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Creating Memorable Customer Experiences

Creating Memorable Customer Experiences Episode #33 Show Notes

Have you ever walked into an event and been stopped dead in your tracks? Creating Memorable Customer Experiences is exactly like that is what the award-winning Amanda Ma and her team do all the time.

In Creating “WOW Customer Experiences” you learn the benefits of using the right events agency to help you drive the metrics you want. How you can stay within budget, and maximize the ROI. Be sure to check out some of their handiwork on the opening to the video version of the interview.

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Creating WOW Customer Experiences Episode Transcript

Tim Kubiak 0:00
Hi, thanks for listening to Bowties and business. I’m your host Tim Kubiak. As always, you can find the show on its socials on Facebook and Instagram at bow ties in business. And on twitter at bow ties and bi z. You can find me personally at Tim Kubiak on Twitter at Tim Kubiak 412 on Instagram and of course at my website which is my name Tim Kubiak calm. Today we have an amazing guest Amanda Ma. She’s the founder and chief experience officer of innovate marketing group and award winning events and experiential marketing agency based in Los Angeles. We’re going to talk about a lot of things today, we’re going to talk about her backstory, we’re going to talk about the benefits of using an event agency for businesses of all sizes, how to create experiences for your event guests, and creating culturally inclusive experiences. And of course, we’re going to talk about the pivot the virtual. So a little more about Amanda. Her company, the innovate marketing group is known for producing remarkable corporate events, but providing fresh ideas, infrastructure and logistics. They’re a one stop solution from concept all the way through execution. Mandy is an industry professional with 16 years of experience in event production event launch, activations design and execution. Her extensive background and strategic insights have produced event experiences for clients, including Toyota, East West Bank, Marriott, Honda, bytedance, and tick tock. She spans a number of industries from auto finance technology, to retail and beauty. She was born in Taiwan and raised in Arcadia, California. Amanda studied business at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts, and then studied abroad in London. Her entrepreneurial journey began in 2006 is the co founder of the fresh events company Incorporated, and the co founder of pamper me fabulous in 2008. after which she go on to found the innovate Marketing Group, which through her leadership has flourished into one of the most distinguished event management design agencies, both nationally and internationally. Amanda, welcome to the show.

Amanda 2:12
Thanks for having me by I’ve been looking forward to this, Tim.

Tim Kubiak 2:15
It’s been a pleasure. I’m glad we keep connected. So if you don’t mind, just so our listeners get to know you a little bit. Can you tell us a little more about your background, how you got into the business, that sort of thing before we jump into the the topics at hand?

Amanda 2:28
Sure. Um, I guess I’ve always been really good with planning and just being very organized. So even back in the days I remember, my friends would tell me, oh, you should be a event planner. You know, I don’t know if you remember. But when the movie wedding planner, by Jennifer Lopez came out, one of my really good friend said, hey, that’s, you know, but in real life, and I say no, that’s not a real job. That’s a movie. So I told my friend Tina, that, but who knew a few years later actually started my own events, agency, and college. And you know, after college, I was always very active in the community, always taking a leadership role. So I knew I like to, you know, be around people. And I’m always kind of the organized one. So somehow that always landed on my lap. After college, I started with corporate, I did that for about three years. And then I started my own agency, because I realized I want to events are a little bit more fresh, and more original and more memorable.

Tim Kubiak 3:27
So what makes an event more fresh

Amanda 3:30
def, I think there’s so many that are just very cookie cutter, right? You go you eat, they do their presentation you leave. What we do differently is really considered the five senses, right? So when we do a hotel opening, we already have a fire breather before you even step in the hotel to kind of engage you that way. You know, and hope your hair doesn’t catch on fire. No, just kidding. You know, things like that. And as soon as you walk in, you smell the food. Right? You can even see the food yet, but you already can smell the food. And then you know, we call it a feast for the eyes. Because there may be there’s a activation right when you walk in like our most recent hotel opening, we did a ginormous balloon wall. So people can actually do a picture in front of it. We did a floral step and repeat not just a standard backdrop step and repeat but we did floor one, and just step by step people are like well, this is so awesome. And then after you do that floral step and repeat we actually had a champagne wall greeting you and everybody was like would you get the champagne, you know and yes, we do have you know staff also help pass the champagne. But the champagne wall is just kind of takes it to a no nother level of experience. Right? Yeah,

Tim Kubiak 4:45
yeah, I was gonna say I’ve never seen that I’ve gotten I’ve done a bunch of boring events that Yeah, yeah, I haven’t been any fun ones like that in a long time. Yes,

Amanda 4:54
no, you need to come to some of our events. I you know honestly what several hotel bunnies we’ve done. We get to To invite some of our top clients, you know, our clients sometimes allow us to do so. So I remember one time we invited one of our top clients, and then the wife of our client was like, really, you know, they go to a lot of these quote unquote, events. Maybe she’s, I really don’t want to go, so that our clients came by himself. And literally, within the first five minutes, he called up his wife and say, Jennifer, you got to get over here. You gotta love this. So here’s why to go Uber came and say, I love this, like, it’s on his wife actually told him say, hey, next. Hi, is Amanda inviting you to a event, please make sure to add me as your plus one. But all the other boring ones, please don’t. Don’t buy me

Tim Kubiak 5:41
that that says a lot. Because if you do a ton of the events, even as a guest, right, you’re right, it gets really tiring. So to create something unique that somebody wants to come to and be on your shortlist of your next event that says a lot about how well you do.

Amanda 5:56
Thank you. Yeah, it was really fun. It was like, my wife decided to come after all, is that okay?

