travel and other constraints related to COVID-19. Even as our team was still coming to terms with the new reality, we were already focusing on the mission of making the event feel as much like a real-life, in-person event as possible. We knew that providing a personalized experience that encouraged and facilitated one-on-one conversations was key to not only delivering the kind of value attendees wanted, but also to getting people into demos.

At a live event, demos typically happen between sessions, during lunch breaks, and at other points where there’s a pause in the agenda. The benefit of a live event is that because everyone is physically there and already in conversation, it’s easier to motivate people to engage with a demo. The scenario is a little trickier at a virtual event. Driving demos at a digital venue requires a light touch that doesn’t interrupt the overall attendee experience. It requires connecting real-time conversations during the event to post-event demos.

Early in the process, leadership asked if there were any marketing tools we could use to support this vision. Our marketing team immediately suggested a chatbot. Initially, we explored the idea with our existing provider. However, after reviewing multiple strategies from multiple agents at that company, we realized they couldn’t deliver the personalized experience we wanted.

One of the main roadblocks was the platform’s inability to integrate directly or indirectly (via third-party tools like Zapier) with Pardot, which is a key element of our sales operation. Without access to our Pardot data, our old provider couldn’t recognize known visitors, which meant that everyone – from a C-suite exec in one of our biggest customers to a researcher from a competitor – would get the exact same experience.

Having exhausted the options with our existing provider, our team took the opportunity to reach out to Drift. We loved what we heard from the Drift team when we explained what we were trying to do: “We can do that out of the box. We can do it easily, and we can do it in two weeks.”

Finally, we were getting somewhere.

Delivering a Great Experience – Using Chat to Reduce Friction, Increase Efficiency, and Add a Personal Touch

While we started out with only a single use case in mind, we wound up developing multiple playbooks to address various scenarios. This was possible not only because Drift had the right functionality, but also because their ease of operation and collaborative support made it possible for us to accomplish more than we’d thought possible in a very short time.

We identified four use cases for using chat with our attendees:

  1. Booking Demos
  2. Registering Attendees
  3. Providing Tech Support
  4. Connecting AEs to Target Accounts

Use Case 1: Booking Demos

Our first use case was about booking demos via a conversational experience that mimicked one you’d get in an in-person event booth. The concept was to strike up relevant conversations in the context of the overall event experience. So, for instance, the opener might be something like, “Hey, Jane. I see you’re at Celosphere Live. That accounts payable session was interesting. Do you want to hop on a demo right now and get that process smoothed out?”

The back-end setup for this experience was complex, so here’s a bird’s eye view of the system we had in place:

For the “demo” or “speak with an expert” paths we had a team of BDRs acting as our “dispatchers” – two in EMEA and three in the U.S. Conversations were routed to them based on time zone and location. Once a conversation was routed to a BDR, they viewed the Salesforce account owner info which they could see right in their conversation in Drift and pulled in the AE who owned that account. From here the AE had two minutes to take over the chat. The following were the four scenarios that played out once an attendee engaged:

  1. The AE takes over chat and sends their Zoom link to hop into a 1:1 call
  2. The AE takes over chat, sends their Zoom, and also pulls in a solutions engineer via an internal routing process
  3. The AE doesn’t take over and the BDR schedules demo for later
  4. The AE doesn’t take over, the BDR pulls in SE via internal routing process, and sends Zoom link for the attendee to join a call with the BDR and SE

Working with the Drift team, we were able to build this experience out in record time – only about a week. We supported the experience with a video message that displayed between event sessions. The video showed attendees how they could book a demo seamlessly using the Drift chatbot right from the event.

Use Case 2: Registering Attendees

While we were doing the rapid build-out of the demo-booking part of the experience, we realized that we could also use Drift to drive one-click registrations. Since Drift was able to recognize visitors based on our Pardot data, we could use chat to eliminate all the forms that were part of the standard registration process. With Drift, all the visitor had to do was click the “Yes, I’d like to sign up” option in the chat, and – boom – they were registered. Completely frictionless, or as we like to say, superfluid. From there, they were automatically in the communication flow of emails that we’d set up around the event.

Even though the registration bot only went live about a week before the event, it still drove 51 one-click registrations from known customers/prospects and about 100 referral registrations (which were routed to the main registration page since we didn’t have information about them in our database).

Use Case 3: Providing Tech Support

As the event got underway, Drift became almost like a “virtual remote control” for the attendee experience. We used the chatbot to greet attendees upon arrival and ask how we could help. Over the course of the three-day event, we had to deal with our share of technical issues (things like streams not loading or double audio). But by studying our conversations in real-time, we were able to adapt our playbooks accordingly to streamline technical support. We preloaded bot responses to address those issues, and by day three almost no attendees needed to talk to an actual person for those kinds of problems because the bot could deliver solutions for all of them.

