The world of in-person marketing events is on pause. In reality, nobody really knows how long virtual event marketing would our safest bet to drive live engagement with our customers.
While the change can be paralysing, we believe there are opportunities to be taken advantage of. By fully embracing virtual events, many brands are realising that the virtual world has a wider reach and can even be more cost-effective.
If you’d be willing to adapt quickest to the new tools and the latest conferencing technology, you will have a jump on the competition.
You can do virtual events in many different ways, from Q&A sessions to large conferences. You can also host live webinars or stream pre-recorded material.
Our agency executed a highly successful two-part webinar series for our client, Republic Bank Limited in July 2020. The purpose was to be a helpful guide to SME owners navigating through Covid-19. The landing pages were viewed over 20,000 times which resulted in 928 SME owners (current and potential customers) attending the sessions.
Already 82% of people prefer watching a live video over reading a social post. Among millennials, 63% of them regularly watch livestreams. Consumers are 39% more likely to share video-related content.
In this article, we identify the opportunities where marketers can tap into virtual events not just to drive awareness and engagement but also establish other profitable streams of income for their organisations.
Virtual events done well
A few lucky brands can actually migrate their product to a virtual space and still make money directly. Notable examples during COVID-19 have been smart zoos and museums are doing virtual tours to open up to a wider audience.
The rest of the brands who are not so lucky can still use virtual marketing to great effect. Apple has an annual worldwide developer conference which was recently converted to a virtual event. It was a great success and had the developer industry buzzing with excitement.
Cisco’s Live 2020 featured 7,000 sessions and over 10,000 hours of content. This free event allowed attendees to check the agenda beforehand to see what they were interested in. Unlike an in-person event where attendees have to wander around to look for what they are interested in, virtual events allow you to hone in on your exact interests.
The annual Adobe summit is a big draw for photographers and designers but had to be converted to digital-only format this year. With over 100 breakout sessions, there was plenty to see.
For our own part, we recently held a virtual fundraising event for families who experienced financial fallout from Covid-19. From 316 page opens and 5,500 impressions, we were able to raise TT$85,000 for this worthy cause.
How to measure the ROI of virtual events
In-person events generate large numbers of leads but are very expensive and you’d spend a lot of time on planning and logistics. It is now estimated that virtual events are 75% cheaper than in-person events. Counting up the leads and business cards that result in sales from a live-event is an old-school way of calculating ROI.
With the technology around virtual events, you’d be able to track your ROI with high levels of accuracy. Most conferencing platforms have decent analytics built into them like attendee numbers and login duration. You generally get what you pay for when it comes to the depth and quality of tracking metrics.
Many systems have light reporting tools, but high-quality paid tools will have detailed reports on true engagement. Some tools will get attendees to answer real-time polls or surveys. Other tools allow you to track real-time registrations or purchases. After the event you can group, collate, and export all this important information to produce powerful and detailed ROI reports.
Things to get right before you start your virtual event
Before you start, you should know what you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to increase traffic to your blog by a certain percentage? Are you trying to increase social media engagement? Are you trying to educate?
Are you trying to generate new leads for a specific product or service? All these questions will tell you how you have performed at the end of it all.
Get great conferencing functionality
Like all emerging trends, competition soon takes over. If your virtual event is boring and one-paced, consumers will not engage with your brand because they have experienced better elsewhere.
Choose platforms with great innovative features like “chat roulette” where attendees can easily swipe from one room to another. Look for tools with the best networking features, so people can share their enthusiasm for your content.
Determine your virtual event audience
Who are you doing this for? What kind of a brand are you? Is your style upbeat and trendy? Or are you a serious thought leader?
The kind of event you host will depend on what the data in your CRM tells you. What is the age profile of your clientele? What is their social media usage? At what stage are they in their life and career? If you have customer intimacy, you will know what they want to hear and experience.
Sharpen your online presence
You probably already have a company website, now is the time to optimise it to be ready for your big event. Check for SEO optimisation and add and intuitive event calendars with links to registration pages.
It’s a good idea to use your landing page to harvest any leads or important information you can from registrations. You can also add links to social media networks. Make your branding loud and proud and don’t forget to make everything mobile-ready.
Work on your communication strategy
When brainstorming the best marketing strategy, it’s important to prioritise how you will communicate with registrants.
As you take them through the marketing journey, don’t alienate anyone by impersonal or intrusive communications when you have done the hard work of organising the virtual event. Personalise your communications and add simple touches like using first names to establish familiarity.
Construct your virtual event toolkit
It must be getting clearer as we talk about virtual events, that dedicated and purpose-built software is the key to success.
You can’t afford to go wrong at any stage. Your event registration tool needs to be accurate and responsive so that it captures all the correct information which is essential for post-event contact.
To encourage greater collaboration, you should have a conferencing system that can facilitate great tools like face-to-face breakaways between speakers and guests. You’d want your customers to be talking about what a great event you organised afterwards, because good word-of-mouth marketing is always welcomed.
Your livestream tool should be robust and scalable so that you can intimately engage with your audience. Your social media team should be on its game so that key takeaways are shared on all your social media accounts.
We exist in a stage of unprecedented impact and change. Many new habits and technologies will be with us even beyond the short-term life of the pandemic.
Virtual events might be one thing that lasts well into the new normal. As marketers, we should be prepared to pivot to this new space before our competition does.