Tim Kubiak 6:04
Of course, right. So, your team’s grown, your business has grown? Right? So how have you changed your leadership style and your entrepreneurial journey? As your business has grown? You’ve got more key clients? Right? So

Amanda 6:20
correct. Yeah, I think in the beginning, when you’re smaller, you kind of want to do everything on your own. Um, and I think in terms of leadership style, I would say more and more, you have to learn to let go and trust. And then right now my leadership style is more about empowerment. And, you know, letting them try it and giving them the freedom to do so and empower them to do so because I feel like for that, and I tell them, you take ownership of the experience, just like a life expert, but you also take ownership of whatever that you do, right? Whether it’s the office assistant, event assistant or account manager, take ownership, and we have our core values. So I use that when I hire people to when I evaluate people, and just on the day to day, right? We talk about Okay, how does this live up to the core value? Even when we talk about events? As a How does this work? One of our core value is while service, right? So while experience, so they will challenge your team? Like, how does this event? You know, yes, you talk about all the logistics, all those those are great, but those are basics for us. But you know, so kind of bring it back? How do we continue to offer that while service? And then if they cannot answer the question, they’ll have to go back to the drawing board and have a better answer the following week.

Tim Kubiak 7:35
If you don’t mind, can you share some of your other core values? Because that’s fascinating.

Amanda 7:39
Sure. So one is well service. And we also have integrity, as well as funding engagement, because we work very hard, but I was also want it to be fun. No, we have be proactive, as well as grow and develop. And our last one is innovation. Because I feel like when you don’t innovate, you die. And we’re in the business of innovation, you know, constantly trying to come up with something creative, to engage people and keep them entertained.

Tim Kubiak 8:10
And I know we’re going to talk about the pivot due to the pandemic a little bit later. But how has social media and changes and trends in social media changed how you innovate at events?

Amanda 8:23
In terms of social media, we have been using it as an extension of the event experience. So prior to COVID, you know, as a lot of we were put someone that’s just on the social media, so they could kind of for anyone who’s not present, kind of create that FOMO effect, like, Oh, I should God Damn you, I told you to call, you know, you’re seeing it from the Facebook live, where the eyes you story, and you’re like, Oh, I should have accepted Amanda’s invitation and head over to this fabulous event. She said it was fabulous. So we use that and also influencers, right? So sometimes leveraging influencers, their network and they get invited to some of the events like the hotel openings that we do, right so they get invited and they talk about it and their network to see it so it’s really an input occation of the life event experience interesting. Yeah,

Tim Kubiak 9:17
yeah. I wouldn’t have thought about influencers playing into hotel opening right I you know, you say influencer to me I think fashion brand or something really retail but not something experienced base like you deal with

Amanda 9:31
gray and I think influencers are thinking of a broader perspective. A lot of times people thinking like, you know, a makeup tutorial or makeup right, those makeup artists or stuff like there’s also business influencer or people just just influencer in the community because they’re so well known. Right? So always Tim is here at this event. This is a really legit event. You know, so this is the who, who, whose event, right? This is the top of notch event.

Tim Kubiak 9:58
Yeah, that’s that’s a really good point one is not considered really. So if we can change the topic just a little bit, all right? What’s the benefits of using an agency such as yours?

Amanda 10:15
That’s a great question. And I can’t answer that, because I actually been on both sides. So you used to do corporate events, right. And then a lot of time we do corporate events, you’re kind of bound to the same set of events every year. And a lot of times, you’re really busy with internal events. So your parameters spectrum is a little bit more limited. So as an agency, a lot of time we’re bringing to the client new ideas, you know, like, how about doing this? Have you tried this out? You know, there’s just so many, because we’re exposed to events, 24 seven is not limited to just one company, we’re constantly looking for that next fresh idea, so that we can help them impress their guests, one of the favorite things we love to hear is we always make our clients look like rockstars. So that they you know, because a lot of time, their managers or director or even CEO is like, how did you guys do this, you know, and they’re like, Oh, we hire agency, this time. They’re like, Oh, I can tell, you know, not that they don’t do a good job, they do a fantastic job, but different levels of skills, right, because a lot of time, even or sometimes just resources, to be honest, we have worked with a company, they’re huge, they actually had a team of 15 event planners, and they still, you know, outsource some projects to us, because they just don’t have the capacity to handle it. And they need more help. But they’re someone who’s professional, you know, so not just like an independent person, but like another company, that’s an extension of them. And we live in breathe kind of their protocols, their procedures, stuff like that.

Tim Kubiak 11:48
So you work inside their marketing brands and their guidelines when you do that. So I’ve got a tech background. So one of the things I always struggled with in my career, before I left corporate America was we would go to these massive shows in San Francisco in Las Vegas, right? And literally, our marketing teams would be putting on our executive briefings and our suite management and all the one on ones and the tradeshow stuff. And inevitably, there was a nighttime event. And that would be somewhere where we could have benefited from somebody like you, right? Because we could have come in and said, Look, we’re gonna run the tradeshow floor, we’ll run the executive meetings Part, we’ll do all that internal. Can you put on an event for engineers, and it an event for executives and just do it? And that’s is that a kind of thing? Somebody could turn over? to innovate marketing group?

Amanda 12:41
Definitely. Yeah. Because a lot like you said, they’re so they had to, there’s certain private, they can only handle so much. Right? One of our client, we talked to him this as I asked him how many events you do. And literally, the same person was in New York and San Francisco the same week, but within three days, you know, because that two big events, and that’s why they need us. So we really take care of all the venue. And they just arrived plug in and go, right, because they got to take care of the quote unquote, their internal client, all their internal stakeholder, just that is a lot, right? handling all the internal politics and leaving the logistics of hotel tech to you know, a professional agency like ours.

Tim Kubiak 13:24
So with that, you work with big brands. Do you work with smaller brands, regional companies, things like that? Are they a good fit for you?

Amanda 13:39
Yes, yeah, we’re not, I would say medium size because smaller, you know, companies don’t really hire agency like ours. Middle to big size.

Tim Kubiak 13:46
How do you define medium?

Amanda 13:49
I would say anyone with more than 100 people.

