Why Taking Your Events Virtual is a No Doubter

Posted on Oct 19, 2023 by .

In a world where content marketing has become the cornerstone of brand promotion and customer engagement, virtual events have emerged as a game-changer. These online gatherings, often combining elements of webinars, conferences, and expos, have proven to be a potent tool for businesses looking to reach and connect with their audience in a meaningful way. Virtual events have risen to the top of the content marketing toolbox, offering unparalleled opportunities for engagement, lead generation, and brand exposure. But how do they differ from in-person events, and what advantages do they offer?

One of the most significant advantages of virtual events is their ability to transcend geographic boundaries. Unlike physical events that require attendees to travel, virtual events are accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. This global reach opens doors to a vast and diverse audience, allowing businesses to connect with individuals they might never reach through traditional marketing methods. Also, hosting physical events can be a substantial drain on a company’s resources. Expenses for venue rental, travel, accommodations, building expo booths, and other costs can add up quickly. In contrast, virtual events greatly reduce or even eliminate many of these costs. This cost-effectiveness makes virtual events an attractive option for businesses of all sizes, including startups with limited budgets.

Virtual events are a goldmine for lead generation. They offer a wealth of data-driven insights that can inform and refine content marketing strategies. With the right technology and analytics tools, businesses can track attendee behavior, engagement levels, and preferences. This data provides valuable information about what content resonates with the audience, helping businesses tailor their marketing efforts for maximum impact. Virtual events provide a measurable ROI, as you can track metrics like registration, attendance, engagement, and then see how that translates to lead generation and sales conversions. The leads generated through virtual events are often more qualified and engaged than those obtained through other means. With this data in hand, you can assess the success of your event and make data-driven decisions for future marketing strategies.

Moreover, interactions during the event, such as Q&A sessions, polls, surveys, chats, etc. create opportunities to engage attendees and gather valuable data for future content. The content generated during virtual events is a treasure trove for content marketers. Webinars, presentations, panel discussions, and other event materials can be repurposed into blog posts, social media updates, videos, and more. This not only extends the lifespan of the event’s content but also provides fresh material for ongoing marketing efforts. Furthermore, virtual events represent a new venue to repurpose already existing content and get more mileage from your marketing materials.

Personalization has become a critical component of successful content marketing. Virtual events allow for a high degree of personalization, as attendees can select the sessions and content that are most relevant to their interests and needs. This tailored experience enhances engagement and fosters a stronger connection between the audience and the brand. Virtual events are highly scalable, too. Whether you’re expecting a small, niche audience or a massive turnout, virtual event platforms can accommodate your needs. This scalability ensures that your content marketing efforts can adapt to changing circumstances and grow alongside your business.

Virtual events have proven to be the ultimate content marketing tool for numerous reasons, from their global reach and cost-effectiveness to their data-driven insights and lead generation capabilities. Their ability to facilitate engagement, personalization, and scalability sets them apart from traditional marketing methods. Additionally, virtual events align with modern consumer preferences for sustainability and can help businesses achieve measurable ROI while establishing themselves as industry authorities. As the marketing landscape continues to evolve, virtual events are poised to play an increasingly vital role in the content marketing strategies of businesses looking to thrive in the digital age. The advantages are simply too obvious to ignore.

Andrew Burch is the Content Marketing Manager at Elastic Solutions. Email him @ aburch@elasticroi.com

Crafting the Ideal Webinar Project Plan

Posted on Oct 18, 2023 by .

You just attended a webinar and came away thoroughly impressed. The entire experience from the registration page, to the look and feel of the webinar environment, to the speakers and the presentation was first class. Guess what? That didn’t just happen overnight. It took meticulous planning and preparation to deliver that experience. After years of executing countless webinars and digital events, we’ve come to the conclusion that the ideal webinar project plan should consist of six weeks. Here’s what each week should entail, along with what you should do the day of the event to ensure webinar success.

6 Weeks Out

  • Define who the audience is. Is it for net new prospects? Existing leads and opportunities that you’re looking to move down the funnel? Is it for existing customers where you’re looking to educate and upsell? Defining this will dictate what kind of webinar you’re going to have in terms of what will be presented and how. For example, a broader webinar to establish subject matter expertise might make more sense for net new prospects, while a case study and ROI driven webinar could make more sense for existing opportunities that you’re looking to close. It’s very important to match the content with the audience. Make it relevant.
  • One you know who the audience is and the type of webinar you’ll be delivering, now is the time to begin working on topics, webinar descriptions, and the information you want to get from your registrants. When thinking about topics, make sure they’re not overly long. Shorter topics that let your audience know they’re going to learn something tend to work best. We’ve found that using numbers and “How to” in webinar titles really resonates with folks because they know they’re going to be educated more than being sold to.
  • Determine who your speakers are. Look for presenters that have experience, are dynamic, and will keep your audience engaged. Your presenters can make all the different in the world, so choose wisely.
  • Lay out your promotional plan and cadence. Be sure to use a multi-pronged approach to get in front of your audience and drive registrations – email, social, outbound calling, digital ads, SEO, press releases, premium placement on your website,, leveraging partners to help spread the word. Everything is on the table and now is when you want to get your promotional mix solidified.

5 Weeks Out:

  • Now that your webinar topic and description are defined, it’s time to build your webinar registration page. You need to have the ability to optimize your registration page and build one that is on brand and has a clear call to action. Include your logo and color scheme, custom banners, multimedia, presenter pics and bios. Be sure visitors to this page can save it to multiple calendar types and have the ability to test their system to ensure they’re properly setup to view your webinar. In terms of registration fields, get the information you absolutely need. It’s been proven that too many fields can turn off potential registrants. We’ve found that 5-7 is the sweet spot and asking a question during the registration process is always a good idea. It will give you a better sense of who they are, challenges they’re faced with, initiatives they have, etc. There are a lot of boring registration pages out there, so stand out from the crowd and make yours engaging.
  • Determine if you’re webinar is going to be 100% live or what we call simulive. A simulive webinar is one that is pre-recorded and then broadcast as a ‘live’ event with certain live elements like Q&A, polling, etc. Live vs. simulive is another blog for another day!

4 Weeks Out:

  • Begin the promotional engine with an initial email blast to your targeted audience. We’re bullish on four weeks of promotions to drive an optimal audience. Remember, leverage a multi-pronged approach.
  • Get your presenters together for a brainstorming session to discuss the flow of the webinar. The topic and description are already defined, obviously, but now is the time to begin thinking about how the discussion will flow. Along those lines, you’ll notice I used the word “discussion.” Webinars should be collaborative, engaging discussions that make your attendees want to engage. Make it relevant, lively, and energetic. If you make it boring, your audience will think you are boring and nobody wants that.

3 Weeks Out:

  • Not that you’re starting to get some registrants, how are you going to engage with them from now until the live webinar date? Provide them with relevant content leading up to the webinar as a way to nurture them and keep them engaged. Doing this will Improve your registration to attendee ratios as well.
  • Now that your presenters have brainstormed on the flow of the webinar discussion, now is the time to start building your PPT deck. Stay away from death by PPT, which is a real thing. Too many slides that are overly complicated can lose an audience. Your slides should be a foundational element that act as a jumping off point. They should not tell the whole story. We always tell our customers that their slides should be constructed as such that they provide little value to the audience by themselves. To understand your slides, people have to attend and hear you talk against them. Finally, stay away from overly animated slides. They often serve little purpose other than providing your attendees with strained eyes and a headache. Less is more here.

2 Weeks Out:

  • This is when your initial dry run should take place. If you’re dealing with really experienced, seasoned webinar professionals, it may only take one dry run. With that said, we always recommend two dry runs to give everyone peace of mind that they’re going to nail the presentation. Dry runs don’t have to be exactly like it’s going to go the day of the event, but they do need to cover responsibilities, key talking points, and how the webinar is going to be delivered overall.
  • During the dry run, you want to ensure your presenters are technically sound from an A/V perspective. Make sure their speakers and microphones are optimal and that their audio is clear and crisp. If they’re going to be on camera, their video needs to be high quality and not grainy. Additionally, if they’re going to be on camera be sure the room they’re in provides good lighting and they are clearly visible with no distractions. If your webinar platform has background options for your speakers, now would be a good time to test this out. I personally like a real, professional looking background if it’s available.
  • Define the engagement tactics you’re going to use during the webinar such as live Q&A, polling, surveys, resource/content downloads, attendee chat, social feeds, etc. If your platform has the ability to go into breakout rooms after the webinar for a deeper dive discussion, that’s another thing to consider.
  • Finalize how the webinar user interface (UI) will look. You want your attendees to enter your webinar environment and be wowed. Like your registration page, the webinar UI should be on brand and look like it’s your event. Ensure you’re using a webinar platform that enables you to customize your UI several different ways.
  • In addition to all the other promotions you have going, now is a good time to send your 2nd dedicated email blast to your targeted audience,

1 Week Out:

  • At this point, your presentation and slide deck should be finalized. It’s understandable if you still have a few edits to make on your PPT, but it should be mostly complete at this stage.
  • A second dry run, if necessary, should be executed the week before the webinar to be extra sure everybody is comfortable with the webinar presentation and their setup for the event.
  • Your first reminder email should be sent to your existing registrants, reminding them about the webinar date/time and their login details.
  • In addition to all your other promotions, now is a good time to send your third dedicated email blast to your target audience.

Week of and Live Day:

  • Make sure your slide deck is final two days before the webinar. No last minute, live day changes if it can be avoided!
  • If your presenters want to have one last discussion to tie up any loose ends, have them do it a day or two before.
  • If your registration numbers are lagging, sending one more email blast 1-2 days before to get some last minute registrants is always a good idea.
  • The day of the event, send a 2nd reminder email to all existing registrants a few hours before the webinar. This will keep your event top of mind and help improve your registration to attendee ratio.
  • If your webinar is going to be 100% live, make sure your presenters login to the platform 30 minutes before the webinar starts. Logging in early enables you to do last minute system tests and performance checks, and it reinforces how everything will be handled if a presenter loses connection or is disrupted somehow. It’s technology and anything can happen, so always be testing and have troubleshooting plans in place for worst case scenarios. You’ll be thankful you did.
  • You’re live. Knock it out of the park, engage your attendees, and give your audience multiple reasons to keep coming back for more webinars down the road.

As we all know, with webinars it’s more about just planning for the live date. You can substantially extend the shelf-life and value of your webinars through a well thought out on-demand plan. Be on the lookout for a blog in the coming weeks that will provide you with a roadmap for on-demand webinar success.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

Five Characteristics of Effective Lead Generation

Posted on Oct 13, 2023 by .

Keeping your sales pipeline filled with qualified prospects is essential for any business to grow revenue. To get to that point, you have to formulate an effective strategy to feed that pipeline with a steady string of leads. That, of course, begs the question: what does effective lead generation look like?

