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Event orchestration | 25 May 2017

How the IIeX Event Series Is Shaping the Future of Market Research

Brandon Rafalson

With conferences in Latin America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and North America, the IIeX (Insight Innovation Exchange) event series is poised to change the world of consumer insights.

IIeX stages 6 events annually. It’s uniting a tight-knit community of researchers from brands, research firms, tech suppliers, academia and everything in between. It is actively seeking out the industry heroes of tomorrow and giving them what they need to become the giants of today. Above all, IIeX is giving new meaning to the word innovation.

But it wasn’t always that way.

This is the story of GreenBook: the market research directory that evolved from print to the internet to a multifaceted resource hub to a globe-trotting event series that is now pushing the boundaries of what is possible (and expected) at industry events.

Becoming more than just a green book

GreenBook is an industry directory that connects buyers and vendors in the consumer insights space. Whether you want to find the right research, tools, or people to learn more about your market—you can find what you’re looking for in GreenBook. 

Since being founded in 1962, the company has come a long way. “GreenBook used to be quite literally, a green book that would arrive at your office,” says Emily Fullmer, Director of Global Events at GreenBook. “We now offer an entire suite of marketing services—webinars, events, ad space and reports all revolved around connecting the buyers and sellers of research. Anything that is of interest to both sides of the table [buyers and vendors] is stuff that we’re working on.” 

In 2013, GreenBook launched their first IIeX event series in Sao Paolo and Philadelphia. The two-day industry conferences were packed with speakers and panel presentations that were bent on shaping the future of consumer insights. “The IIeX events were born out of the GreenBook audience,” says Fullmer. “That, along with a lot of global partnerships, helped us establish really new, provocative content that hadn’t yet been seen in the consumer insights industry.”

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The event series is the “brainchild” of Leonard “Lenny” Murphy who is still very much the figurehead and spokesman for the IIeX event series. As Emily puts it, “Lenny is the voice of the future of market research.”

In addition to spearheading the curation for IIeX, Lenny is also the Executive Editor of the GreenBook blog, arguably one of the most widely read market research publications on the web. “Lenny’s relationships and friends stretch to every corner of the world in consumer insights,” say Emily. “That created a very solid foundation for us being able to do these events in so many different parts of the world.”

Relationships leading to new relationships

In a word, much of the success of IIeX can be owed to building relationships. “When we go into a new market, like Latin America for example,” says Fullmer, “we establish partnerships with local organizations and rely heavily on their expertise.”

It’s these sorts of partnerships that allow IIeX to rapidly mobilize on diverse continents. “People often ask me how you are making these agendas, where are you getting a hundred and fifty speakers and it’s really from a lot of different mediums.” The IIeX team reaches out to people and people reach out to them. “It’s relationships leading to new relationships, constantly.” 

“It’s really a collaborative effort—kind of a coalition of the willing—of people in the industry.”

This year, the IIeX event series will include six events. In addition to their four regional IIeX conferences, GreenBook now offers a series of domestic events on healthcare insights, behavioral science, and other niche interests. “It’s really a collaborative effort—kind of a coalition of the willing—of people in the industry. There’s a lot of different voices and people who come together to make our vision a reality.”

Having the support of many partners is especially important for a team that’s as small as the IIeX one. When Emily joined the company in 2014, there was only one other events employee. Today, there are eight.

Another thing that has helped Emily and her team is having the right kind of tools. “From the point of sale to event day,” says Fullmer, “Bizzabo’s platform has created efficiencies for both our marketing and events teams. We are now able to focus less on tedious operations, and more on creating a memorable and seamless experience for our attendees.”

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Giving face to new ideas

IIeX isn’t just creating partnerships, it’s creating partners.

