Anything—from podcasts to community meetups—can be an event, insists Airmeet CMO Mark Kilens. And such micro-events should take place often, in different formats, he says.

And it's important to pivot that way, because in a vast sea of online content, events can also be a brand differentiator: "You can't stand out with content anymore," Mark says.

But it's tricky, as he explains in our latest Marketing Smarts episode, because the traditional, film-once-and-watch webinar is basically dead. Dynamic event segments are a must for audience engagement.

Think of micro-events as TV broadcasts, Mark says: program, commercial, live segment, new program, Q&A. Pull attendees into a place where they can have conversations and a unique experience.

Much as in Marketing Smarts Episode 489 with Mia Masson, there is an emphasis on how events have become community-driven.

"You're not trying to build a community for people, you're trying to build a community with people," Mark says.

The original podcast also covers focus, a framework for event-planning, finding your hosts, and the importance of flexibility.

Watch the video the discover new perspectives on events and more:

Make sure you don't miss any future episodes: Subscribe to the Marketing Smarts Live Show on YouTube. And to catch up on all previous episodes, check out the full playlist on YouTube.


Episode Details, Guest Information, and Referenced Links

Episode No. 12

Guest's social media profiles:

MarketingProfs resources referenced in the show:

"In B2B News" article referenced in the show:


Full Transcript | Marketing Smarts Live Show Episode 12 | Leveraging Event-Led Growth

This rough transcript is machine-generated. It's been only minimally edited by humans.

George B. Thomas: If you're curious about leveraging event-led growth for B2B marketing success, if you want to hear some words that Mark Kilens gave us, then you are in the right place.

Welcome to the Marketing Smarts Live show by MarketingProfs and the Marketing Smarts podcast, where we dive into B2B news, resources, valuable guest content, and much, much more each and every week. Hey, if you're a B2B marketer looking for a place to learn, keep up to date and have some fun along the way, then grab a beverage and your notepad.

Today I'm super excited to bring you episode 12 of The Marketing Smarts Live show on a topic that I think is a major area of focus that many B2B marketers, heck, just marketers in general, need to have and leverage in the future as we move forward, as we will talk about in this episode.

Content is hard. No, I can't tell you how many times I'll be on stage or in a meeting and I'll hear, But content is difficult. Well, here's the question. Can event-led growth separate you from your competition, and can it make content creation easier-ish?

We'll stick around and let's find out together. Hey, I'm your boy, George B. Thomas, speaker, trainer, catalyst, and host of this here show, the Marketing Smarts, YouTube, LinkedIn, and now private Facebook group live show as well as the Marketing Smarts Podcast found on your favorite podcast app.

Now today's topic is event-led growth for B2B marketing success, and our guest clips today are brought to you by none other than the man, the myth, the legend, Mr. Mark Kilens, CMO of Airmeet, a leading virtual and hybrid event platform. Mark oversees Airmeet's global marketing team responsible for brand demand, lifecycle, and product marketing. Airmeet helps organizations maybe like yours, discover, engage, and grow customers using event-led growth, which is a new way to create immersive and integrated events across your potential customer's, entire customer.

Now Mark, he has a great history. Previously he was the VP of Content and Community at Drift, where he led the brand, content, creative and events team. Mark oversaw Drifts community Drift Insider, which had 50,000 plus members and Drift's Flash Rev growth and hyper-growth events. Now, prior to joining Drift, and this is where I met him, he served as VP of marketing and founder of the HubSpot Academy. From there, he went on to build HubSpot Academy from the ground up, and in doing so educated and certified millions of people, and helped grow HubSpot to more than a 600 million and more than that today, by the way, in revenue. By the way, when Mark is not at Airmeet, mark enjoys plenty of steak and lobster as he should, a round of golf or two, and loves being on snow or in the ocean.

I love both of those. Actually, one of the things about where I live in North Carolina, two and a half hours, I can be in the mountains, two and a half hours I can be on the beach. I love it, not why we're here, so let's move forward. Remember, these clips that you're about to hear are from Mark Kilens, and today and every episode that we do, they are pulled from the full Marketing Smarts podcast episode.

If you wanna listen to the full interview with Mark, make sure to tune in to the Marketing Smarts podcast. The link will be in the show description once the live show is over. That's right, all the right links in all the right places at just the right times. All right, so let's go ahead and get this going.

One of the things I love about doing the Marketing Smarts podcast is that I'm continually getting to sit in on conversations that have the power to change business strategy and therefore business trajectories.

So what is event-led growth? What is it for? What types of events are we talking about? Yep. If those are the questions that are running through your mind, well... we are very similar. Similar ladies and gentlemen, because these were some of the exact thoughts that I had as well.