1. Finding the right targets

The first characteristic of an effective lead generation strategy is to make sure that you are targeting the right audience for your product or service. For B2B marketers in particular, this means finding not only the right companies within your target industry, but also identifying the right people to speak to at those companies. Before you can even get started formulating a message, you have to know and understand who you will be trying to engage with. Finding the right people is absolutely crucial, and it requires a great amount of research to find not only those in the right role, but also ensuring that they are people who make decisions, or at the very least, influence those that do. Building out an EXTENSIVE target list with the right companies (industry, region, size, revenue) and with the right people (decisions makers and influencers) is the first phase of a successful lead generation campaign.

2. Formulating the right messaging

This one seems like the most obvious aspect of lead generation, and sales in general. Having the right message is vital because this is how you present yourself and your product/service to a prospective customer. In regards to lead generation specifically, that means getting the attention of your target audience in order to pull them into the sales pipeline. You’ve already identified your target audience and ideal prospects, so, what are their pain points? What challenges are they facing that your product or service can solve? What channels/medium are you reaching them through? Having messaging tailored to the specific channels that you are reaching out through (calls, emails, social media digital events, etc.) will go a long way to drawing interest in your product and getting more meetings for your sales team. Ultimately, it has to be something that will make them want to start a conversation with you.

3. Utilizing multiple channels and tools

Another important aspect of a successful lead generation campaign is to not be narrow-minded with the tools and channels you utilize. Not every prospect can be engaged in the same way, so if you are too limited with how you reach out to them you will be missing out on opportunities. Whether it’s calling, emails, social media, SEO, or content creation (literature, videos, webinars, virtual events), everything should be on the table.

Also, integrating these tools and channels together to have a constant and cohesive stream of messaging that can keep you in front of your prospects is critical. Webinars and Virtual Events are great ways to integrate multiple forms of content that can attract, educate, engage, and pique the interest of any prospective client. A constant flow of quality content coming from multiple channels will keep your company and product top of mind for your target audience, so that when they are in a buying position they will come to you to do business.

4. Diligence

I’m sure you’ve heard this many times before, but “activity breeds success.” The more you are pushing, the more results you will see in return. For lead generation, it’s no different. Once you have the right tools in hand (like all the ones I’ve listed above), you just need to keep going after your prospects, persistently. Too often, sales professionals will only make 2 or 3 attempts at reaching out to a prospect, and sometimes only once. What they fail to realize is that on average it takes 5 or MORE attempts to get in contact with a potential customer. It takes time and perseverance to get a prospect to raise their hand and say, “Okay, let’s hear what you have to offer.” Too often professionals give up after their initial outreach doesn’t net the result they want, and they lack the necessary diligence that makes sales happen. Which leads me to my final characteristic…

5. The right team

Without the right team in place, none of the above happens. Having the right people in place that can do the leg work to find targets, craft messaging, and reach out persistently is the only way to keep leads coming in the door and keep the sales pipeline full. Whether it’s in-house or outsourced, if you don’t have the right team in place that can do all of these things, then your pipeline will quickly dry up and your sales team will have difficulty finding new business to close. Preferably, you would have an experienced partner (with industry and product knowledge, of course) that can take on the job of lead generation, which will free up your sales team to focus on moving prospects down the pipeline and closing deals.

Andrew Burch is the Content Marketing Manager at Elastic Solutions. Email him @ aburch@elasticroi.com

The Five Main Advantages of Virtual Events

Posted on Sep 28, 2023 by .

We now live in a digital event world and virtual events continue to be a key digital channel that marketers use to engage, educate, and generate leads for their business. With that said, sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics and remind ourselves why virtual events are so valuable and advantageous in the first place. Here are the five main advantages of virtual events.

1. They are more cost effective than in-person events.

Not only are virtual events more cost effective for the organization hosting, but they’re more cost effective for your attendees as well. Think about everything that goes into hosting an in-person event and how expensive they are. Virtual events have been proven to cost 80-85% less than physical events. Now think about the cost involved in attending an in-person event and everything that entails – travel, hotels, entertainment, time away from the office. There’s a lot of economic uncertainty right now and travel, entertainment, and physical events are typically first on the chopping block for budget conscious executives. Virtual events offer you a budget friendly alternative to stay in front of your target audience and drive revenue for your business.

2. They are more time efficient.

Again, the advantage is realized by the host and attendees. The main reason people don’t attend in-person events is because they can’t justify the cost and time away from the office. Let’s face it, going to a conference can be a time killer for your audience. They’re gone for 3-4 days and then they get back to the office and find themselves behind. That’s obviously not an issue with virtual events since people can attend from anywhere on any device. Additionally, creating a virtual event is more time efficient than creating an in-person event. The average virtual event takes 6-7 weeks to plan and execute, while an in-person event can take 2-3x longer on average. Think about all the time you can save, and increase in efficiency you’ll realize, by going virtual.

3. They offer greater reach with less restrictions.

No need to worry about hosting an event that is close or central to your target audience. With virtual events, your reach is limitless. Yes, you still want to have folks attend your event that meet your ideal profile, but you’re not limited by geography. You can 10x your attendance by going virtual, providing you with more opportunities to engage, educate, and create meaningful relationships that convert into revenue for your business. I know I may sound like Captain Obvious here, but I believe organizations lose sight of just how many restrictions in-person events have compared to virtual events.

4. They are more measurable.

Getting a list of registrants, attendees, and scanning a badge simply isn’t enough. And guess what? That’s all you get for most in-person events. By going the virtual route, you gain 360-degree visibility into everything your audience is doing and how engaged they are – how long they’re in the environment; spaces they visit; sessions they attend; content they view and/or download; questions and interactions they have; connections they make; how they respond to polls and surveys; how satisfied they are with the overall event, etc. What you can measure with the right virtual event platform is head and shoulders above what you get from in-person event data. Going virtual will provide you with a deeper understanding of what matters to your target audience, enabling you to market more efficiently and sell smarter to them. The end result? Better leads that convert to revenue, providing you with significantly enhanced event ROI.

5. They have a longer shelf-life.

With in-person events, more often than not they are over when they’re over. Most organizations don’t do a good job of capturing certain elements of their physical event and making it available for on-demand viewing and engagement. Virtual events can be archived for months (events on the Elastic Events platform come stock with 90 days of on-demand archiving), continuing to act as a marketing resource and lead generator for your business well after the live date(s). Many of our customers like to turn their virtual events into virtual resource centers that are updated with fresh new content and educational material on a weekly or monthly basis. To get the most out of your on-demand virtual event, it’s important to have a multi-pronged promotional strategy in place well ahead of time to ensure you get significant on-demand traffic. Doing so will increase your virtual event ROI that much more.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

Are You Ready for a Webinar Program? Four Questions to Ask Yourself

Posted on Mar 6, 2023 by .

Webinars are a B2B marketer’s best friend due to the reach, audience insight, leads, and pipeline they generate. For those of you that haven’t yet taken the leap and are wondering if you’re ready for a webinar program, here are four questions to ask yourself:

1. Have I clearly defined who my target audience is?

Like any well-planned marketing and lead generation program, it’s vital to define who your target audience is. This will dictate the content you use, your messaging, presenters, and calls to action within your webinars. You can look at your audience through multiple lenses: prospects vs. customers; industries and company types; job functions and roles; where they are in their buying journey, etc. It’s important that your content matches the audience you’re trying to engage. The right content at the right time will improve your conversion rates and generate greater webinar ROI.

2. Do I know the type of content I want to have within my webinars and how I’m going to position it?

This piggy backs off the first question you must ask yourself. Once you’ve defined your target audience, you need to create webinar content that speaks to them. If you’re going after brand-new prospects, you’re attempting to educate them, establish yourself as a credible organization with expertise, and move them into the sales funnel. It’s very important that you offer ways for your prospects to engage within your webinars (polling, surveys, handouts, Q&A, chat, breakout rooms, etc.), so you can uncover insight that will enable you to sell and market to them more effectively. If existing qualified leads are the target of a specific webinar, you’re looking to drive them further down the funnel. In this instance, your webinar may not be as high level, but instead focus on specific challenges that folks like them may be faced with. In these sessions, you can drill down into how you solve a specific challenge, provide a demo of your solution (if applicable) and/or provide case studies on how you’ve helped similar personas and organizations. Of course, existing customers are another story. Your customer-centric webinars should focus on enhancing the customer experience through education and updates, which hopefully leads to improved retention rates and upselling opportunities. Again, the right content at the right time…delivered to the right audience.

3. Am I confident that I have the right presenters to educate and engage my audience?

When it comes to webinars, regardless of the audience, engagement is the name of the game and good/bad presenters can make or break your webinar program. Whether its your own employees, customers, partners, or 3rd parties you’re bringing into the fold, look for presenters that:

  • Have webinar presentation experience and/or presentation experience in general.
  • Are energetic, conversational, and will get your audience touching their keyboards. If they’re boring and uninspiring, your attendees will think your organization is boring and uninspiring.
  • Have technical acumen and the equipment necessary to deliver a technically clean webinar experience for your audience.
  • Can get to the point and deliver value for your attendees in an adequate amount of time. If your presenters are long winded, you run the risk of your audience losing interest and logging off. Keep your attendees engaged and make the best use of their time.

4. Do I know how to properly promote, technically manage, and get the most out of my webinar investment?

When it comes to your webinar promotions, it’s all about time, your marketing mix, and who you’re going to promote it to.

  • Time – plan on a 6-week project plan for each webinar, giving yourself four weeks’ worth of promotions.
  • Marketing mix – a multi-pronged approach is crucial to generate the audience you’re looking for. Use all channels at your disposal – website, email blasts (4 over the course of 4 weeks), social media, newsletters and press releases, 3rd party databases that you have access to, and phone. Yes, the phone still works!
  • We talked about your target audience earlier – your promotions need to be geared towards the specific industries, companies, and personas that you want attending your webinar.

Technical and production details must not be overlooked, because technical mishaps can kill your webinar program. If you don’t feel comfortable producing and technically managing your webinars, work with a managed service webinar provider that brings their technology and management of the webinar process to the table.

Finally, to get the most out of your webinar investment, think beyond the live webinar itself. Webinars are so much more than the live date. Think about how you’re going to execute an on-demand plan that will extend the shelf-life and value of your webinars. And think about how you can take your webinar content and repurpose it into other content formats that engage your audience, drive demand, and accelerate revenue.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

10 Critical Steps for Your Virtual Event Project Plan

Posted on May 18, 2022 by .

Great virtual events start with a well thought out project plan that details everything that must happen from event conception to event archive. If you try to wing it, or become undisciplined and skip steps in the process, you’re setting yourself up for a failure that will have a negative impact on your brand.