Tim Kubiak 13:52
Okay. So you define it by people not revenue.

Amanda 13:55
Okay. Cool harangue? Yeah. And then because anything smaller, they’ll just have their secretaries do it anything larger than they’re like, okay, we really need professional help. Well, we just usually when people hire us, it’s just they want to take it to the next level. Right? We even have a company if it weren’t for COVID would be a really small doing event right now. They wanted to after, you know, five years, they’re like this is this events growing. So we actually need a professional agency to help us kind of step up that experience, even though they do a great job, but they know it’s time to for someone else to take it to another level.

Tim Kubiak 14:31
Talking about that, before we go into the next question. You know, you have some great pictures on your website. If people want to find you Where Where should they find you? where’s the best place to check out your stuff so to speak,

Amanda 14:42
please go to www dot innovate mkg.com and you’ll see lots of great work there and hopefully we’ll get to collaborate soon.

Tim Kubiak 14:53
Yeah, in the pictures are amazing. Right. And you have you have all the socials I saw. So you’re on Instagram am your you know, you get to, of course, you’re in the business, you’ve got a great LinkedIn page. So,

Amanda 15:06
yeah, so you can see we also have a YouTube page, so you can actually see some videos of the events we done. Oh, that’s great.

Tim Kubiak 15:15
I didn’t, I’ll admit I did not find that and check that out. So do you help clients set their goals for the events, whether it’s the on the experience, whether it’s number of attendees or type of attendees? How do you help with that?

Amanda 15:31
Sure, actually, one of the, you know, our mission here is not just about doing an event, like a fun event. That’s also very important. But we usually start with KPIs like what’s the purpose of the event, right, we want every event to be very meaningful, like a grand opening was a perfect a conference also has a purpose. A gala also has a purpose. Like everything has a purpose. So we usually do that. And then we kind of have them list out their top three KPIs. So as we’re building around that event experience, we can continue to check back to that KPI and say, Okay, this hits the KPI, right, because a lot of times we get so creative, or the client gets so creative, and they have so many ideas. And then we help bring it back to ultimately what matters most because sometimes the dollars are not unlimited, right? So it’s kind of like, no, this is what makes the most impact. And this hits your KPI. So it’s important that we circle back, you know, and our client always are very appreciative of that, because sometimes they get so excited we all get wrapped up in this excitement was like, wait, but that’s just, there’s a doesn’t hit our KPI, you know? So we kind of go back, what’s your objective? What’s your goal? Why are we doing this event? You know, and who is it for who’s the demographic like that’s those are all very important things, elements that go through. And even with our account managers here, they know before we start a project, to not just rush through that process, oftentimes, if you set your up for success is to make sure you do that part, right and invest time to doing that. And understanding the goals and objectives is very important.

Tim Kubiak 17:10
How do you look at the right strategies to help meet that client’s goals because I’ve done it. So a couple years ago, I decided to put on a 13 city roadshow with internal marketing resources. It was a nightmare, right? We were doing it over basically four months, we record ating, five sets of sponsor speakers plus our own technical content, plus our own executives and myself, you know, so how do you pick somebody who has a crazy idea like that, and help them make it something that they could really execute? And, frankly, sleep a few days before the event? Probably cuz your team’s up in all fairness?

Amanda 17:50
Yeah, so we’re the first one. Oh, and last one to go. When you sleep, we sleep tip.

Tim Kubiak 17:58
That’s good. I didn’t I didn’t sleep for four and a half months. Oh,

Unknown Speaker 18:01
my gosh.

Amanda 18:04
I mean, we do our clients are like, they love the jam packed schedule. So again, I think it goes back to the most impactful, right. And then we always are big on quality versus quantity. You know, because we even do sponsorship opportunities, like for our clients, like evaluating what events to participate, like for them to sponsor, and a lot of times they’re like, well, I want to be attend events. And then, you know, that’s our goal. So we kind of go back to is that you want to be at 10 events, or is it because the number, right, because you could also do sponsor one big event and hit your KPIs? Or is it because you want to diversify that portfolio of what you sponsor? And how you engage in the community? You know, so we kind of go back to the quality versus quantity and kind of again, what what’s the purpose? And why do you write him you don’t want to sleep for four months, and you want to hit all these? Right? Because you may say, Oh, I want to do this one, because I don’t know, this is really good. And we kind of walk it through and sometimes they will figure out themselves like, okay, you’re right, we don’t need to necessarily do 100 that’s 250, but really impactful and meaningful.

Tim Kubiak 19:15
Yeah, and that was Have you ever run into where clients don’t have the right customer list? prospect list, you know, to draw people into an event and how do you help them cope with that?

Amanda 19:28
Yes, we definitely encounter that. So you know, when we have that conversation of who your demographic and who how you’re sending it out that communication, you know, we call it that that discovery process, then we will kind of help guide them to the right, another direction, say, Hey, if you’re, you’re trying to attract this demographic, and you’re sending the email to this list that doesn’t, that’s not your demographic. Right? And then they A lot of times, they just think, Oh, I have this list. I’m gonna use it. Right and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re trying to attract more folks to give you a very simple example, like hotel openings, right, who do you want to invite other than partner investor, those are pretty typical. But you also want to invite planners, right. But sometimes hotels don’t think that they just think like, I’m gonna throw this fabulous event and four people with planners is who’s gonna bring you projects, like bring all those meetings to your property, you know, so we kind of have, we kind of help guide them and bridged out and where our agency, we’re a part of MPI, which is meeting professional International. So say, Oh, that’s a great way you can also engage planners. So if the hotel happened to be in Hawaii, or Southern California, reach out to that group, and say, please come to a hotel opening. And then you could check out the hotel because normally, we always do a tour and you really get to see all aspects of the hotel. Because for planners, we need to know what we’re promoting to our clients. You know, so use, I call this see it to believe it, right? And even when you experience it, and their hotel, sometimes you just have to see it right there. There’s certain hotel, we just don’t recommend to client because maybe in that gorgeous ballroom, there’s four poles you know, and climb, don’t know that you just see like, Oh, beautiful picture, don’t never post a picture of the four poles in the middle. And you’re like, No, that doesn’t work. And that’s why people hire us, right? Because we had this inside knowledge. Or people say, Oh, I want to do a rooftop, you know, cocktail party, oh, this this one is really great. But there’s other ones not great, because the freight elevator is so small, it takes a lot of time for people like the vendors are loaded. Those again is like planner knowledge, you know, if you don’t work the downtown hotel venue like we know it so well. We’re like, don’t do that venue, that one is union, it also all those insider information. And that’s kind of ties it back to why people hire us.