So let's actually start this journey from the very beginning and answer the question, What is event-led growth? Because you might think it's a thing or not know it's a thing, and I might think it's something totally different. So since we've got a chance to interview Mark, we asked him that question.

What the heck is event-led growth? And here's what Mark Kilens had to say.

Mark Kilens: The simple answer is it’s a way to help you discover, engage, and grow your customers using events. Using specifically events across the entire customer journey. If you unpack that, you have to first think about why would you even consider doing an event, and you have to first strip away from this idea of an event being something that you do in person, you do once or twice a year, and that’s it.

I’ll pause here and actually ask you a question. When I say what is an event, what comes to your mind?

George B. Thomas: Yeah, and here's the thing I always love when I'm doing an interview and I get asked a question where the interviewee becomes the interviewer.

And so that's always fun. But did you hear events across the entire buyer's journey? Also? I love that Mark dove into and said that we had to kind of strip away our historical thoughts on what it was. And here's the thing. In the original podcast, as you heard, mark asked me, what do I think an event is?

And well, because it's my show and you are here, I'm gonna ask you in the chat pane, what do you think an event is? Now, the reason I'm asking that is because I wanna know what you think an event is now. Right now as you're watching this, because then when we're done in 12 to 17 minutes, I'm gonna ask you that question again.

What is an event? And I'm super curious if it would be dramatically different than what it once was. Well, let's continue on with this educational safari, this journey. And by the way, if you don't put it in the chat pane, you can also put it on Twitter using the hashtag #mpb2b.

And just tag me @GeorgeBThomas and let me know what are you think an event is. Now, for me, to be honest, when I got asked that question, it was a lot of things. Of course, I went to in-person events, webinars, and other events. But I had to ask myself, could it be more? And I had this thought in my mind, Is it possible, could events be something different than I had historically thought they were?

So, you know me, maybe hopefully I flipped the question back to him. Yep. Back to Mark. And I asked Mark, well, Mark, what do you think an event is? And of course he had to answer and he had a great answer.

Mark Kilens: If you Google event, it is literally defined as a thing that happens. You could say that this thing that we’re doing right now is an event. I think we have to get a little bit deeper than that. When we say event, especially when I say it, as Airmeet thinks about it, it’s a thing that happens when you’re trying to get people to join together, to meaningfully connect in some way. That could happen in person, that could happen online in a virtual way, that could happen hybrid. It could be small, it could be big, it could be short 30 minutes, it could be long three days.

At the end of the day, what I feel strongly based on my experience at Drift with events, including webinars, driving 50-60% of our pipeline every quarter, and what I’ve seen with our customers since I’ve joined Airmeet, events, if used in the right ways, can be a true differentiator for the brand. And we can get into that. Meaning you have to stand out someway these days. You can’t stand out with content anymore. I’m just going to say that right now. I’m a huge content guy. George, you know this. You just can’t stand out with content anymore.

You need to create a deep-ish, if not really deep connection with customers and buyers, especially if you’re in B-to-B. You need to always be adding some new thing to that journey that you’re taking them along. It doesn’t have to be every month, but every quarter or every six months. You need to be engaging with them at the end of the day.

If you’re trying to find a new thing that goes outside of just the traditional content you’ve been doing, if you’re trying to find a new way to engage and stay relevant with your customers and buyers, and if you’re trying to find a way to amplify something, something being an event, and turn that into a lot of assets in the form of content or in the form atomizing the content from an event or the experiences from an event into different channels, then something like event-led growth might be for you. We’re just trying to create a better way to do all of those things, while also trying to keep it simple for the marketers.

George B. Thomas: I love simple for the marketers and I love too that Mark was like, event is a thing that happens. I immediately was like, wow. Uh, that's helpful. And yeah, it is super simple, but I also love that Mark dove in a bit deeper with a thing that happens when you are trying to get people together. Heck, that means an event could almost be anything you do, as long as you have two things, intention and strategy aligning to gathering those people together for a common goal or to add value that they need commonly together.

By the way, you might want to rewind if you're watching the replay, did you hear the list of things you might be trying to do as a marketer and how events can enable you to do those things? Because Mark sure rattled them off like they were like nothing.

Well, we'll get back to Mark and his thoughts on event-led growth, but I have to ask, are you part of the MarketingProfs community? If not, become part of the MarketingProfs community by heading over to Now it's time for In the B2B News where we talk about breaking B2B news or really important tips we find on the Google News tab related to you and your B2B marketing or B2B business this week.