Here are 10 steps we’ve identified that should be a part of any virtual event project plan:

  1. Define your event’s goals and objectives – what do you want your event to be? Is it an event to generate demand and drive pipeline, an event to enhance the customer experience and forge stronger relationships, or something else? Defining the goals and objectives of your event will set the tone for how you promote it, who you promote it to, and what your virtual environment will entail. Just like every marketing and demand generation campaign begins with laying out goals and objectives before officially executing, you should take the same approach with your virtual event.
  2. Create a budget – the type of virtual event you plan on hosting will dictate how much you should budget for. When you’re looking at 100% virtual events, the amount of event spaces within your environment, how much content you’ll have, and how many concurrent users will attend your event will determine your costs for the most part (other a la carte items and extras can impact pricing as well). If you’re going the hybrid route, you also need to consider the costs involved for the in-person setup and everything that entails. Whereas 75% of your budget would typically go to the venue for your in-person event, 75% of your budget will most likely go to your technology provider/partner for your virtual event. Plan accordingly.
  3. Build your content and event space plan: quality and on brand – now that you know the type of event you’re going to execute and how much it’s going to cost, you should build out your content and event space roadmap with a focus on quality and being on brand. What impactful speakers will you be bringing to the table? How are you going to personalize content to your specific audience? Whether it’s webinars, videos, or a piece of literature, you want to provide content that is engaging and gets your audience touching their keyboard. As you look at your event spaces, think about the different ways you can highlight your brand and products through logos, banners, advertisements, and various CTA’s.
  4. Identify a PARTNER for your specific event and technology needs – executing world-class virtual events aren’t easy. They take a lot of meticulous planning and work to get it right. It’s imperative that you align yourself with a PARTNER, not just a technology vendor, that will act as an extension of your team and help manage the event process from A-Z. Your ideal virtual event partner should have great technology, be in constant communication with you, and bring an unwavering commitment to impeccable customer service. That’s what we bring to our customers every day, and you shouldn’t settle for anything less.
  5. Registration page and promotional roadmap – when you build your registration page, there are several things to consider: will your platform provider have registration page capabilities, or will you have to host it on your side or through some other 3rd party? How will you highlight your company, brand, and agenda for the event to increase your chances of driving quality registrations? What information do you want to capture about your event registrants? You need to make sure you get the registration page right because it’s the first impression your target audience will have of your event. Next, think about how you’re going to promote the event and for how long. As with all digital events, we highly recommend a multi-pronged approach that leverages several channels to attack your audience and drive the event traffic you’re looking for. While email is still the most effective way to generate registrations, use every promotional tool at your disposal – website, social, press releases, partners, 3rd party publications, etc. In terms of the time needed to promote, it really depends on the size and scope of your virtual event. While the average promotional window for a webinar is around 4 weeks, for example, you’re looking at about 8 weeks on average for virtual events.
  6. Attendee engagement action plan – many companies make the mistake of only thinking about engagement during the event. You need to be thinking about how you’re going to engage your audience before, during, and after the event. When somebody registers, sending them a gift box or pre-event swag can increase the chances that they will attend. Providing your registrants with relevant information and content before the event could increase your chances of them becoming event ambassadors. And think about allowing your registrants to set their agenda beforehand, so they can maximize their time and be efficient the day(s) of your event. During the event, think about the different ways you can engage your audience – personalized content and webinars for their specific job function; video chat and breakout sessions that connect them with peers and industry experts; gamification that immerses them in your event experience and separates you from the competition, etc. Post event, the engagement shouldn’t stop. Archive your event on-demand and continue to give your attendees access for a certain amount of time. Create snippets or highlight reels of the virtual event and deliver it to your registrants and attendees…essentially key moments from the event that they can easily consume. And finally, get their feedback. Send them surveys that ask them about their event experience – what did they like, dislike, and what would they like to see from your digital events moving forward? This feedback can be critical in setting up your virtual event roadmap moving forward.
  7. Education, training, and testing across the board – before the event, send tutorials to your registrants that show them how they can navigate the environment and make the most out of their virtual event experience. Educate your speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors (and educate them again) on how to use the technology so they’re prepared to execute on the big day. Finally, test your event environment and test it some more. We recommend that the last 7-10 days before your virtual event is dedicated almost solely to testing and ensuring that everyone is fully comfortable with the platform and their role in the virtual event.
  8. Live day support – if something goes wrong, how are you going to troubleshoot it? What does your customer support team look like to ensure that your attendees, presenters, sponsors, exhibitors, and partners are having a great virtual event experience? These are things that need to be flushed out well before your event goes live. As noted above, properly testing everything before the event can drastically limit the amount of support tickets you have to deal with, but if you’re hosting a virtual event with a lot of participants it’s likely that someone out there is going to have a technical difficulty. We’ve found that it’s almost always on their side and not the platform provider, but it’s your event and your job to put your best foot forward in helping them have a glitch-free virtual event experience. This is one of the areas where having a managed-service virtual event provider really helps. At Elastic, we put together a team to help manage your virtual event and this includes customer and technical support for your live day(s). Your technology partner should be able to connect with your event participants through email, text chat, video/audio chat, and phone. As your go through the virtual event technology selection process, ask providers about their support capabilities. It could make or break your event.
  9. Event intelligence through analytics and reporting – there are two things that will set the tone here:
    1. The registration fields you require on your registration page. It’s extremely important to determine upfront the data you want to capture from your attendees.
    2. The virtual event partner that you work with. As you source platform providers, ask them to see what their reporting and analytics look like. You should be able to see all movements attendees make within your virtual event environment. One of the great things about virtual events is they offer a wealth of data and superior metrics and attendee insight compared to physical, in-person events. Make sure that you choose a platform provider that can equip you with the data and insight you need to make smarter sales and marketing decisions post event.
  10. Extend the shelf-life of your event for greater ROI – for the most part, when an in-person event is over it’s over. With virtual events, you can extend their shelf-life through on-demand archiving so that they continue to generate ROI over a longer period. However, don’t wait to set your on-demand plan until after the live event is over. When you’re determining how you’re going to promote your event to generate live day attendees, you should also be putting your on-demand plan together. You should promote your archived event with the same urgency that you promoted your live event with. Virtual events are a content marketer’s dream, and you have a wealth of content that can continue to generate leads and drive pipeline for your business long after the live event is over. Capitalize on it!

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

Leads Stalling? Four Keys to Funnel Acceleration

Posted on May 4, 2022 by .

Perhaps even more frustrating than not generating enough qualified leads is having the leads you do generate stall in the funnel. The best way to deal with this problem is to not allow your leads to stall in the first place, because it can be very difficult to restart a stalled opportunity. B2B organizations need to put as much emphasis on funnel acceleration as they do lead generation.

Here are four keys to funnel acceleration and removing the frustration of stalled opportunities.

  1. Take more time qualifying and getting a better lay of the land. One of the most common reasons that a qualified lead stalls in the funnel is because it wasn’t a truly qualified lead to begin with. Traditional BANT criteria must not always apply because let’s face it, sometimes a prospect doesn’t know what they don’t know in terms of needing a product/service. However, something must be uncovered that qualifies them as a lead worth pursuing in the first place. A few thoughts here:
    • If you’re selling a solution to VP and above only, and the ‘lead’ that has stalled in your funnel is a manager or director level contact, there’s a good chance the reason it’s stalled is because that person can’t make a decision or move the engagement to the next phase. Stick to your process and lead criteria and don’t settle for anything less.
    • There must be a pain or challenge they’re faced with, or a gap to fill in their business where your solution can provide value. This value is what you’re selling and marketing against as you move them through the funnel to purchase.
    • They don’t always have to have budget set aside for your product – remember, sometimes they don’t even know they have a problem or need worth budgeting for until it’s presented to them – but they need to have the ability to secure the necessary budget if it’s determined they have a problem worth solving. Money eventually needs to be flushed out because it’s not a qualified lead if you’re selling a $50k solution and they only have $10k to spend.
    • You need to determine if it’s a high priority for them. Sometimes the lead checks all the BANT boxes and your solution is exactly what they’re looking for, but the lead still stalls. This might be because they’re dealing with a $100k problem and your solution solves a $50k problem and takes a backseat. Understanding the urgency they have to move, and the risks they take on by not doing something, are things that need to be discussed and qualified.
  1. Ensure all necessary stakeholders are involved. Closing deals in today’s B2B landscape is a lot more complex than it was 5-10 years ago. Whereas there used to be a few decision makers involved, larger enterprise deals can have 5 or more stakeholders that have a say in the purchase and all of them can have unique motivations to buy. Sell and market to those unique motivations to personalize the buying experience for each stakeholder. Not doing so, and instead taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach, can stall or flat out kill the deal.
  1. Get commitments every step of the way.  From the time they first enter the funnel as a lead all the way to purchase, prospects should be making commitments at every stage and it’s the job of sales and marketers to get those commitments. You should take control of the process and not let the prospective client dictate next steps. The risk in giving your prospects control is that they likely don’t know how best to work through an effective buying process, and this is where you can educate them and create value. Getting prospect commitments and buy in every step of the way further qualifies them, significantly decreasing the chances of them stalling out on you. They now have a vested interest.
  1. The right content at the right time. Quality content is king, but the key is giving them the right quality content at the right time. Think about content formats that not only educate, but truly engage and give you more insight on the backend. This insight will enable you to sell smarter and market more efficiently, increasing the likelihood of accelerating them through the buying process. When they first become a lead, driving them to a webinar or video that highlights your organization as subject matter experts could be the appropriate play. As they get further down the funnel, think about content that could help move them to the proposal stage or even to signature – case study webinars that show how you’ve delivered ROI for your customers; deminars (webinars with a demo component) that show how your product could work specifically for them and their use case; or virtual events where they can engage with your company at scale, giving them a better sense of your organization and the customer experience you would provide them with. Webinars and digital events aren’t just for lead generation…they can help you create legitimate opportunities and close business as well.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

Repurposing Your Content for Greater Demand Generation Impact

Posted on Mar 2, 2022 by .

It’s 2022 and content is still king. Let me rephrase that…QUALITY content is still king. Having a full stack of quality content is essential for any successful demand generation initiative. It’s the foundation of getting leads into the pipeline, accelerating them through the funnel, and turning them into customers. With that said, a lot of companies miss out on the opportunity to turn existing content into other forms of content that can engage their target audience and drive more pipeline. Often, great content is staring you right in the face and waiting to be repurposed. Here’s how you should repurpose your quality content into other formats that drive greater demand generation impact for your business.

Turn static content (whitepapers, research reports, case studies, survey results, eBooks, etc.) into engagement-driven digital events

When we talk to folks about why they don’t execute more webinars, one of the most common responses we get is that they don’t have a story to tell, or they don’t have time to build the story for a webinar. What they don’t realize is they DO have a story to tell, it’s just in the form of existing literature. Repurposing that content into webinar formats that extend your reach, engage your audience, and tell your story in a more collaborative environment will increase content marketing ROI. The engagement metrics and audience intelligence you’ll receive on the backend are also far superior to what you receive from static content, enabling your sales team to sell smarter and your marketing teams to market more efficiently.

