Events are a tried and true marketing method —and for good reason —79% of US marketers report that they generate sales via event marketing. Events are an excellent avenue for showcasing or launching your products and services for a myriad of reasons. The most fundamental of these is that they gather people in the same place at the same time for a similar reason, giving companies exposure to prospects they wish to engage with. It also gives attendees an opportunity to network with people they may not otherwise meet.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has stopped 2020 in-person events cold. Almost all events were canceled, rescheduled, or changed to a virtual platform starting in March. This has continued through summer and many event organizations are wary of committing to events even later in the fall. In March alone, the cancellation of 10 major tech conferences led to direct losses of more than $1.1. billion. As a result of this decline in in-person events, virtual events have since gone up 1000%.
While in-person events are often beneficial, they can get pricey and don’t always fall into every budget. The costs to exhibit, sponsor or just attend begin to add up, especially considering flights, hotel, food, and transportation expenses. In this year of uncharted waters, think about what you can control, including saving parts of your budget and reinvesting in other ways to promote your organization or next major launch using online and virtual events.
Webinars are a great virtual tool to replace an event presence and capture your audience’s attention. Outgrow research finds that 20% to 40% of webinar attendees eventually turn into qualified leads. And ZoomInfo reports that 73% of B2B marketers and sales leaders say webinars are the best way to generate high-quality leads.
Did your event plans include team members presenting, being part of a panel, conducting a demo, or leading a workshop? It’s likely that your plans did include at least one if not all of these, which means you already have most of the tools to hold your own webinar to address the same topics. Platforms like BrightTALK make it easy to transition your event from in-person to virtual. Just make sure to not compete with the original event if it too went virtual, but build off of it close enough to keep your focus relatable and top of mind.
In preparing for your webinar, be mindful of two components: the marketing campaign promoting the virtual event and the webinar itself. A thoughtful and intelligent campaign will draw prospects to your webinar. A properly executed and visually exciting webinar will meet or exceed expectations and entice attendees to come back for more. Keeping an audience’s attention virtually can be more challenging than in-person, so it’s crucial to create a presentation that is engaging, exciting and incredibly informative. Learn more about creating presentations in a virtual world. An attentive thank you and follow-up strategy will keep you top of mind, extend the dialogue, and may help to seal a deal. Finally, think outside your current database when you invite. Read our article about finding your invisible B2B customers for more tips and tricks.
When shifting to a virtual experience, keep in mind that you are switching from an experience that creates immense foot traffic, sometimes over days, to a much simpler and more succinct online experience that most likely will produce considerably less impressions. How should you participate? If at all? In general, B2B companies should not be afraid to reach out to the event lead and ask questions.
Deciding if you should virtually attend will vary based on cost of attendance, number of attendees and networking possibilities. The goal of each virtual event will differ, considering whether it will be solely a learning experience or if it will have networking possibilities. Each individual company must decide what the overall worth is to them.
If speaker opportunities are still open for a virtual event you would like to attend, submit your best abstract. Make sure you have what you need to not just speak confidently, but to provide an experience that showcases your thought leadership.
Also, be prepared to answer questions. If possible, anticipate questions people might ask and keep those answers in mind. It never hurts to share your speech/presentation with people outside of your company and ask for feedback, as well as insight into what kind of questions they might have based on your topic. Finally, follow the advice from the webinar invite and follow-up here.
Smaller companies or start-ups may not have the budget to sponsor one of these virtual events. Think carefully before you sponsor: is sponsoring a virtual event the best way to make your presence known? If you are interested, talk to the event contact regarding how your sponsorship will be used. Get a clear understanding of how much “press” your logo and name will actually receive. Will your logo be crammed with 20 other logos in an email? Will your logo be on a virtual background? How will you be featured on the website and for how long? Will you be featured anywhere else?
For big events, sales leads have often been lined up for in-person meetings months in advance. Large events are a great place to connect with prospects and clients while you are all in the same place, at the same time, for the same reason. You can still create a memorable experience for a prospect or client with a well-planned out virtual meeting. Encourage sales to be part of the invite process, encouraging prospects they are advancing to attend and giving them a reason to connect after.
Change to Meet the Moment
Don’t let COVID-19 thwart your event, launch and exposure plans. Pivoting your in-person event into an online or virtual event is a great way to take advantage of the large digital community that has been forming for years. Thankfully, many people have become well versed in receiving online invites or knowing the best platforms to turn to when they need virtual expertise and at-home learning. Overall, look at this as an opportunity to expand your B2B organizations digital presence through the execution of top-tier virtual events.