The title, the Top Three Signs Your B2B Marketing Strategy Is Outdated. Well, that title really grabbed my attention and I'm not sure if it was or had to do with the topic of event-led growth being a bit of a different topic and my brain making some type of weird connection here. Probably, knowing my brain, it was some type of weird connection. But in this article, you'll hear statements like tech integrations and automation can be helpful, but buy-in and cross-team collaboration can transform your marketing strategy. And you'll also learn things around your data retrieval process is slow and disjointed, or you only rely on one data source as the source of truth, or maybe you only quantify success with sales revenue.

And if any of those three things are you, then definitely there's some really good nuggets of information in this article. Remember, the links will be in the description after the live show ends. That's right. All the right links in all the right places at just the right time. And just the right time is after we're done, cuz you can focus on the things that we're actually talking about and then go do more research.

But let's get back to Mark and his Marketing Smarts podcast episode. I wanted to dig deeper into event-led growth, and I wanted to know how important community was to event-led growth and how important event-led growth was to community and building one and retention. Do you see what I did there?

They both kind of collide in possibly different directions with each other, but community and event-led growth. What does Mark have to say? What can he unpack? Well, here's exactly what Mark said about the importance of community and event-led growth and event-led growth to fuel the growth of your community.

Mark Kilens: Well, the first thing you have to realize is that you’re not trying to build a community for people, you’re trying to build a community with people. That’s a super important thing to first understand when it comes to you trying to build a community at your business. How do you build a community with people? I believe it starts with just having conversations with them.

It starts with pulling them into a place, either in person or online, where they can have conversations, where they can learn from each other, where you can add some value, where you can share your thought leadership and point of view, where you can debate that with them, where they can meet new people, where they can have a unique experience for either 20 minutes or 30 minutes. It’s all about building it with people. So, depending on how you’re thinking about community, that ultimately is where it starts.

If you’re thinking about community in the sense of you’re going to build a Slack community, or build some type of forum or something, you might need to, but the ultimate thing that you have to ask yourself is why are you even trying to build those things for a community. If you do it with people, and you start with the why you’re trying to build a community with people, it will be much easier at the end of the day because you’re using the community as the source of growth.

A lot of people try to go off and start it and not involve other communities that are already out there that have that same audience. That’s probably the number one thing you should do these days when you are trying to jumpstart some type of movement, if you will. Like with event-led growth. We’re not building an event-led growth community. We’re just going to the places where there are already communities happening, discussions happening.

MarketingProfs is a great example. MarketingProfs is a great community.

George B. Thomas: Uh, yes, we are. We are a great community. But more importantly, did you hear that it was kind of mind blowing and even to hear it a second and third time, you're not trying to build it for them. You're trying to build it with them. Now, I know it's revolutionary, but it all starts with, it's not really revolutionary. I'm waxing kind of funny there, but it all does start with conversations, communications, debates, meetings with people, and developing and creating unique moments in time, AKA, your events.

But maybe more importantly, did you hear Mark say, start with Why do you wanna build this community with them? And to be honest with you, I might make that one of your action items out of this episode. Meaning, if you're going to use event-led growth, which by the way, you might be wondering, well, is it a good fit for me? Don't worry, we're gonna be heading in that direction next. But your action item after this episode might be something along the lines of, Is it a good fit for me? And how can I actually pay attention to how I would wanna do this?

And so here's the thing. We are going to go into our next section where we're actually gonna give a little bit more value. Now we'll get back to Mark here in a hot minute, but we're gonna go into the dope B2B learnings from the vault of MarketingProfs articles. That's right. It's time to dig into the treasure trove of valuable information and pull out the two pieces of gold to help you be a better B2B marketer.

Now, article one this week is on event intelligence. Go figure. We're talking about events and I'm gonna bring up event intelligence, article one, Event Intelligence: What It Is, Why You Need It, and How to Get There. And it was written by Aventrio and in it, it starts, Event intelligence is the latest buzzword in the meeting and event industry. And there are a lot of questions surrounding the topics such as how exactly it helps planners and marketers what technologies come into play and even what event intelligence is. And so if you wanna learn more about that, the link to the article will be in the show notes.

Article two for this week that we've pulled up, The Secret to Successful B2B events: Five Tips for Thoughtful Design, by Eric Holman. And in this one Eric goes, If you haven't thought about B2B event design before, I don't blame you. And I don't blame you either. Like it's really easy to do what Eric talks about because he says sometimes it seems like an afterthought even to event organizers, by the way, not just normal people. We've all seen that heavily templated event website or uninspiring emails that scream. I'm not focused on design. I'm dealing with the big stuff that can determine the outcome of my event, but, let me just tell you how you do small things is how you do all things, and so maybe that's not a good mindset, but to learn more after the broadcast and to read both articles in full, head over to the link located in the description below.