Turn your webinars into short form highlight reels

At Elastic Solutions, we always talk about the complete webinar lifecycle. Yes, you want to have a high-quality live audience that is engaged and excited to be there. Companies also need to realize that we live in a Netflix world where people want to consume content when it’s convenient for them. Therefore, having an on-demand plan – one that is as detailed as the plan leading up to the live date – is critical for overall webinar success. With that being said, some folks don’t want to sit through a 50-60-minute on-demand webinar. They want the Cliffs Notes version. They want the highlights and key takeaways. We’ve found webinar highlight reels to be a great tool for our clients. They’re 6–7-minute videos that are easy to consume and time efficient for your prospects and customers, great to promote through social channels, and effective assets for your sales force to use in their outbound efforts. Additionally, we’ve found them to be incredibly effective in drip marketing and lead nurturing campaigns. Sometimes the biggest challenge isn’t getting leads into the funnel, it’s making sure they don’t get stuck and accelerating them through the funnel. Assets like webinar highlight reels will keep your deals moving along in the right direction.

Use webinar engagement metrics and audience feedback to create literature and additional webinars

Webinars to create webinars, and webinars to create literature. Yes, it’s a thing, and it’s a nice way to accelerate your efforts to get more quality content in front of your buyers. If you choose the right webinar partner and build your webinar the right way – making it a multi-touch, collaborative session that offers your audience several ways to engage and interact – you’ll receive a wealth of data on the backend that gives you invaluable insight into your audience and their motivations. Also, if you execute a post event survey to gather more feedback and understand what type of content your audience would like to see from you moving forward, this will provide additional audience intelligence. You can then use all this data to build webinars and other assets that speak directly to what your audience is looking for and where they are in the buying cycle. The result will be a more personalized content marketing stack that increases conversions.

Use your entire content marketing stack to build a robust virtual event

Do you have a boatload of content and you’re looking for a new outlet to breath life into it and make it shine? If so, virtual events are your ticket. Virtual events are a content marketers dream and enable you to repurpose your content in multiple ways for greater demand generation impact – webinar sessions, videos, resource centers, through product “booths” that highlight your products and services, breakout sessions, networking lounges, etc. User group conferences, product launches and showcases, partner expos and symposiums, roadshows, and townhalls (and more) can all be built from your existing content stack. You’ve worked hard to build content that speaks to your audience, and you should work just as hard to find outlets that effectively extend its reach and shelf-life. Nothing does it better, more cost effectively, and in a more measurable way than a well-executed virtual event.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

7 Questions to Ask Your Virtual Event Partner

Posted on Sep 30, 2021 by .

Yes, virtual events are here to stay. You know why? Because they work! For much of 2020, organizations looked at virtual events as simply substitutes for cancelled in-person events until things got back to ‘normal.’ Fast forward to now and marketing and event executives realize that virtual events are an additional digital channel that must be leveraged to effectively engage target audiences, improve customer experiences, generate demand, and close more business. Virtual events are now a part of our ‘normal’ and will continue to be. As you go through the process of finding the virtual event partner that best fits your needs, here are 7 questions to ask:

1. How long have you been in the virtual event space?

In the last 18 months, virtual event providers have seemingly popped up out of nowhere, claiming they have a solution that can fit any event need. When you’re sourcing platform providers, ask them how long they’ve been in the virtual event space. What type of events have been executed on their platform, and how many events like yours have they executed? There have been several in-person event management companies that never had a true virtual option before the pandemic, and now they’re claiming to be virtual event experts. Working with an organization that has experience in dealing with all types of event formats is very important, so be sure to ask for multiple references when speaking with providers. Due diligence is key – it could be the difference between success and a virtual event disaster.

2. Can you show me an example of a virtual event you’ve executed that speaks to what I’m looking for?

Once you have your requirements and know what your virtual event will entail, ask providers to show you their solution in action and provide examples of events they’ve executed that have what you’re looking for. If they say the can do it, make them show you and ask about their process for getting it done. If a vendor is hesitant to back up their claims and demo their platform against your requirements, take them off the list and move on down the road. It’s really that simple.

3. What does project management and support look like before, during, and after the event?

Proper project management and support from registration page creation to event archive are crucial to virtual event success. If you’re going the managed-service route, you’re essentially asking the virtual event provider to be an extension of your team and be a true ‘partner’ (not just another vendor) in your success. Here are some items that need to be covered:

  • Understand the makeup of your virtual event partner’s project management team and who will be the main points of contact. How will they be available to you?
  • Working backwards from your event eventually going on-demand, you need to see a detailed project plan that highlights everything that will be done, deadlines for when items will be executed, and who’s responsible for what. Stick to the plan.
  • You need to understand the process for building the event and when you’ll be able to get into the environment to ensure it’s being built to specifications. Have checkpoints throughout the project plan to go in and experience the environment as it’s being built.
  • If your event has sponsors, presenters, exhibitors, etc. – how will your virtual event partner manage and support them throughout the entire process to ensure they’re educated on their responsibilities and everything that needs to be done on their end?
  • The day of the event, you need to know how everyone involved with your virtual event will be supported. Your partner of choice should provide you with a rundown of what support entails the day(s) of your event. The same project management team that you’ve worked with from the beginning should be there to support you for the live event. Team continuity is a big plus.
  • Once the event is over, what’s the process for getting the event on-demand? How long will it take? How can I continue to drive traffic to the on-demand version to increase event ROI? Obviously, these are things that need to be mapped out as you build the initial project plan. Remember, one of the pros of virtual events is you can extend their shelf-life so they can continue to drive value over a longer period. Have an on-demand plan.

4. What options does your event platform have to drive attendee engagement?

For events, engagement is the name of the game. When organizations first started pivoting to virtual events, the biggest knock against them was that they didn’t drive near the engagement that in-person events did. We have come a long way in a short period of time, and I would argue that virtual events now offer MORE and EASIER ways to engage compared to in-person events. As you map out the engagement strategy for your next event, some things to consider:

  • Think about engagement holistically, from the moment you announce the event until it’s archived on-demand. A recent blog of ours – Virtual Event Engagement Tips: Before, During and After the Event – will lead you down the right path.
  • How do you want your presenters to engage with your attendees, and vice versa? It should be a two-way street for communication. The same goes with exhibitor and sponsor communications with your attendees.
  • What does attendee to attendee engagement look like? Make sure you have a platform that enables your attendees to interact and collaborate with one another multiple ways – through text, audio, and video chat; going into breakout rooms that are ideal for group settings; connecting through various social media platforms; exchanging and downloading of virtual business cards; being able to set meetings and email one another within the platform. Your virtual event platform should offer these capabilities.
  • Getting real-time attendee feedback is important, so make sure your virtual event partner has survey and poll features that can provide valuable insight into attendee engagement and satisfaction.
  • How many gamification options do I have, and which ones are the best fit for my audience? Some virtual event providers can also customize gamification solutions for your unique needs.

5. What does reporting look like and what’s being tracked within my virtual event?

One of the biggest advantages that virtual events have over in-person events is the ability to track everything that is being done within the environment. I’m talking about complete 360-degree visibility into every movement being made at any time. This type of insight enables businesses to make smarter decisions that can lead to significantly greater event ROI. As you go through the selection process, ask virtual event providers to show you their reporting dashboards and what they entail. They should be straightforward to navigate, the reports/analytics should be easily exportable and/or can integrate with your CRM and Marketing Automation tools (if you’re looking to achieve a CRM/Marketing Automation integration with your event platform, this should be one of the first items on the project plan), and they should provide you with complete visibility into audience engagement and event success.

6. Do you have a solution for Hybrid events?

Just like 100% virtual events, hybrids events are here to stay. In our opinion, any sizeable in-person event would be making a mistake if they didn’t offer a digital extension. Moving forward, there are going to be folks that don’t see the need to travel for in-person events because they believe they can get equal or greater value through virtual events. There are going to be others that won’t go to physical events for various reasons – company travel restrictions, time away from the office, their business can’t justify the expense, etc. However, these people still want to be involved with your event and its content in some way, and offering a virtual component allows them to do that. While you’re dealing with two different audiences in a hybrid environment – in-person and virtual – the key is finding a solution that makes it feel like one seamless experience for everyone involved. In-person and virtual attendees should be able to connect and engage with one another, with both audiences feeling like they got equal value. As you’re looking at vendors, ask them about their approach to hybrid events and how they handle various hybrid scenarios.

7. How do you ensure that my event won’t have any technical mishaps or disruptions?

With technology, things can happen that are out of everyone’s control. There’s not a virtual event provider out there, if they’re being honest, that hasn’t had a technical disruption of some kind. In our opinion, the answer to this question is two-fold:

  1. To ensure there won’t be any technical issues, everyone involved with the event must be gin clear as to what the technical requirements are and it’s the platform provider’s responsibility to ensure everyone is well educated. This includes meticulously training presenters/speakers on how to use the technology and what technical setup they must have to ensure successful presentations; showing exhibitors and sponsors (if applicable) exactly how they can engage with attendees and the setup they must have on their end to have an optimal virtual event experience; through numerous event ‘reminder’ emails, providing event attendees with access to system tests, performance checks, literature, and tutorials that explain the technical makeup they need to have and how best to navigate the virtual event. Repeat after me – training and education, training and education, training and education!
  2. Let’s say you do everything outlined in Part 1 and you STILL have a technical disruption…what do you do now? Well for starters, you need to ensure you’re working with a virtual event partner that puts the customer first and will do everything possible to troubleshoot the technical mishap as quickly as possible. We’ve all heard horror stories where things went wrong and then only got worse because the virtual event provider was nowhere to be found. At Elastic, we take a multi-pronged approach to support and our clients know that we’re supporting them, their presenters, sponsors, exhibitors and attendees multiple ways. Whether it be through email, chat, text or phone call, your virtual event partner should have a ‘real-time’ support policy. Anything less than that should not be acceptable. As you go through the selection process, ask vendors to provide you with documentation on their support policies and their approach to troubleshooting technical issues should they arise.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

5 Questions to Ask Your B2B Lead Generation Partner

Posted on Aug 26, 2021 by .

For B2B organizations, finding the right mix of lead and demand generation partners to drive pipeline and revenue is crucial to business success. Because building an internal lead generation team can be exceptionally challenging – onboarding new reps; ongoing training; lack of bandwidth to do it the right way; lack of know how to do it the right way; incredibly expensive; time to value isn’t there aka it takes too long to realize results – more B2B leaders than ever are opting to outsource their lead generation initiatives to various partners that are 100% focused on driving pipeline. As you go through the process of outsourcing this piece of your business, here are 5 important questions to ask your lead generation partner:

1. What experience do you have in attacking the industries and companies that we target?

Having industry experience and knowledge about the company types you’re targeting should be one of the first questions you ask any lead generation partner that you’re thinking of bringing on board. Your partner is going to act as an extension of your business, so they should understand the ins/outs of the market you’re trying to penetrate and how to speak the industry language. They should know who the decision makers are and why, as well as the types of folks that can influence the decision making process, and how different messaging resonates with different roles and job functions within an organization.