Tim Kubiak 21:55
That’s a great point. Because if you’ve never dealt with drage, and union hotels, and you show up at one, it’s a whole different game. And that’s where a professional like you and your team can step in and really make it run so much smoother, because you’ve either prepared for it or avoided it.

Amanda 22:11
Correct? Yeah, one time, literally, it took a guy two hours to move one podium. It was so frustrating. It was union. So that’s definitely not on our recommendation list. Right? We’re like it doesn’t take two hours. And we couldn’t do it right? Being proactive is one of our company values. You can you could sense the frustration. My team was feeling like, can we help you like what? You know?

Tim Kubiak 22:38
Yeah, that would be frustrating. I’ve never thought about that. But you’re right. Simple things like I’ve waited for power and things like that to be run, but moving a podium or changing a table? I’ve never thought about that in a union setting. Yeah. If we go to you talked a lot early about creating an experience for guests. Can you talk about the difference? If people were thinking of using your firm between like a product launch versus a user’s conference, or an internal team event? You know, are there different just sort of universal things that people should start thinking about as they reach out to you

Amanda 23:19
see, what is the experience they’re looking for? Right? So a lot of time we start with a conversation. And we do a lot of these, these are kind of our core competency where we do a lot of these grand openings and you know, conferences, so we kind of know the right questions to ask and how that really helps the client guide that experience. And as well as in locations also a big one, because we do you know, majority of work is Southern California, California. And we have about 30% that is National. Okay.

Tim Kubiak 23:57
So, is it the usual spots nationally of the big cities? Or do you find yourself in secondary markets when you do national things?

Amanda 24:08
Like we were just in Washington DC before all this? Usually when the big cities Yeah,

Tim Kubiak 24:13
yeah. Yeah. You know, it’s it’s always when I get invited to Dayton, Ohio, it scares me a little bit, right. You say New York, DC, Atlanta, you know, in the usual tradeshow hubs, and I’m like, Okay, great. They’re like, Yeah, can you do this thing in Dayton? Dayton Really? Sure. And by the way, I’ve got good friends in Dayton. So it’s not a knock on them. Just an example of a small market that can be a bit challenging.

Amanda 24:39
Yes, a little bit, too. And that’s why the major ones very popular, but I think the secondary also have their own unique experiences as well. You know,

Tim Kubiak 24:49
it’s probably different to draw in that kind of a market I would think right if you’re doing

Amanda 24:55
Yeah, very different. Most of our client just like the big cities, so We don’t really I mean, I would say Dallas is healthy, the least like, and that’s not even secondary market. But we’re usually in New York, Chicago, San Francisco.

Tim Kubiak 25:09
Yeah, before they built the Gaylord in Dallas, I don’t think I’d ever go into any major events there. And I went to a couple when they open that, because they seem to have parts of the big conference industry locked up being part of the mariadb family. So

let me see here. How do you provide an ROI and a cost control for client? Because Because one of the things that happens is right, you get there, and we talked about the union, but you find out, you know, how do you make sure you have all the right AV, all the other things, the signage, the freight, everything baked in, when you’re planning an event?

Amanda 25:51
I think that’s why it’s important to get the scope of work. And go understanding right, like what it is that they want, and then what it was service they need from us. Because, you know, we essentially provide a full spectrum of services from beginning to end, you hire us, we, you know, we, we help coordinate with all the vendors were essentially a one stop shop, find a venue for them. But sometimes what ends up happening is if you want to add an extra day, right, that definitely boosts up your budget, we had a client where the conference was very high profile. And then it got even more high profile. When we found out one of their major speakers accepted it, but then they had all these requirements, you know, they need it certain things. And that was in the budget. Right. So for that we’re usually really good about keeping our clients in budget. That’s usually the one of the in our kickoff meeting, we talked about that. Right. What is your budget? Do you have room for growth, because there are opportunities, we’ll say, hey, if you use this, you know, in terms of like, backdrop for the conference, like this is 20,000, this is 30,000. But the 30,000 is down much more impactful because of the phone reason we went in for us is not an upsell, right, because our charge doesn’t change if the money goes to the vendor. But it’s how does that translate into our ROI for the client, because maybe the branding is very spectacular, right? Maybe is a screen because we were starting to do projection screens, you know, for a few years. And that was really nice, because it keeps the room very entertaining versus like just static projections. You know, it’s very different. Like one year we did a Dr. Seuss themed party, and the whole room is just constantly changing. They’re just so fun and inviting. Even when you want to like, calm down, you can because the room is just so fun, and just makes that atmosphere a little bit different, you know, and brings out the fun side of people. Yeah,

Tim Kubiak 27:57
yeah, you know, in that, that does really change. The guests experience right is just having that little bit of you talked about champagne Marler, but bringing a little fun into the event no matter what that really does make it stand out.