“In Europe and North America, we run the IIeX Competition,” says Fullmer, “which is essentially a mini accelerator for both  ideas and companies in their infancy.” The top pitches are selected through crowd-sourced online voting and then are invited on-stage to pitch (alongside one lucky wild-card contestant) to panels featuring some of the biggest names in the industry at IIeX. “It gives face to new ideas and companies that otherwise wouldn’t have a space to share them.”

Every year, the IIeX team seeks out and encourages companies to apply to the competition. In addition to the usual suspects of market research companies, they also seek out startups who might not even be aware that their projects have market research applications. “We often open up a whole world of potential business for them.”

ZappiStore presenting on one of the main-stages at IIeX Amsterdam.

Even those who don’t end up winning the cash prize stand to win something. “One of the more unspoken benefits of the competition,” says Fullmer, “is that it gives companies exposure that associates them with an incredible array of progressive alumni.” In addition to getting sizeable audiences for their pitches, participants in the challenge often have the opportunity of speaking at future IIeX events. 

These presenters also become some of GreenBook’s biggest partners in the future. “It’s really fun to see them grow from two people on a stage to a thriving company within a very short span.” Two of the biggest success stories from the competition have been ZappiStore and Remesh.

Moving the industry forward

In addition to the IIeX Competition, the GreenBook team is constantly searching for new ways to innovate. “GreenBook itself has always been a resource for the industry,” says Fullmer, “and now we see our conferences as aiding and abetting the future of the industry by showcasing stuff that people haven’t seen before. There are so many different facets to our events.” 

Consider the Future Tech Showcase room.

At IIeX North America, there will be a space dedicated to displaying VR and drones and everything in between that is used for consumer research. “A lot of people don’t know what that looks like. So, it’s been quite important for us to give buyers the chance to immerse themselves in new technology while also giving that technology a space to speak for itself.” 

Then, there’s also the New Speaker Award.

“We’ve made an effort this year to give a bit of space on each of our agendas to new speakers who show promising content in their submissions and work with them.” To help these new speakers, IIeX has formed a partnership with industry leader Annie Pettit to coach them before the event. All of these speakers are then eligible to receive a Best New Speaker award and the winner of the award becomes an ambassador for future content. “The person who won our Best New Speaker award in Amsterdam this year is now speaking on a bigger stage at IIeX North America.” What goes around comes around.

“Our whole value proposition is moving the industry forward in a progressive and productive direction.” 

For evening entertainment, it’s again the community partners that are in the spotlight. Playing music at the after-hours “ZappiStore Festival” will be the ZappiStore company cover band. In case you’re wondering, they’re called Led Zappilin. There will also be a stand-up comedian locally sourced from the IIeX community. He’ll be doing market research comedy alongside the renowned Second City company.

Led Zappilin performing at IIeX Amsterdam

“Our whole value proposition is moving the industry forward in a progressive and productive direction, thus creating a space where research professionals can make meaningful connections and partnerships.”

Because it’s such an innovative and collaborative space, vendors and sponsors who meet each other at the event often emerge with new ideas and projects to try together. Similarly, startups who come to IIeX stand to gain the attention from some of the biggest players in the consumer insights industry. “It’s not always just a buyer/seller relationship.”

The future of market research

In the past five years, IIeX has made leaps and bounds as an event series. They’ve sought out new geographies and pushed the envelope of what is expected in the industry. They’ve showcased the future of market research technology and have brought the unlikeliest players to center stage. In the future, they plan on doing more of the same. 

“We plan to keep doing and debuting things before the rest. That will continue to fuel our perception as the most innovative conference in the space, which is something that we’ve had a foothold on for the last few years,” says Fullmer. 

“The claim of innovation seems to be a dime a dozen these days….That’s what we’re working on defining, you know. What exactly does that look like in the future? And how can we truly be delivering rather than just putting the word ‘innovative’ on top of things?”

We’re willing to bet that if you’re asking yourself questions like that, you’re definitely doing something right.

Whether you want to shape the future of your industry or just put on a stellar event, having the right knowledge helps. Click the button below for more great resources.

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