2. What experience do you have in working with organizations like mine?

To piggyback off the above, you also want to work with lead generation partners that have experience in working with businesses that offer products and services similar to yours. This means they’ll be familiar with your value proposition and how to articulate it in their messaging. It also means less education and training on your part, which will enable your lead generation partner to ramp up quicker and generate results faster. Remember, one of the key reasons you’re outsourcing your lead generation activities in the first place is because you don’t have the time/bandwidth to train and ramp up an internal team. Find a partner that can hit the ground running.

3. Our #1 priority is lead quality – how do you ensure the leads you generate are qualified leads?

It’s not about only lead generation anymore…it’s about quality lead generation. The process to get here should be very straightforward – you and your lead generation partner should mutually determine on the frontend what a qualified lead is and what it isn’t. There should be no gray area because it’s a very black and white issue. A prospect either meets the qualifications that you agreed on or they don’t. A crucial mistake in any lead generation initiative is not having an iron-clad definition for a qualified lead from the beginning because it creates problems in the long run. When you’re sourcing partners to work with, press them on this.

4. Once we bring you on board, what is your process for generating leads?

They tell you they can generate leads for you…great. Exactly how are they going to do it? You deserve to understand their process from A-Z. Are they a one-trick pony in terms of how they’re going to get you in front of their ideal audience, or do they take a multi-pronged approach to driving demand and pipeline for your products and services? If outbound calling and emailing are going to be a part of the equation, it’s important to understand their call and email approach, as well as the cadence. When do they make calls and send emails? When and how do they know to pivot the messaging to illicit a response? How many times do they typically touch a prospect before they become a qualified lead? When do they determine it’s time to move on and focus on other targets? And this is just for the outbound lead generation component – there are a whole other set of questions to ask your inbound and content creation lead generation partners. You should expect a detailed, clearly laid out roadmap for how your partner is going to generate results for your business.

5. Can I speak with organizations you’ve worked with that have successfully used you to generate qualified leads from audiences similar to mine?

In this instance it’s not just about a referral, but a referral that hits close to home. If your potential lead generation partner tells you that they have experience and have had success in attacking the industries you target, ask to speak with the companies they’ve worked with that go after similar audiences. If they’ve had success generating leads for products and services similar to yours, and/or they’ve helped other companies effectively penetrate similar markets, they should have no problem getting you in touch with their clients. If they’re hesitant about you speaking with their customers, you should be hesitant about bringing them on board as your lead generation partner.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

Virtual Event Engagement Tips – Before, During and After the Event

Posted on Jul 27, 2021 by .

For virtual events (and events in general), attendee engagement is the name of the game. Simply having a lineup of great speakers and compelling content isn’t enough – for virtual events, organizations and event executives need to take it a step further by creating buzz before, during and after the event is over. So, how can you create true engagement from registration page creation to event archive? Let’s dig in.

Before the Event:

Smart communications that promote the length, format, and event agenda.

In terms of promotions for your events, it’s always best to take a multi-pronged approach and promote it through every channel possible. And make sure you give yourself plenty of time to promote it. Based on the size and scope of your virtual event, promotions could start anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months out from the event date.

There’s a lot of competition in the virtual event space right now and your audience has a lot of events to choose from. When promoting your virtual event, think about what makes yours different and highlight the length, format, and agenda. In terms of length, attendees typically don’t have the same attention span for virtual events that they do for live events, so be cognizant of that and think of ways that you can offer shorter formats that offer as much/if not more value than an in-person event. So if the event would’ve typically been 6-7 hours in an in-person setting, make it 4 hours in a virtual environment to keep your audience engaged.

As for the event format, highlight the spaces, rooms, and functionality your virtual event will have. Talk about how your attendees can interact with exhibitors, connect with their colleagues through various networking features, listen to and connect with thought leaders and presenters through webinars and breakout rooms, etc. Highlight what’s in it for them, the value they’ll get out of attending and why being there is worth their time. Finally, clearly lay out the agenda for your event and walk them down the path in terms of what their day could look like if they attend. During the registration process, give your audience the ability to set their own agenda where they can decide, for example, the sessions they will be attending and the breakout rooms/workshops they will be participating in.

Be cognizant of what your attendees what out of the event.

Want to understand what your attendees are hoping to get out of the event? Simply ask. Surveying your audience will help you curate the experience for them. What does a successful event look like to you? What are three things you want to learn from this event? What type of networking features would you like to see? What types of professionals would you like to connect with and why? What do you like most about virtual events and what do you dislike the most? Their answers to these questions will allow you to personalize the experience and agenda for your attendees, which will result in superior engagement and virtual event ROI.

Have your attendees spread the word and reward them for it.

A great way to build buzz before the event is to have your registered attendees, presenters, and sponsors act as event ambassadors. Create a hashtag for your virtual event and then have them spread the word and promote it to their audiences, letting everybody know they’re attending your event and why.

Before the event, think about surprising your registered attendees by giving them some pre-conference swag – shirts, notebooks, pens, and coffee mugs all work well. It helps get your audience in the conference mindset and can help improve your registration to attendee ratios.

Give attendees a sneak peak of the event environment.

When looking at virtual event platform providers, ask them if they give registered attendees the ability to get a sneak peak of the environment before it actually goes live. Enabling folks to get into the platform pre-event and create/update their profile is a big plus. Also, giving registrants early access to certain areas of the event will familiarize them with the environment and enable them to be more efficient with their time the day(s) of the event. They’ll have a better understanding of how to navigate, interact and consume content. Like the pre-conference swag, providing this early access can increase excitement amongst your audience, improve registration to attendee ratios and help generate greater attendee engagement.

During the Event:

Great looking environments, compelling content, and high production quality.

It’s important to provide virtual event environments that flat out look good and are easy to navigate. Ensure that your platform is easy on the eyes and on brand, and can be customized with banners, logos, and advertisements. The right virtual event partner will give you the ability to choose your event theme (3D or 2D) and offer a number of room templates for your to choose from as well.

Content is no longer king…quality content is king. There are a ton of virtual and hybrid events in all industries right now, so it’s imperative that your event provides content that is highly valuable to your attendees. If your event is going to have an exhibition hall, ensure that your exhibitors are providing content that is relevant and timely. For your webinar sessions, make sure your presenters are exciting and have compelling stories to tell, and that they use the time to educate and not sell.

Speaking of webinar sessions, high production quality is mission-critical and the only way to ensure this is to test, test, and test some more well before the live date. Poorly produced webinars, videos, workshops, and breakout sessions can leave a bad taste in your attendee’s mouth and severely impact the success of your virtual event. For your webinar presentations within your event, it’s a good idea to look at the possibility of pre-recording as many of them as possible and broadcasting them as live events with live elements (Q&A, polls, surveys, chat rooms) the day of. We call these simulive webinars and it ensures that the presentations are well executed and deliver a top-notch experience for your attendees. When looking at which virtual event partner you want to move forward with, having this ability is a must.

Make engagement a two-way street.

One of the best ways to measure virtual event success is through attendee engagement, and the only way to achieve high levels of engagement is to make it a two-way street. Far too often, attendees go to virtual events and all they’re doing is watching presentations, videos, demos, etc. They’re watching, but they’re not doing anything. There are a number of ways to combat this:

  • Offer breakout rooms and workshops where attendees can engage, interact, and build relationships with like-minded professionals.
  • Create multiple chat experiences – text chat, 1:1 video chat and group chat.
  • Get real-time audience feedback through live surveys and polls. Understand what your audience likes/dislikes about the experience and use that as ammo to make your next virtual event even more engaging.

Incentivize your attendees for doing and being active within your event through gamification options like leaderboard, trivia, and scavenger hunt. In these instances, you’re urging your audience to engage and have meaningful interactions, and they’re getting rewarded on the backend with various giveaways and prizes.

Networking is crucial to event success.

One of the main reasons people attend in-person conferences is for the networking opportunities, and there are now multiple ways to truly make your virtual event a networking hub.

One of the best places to start is to create a networking café or lounge. These areas can offer attendees the ability to:

  • Participate in scheduled industry discussions and group chats. In a recent virtual event hosted on the Elastic Events platform, one of our clients offered ‘Lunch with the Founders.’ They promoted this as a session in the Networking Café where attendees could interact with the company founders and ask any questions they had for them. Attendees were able to sign up ahead of time for this session, and by doing so they were able to pick what they wanted for lunch and it was delivered to them right before the ‘Lunch with the Founders’ started. It was a huge success and really helped our client strengthen their relationship with their customers.
  • Connect with other attendees within the space through 1:1 video chat
  • Download and exchange virtual business cards, schedule meetings with their colleagues, and connect with them through various social channels
  • Move into breakout rooms that offer a more intimate networking experience

After the Event:

Offer a post event survey.

While the pre-event survey we mentioned above will help you curate a personalized experience for your attendees, a post event survey will help you (and your presenters, sponsors, and exhibitors) understand what your audience liked/disliked about the event and what you can do moving forward to continue to improve the event experience. Post event surveys have proven to be invaluable tools to improve webinar experiences for our clients, and they’re just as important for long-term virtual event success.

Take advantage of on-demand archiving.

The great thing about virtual events – and digital events in general – is that you can extend the shelf life of them through on-demand archiving. Events on our platform come stock with 90 days of on-demand time, but you can essentially archive your events for as long as you want. It’s very important to have an on-demand plan well ahead of time, as opposed to the event finishing and then crafting your plan. You want to ensure that your virtual event provider can get your event on-demand as quickly as possible so you can begin promoting the on-demand environment immediately. If you put as much emphasis promoting the on-demand version as you do the live event, your virtual event ROI will skyrocket.

Create virtual event highlights or ‘Best Of’ videos.

Often, short form content is the best type of content. One of the ways our clients are doing this post event is by creating event highlight reels or ‘best of’ videos. Have a great 45-minute session that you want to breakdown into a 4–5-minute highlight reel? We can help with this. Yes, you still want to make the entire 45-minute session available on-demand, but also offering a shorter version that captures key points makes it easier to promote and easier for your audience to consume. You can do this for all your presentations or just some of them, but it’s just another example of how your virtual event can continue to deliver value to your audience long after the live date.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

The 5 Most Important KPIs for B2B Lead Generation

Posted on Jul 1, 2021 by .

Followers or users monetization team marketing strategy concept Premium Vector

For B2B marketers, lead generation is the name of the game. And not just lead generation, but quality lead generation. Like all other areas of the business, lead generation needs to be tracked and measured religiously to achieve long-term efficiency and success.

As we look at the 2nd half of 2021, here are the 5 most important KPIs for B2B lead generation.

