From In-Person to Online
As marketers, we’re no strangers to changes in plans. While we’ve been increasingly implementing digital strategies, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technologies and platforms that allow us to connect virtually.
Virtual events such as webinars and panel discussions are not exactly new. However, shifting to virtual conferences and trade shows certainly presents challenges for sales and marketing teams that once relied on in-person interactions to generate quality leads.
As we begin to navigate our way through this new normal, many are experimenting with ways to create a virtual experience that is comparable and just as engaging, if not more so. For many, virtual contact can be just as fulfilling as in-person. Despite the challenges, there are also some significant benefits to participating in a virtual event.
The Pros and Cons of Virtual Events
Shifting to fully virtual conferences and tradeshows is somewhat of a double-edged sword for sales and marketing teams.
- Wider reach. Virtual events tend to have more attendees because people can forego the costs of travel.
- Targeted messaging and quality engagement. You can execute highly targeted campaigns before and after the event. Leads that show an interest may be more likely to convert than the ones you flagged down on the exhibit hall floor.
- Measurable results. You can more easily gauge the popularity of certain talks and sessions, attendance, attendee demographics, and more.
- Lack of in-person contact. While virtual presentations are a great way to distribute thought leadership, when it comes to relationship building, they may leave something to be desired.
- Engagement. It could be more challenging to cut through the virtual noise and hold onto someone’s attention without a face-to-face interaction.
- Technical difficulties. While we hope that the event hosts can provide a smooth technological experience, some attendees may not adjust to the new technology as quickly as others.
Tips for Success for Virtual Events
Because you can anticipate potential opportunities to leverage, as well as challenges that may arise, consider these recommendations to tip the scales in your favor.
Before the Event
- Learn the features of the platform being used to host the event ahead of time. Gain an understanding of the capabilities and strategize early. For example, find out if you will be able to invite a virtual visitor at your booth to chat or schedule a meeting. Determine if you can later view and send messages to people who visited your booth that you didn’t get a chance to speak with.
- Invest in your virtual booth. Make sure that your booth is the best representation of your brand and consider opting for advanced features to give you a competitive edge. Also, be prepared with a range of content for various types of customers, just like you would for an in-person event. Because you won’t need to worry about space or shipping costs, you can upload a variety of content for prospects to download.
- Do more upfront planning. Execute highly targeted campaigns to your top prospects and start communicating early. Use email marketing to your advantage and try to pique their interest and schedule meetings before the event.
During the Event
- Find opportunities to engage. Look for opportunities to speak or present. You can even look for chances to host smaller breakout sessions or networking breaks. Be active in digital chat areas discussing the content presented with other attendees and invite them to visit your virtual booth.
- Focus on quality over quantity. If you get to host a networking meeting, keep it small (about ten or less). You want to invite the right people, not as many people as possible. Try to recreate the same type of conversational dynamic of a networking break. Keep cameras and microphones on!
- Build relationships. Many seasoned sales professionals will tell you that your first impression with a prospect is a lot like a first date. Focus on building a relationship with them before you go for the sale. No one wants a proposal on the first date! Once you’ve established a connection, it will be easier to land a dedicated sales meeting when you follow up.
After the Event
- Prompt follow-up. Follow up with your new contacts quickly after the event. Send them content that is highly interesting and relevant to them. If you can, try to get their mailing address so you can send them physical, personalized, engaging content via snail mail.
- Connect on LinkedIn. Find your new prospects and others who engaged with your virtual booth on LinkedIn and send them a connection request with a personalized message. They’ll be more receptive to your request if you can make a connection point by referencing the event, or a discussion that you both took part in.
- Reflect If you attended the event, consider how successful it was. Think about what worked and what didn’t. If it was your sales/marketing staff that attended, get this feedback from them, and use this information to strategize for future events.
The Future of Event Marketing
While many will be eager to get back to in-person events, marketers would be remiss to not take this opportunity to hone their virtual marketing skills. Even though in-person events will surely return after the pandemic, it’s a safe bet that many more events will begin to adopt fully virtual or hybrid structures in the future.
To learn more about how FARM can help you with your virtual event strategy and position you for long-term success, reach out today!