Amanda 28:13
Correct. And kind of going back to your question about the budget, right? So when we’re doing the hotel opening, for example, I remember specifically because originally, we wanted to do a, you know, a much bigger or much bigger champagne wall. But then because of budget, we kind of made it a little bit smaller, but still awesome. You know? So I think those are how you adjust the budget, because we’re like, No, no, you need champagne law. And because a lot of times what ends up happening is they love our ideas. And we say well, you have to cut a we curate based on the event, right? And then we usually recommend based on even though we present a few ideas, we say these are our favorite, we highly recommend go this route. Right? But what ended up happening maybe if they have 100,000. And they say I also really love the champagne wall, and I like it to be like 24 feet long, then well, you know what your budget, you could do maybe 16 versus 24. You know, so you can make adjustments that way, right. But sometimes you cut down too much impact is no longer there, we will also let the client know and say, Hey, Tim, this is now too small, and it’s not gonna have the effect that you’re originally looking for, or that we designed it for, you know, so maybe instead of that, and why don’t we reallocate budget, do a bigger for wall. So that’s more impactful. So we’ll adjust it that way. But we’re good with numbers,

Tim Kubiak 29:36
that that’s an important thing because overruns will kill a budget, right? And that’s a great way to keep your clients is to keep them in budget.

Amanda 29:44
Correct because you remember it goes back to we make them look like rockstars by keeping them in budget. We make them look like rock stars.

Tim Kubiak 29:53
So part of your background, right? You’re born in Taiwan. And you run and I’ve heard you speak and other people interviews about creating culturally inclusive events. So can we talk about that for a little bit?

Unknown Speaker 30:05
Yeah, sure.

Tim Kubiak 30:06
So one of the things you talked about was, frankly, table layouts. So do you mind just kind of going through that for the listeners of how that influences a room and sets the tone?

Amanda 30:16
What do you mean by table layout?

Tim Kubiak 30:18
So you’re talking about round tables versus long ones? Right, and just things like that, that go into consideration of making an event more welcoming, and and connecting people better?

Amanda 30:31
Correct. So typical room that you’ve probably experienced as you walk in, and it just a bunch of roundtables, or you walk in and just classroom stuff, we like to mix it up. So like, for example, one big a lot that we did, we actually have roundtables and in the middle, we have what’s called like a VIP long table. So all their major has sponsor or stakeholder or C or sat in a long table. And they just made that room look that much more exciting. We also done a mix of rounds on long like banquet. As well as just like mixing it up. Even for, you know, some lifestyle events, we do that too, because as soon as you walk in the room, you’re like what is different, right, and all it is is just a table mixing in instead of rounds, you mix in some long table, or even some square table, sometimes changing up the type of table so meaning the material, so we’ll have like wooden table and then next to it is another style of table and it just makes the room look a lot more interesting that way too.

Tim Kubiak 31:35
You know, and it’s funny sitting enough of these rooms, you noticed subtle differences in that kind of touch, right? Because if everything’s the same thing with the same tablecloth and the same chair covers, it looks like every other event.

Amanda 31:49
Correct. And then at the least what we’ll do is change up the table linens. So even as rounds will propose a client, can we do two different colors, right? And then even the four arrangement because the table is different? We’ll say, Okay, can we do two different floor arrangements? You know, so there’s like, all these different ways we do. And it’s funny because we get people attend our event, and maybe they have attended the event prior without our agency being involved. And she’s like, I noticed a difference. You know, like, because like you say, Tell me when you go to a lot of these, which I was attending a lot of these. And that’s why I started the company. And, you know, you start to notice and appreciate the SR like, Oh, yeah, they did this versus like, Oh, just, you know, all the same? Not there’s nothing wrong with that. But we’re just looking for something a little bit more interesting.

Tim Kubiak 32:38
Yeah. Because that is really what makes you come back makes you pay attention makes you tell your friends about it.

Unknown Speaker 32:44
Correct? Yeah.

Tim Kubiak 32:46
So if if somebody is planning and wants to do a culturally inclusive event, how do you how can you help them do that? So it’s not misinterpreted as cultural appropriation? Or, you know, an inappropriate representation? Is that place you can help give guidance?

Amanda 33:04
Definitely. I mean, we have a lot of Asian clients as well. So, you know, for some of these events, we don’t have a lot of number, fours. So like, everywhere, the hotel, they’re like, How come? You know, we told them like, Oh, yeah, we have about 400 people. And they’re like, No, no, it says 50. Right. But they also go Yeah, if you notice, we actually took a table for 40 to 49. So we completely skip that section. And it’s just funny, right? And then Asian people love the number eight, because it’s lucky. So if people get to set a table a they’re so excited. They’re like one of the lucky table, it’s like smallest thing is actually pretty funny, you know, and then we have to make sure people are strategically placed. I think corporately, because we do mainly corporate events. So it’s okay, like, we could use white, you know, those color but in certain culture, they don’t like why because White is for when you have a funeral. So if you do an all white event, they don’t like that. Right? They love reds. So a lot red and Sunday, our job is like, Okay, can we do like a color? That’s close? Because you know, otherwise, there’s so many red events, right? Like red and gold, red and gold. It’s like, Okay, what else can we do other than red and go? That’s still lucky, you know? Yeah. I think that falls under when we do a lot of our Lunar New Year’s engagements or activations or events for our corporate clients. Everybody wants read, you know, so we’re like, you just hear the office, all the systems are calling you say, do you have relatives? Do you have relatives?

Unknown Speaker 34:40
It’s seasonal.

Amanda 34:42
Seasonal in that we’re booking like the lion dance, right? And the Jews, like we have two companies we go with and we say, okay, you know, sometimes it was the same day that we had to call the other company. Ryan, how many lions and we’re like, Okay, well, they usually bring the lettuce with them and then we have to prepare red pocket. Like, there’s a lot of logistics stuff that you know we love working on, because we even done like bank openings. So to for Asian thing, so the lion and we had to arrange for the lion dance because the lion actually blessed the vault. Okay, so it’s kind of interesting. You’re sitting Yeah, yeah, like we really get to see the vote. But for hotel grant, I mean for bank openings, that’s actually one of the must for Asian bank. So they will bless the vault and there’s like this whole, you know, festivity. We love it. We love it.