Use Case 4: Connecting AEs to Target Accounts

Finally, we were able to import all our accounts from Salesforce and turn on target account notifications for all 84 of our AEs. With these notifications activated, as soon as an AE saw a relevant person in the stream, they were prompted to reach out – not aggressively, but conversationally – to personalize the experience.

We saw a lot of great conversations come out of this effort. Drift made it easy for our AEs to be proactive about starting valuable and relevant conversations in the moment. Using chat also allowed our reps to talk to many different people in a relatively short period of time. The efficiency of chat almost allowed them to be in multiple places at once, something you could never do at a physical event.

Overall, Drift made it easy to deliver what we called a “red-carpet roll out” for our prospects. There were several factors that were especially helpful. One was the seamless integration with Pardot, which allowed us to easily create dynamic lists for different bots. For instance, we created a list of people who were already registered (so they wouldn’t see the registration bot again). We were also able to exclude competitors from seeing the registration bot based on another Pardot list that we used to identify competitors via tracked cookie targeting.

In addition, the Pardot integration allowed us to leverage Drift reporting to ensure that we didn’t miss a single conversation during the event, and were able to capture contact information on the back end for our own tracking purposes.

Another major advantage was speed. Throughout the entire process, the ability to see what was happening, paired with the ease of the flow builder allowed us to make on-the-fly changes to optimize the experience. We used a custom filter in real-time to ensure that no open or pending conversations were left waiting for more than one minute. (If anyone’s wait went longer, we pulled a new AE or BDR in to field the inquiry.)

The feedback loop was instrumental in helping us to continually iterate on the experience. For instance, we could easily look through the conversational flow to assess not only the volume of conversations, but also the most popular topics. Each day, we uncovered new insights and were able to act on them immediately.

Sometimes the changes were subtle, but still meaningful. On day two, we changed our demo buttons from “I want to schedule a demo” to “I want a demo.” This helped convey the immediacy of the experience, which is more aligned with the in-person/in-the-moment feel we wanted to create. There were tons of opportunities to make real-time updates based on how things were playing out from day to do. Whether we were removing roadblocks or fixing technical issues, we loved being able to respond quickly.

Looking Ahead

Drift not only helped us transform our event by giving us the ability to pivot incredibly fast, but it also delivered immediate ROI that was felt all across our organization. In retrospect, the only thing we wish we’d done differently was implementing Drift earlier. It felt almost like a miracle that we were able to get Drift up and running as quickly as we did. (We literally purchased Drift three weeks before our event!) And yet the platform still had a substantial positive impact on the event experience and corresponding results. If we’d had more time, we know we could have made even better use of Drift’s features.

We also look forward to increasing the level of personalization next time. While we felt really great about how we were able to customize the experience during the event, we know that – given more time – we could extend that feel to the registration bot by layering in different conversations based on things like the visitor’s functional role or key event track topics.

For now, we’re really pleased with how Drift helped us pull off a pretty amazing transition from a real-world to a digital event. What might have been a devastating turn of events turned into a success worth celebrating. The digital venue allowed us to scale the event to include a much wider audience. And Drift helped us keep the experience personal and conversational.

We’ve already begun implementing post-event Drift bots. Celosphere Live is a three-day event with eight hours of sessions each day. There’s almost no way anyone could get through all of it in real-time. The post-event bots will help us surface the event content so more people can benefit. In its first two weeks, this homepage bot generated more than 1,000 post-event conversations. Eventually, we’ll do some additional segmentation to develop customized playbooks for attendees versus people who registered but were unable to attend. Ultimately, we’d like to use dynamic lists in Pardot to really personalize the conversation around the specific sessions an individual was interested in.

As important as Drift’s technology was the support the Drift team provided. Their commitment to our success was so outstanding that our leadership team gave Drift a shout out at the event.

And the praise was warranted. Our Drift team was there every step of the way. We had multiple meetings each week to make sure we were fully onboarded and that our playbooks were running smoothly. We collaborated closely on innovative solutions to bring our vision to life. We had a Slack channel that gave us immediate access to our Drift team at all hours over the course of the event. And Drift provided critical training support for our BDRs and AEs to make sure everyone got the most value out of the platform.

From the first conversation to the post-event strategy, our experience with Drift has given us a lot of confidence and inspired us to see what we can do next.

Gabe Turner is the Marketing Operations Manager at Celonis. 

If you want to learn more about taking your in-person event online, you’re in luck! Drift hosted a webinar with yours truly and our VP of Content & Community, Mark Kilens. You can access the recording here or by clicking the image below 👇