KPI #1 – Qualified Lead Volume

The key word here is qualified. You get to decide what constitutes a qualified lead for your business, which is great. However, don’t cheat yourself. Be honest and ask yourself – what is the lead criteria that is the right fit for my business? Criteria like industry, sub-industry, revenue, title, certain pain points, etc. are common, but choose requirements that are specific to your offering and don’t settle for anything less.

Defining your specific criteria for truly qualified leads allows your organization to solely focus on leads that meet your requirements, as opposed to wasting time on ‘leads’ that are out of scope and don’t have any revenue potential for the business.

KPI #2 – Qualified Lead to Opportunity Conversion Rate

There’s a lot of talk in lead generation about conversion rates, but in this instance, we’re talking about the conversion from a qualified lead to a working opportunity. A sales qualified lead (which is what we focus on here at Elastic – we believe the MQL is dead) is a prospective customer that has been properly vetted, checks the right boxes in terms of lead criteria, and is ready to talk to sales and move into a sales process. However, this doesn’t mean that they automatically end up being a working opportunity that you can put a dollar figure against. After the lead engages with sales, a lot of things can happen – they learn more about the product and determine it’s not for them after all and doesn’t fulfill their specific needs; they end up going in another direction, ghost you and never give an indication why; or your sales team did a poor job of discerning what the buyer is trying to achieve and then articulating how your solution can help, and the lead is lost for good. Because of this, it is crucial to track which qualified leads turn into working pipeline opportunities. Marketers can then look themselves in the mirror to determine how they can improve on the frontend, and sales can do the same to determine how they can improve on the backend. Long term, it can lead to better sales and marketing alignment. When sales and marketing efforts are properly aligned, organizations typically witness 38% higher sales conversion rates.

KPI #3 – Revenue & ROI

Let’s be honest – the most important top-tier KPI you should track for any lead generation campaign is revenue. You can generate all the clicks and downloads, have all the qualified meetings, and send out all the proposals, but it’s all for not if it doesn’t result in revenue.

You must also take into consideration that anything worth doing well takes time. And because a well-executed, multi-pronged lead generation campaign is a process with various moving parts, you should plan to measure ROI over a longer period of time. Sure, there are certain lead generation tactics that prove out results quicker than others, and you want to double down on those. However, to holistically measure ROI across every channel you’re leveraging to generate qualified leads and drive pipeline, make sure you set proper expectations and give yourself enough time to accurately measure returns.

KPI #4 – Cost per Lead (CPL)

Cost per lead (CPL) is important because it tells you if your marketing and lead-gen activities are working or not. And because we’re in this to make a profit, it should never cost more to acquire a qualified lead or customer than the actual revenue you receive from them. A lead needs to be profitable from the very beginning of the relationship.

Calculating your CPL is easy. Simply add up all investments you’ve made to generate leads (internal/external resources, ad spend, software, etc.), and then divide that by your total lead number. And only include qualified leads when you’re calculating CPL. Remember, the key word to focus on for any lead generation campaign is quality. If a lead doesn’t meet your qualifying requirements, it’s not a lead for your business.

KPI #5 – Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

Customer lifetime value (CLV) measures how valuable a customer is to your business over the lifespan of the relationship. A lot of organizations fail to properly track the lifetime value of a customer, and that is a huge mistake. They’re too shortsighted and aren’t looking at the bigger lead generation picture. CLV will help dictate:

  • The type of leads/customers you want to get in front of and acquire.
  • How much you can put into your marketing budget to acquire your desired customers.
  • Which channels to leverage to get in front of your targeted leads/customers.
  • Which products/services you promote to your targeted audience.

Lead generation is a non-stop engine, and it needs to be constantly tracked and traced. There are a ton of KPIs out there to measure lead generation effectiveness and it’s impact on revenue performance, but it’s important to find ones that work for your business and processes.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

Attention B2B Marketers – Three Reasons We’re NOT Going Back to ‘Normal’

Posted on May 25, 2021 by .

“When marketing get back to normal…”. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that from marketers over the past several months. And to be honest, it annoys me. We all want to get back to our normal, pre-pandemic lives outside of work and the world is now opening back up enabling us to do so. That is a GREAT thing. However, business (and marketing in particular), has changed for good and that’s also a GREAT thing because it needed to change. Yes, businesses will go back to some of the things they were doing before, but they’ve realized there are better ways to work and be more efficient across the board. Here are three reasons why B2B marketing is NOT going back to ‘normal.’

  1. B2B Buyers Have Changed Forever – your buyers prefer this new digital reality. They got used to buying and researching online during the pandemic, and they prefer it. B2C buyers have been shopping online for years, so it was just natural that B2B buyers would eventually take the same approach. A recent McKinsey study found that 70-80% of B2B decision makers prefer remote interactions and digital self-service over in-person meetings. It’s easier, costs less and is more efficient from a scheduling perspective.

    Your buyers are willing to make larger purchases online as well. In that same McKinsey study, 70% of B2B buyers stated they are willing to purchase items online that cost more than $50,000. Another 27% of buyers said they feel comfortable making purchases of more than $500,000. They’ve been going further down the buyer’s journey without interacting with sales and they like it. It’s been a more efficient, seamless experience for them. With that in mind, it’s absolutely critical that businesses build quality content that matches where their targets are in their buying journey. Simply creating content to create content isn’t good enough anymore. It must be different, relevant, timely and personalized. This is essential for marketers and brands to create true competitive differentiation moving forward.

  2. Events Have Moved into the Virtual and Hybrid World – bigger audiences, more touch points, better analytics and engagement metrics…all done at a fraction of the cost. Yeah, virtual events are here to stay. In March and April of last year when everyone was looking to replace their cancelled in-person events, virtual events were seen as a substitute. Now, after 15 months of realizing all the benefits that well executed virtual events bring to the table, marketers now look at them as an additional digital channel they must use to educate, engage and acquire new customers. They are no longer a substitute, but rather a critical piece of the modern marketing technology stack.

    Now that the world is opening back up, that inevitably means that in-person events are about to return…but they’ll never be the same. Smart event marketers will be adding digital extensions to any physical events they execute moving forward, and this is where hybrid events come into play. Even though in-person events are coming back, there are many people that won’t feel comfortable travelling and attending in-person conferences for the foreseeable future. There are others that simply won’t return to physical events because they now believe virtual is the way to go. However, those same folks are still potential buyers so it is very important to have a hybrid event strategy that enables you to connect with them virtually. The key thing marketers must understand with hybrid events is that even though you now have two audiences to engage with – in-person and virtual – it should still be treated as one event with equal experiences for all. This is not easy to achieve because there are a lot of moving parts involved, but working with the right virtual/hybrid event partner can help you nail it.

    Event budgets are now going into three buckets – virtual, hybrid and in-person – and this isn’t going to change. Digital events have driven incredible ROI and are going to continue to see mass adoption. Interested in understanding what it takes to execute world-class virtual events? Watch our recent on-demand webinar – Decide, Plan, Execute: A Guide to Successful Virtual Events.
  3. B2B Customers Started Receiving B2C Customer Experiences – for the last few years B2B marketers have significantly improved the customer experience, but overall they lagged behind their B2C counterparts. The Amazons of the world have taken customer experience to another stratosphere, while B2B organizations have historically taken a more conservative approach to technologies and strategies that foster great customer experiences. The pandemic, however, forced B2B marketers to put an extra emphasis on the customer experience at a time when customer engagement was crucial to success (and staying afloat in some cases). They have shifted their focus to the following and their buyers/customers prefer it:
    • Engaging their audience with not just content, but interactive content that is timely and relevant. Moving away from static formats – think case studies, whitepapers and reports – and towards interactive formats that provide better insights and more engagement data on the backend.
    • Tracking customer behaviors to personalize the content experience and more effectively nurture customers through complex B2B sales cycles.
    • The realization that they are marketing to human beings, not businesses. They have not only personalized their marketing approach…they’ve humanized it.

What are your thoughts on how the B2B marketing landscape has changed? We’d love to hear from you!

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

Post Pandemic – Winning the B2B Lead Generation Game Moving Forward

Posted on Apr 8, 2021 by .

Oh my, how B2B lead generation has changed. And guess what? It has changed forever. The organizations that have been willing to pivot and adapt during COVID have seen success, while the ones that have been resistant to change are struggling big time. Moving forward, here is what it will take to win the day when it comes to B2B lead generation:

A Digital Event Plan

Webinars and virtual events have been here for a long time, but due to COVID they have obviously seen mass adoption over the last 13 months. In-person conferences and events will come back – they are starting to in certain parts of the world – but the in-person event experience won’t be the same for the foreseeable future. They will be less frequent and smaller in size for the most part, so it will be extremely important for businesses to continue to reach their audiences virtually. This will be done through virtual events, hybrid events (a mix of in-person and online, aka physical events with digital extensions), and webinars. We have a number of clients that have told us their user group conferences, symposiums, partner summits, products launches/showcases and roadshows will be done virtually moving forward because that is how their audience now prefers to engage and they’ve seen better event ROI by going the virtual route. We’re also seeing a significant increase in the number of webinars that businesses are executing on a monthly and yearly basis. Webinars simply offer a more cost-effective and measurable way to reach and engage your audience on a consistent basis. The key is producing webinars that actually bring value to your audience and not letting them become ‘just another webinar.’ If you’re wondering what it takes to execute world class virtual events of all kinds, watch our latest on-demand webinar – Decide, Plan, Execute: A Guide to Successful Virtual Events.

ABM and a More Targeted Approach

The lockdown has taught organizations that ABM and a more targeted approach isn’t just for large organizations anymore. It’s for businesses of all shapes and sizes. The spray and pray model is out and targeting industries, key accounts and specific personas is in. To effectively penetrate these accounts and get in front of your ideal buyer, competitive differentiation will be key and the best way to do that will be through persona-specific messaging and compelling content that speaks to where your prospects are in their buying journey. Think of content formats like webinars, targeted virtual events, videos, benchmark reports and eBooks that drive better engagement and provide more buyer intent data on the backend. Content is no longer king…QUALITY content is.

Enhanced Reliance on Outsourced Demand and Lead Generation Experts

Many B2B companies have relied on traditional sales-centric lead generation models for too long. Need to generate more leads and close more business? Just hire more salespeople. The pandemic has forced businesses to work remote and many of these businesses have plans to stay remote moving forward. Executives are finding that ramping up and expanding remote, internal inside sales and lead generation teams isn’t easy. They’ve had challenges with properly training new hires and, as a result, the time to value hasn’t been there and their pipeline has suffered (virtual training and onboarding environments are a great way to solve this challenge, but that’s a different blog for another day). Due to this, there has been an enhanced reliance on outsourced demand and lead generation partners that have industry expertise and teams that can be ramped up in weeks, compared to 6 months or longer for internal teams, and business leaders are seeing the value (and cost savings) that outsourced lead generation brings to the table. If this sounds like you, look for partners that can take a multi-pronged approach to lead generation and can engage your prospects a number of different ways – outbound, inbound and everything in between.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

Best Practices – Successful Virtual Product Launches & Showcases

Posted on Mar 9, 2021 by .