Tim Kubiak 35:33
Is it? I don’t say ritual. But I mean, it’s, it’s an expected part of that event, right? So you have to make sure you do it perfectly, I would think for the client to really appreciate it.

Amanda 35:44
For sure. Yeah. Like kind of how you start right from the ribbon cutting to the vault blessing to the ultimate the kind of post reception for all their VIP guests.

Tim Kubiak 35:56
So knowing that you have a large number of Asian clients, you’re probably dealing with multilingual events, is that something you run into very often?

Amanda 36:05
Most of our clients speak English, I would say even our Asian clientele, but our team, it also speaks Chinese fluently. So we could have been most even Yeah, I would say most though English with a few that nice like that Chinese assistance

Tim Kubiak 36:22
for larger events. In my traditional industry, I would see, you know, for mainstage presentations, and even some of the breakouts, people would pick their agenda in advance, and then that they would be given headsets and then have a translator, I can’t imagine trying to coordinate that, because we’d have it literally we that people from 90 countries there. Right? So you’re dealing with, you know, English, Chinese, you know, maybe Farsi and certainly Spanish and several other languages. You know, how do you even begin to understand the mix at an event like that, if, if you’re doing your job?

Amanda 37:01
Yeah, I mean, that just adds another layer. In terms of logistics, you know, and luckily, with technology’s gotten a lot easier, because now that is literally one vendor will work with. And then all they do is help translate everything from my event into the different languages, right, even right now, we’re, we just talked to a potential client not too long ago, and they’re even have four languages, they want to English, Mandarin, I think, Dutch and Spanish. Right? So then for that, then we will work with our vendor who’s a translating company, and then everything will be translated. There’s a minor delay, like very little, you can’t really tell, but there’s minor as they translate, right? So it’s pretty Yeah, it’s fluid. Now, I would say,

Tim Kubiak 37:50
it’s, so one of the things, and we’re gonna kind of move towards pivoting to virtual events, you know, because that’s where the world’s going. But one of the things I thought is, you built this beautiful PDF that’s available on your website on pivoting to virtual. And as I was getting ready to talk to you today, I saw that you had hashtags and multiple languages, and multiple characters at the end of that, right. And it made me wonder, so many events now, especially large events have event based apps, but even smaller events. How do you deal with multilingual in that situation? Is it the same kind of translation service? Do you have to do it in house and download a different version?

Amanda 38:33
We will work with a third party to help translate everything. Okay. Yeah, cuz we want to make sure it’s done. Right. Right. Just because you think in certain words, there’s no translation in the certain culture. Yeah. You know, like, I can’t think of any right now. But I know, there’s definitely something in Chinese I’m always like, what is that English, because I’m trying to, you know, tell someone else who’s American, I just like, there’s no words, but this is what it means. You know,

Tim Kubiak 39:03
I, so the company I last worked for in the corporate world, the previous owner, before it was bought out by the conglomerate was of Chinese descent. So most of the staff spoke Mandarin, and some didn’t really speak much English. And when the ownership group speaks Chinese, it worked well. And then in my case, you brought me in and a freshman, after the fact. Right, and fortunately for me, one of the guys that was there, grew up in a bilingual household. And he was a Chinese literature major. So I would literally call Jonathan and say okay, look, you know, I don’t know how to say this. Right and communicate the point in I was in house translation and just doing that on a day to day basis. And by the way, it was the finance group that spoke Chinese so that we saw it um, you know, because nothing like a sales guy fighting with them. Counting about numbers. So but yeah, you know, so I know it from firsthand just the differences in the challenges and making sure that everybody’s understood. And one of the things I had to learn, frankly, myself was, you know, in America, everybody, you know, walks in and says hi to the boss and chats and everything. And I learned in Chinese culture that, you know, they’re much more level conscious that, you know, at least that’s what I was taught. And so somebody walking up to senior executive that was a warehouse person wasn’t something that was normal. Right? You know, and I was the goop in the back with the bow tie that day, by the way. You’re helping ship boxes, and these poor guys were mortified. I’m like, what I’m just telling them I can use a tape gun, it’s fine.

Amanda 40:47
Yeah, like, even in dinners, there’s certain seats like the CEO sits on and, you know, like, I remember one time someone, maybe lowered the corporate ladder accidentally set there. And then we had to say, oh, by the way, like, you know, you could sit here, but that was actually reserved, you know, they just don’t know they thought roundtable right, it said anywhere, but like, I know, there’s like a head person position that you’ve said, even like for regular reception, like when we do these smaller, intimate like leadership. Same thing. By in the Asian culture, there’s a you say here, and then you don’t sit on top, the head person sits, right. So you kind of see everybody like standing standing and the person arrives, they sit that everybody can now fill in and start sitting down as well. It’s kind of like part of the etiquette, you know? Yeah.

Tim Kubiak 41:41
Yeah. And that’s something you definitely, you know, you need guidance on if you’re new to it. That’s for sure. So let’s talk about the business. Right, the pandemic’s changed everything for everybody, all of the events I traditionally go to are all now virtual. So that’s had to be a big shift in your business. So if we could just take a couple minutes, talk about how that’s changed your business, how you’re helping your clients through it. And then I’d like to actually, personally get a little bit of understanding and the different meanings of different types of words, related to virtual events.

