2016 is right around the corner (can you believe it?!) and marketers have one thing on their mind….what programs can I run to drive more leads for my sales force and look like an all-star in my CEO’s eyes? In today’s marketing environment, the options are endless. Webinars, email marketing, SEO, SEM, PPC, digital advertising, 3rd party lead generation partners… and events. What events can we either attend or host that will get us in front of our target audience, strengthen our relationships with current customers and prospects, and drive greater pipeline value?
If you’re like the majority of the marketers out there, you’re most likely going to attend or host the same events that you always have. In most cases, these events are going to yield the same results as in years past. But if these events aren’t driving the results you want, why do you keep attending/sponsoring/hosting them year after year? If any other lead generation tactic doesn’t work, do you keep doing it the same way year after year? Of course not. Then why are you taking that same approach with your event strategy when there’s another option out there?
Virtual Events Have Been an Option for a Long Time
We all know the challenges of in-person events. Travel expenses can be a killer; you feel like the time away from the office puts you too far behind the 8 ball (the #1 reason people don’t attend in-person events isn’t because they’re not interested…it’s because they can’t justify the cost and time away from the office) and it can be incredibly hard to measure their effectiveness. So if you attend/host an in-person event, spend a boat load of money, and either don’t have a lot of leads to show for it or can’t effectively measure how engaged your end users are, that doesn’t seem like something worth repeating, now does it?
Enter virtual events. They’ve been around for a while, but marketers have been slow to adopt them. But why, especially when you look at the mainstream adoption of other online events such as webinars/webcasts? There’s really no clear cut answer. The only thing I can think of is organizations don’t think their audience is ready for them, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. If your target audience is consuming your content through webinars, they’ll consume it through virtual events as well. If your audience is digitally savvy – and in today’s world if they’re not, they’re watching the parade pass them by – they’ll attend your virtual event.
We did a study at the end of 2014 on B2B Demand Generation Effectiveness. Of the marketers profiled, 56% had not attended or hosted a virtual event. Of the 44% of marketers that had leveraged virtual events in some capacity, 88% said they would make them a part of their lead-generation plan moving forward. What this tells us is that marketers have been slow to adopt virtual events, but when they do use them as part of their lead generation plan, they’re VERY likely to use them again. The reason being? They see the benefits
• It’s a fresh, outside-the-box way to engage your audience and drive ‘sales ready’ leads for your sales force
• They’re more cost-effective than an in-person event, reducing event costs by as much as 75%
• They knock down the walls of geography and allow you to reach a broader audience. It’s a global economy, so why aren’t your structuring your events with that in mind?
• They’re a great tool to extend the shelf-life of a physical conference. Virtual doesn’t have to wipe out in-person events. Instead, they can act as a complement or extension to an existing show. How do you get engaged with all of those people that couldn’t justify the cost/time away from the office to attend in-person? Give them a virtual option to consume your content and thought leadership, and your pipeline will reap the benefits
• Virtual events are more measurable, plain and simple. They can measure everything a person does – how long they attended; rooms they visited; booths they entered and how long they stayed there; content they viewed/downloaded; links they clicked; presentations they attended and for how long; interactions they had with peers, sponsors and product experts, etc. The options are limitless. Don’t you think your sales team would rather have all of these engagement metrics at their disposal, as opposed to just knowing that Joe Schmo stopped by the booth? Of course they would, because it makes their job that much easier!
Bottom line – if you’re looking for a new way to execute events, extend your reach, and drive more qualified leads in the process, give virtual a try. The data shows that if you try them once, they’ll be a part of your lead-gen arsenal moving forward.
If you’re compelled, please share your feedback below. Talk soon
Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ firstname.lastname@example.org