And we need to get back to Mark. So let's dive into the conversation of event-led growth and actually who event-led growth is a good fit for, because what I want you to be able to do is I want you to be able to come away from this conversation and say, this is something that in Q4 of 2022 or all of 20, 23 and beyond, hey, it's a good fit for us.

We should probably put this in place and start to leverage event. For our event-led growth, let's go ahead and see what Mark had to say as far as who is event-led growth for.

Mark Kilens: I think it could be almost anyone, George, because the way that we break it down through this idea of using events to discover new accounts, introduce new people to your brand, to your business, or it could be to engage prospects and buyers and your customers, or it could be used to grow your customers, grow your community of advocates, grow your super customers, your promoters. Depending on who you’re doing an event for…

So, we’ll unpack this four-part framework. You know me, George, I love frameworks. Who you’re doing an event for and getting really specific with that will dictate who in the business is helping put on that event. Again, an event could be literally a 45-minute online experience that has three different segments; 15 minutes of content, 15 minutes of speed networking, and 15 minutes of open mic Q&A. There’s the event, and it’s specifically for people who are trying to learn a bit more about event-led growth. You’re literally using an event to help them discover something new and help you discover a bit more about them. That’s the event.

Instead of everyone thinking that it has to be a two or three hour long virtual event, or it has to be a half-day thing, or whatever, it’s not that. We need to change our definition of event. It all starts with who are you trying to get to this event. It could be customer marketing, customer education, trying to educate customers. It could be someone on the demand-gen side trying to discover and pull some new buyers into the funnel. It could be someone on the field event marketing side who is trying to do a field event, both in person and online.

Depending on who it is, that will dictate who at the business should be involved. I really believe the best marketers always start with the who. From an event standpoint, you always have to start with who are you trying to get to register, attend, and engage at this event.

George B. Thomas: So the answer is, it depends. That's great. There was a lot more in there, but it really depends where your team decides to use event-led growth. And did you hear all the places that Mark talked about? If not, rewind the actual thing and listen again. Also, if you're interested in the four-part framework that Mark mentioned, make sure you head over and listen to the entire episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast on your favorite podcast app.

All right, let's kick it back to Mark and some words of wisdom around this topic of event-led growth. I love words of wisdom. Mark has gone through the journey. They're trying and testing the things that they're talking about at Airmeet, and he's done it in other places. But before we dive into those words of wisdom, I have to ask, have you enjoyed today's journey? Let us know. Use the hashtag #mpb2b. Now, with that said, let's get Mark's words of wisdom pertaining to this topic of event-led growth.

Mark Kilens: I’ll say for the marketing side of it, we already talked about focus, I’ll mention reflection. Spend enough time with your teams and with yourself reflecting on what happened and learning from all of the effort you put into something. I’m guilty of this as well from time to time, absolutely. People undervalue and just don’t spend enough time reflecting and learning. That’s just society overall. It can help us avoid a lot of problems.

It can help us avoid so many things personally with our health, with our happiness. Then when you have a team and you’re trying to do a ton of stuff, if you just slow down to speed up, and it starts with reflection, it can solve a lot of pain. I’m going to leave it just at that. That’s a lesson for anyone, no matter if you’re a marketer or nonmarketer. I’ll just stop there.

George B. Thomas: Marketer or nonmarketer. Reflect and learn. Reflect and learn. Reflect and slow down so that you can speed up. Man, great words of wisdom around this topic and just life in general.

Hey, marketing Smarts Live viewers. Head to the description below. Click on the link to the full Marketing Smarts podcast with Mark Kilens, and keep on learning more about event-led growth.

Remember, these were just a few clips of the original Marketing Smarts podcast interview. If you got value out of today's show, hit that like and better yet, share it with a friend to keep learning more. Hit that subscribe or watch Additional MarketingProfs videos no matter where you're at. Seek 'em out, watch 'em, and keep on learning or go tune in to the original Marketing Smarts podcast episodes on your favorite podcast app. We've got a ton of them. I think we might be up to like 518 or something at this point. But don't forget to become part of the MarketingProfs community by heading over to, and as always, remember to be a happy, helpful. B2B Marketing Human, and we'll see you on the next Marketing Smarts Live show.

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image of George B. Thomas

George B. Thomas is a marketer, video Jedi, and HubSpot certified trainer with 25+ years of sales and marketing experience. George is owner and HubSpot Helper at He has a record-breaking 38 HubSpot sales, marketing, service, CRM, and CMS certifications. George harnesses his expertise in graphic design, Web development, video editing, social media marketing, and inbound marketing to partner with, teach, and develop solutions for companies looking to develop their businesses and increase their revenue.

LinkedIn: George B. Thomas

Twitter: @GeorgeBThomas