Amanda 42:13
Sure, um, we have always done hybrid events. But it was very interesting to also be forced into doing virtual only because of pivot. Because of COVID. Me, and then we had to pivot literally, as soon as you know, we were in DC during this high profile event, a week later, we came back and it was stay at home Shut up, you know, and then our clients, or we just advised them you should put on, they either call us or we call them and let him hey, we should put on hold or, you know, kind of discussing what to do not necessarily our whole and our very first event, which is 1000 people, we helped them pivot that within three weeks to virtual, you know, so for that one, it was like we’ve done so much already, like 95%, down, done, we just need press the button, not necessarily. You get what I mean? Yeah, but so essentially, for that we, you know, talk to the client, because they really leaned on us for advice. And they’re like, what do you think we should do? You know, and their demographic happened to be older. So which falls into that covid, high risk cigarettes, right. But they’re also very influential, they want to still have the event they can. So we say, Okay, let’s go virtual. And this is how we can do it. And we made it happen. And it was successful. So generally, they probably have 1000 people that’s in person, virtually, we have now over 300 people that do this event. So they’re getting more eyeballs, their sponsors are happy, you know. So it’s just, it’s a win win. I think we look at this time. And from the beginning, we were already preparing for virtual event, the client say, hey, I want to hold and see how things panned out, because some clients will say, Hey, you know, maybe we’ll get back to normal life in June. Right, right. It’s not the case, because we’re in July. So it keeps getting pushed back. So I think being prepared for virtuals. Good, right. So I remember the first maybe two months, people are like, oh, let’s hope once a one pivot already pivot, right. And then we also have some cancellation as well. I mean, our whole world was turned upside down, like so quickly, you know. And then our team was constantly calling hotels on behalf of a client because we arrange all the hotels, and what can we do for the contracts? You know, so this is when that good relationship really comes in handy. Kind of negotiate like, what we can do and what’s our bandwidth so that we help clients minimize their loss as well. In terms of virtual, it’s been really wonderful, I would say, because now that what we’re four months in, and then looking, it doesn’t look like it’s gonna get any better at least within the next two months, right. So I think it’s no longer time to just whole is time for action. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Many more clients are now saying, okay, Amanda, you know, I know you reached out and share information about virtual but now I’m ready. Please tell me in how can we do this. And we need to do this because you know, we have a marketing, like all the brand awareness, all the marketing budget that needs to go somewhere. And they don’t want to just stop because it’s COVID. Right? They want to continue to build a brand new awareness. And statistics shows people who advertise and market during these type of times actually comes out stronger afterwards. Right. So then we tell also inform the brand like this is not the time to go silent, you know, instead leverage his time because it’s so much easier, right? Like normally, Tim, you probably had to fly over to do your speeches and talks. And you know, that takes a lot of time. But now you could like pump these out every hour.

Tim Kubiak 45:52
Yeah, literally prior to this year, the last at least 10, and not probably closer to 20. I spent 200 nights a year on the road. Wow. So my running joke is is I had sat down about a year and a half ago and looked and figured out I’d spent 20% of my life under the roof of a Marriott branded hotel, not counting all the other ones.

Amanda 46:14
So yeah, Goodness, goodness, well, you must have a lot of points. So I do

Tim Kubiak 46:20
have a lot of points, you know, and they get you I’ve two young adult daughters, so they get used by my daughters.

Amanda 46:26
That’s good. That’s good.

Tim Kubiak 46:28
Can you talk about in the pivot to virtual, the difference between a webinar and a webcast and a live stream? And then what a full virtual event is because a lot of people don’t seem interchangeable, but they’re really very different things if I understand correctly,

Amanda 46:43
right. So we do you know, we do all spectrum of a virtual events and something very comprehensive, like 3d with avatars to just as simple as a webinar, but doing it really well. You know, because even navigating as simple as like a zoom, there’s so many features, and literally, like, I’ve been on other people’s webinars, and they’re like, hold on, let me figure this out. And you know, that’s just not professional. And that’s okay for some people, for some brands, but there are other brands there. Just know, we need to make sure even as a zoom, they want it to look very professional we come in, and again, we even design. So at a recently we did a zoom webinar for a client, and then we have we make sure they even have a virtual backdrop that’s branded. And then we, prior to the event, we send that to all the speakers so that they all have the same backdrop. So because you never know, I mean, the thing about virtual I mean, we were doing these big large meetings, right, and some people have gorgeous homes, um, mostly clean, but there are a few of them. It’s very messy. Right? And you’re just like, um, Tim, you know, the laundry that’s on your bed? Or are you

Tim Kubiak 47:53
looking at my stacks of books, by the way?

Amanda 47:57
I’m totally joking. Tim actually has his background was beautiful. But I’ve been on other people’s like virtual event where it was the host, and the host, it was the living room, and there’s a treadmill, and they’re just bunch of stuff in the living room and my attention just completely distracted now, right? Because I’m looking at the mess versus at the gorgeous hosts and their content that they’re trying to deliver because I’m just so distracted by the background. And that’s one of the things we go through when we do rehearsal with our client under speakers mainly. Yeah, making the audios all those good. Yeah.

Tim Kubiak 48:35
Well, a great example is anybody who would see this video right? You’re properly lit. I’ve got a light going but I’m fighting daylight. So I’m the example of what not to do today.

Amanda 48:47
Thank you. Well, we had to set an example and we’re trying to you know, educate our clients to and their speakers. Yeah, they always go How do you look so good. You know, I was like first turn on the HD button. Oh, your feco just went away. No powder. Okay, this is all natural today. Um, yeah, so going back to answering your question so yes, there is like webinar that’s I would say it’s like pretty simple. And then there’s the you know, you could just cuz you live record, live stream live broadcast doesn’t mean you’re live streaming. Right so there are other times when certain virtual event just because it’s virtual, we have some clients just for internal use, or they actually don’t want to live streaming. And we have other clients they want to blast it everywhere. Right so we will do it to LinkedIn live we’ll do Facebook Live YouTube Live, you know, sync it over there and it’s like everywhere. And then you know, you get a little bit more sophisticated. Then now we’re talking about website with integration with all the programming and usually those are like conferences, and then next level up from that like a true true full on virtual event will have you know you even have a hallway that you See that has like, branded, you know, sponsor logos or today’s agenda. And then you could there’s like gamification that’s involved. So you could go around connects No Man’s, which gives you points to win the big raffle prizes. You know. So there’s, there’s so many possibility. And I will say the one of the great thing about virtuals, there’s so many platform opportunities, because somehow you don’t have to use a platform. We just work with a big company. A lot of time our clients to hire us nowadays, like so essentially a platform is a venue, right? So instead of hiring us to help them find venue, they hire us to help them find platform, you know, even day to day, like, we are so bombarded. Like, we still have clients call us and say, Hey, have you heard of this? Like, can you check out this one for us? Because we’re thinking of using this one for our event? Right? There’s so many, so many out there. But then depending on the event, there’s one right platform, that’s perfect for you that just like a venue?