About to come out with a new product, or showcase existing ones, that the market needs to know about? Looking for the most cost-effective way to reach a wider audience and get better engagement data on the backend, leading to increased sales of your product? Enter virtual product launches and showcases. If this type of virtual event is on your radar, here are some best practices to follow:

Make it Shine.

You have plenty of options now in the virtual event space, so go with a virtual partner that can make your product AND brand shine. At Elastic Solutions, we offer 3D and 2D experiences, but we’ve found more immersive 3D environments get audiences more excited about the event and lead to more engagement. Think of building an environment that enables your audience to go to multiple event spaces where they can learn about your product(s), watch presentations, interact and network with industry experts and peers, etc. Think about rooms like lobbies, auditoriums, networking café’s and product rooms. Make sure that you can have banners and displays that match your brand and can drive your attendees to certain areas of the event (or outside the event if you choose to). Your virtual event partner should have a strategy team that can help you build out an experience that entices your audience to dig in and participate.

Put an Emphasis on Engagement.

You will hear us say this a lot and for good reason – audience engagement is one of the best ways to measure virtual event success. It will also provide your sales force with a wealth of data to use in their follow-ups and will enable them to make smarter, more effective outreach. Remember, your audience is used to doing most of these events in-person and talking with peers and networking with them face-to-face. When you are thinking about audience engagement for your virtual product launch/showcase, look at the following pieces:

  • Presentations – if you are going to have presentations as a part of your launch/showcase, which you should, look for presenters that are truly engaging. They can make a world of difference. Also, within your presentations you should have the ability for live Q&A, polls, surveys, resource handouts and peer-to-peer audience connection. Anything you can do within your presentations to get your audience touching their keyboards, do it!
  • Networking – what does the networking experience look like? Your attendees should have the ability to chat with your company and other attendees (text and/or video chat), exchange virtual business cards, connect socially, email each other from the platform, etc. Put the myth that you can’t effectively network in virtual events to bed.
  • Make engagement fun – including gamification options like leaderboard, industry trivia and scavenger hunts can make a drastic difference in meaningful audience engagement.  And be sure to have nice giveaways in place for your most active attendees. We’ve seen many of our clients effectively execute virtual happy hours, enabling attendees to connect with one another in a relaxed setting post event. It does not have to be all business all the time.

Put a Priority on Appointment Setting and Product Interaction.

For product launches and showcases, we really like the idea of having booths dedicated to your products. Within these spaces, attendees can download content, view videos and on-demand presentations related to your product(s) and interact with booth reps, among other things. Regarding interacting with booth representatives, a few important notes:

  • Staff your booth with true product experts that know the product inside and out.
  • Attendees should have the ability to see available calendars and schedule time on the booth rep’s calendar.
  • Having the ability for attendees to interact with your product experts multiple ways – text chat, 1:1 video chat and group chat – can make it more compelling for folks to enter your product booths. It can also provide them with more education on your product offerings and get them familiar with your team.

Extend the Shelf Life of Your Event.

Remember that one of the main advantages of a virtual event is that you can extend the shelf life of the content through on-demand archiving. You can essentially turn your product launch or showcase into a virtual resource center specifically for your product(s). As new content becomes available and as new releases of the product come out, you can add them to the environment and continue to drive folks to it. Very similar to webinars, we live in a Netflix culture and many of your prospects want to view presentations and download content on their own time. Keeping your event on-demand for a certain amount of time (all events on the Elastic Solutions virtual events platform come stock with 90 days of on-demand access) means it can continue to act as a marketing and lead generation channel for months to come. With that in mind, it is important to have a plan for how you are going to market the on-demand version of your event.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

Better Webinar Attendance, Better Leads

Posted on Feb 12, 2021 by .

There are three things we know about webinars:

  1. As of mid 2020, more than 65% of B2B marketers were using webinars to generate leads and drive pipeline. This number will only continue to grow as digital events are the new normal.
  2. Webinars (and virtual events) are THE most effective content marketing tool to educate, engage and generate qualified leads.
  3. Poor attendance is the #1 reason why companies give up on webinars. How can this be fixed???

To fix the webinar attendance problem, we first need to understand what causes poor webinar attendance. Considering that executing webinars and helping our clients drive pipeline everyday is what we do, here is what we know:

  • Most webinars simply are not properly planned.
  • There is a lack of an audience and/or the audience is not the right one. Webinar campaigns, many times, are not going after the right targets.
  • The market is flooded with webinar topics and registration pages that are untimely, repetitive, and boring.
  • Promotional schedules are inadequate with no creativity.
  • There are not enough tools being used during the webinar to get the audience engaged.
  • There is no on-demand plan and organizations are only putting an emphasis on the live webinar.
  • The wrong tools for the job and previous webinar disasters are having a significant impact on overall webinar campaign success.

With that said, what needs to be done to generate more webinar traffic and better leads at the end of the day?

A 6-8 week project plan is crucial – we recommend four weeks of promotions for webinars, so you need to tack on at least two weeks in front of that to plan out the topic and messaging and put the registration page together. Watch this on-demand webinar, The Ideal 8-Week Webinar Project Plan, for an in-depth look at what your plan should entail.

Hit your target – ensure that your webinar message is going to the right people. I cannot tell you how many folks we speak with that say their webinar registration and attendance reports are littered with targets that don’t make sense for their business. List integrity is crucial for any content marketing campaign and webinars are no different.

A registration page’s purpose? To get registrations – your registration pages need to be highly customizable; tell a compelling story and let folks know the value what they will get out of attending your webinar; be optimized so people can save them to their calendars and share them through social media channels; only request the information you need. The more fields your audience needs to fill out, the more likely they are to jump ship and not register at all.

A multi-pronged promotional approach – we recommend a 4-week promotional schedule. Email is still the best and most efficient way to generate webinar registrants and we suggest sending as many as four dedicated email blasts promoting your webinar. It should be front and center on your website and you should send out at least one press release to whatever industry you are targeting. If you have partners that have access to the audience you are looking to penetrate, leverage them. If you have budget to advertise with industry publications and think tanks that make sense, put together a promotional plan with them. Leverage every social channel where you have a targeted presence and make posts on a weekly basis leading up to your webinar. Finally, offer a giveaway of some kind that compels the first 50 or so folks to register and attend. Amazon gift cards and things of that nature typically work well.

Your webinar’s over, but not really – let’s face it: the overwhelming majority of organizations don’t give their on-demand webinars the attention they deserve and that needs to change. We live in a Netflix culture and there’s been a tremendous upward shift in on-demand consumption of webinars. Your customers and prospects want to watch webinars and video content at a time that is convenient for them and having a post-event promotional plan is important to overall webinar success. Do not judge your webinars on the live day attendance only, but rather judge how much traction each of your webinars get over a 6, 9 or 12-month period. Great content will be relevant for a long time. That is why we recommend promoting your on-demand webinars with the same tenacity that you promote your live webinars with. Finally, your on-demand webinar is an awesome piece of content that can be used to create other pieces of content. You can pick out the best parts of the webinar and put together a brief, 5-7 minute highlight reel that is easier and more efficient to consume for many folks. You can take the message from the webinar and re-purpose into a blog, white paper, or eBook. You can also use the engagement metrics your received from your webinar – questions asked, responses to polls and surveys, content downloaded, chat transcripts, etc. – to help dictate the focus of your next webinar that will be timely and important to your target audience. The possibilities are endless.

Are you using the right tool for the job? – at the beginning of any webinar strategy, it is imperative that you pick the right webinar vendor. A poor webinar experience at the beginning could doom your webinar campaign for a long time to come. Ensure that your webinar solution is browser-based and does not require downloads or plugins that have been known to impact attendance by as much as 25%. You need to be able to have the ability to customize your registration page and webinar interface so it reflects your brand and makes your audience want to engage. Speaking of engaging, make sure your platform offers plenty of ways for you to drive and measure audience engagement – live Q&A, live chat, social sharing, resource downloads, surveys, polling, the ability to schedule appointments. Finally, be comfortable that you have a support team that can get you up and running immediately should a technical difficulty arise. With any piece of software, eventually something will go wrong (it is unavoidable) so it’s crucial to have a vendor that places a huge emphasis on customer and technical support.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

How are B2B Marketers Planning for 2021?

Posted on Dec 3, 2020 by .

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a challenging year, but at the same time it has taught us how to adapt and find new ways to drive results both personally and professionally. The same holds true for B2B marketers. Many of their plans were turned upside down around mid-March and they had to find new ways to stay on plan and still hit their goals. Watching the marketing community pivot, and pivot quickly, has been an impressive thing to see. As we look into 2021, how are B2B marketers planning out their year? Where is their budget going and why? We believe these three big ticket items are going to be top of mind for them in 2021:

1) Looking at events through a different lens

We all know that events have changed, most likely forever. Yes, in-person events will eventually come back, but even when they do the event game has changed and because of that the way marketing departments plan out their event budgets is going to be drastically different in 2021. Their budget will drop into the following buckets:

  • Virtual Events – for the last nine months of 2020, virtual events have seen a resurgence. They haven’t been this in demand since the recession of 2008 when travel and event budgets were slashed across the board. The main difference is this time virtual events are here to stay. In our recent webinar – 2021 Lead Generation: Virtual Event Domination – we talk about all things virtual, including how the overwhelming percentage of event budgets will go to virtual events in 2021. The technology and the ability to connect more effectively with your peers in a virtual environment has greatly improved, and because marketers have been forced to leverage virtual events with in-person not being an option, they’re seeing the benefits firsthand – they’re safer, more cost effective, more measurable, have longer term lead generation impact and generate better ROI than in-person events. Virtual events will see even greater adoption with B2B marketers taking a ‘digital first’ event strategy next year.
  • Hybrid Events – when in-person events eventually come back with some level of consistency, most likely in the 2nd half of the year, the smart organizations will have digital extensions of those events. Hybrid events cater to both crowds – the folks that will be attending in-person and the folks that are staying at home. A large portion of professionals are going to shy away from in-person events for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean they’re not buyers. Putting together a hybrid event format enables them to still engage and consume your content from the comfort of their home, office or wherever they might be. As you look at potential virtual event platforms for 2021, but you know you want to execute some physical events as well, make sure the providers you’re speaking with have the ability to help you execute hybrid events. Like virtual only events, hybrid will see mass adoption next year
  • Smaller scale in-person events – when they do come back, in-person events will be at a much smaller scale initially. It is hard to believe that folks will jump right into physical events that have 5,000, 10,000 or more people in 2021. The events will be smaller scale and more personal, but that could be a very good thing for many organizations. Some of the complaints about large scale physical events is that they are difficult to navigate and organizations/brands can get lost in the shuffle. Because of that, many marketers have felt for a long time that they weren’t generating enough awareness and quality leads from physical events which led to poor ROI. These smaller scale events will be safer and enable organizations to connect with their customers and prospects on a more personal level, leading to better pipeline and revenue growth as a result.

