Wunderkind’s VP of Marketing Sarah Bowman dishes on an event series that’s bringing the brand’s close–knit community back together.
For Wunderkind sales reps, meeting face–to–face with clients and prospects in 2021 has meant rubbing elbows over seafood or pasta—in restaurants that are properly ventilated, of course, and usually equipped with indoor/outdoor seating.
“People are returning at different paces,” VP of Marketing, Sarah Bowman, explains. And comfort is key in hosting a successful Wunderkind event, where employees are asked to avoid pitching, and try their best to talk about things other than vaccines.
For the past several months, Bowman’s team at Wunderkind—a leading consumer engagement platform that scales one-to-one messages for top brands —has organized a series of intimate dinners in Austin, Los Angeles, and most recently, New York City.
For the Manhattan event, guests gathered at Il Buco: a downtown institution that The Infatuation has described as “more special than almost everything that has opened up around it since 1994.”
But everything for the events don’t just fall into place effortlessly. As Bowman notes, events are planned with the utmost care and—crucially in 2021—caution.
When you think about in-person events, it depends on who you’re targeting
Wunderkind’s VP of Marketing Sarah Bowman
“When you think about in-person events, it depends on who you’re targeting,” she says, noting that Wunderkind’s clientele—retail brands—are primed to take safety seriously, having felt the pandemic’s impact on brick–and–mortar business.
While levels of comfort may vary depending on industry, other considerations are universal. The decision to host dinners, Bowman theorizes, has been successful partly because people have missed dining out for the past year–and–a–half (for a certain type of New Yorker, a meal at Il Buco could even constitute a return–to–normal milestone).
But even with the perfect venue secured, there are plenty of things that could go wrong over the course of a meal. The previously mentioned policy against pitching undoubtedly eliminates the risk of certain faux–pas. Beyond that, Bowman insists that credit belongs to Wunderkind’s talent team, who have built outbound sales and business development functions full of personalities that you’d want to share a meal with.
Another method that’s worked in keeping conversation convivial is by collaborating with, and turning focus to clients.
“We want to help them network, so a lot of the time we’ll actually co-market an initiative,” Bowman says. At a recent dinner in Austin, for example, Outdoor Voices partnered with Wunderkind on a night that included giveaways.
“Our focus at our events is to entertain our clients and our prospects and make sure they have a good time,” Bowman says of her team’s priorities. Though it may seem like common sense, it’s also strategic: goodwill “instill[s] trust” Bowman articulates, which factors into her gauge of success.
The metrics for events like the dinner series are intuitive but measurable. Things like:“Did the people we invited show up? Did they have a good time? Were they actively engaged? Are they engaging with us after the event?”
So far, the response from attendees has been enthusiastic; sales reps report that contacts are indeed interacting post–events. And of the company’s prowess for gracious hosting, Bowman recalls a recent compliment given by a client–partner: “They didn’t feel like we were waiting for something on the other side.”
Event marketers would be wise to take a page from Wunderkind’s playbook and “leave the sales stuff at home.” Contrary to what one might think, it sets an excellent foundation for future, productive conversations. The same ethos has likely contributed to Wunderkind’s special reputation for hosting fun events that guests look forward to attending.
But even for companies who haven’t yet built out the same events business, the success of Wunderkind’s dinners is food for thought. Small, meticulously planned gatherings make sense for all types of companies and clientele as a stepping stone to the mega conferences of yore and the (hopefully, soon–to–be) future.