Tim Kubiak 51:01
That’s interesting. I never really thought about that. Right? You know, and I’ve done to your point, I’ve done a half a dozen virtual conferences in the past six weeks, probably, you know, and I’ve never thought about the platform they’ve been run off of, you know, and some of them, you’re right, some of them I’ve watched him streamed on YouTube, some of them I’ve watched on LinkedIn, others have a dedicated site. Never thought about the engine behind that and how you’d have to put that together.

Amanda 51:28
And then some, we actually even do pre recorded by so that we can even have even those pre recorded, we play it but then the q&a portion, we make a live. Okay, so there seems like the whole thing was life. Right? But then, what’s great about that is that if the speaker had an emergency, then we can we already have a pre recorded. And if also it gives the speaker a chance. Because if it’s pre recorded, then they’re really focused on the q&a that’s coming in. So be like, hey, Tim, how about this, right? And then they can address those live and people love that. Right? The thing about virtual events is, a lot of these four day conferences, or six hours gala is now being shrinked. Like our six hour gala, we did one and is now one hour. And that’s great. You know, talk about being impactful and short, because people’s attention span is so short, on the same.

Tim Kubiak 52:25
Yeah. And that’s I’ve seen some real, creative solutions to draw people into virtual events, you know, and, and some of it has been not just the content of the event, But to your point very early in the conversation, the experience that we’re creating, they’ve had speakers that I don’t imagine they’d ever have had, at a live event wouldn’t have been able to get. And you know, that we could spend hours talking about how the speaking business has been turned upside down, I bet.

Amanda 52:53
Yeah. And then to virtually then we actually even do some pre engagement. So prior to attendee event, arriving to a conference, we will curate what we call events to go boxes, that has all those because normally we go to event, you get all these Wow, bags, you get like champagne, right? But now this is being sent to their home. And then we put like a sticker on there, say, you know, please do not open on top this time. Sometimes we do that sometime to get to open it. So that by time is conference time, you and I are all wearing the same Polo, we’re all hands like you know out the same pen, the same notebooks. And it’s just makes it that much more engaging. Or maybe we’re doing a high profile gala, we actually send a bottle of wine with cheese, we’ve done even like flower arrangement delivery to some of the top sponsors to brighten up their day. So there’s what we call even pre engagement to get people excited, like leading up to the event.

Tim Kubiak 53:51
That’s great. So to kind of close out if you could tell, you know, I think so many people can benefit as a guy who’s lived through roadshows for 25 plus years. So many people can benefit from a company, like innovate marketing group, and how can they find you? Right? Do you have a newsletter, and I definitely want to talk just for a few more seconds about your pivoting virtual guide, because it really is a very useful guide.

Amanda 54:19
Thank you. Yeah, check out our website, innovate marketing, innovate, mkg, calm. And then from there, you can find our social media handle, which for the most part is, you know, innovate. mkg. And then we also have a blog that’s on our website that you could tap into, which has the virtual resource guy. And a lot of people do find that really helpful, you know, because this is new for a lot of people and look at it as an opportunity. If you see, you know, seek out this new opportunity in the future. You not only could do life events, you could also do virtual, now your reaches amplify, right, you’re no longer captures, as you know, live and virtual is now You, it’s just that, you know, I remember going to a special event conference 10 years ago, there was a guy pitching me about virtual but back then I was like, okay, we still love life. And I mostly done hybrid, right? We did a lot of hybrid. But now it’s because it’s the situation. So we really leverage it. We learned about, you know, we looked into so many platforms for the clients. And I think it’s been really great. It’s a, you know, look at it more as a opportunity versus, you know, like, so sad life events, no longer. Yeah, I’m just a naturally more optimistic person and try to, you know, glass half full kind of Lady. So I’m always trying to think, Oh, well, why don’t we do it this way? Why don’t we try that? You know?

Tim Kubiak 55:44
And I think that speaks to the creativity you bring to your customers and your clients. Right? It is you’re looking at new ways to make it that positive experience and to make it better than it would have been? Not, that wouldn’t have been great anyhow. So

Amanda 55:57
yeah. It’s been really great helping our client pivot to virtual event with success. That’s our new tagline.

Tim Kubiak 56:06
That’s a great tagline. So, so everybody, I’ll put all the links to Amanda’s company and the site and her socials and the show notes. You know, we’ll make sure you know, you go there, check it out. Download the guide. Also, she’s got a beautiful photo section that shows some of her team’s work both in the community and with community organizations and with corporate clients. And it’s definitely worth a look. It’ll be inspiring, and reach out if you’re planning an event, whether it’s live or virtual as the world goes forward. So man, thanks for being here.

Amanda 56:39
Thank you, Tim. So great being here. It’s been

Tim Kubiak 56:41
a pleasure.

Tim Kubiak is a Business Geek, Nomad, Aging Metal Head, Nerd, & Coffee Addict. Plus the only big guy at Hot Yoga. For over 25 years he's been building high-performance sales teams globally. With over 2 billion in lifetime sales in goods and services. Tim works as a coach mentor with Founders, Business Owners, Executives, and High Performing individuals to transform companies, bring new solutions to market and achieve their professional goals.

1 thought on “Creating Memorable Customer Experiences”

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