2) ABM will be a force to be reckoned with

ABM (account-based marketing) has been around for a good while, but just recently have companies started to do it right. In 2021, we believe ABM will become one of the dominate strategies for leading B2B marketers. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Marketers are revenue generators now – the days of marketers generating large amounts of soft leads and saying, “look at me, I’m killing it!”, are gone. Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are a thing of the past. B2B marketers are heavily tied to revenue now and thus their focus must be on strategies that drive qualified pipeline and revenue growth. The economic impacts of COVID have forced companies to tighten budgets and focus on campaigns that are targeted, more personalized and generate higher quality conversions.
  • Better customer retention – ABM isn’t just for acquiring new customers, it’s also a way to improve the customer experience and retain existing customers. It’s a lot more costly to bring on new customers than it is to keep existing ones. ABM offers a more personalized touch that keeps your customers engaged and turns them into brand ambassadors.

3) Quality content will be king

We’ve all heard the saying ‘Content is King.’ In our eyes, quality content is king and that’s true now more than ever. In the current environment it’s more difficult to catch the attention of buyers, so B2B marketers have to be savvy about the content they create (think buyer-centric content that educates) and how they promote it and deliver it. Here are the vehicles that will get your message and quality content to your targeted audience the right way:

  • Email marketing – it looks like the remote workforce might be the new normal, with many organizations finding out they can be just as efficient working from home. Because of that, smart email marketing strategies will be a must. However, these emails will only be effective if they are offering prospects and customers something of value…
  • Videos, webinars and virtual events – organizations will move away from static content and instead lean on content that is more engaging and provides better insight into buyer behavior. Short-form videos that tell a story and educate will continue to be huge in 2021. Webinars and virtual events, as highlighted earlier in this blog, will see even more adoption in 2021. They are content hubs that enable B2B marketers to interact with their customers and prospects a number of different ways, and they offer more insight into buyer needs/wants than any other form of content marketing. This insight will lead to more personalized/smarter outreach, better conversions and significant revenue growth.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

5 Keys to Virtual Event Success

Posted on Oct 7, 2020 by .

Virtual events have made a tremendous rebound in 2020 for obvious reasons, and guess what? They’re not going anywhere. Faced with no other option for the last 7 months, organizations have been forced to take their events online (or cancel them altogether) and are clearly seeing the benefits that virtual event providers have touted all along – they’re more cost effective; they can drive more traffic; they’re more measurable and allow for better post-event follow-up; and in this day and age, they’re a heck of a lot safer. With that said, virtual event success doesn’t come easy. Certain items must be in place and steps have to be followed to realize the event ROI you’re looking for. Now let’s dig into the 5 Keys to Virtual Event Success.

  1. Plan, Plan, Plan – for whatever reason, there’s a tendency for folks to think that just because an event is online it doesn’t need a proper project plan. That couldn’t be further from the truth. At minimum, we believe there should be an 8-week project plan for virtual events, but that can change based on the size of your event. If you have a larger scale event with more rooms/spaces and more content, you should look at 10-12 weeks. We’re coming off of a sizeable virtual event a few weeks ago that had a 14-week project plan against it. At the end of the day, virtual events are events and need to be treated as such.
  2. Determine the experience, and vendor, that fit your needs – I know this sounds incredibly obvious, but it’s a very large piece of the equation. Do you want a truly immersive experience that offers a ton of different ways for your audience to engage and connect? Or are you looking for a series of Zoom meetings over the course of 4-5 hours? In our opinion, a virtual event is not a series of Zoom meetings or GoToMeeting sessions. It IS an environment where your attendees can experience different event spaces, watch sessions, download content, engage with experts and network with their peers. Also, think about the support you want the day(s) of your event. Do you want your internal team to manage all of the technical details, or do you want your vendor to handle the technical aspects of your event to ensure everybody is able to attend and view the event with no issues? These are very important decisions that will have a direct impact on your attendee experience.
  3. When possible, pre-record your sessions – pre-recorded and simu-live webinars are becoming the new norm…and that’s just for one-off presentations. When you look at a virtual event that could have a lot of sessions, you want to limit the amount of 100% live webinars. Pre-recording your sessions limits the amount of live day streaming, which in turn decreases live day stress. It also gives you peace of mind that your presentations will be perfectly executed and gives your attendees the value they signed up for. Of course, there are instances where live sessions are completely unavoidable and that’s okay. We’re not saying your sessions can’t have live components – we want them to be as engaging/interactive as they can be and some form of live element (see live Q&A, polls, surveys, chat) will increase audience engagement. We’re just saying pre-recording whenever possible is going to give you a better end result.
  4. Think outside-the-box – virtual events are the perfect forum to get creative. They are the ultimate content marketing tool. Think about how you want to make your content available – through webinars, booths, resource centers, networking café’s, product showcases, etc. Additionally, think about how you want to enable peer-to-peer networking. Can they network within booths, within sessions or anywhere within your virtual event? The right virtual event provider will not only provide you with a lot of these options, but also be willing to customize event spaces and functionality to fit your needs.
  5. Have an on-demand plan – yes, you want to drive large numbers to your live virtual event. You want live day engagement and interaction. However, unlike in-person/physical events, you can extend the shelf-life of your virtual event through on-demand archiving. It’s very important to have an on-demand plan ahead of time. Do NOT wait until the event is on-demand to put your plan together. If you promote it and position it the right way, your event can become an on-demand virtual resource center that will continue to educate and engage your audience, while increasing your overall event ROI. This is something that you simply can’t do effectively with in-person events, so be sure to take advantage of it.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

The Corona Impact on Event Marketing

Posted on Mar 10, 2020 by .

The last thing I want to do here is beat a dead horse, but let’s face it – the Coronavirus is having a massive effect on B2B events and B2B event marketers. SXSW just cancelled their March event last week. Facebook cancelled their event. Google cancelled their developer conference. Oracle, SAP, RedHat and many others have either cancelled or postponed what many see as industry critical events. Side note – even the BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells) was cancelled on Sunday and I’m a huge tennis fan! You get the picture, it’s a mess out there. If you want to see the lineup of B2B tech events that are being cancelled or postponed, here is a good resource for it.

With all this event hysteria, virtual/online events have come to the forefront again. Organizations are scrambling to put a digital event structure in place because, regardless of the coronavirus or any other pandemic, they still have an audience and they need to be able to give their audience what they want. With physical, in-person events not being an option right now, they’re turning to virtual events, online events and webinars as the main way to meet and engage their prospects and customers. All of this reminds me of two prior events that forced B2B marketers to look at physical event alternatives – the 2008 financial crash and the 2014 oil bust. In 2008, the first items that were slashed from the budget were travel, entertainment and thus, events. I would argue at that time virtual events had the biggest surge they ever experienced. In 2014, oil and gas marketers had to find alternative ways to meet with their audience. The good ole’ boy way of shaking hands at conferences and racking up big expense reports was no longer an option. We then started to see more oil and gas companies leverage virtual events, webinars, webcasts and all sorts of online events to market to their base.

It shouldn’t take a time of crises, however, to put an online event strategy in place. Too many companies dedicate most of their budgets to physical events and too often the ROI is just not there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked an event marketer how their physical events are working out for them and I get the response of “they’re okay.” When I proceed to ask why they keep investing so heavily in something that is just ‘okay’, I typically get the following:

  • “If we don’t show up or exhibit, people are going to wonder why we’re not there.”
  • “If we don’t have a presence, our competitors are going to get all of the leads.”

I call complete and total BS on both. The main reason most companies continue to invest in physical events more than anything else is because it’s what they’ve always done. There’s a resistance to digitally transform their event structure. They don’t want to step outside of their comfort zone and change the event narrative. I’m not saying to scrap physical events. I get that they need to be a part of the mix, but they need to be scaled back to make room for alternatives that have less barriers, are more measurable and more often than not give you more bang for your buck. Enter online/digital events.

When you think about planning your next event and all the money it’s going to cost, ask yourself if it would be better for you, your company and your customers/prospects if you did it via an online event or webinar. Is it really necessary to rent that space for $20k, pay for everyone to get there and pay for everyone to eat/drink, when you could’ve done it all online? Couldn’t that lunch and learn at the Marriott (with that brutal banquet food) have been a two-part webinar series? Again, I get that physical events need to be a part of the marketing plan. However, the smart marketers are going to ensure that every physical event has a digital element (see hybrid events, on-demand event webinars, on-demand virtual events) and are going to ramp up their webinar and online event game significantly moving forward. Online events are for everyone, regardless of industry, and there’s never been a better time to look at them as your go-to event option.

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com

10 Stats that Prove ABM is Ready for Primetime

Posted on Feb 20, 2020 by .

It’s no longer a buzzword, but rather a necessity for B2B organizations that want to get and stay ahead of the competition. Once thought of as a tactic for only large enterprises, companies of all sizes are starting to play the Account-Based Marketing (ABM) game. Spray and pray is out and a targeted, more personalized multi-pronged approach is the way forward (see Elastic’s Four-Pronged Approach to ABM Success).

Here are 10 stats that prove ABM is more than ready for the big stage:

Higher ROI – Research by ITSMA found that 87%of marketers that measure ROI say that ABM outperforms every other marketing investment.

Pipeline Impact – Marketing leaders are more tied to revenue than ever before, and because of that their main goal with any new marketing initiative is to generate revenue. In a study by Demand Gen Report and LeadData, 54% of marketers cite “influence pipeline” as their primary ABM metric.

Deal Size Increases – in a study by SiriusDecisions, 91% of companies using ABM were able to increase their average deal size, with 25% of respondents stating the increase being over 50% or larger.

ABM Maturity – According to Pardot’s State of ABM, 24% of companies reported having ABM programs that were well underway or advanced. Another 45% said they just started. Only 7% said they have no plans to start an ABM initiative

ABM Budget – According to Pardot’s State of ABM, the average percentage of the marketing budget that would be dedicated to ABM was 29%

Better ROI than Other Marketing Initiatives – 97% of marketers say ABM had a somewhat higher or much higher ROI than other marketing initiatives, according to SiriusDecisions

ABM=Revenue – Companies using ABM generate 208% more revenue from their marketing efforts

More Opportunities Created – According to Gartner, ABM programs show a 70% increase in the number of opportunities created

ABM Aligns Sales & Marketing – According to Demandbase, 83% of marketers say ABM increases engagement with target accounts, making the marketing and sales process more efficient overall

Marketers Want Better Leads; Enter ABM – ABM’s rise has largely been attributed to B2B marketers who were not satisfied with their more traditional lead-gen programs. According to Crowd Research Partners, improving the quality of leads remains the top priority for a majority (68%) of B2B marketers. Only 16% of these folks are actually happy with the effectiveness of their lead-gen programs

Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ jstegent@elasticroi.com