Why digital events should be part of your marketing mix

For many companies, events have been a great way to grow their pipeline. Meeting people face-to-face, discussing what obstacles companies need to overcome and how your solution can help do just that (and more). It’s a place where people share experiences, thoughts, and here and there a smile. As Mastercard would say… PRICELESS.

Many of the companies I have been talking to in the past eight months have had a tough time as in-person event marketing has been a vital part of their marketing mix. Digital ads, content marketing, SEO, SEA, SEM, PPC, email, etc. are all great — and can be very effective to grow your business — but companies need to build relations (especially B2B SaaS). These companies need to make deeper connections and that’s when they’ve turned to in-person events.

But with no in-person events taking place since March, companies need to look at alternatives. Lead marketers and CMOs were forced to throw their strategy for 2020 in the bin and start from scratch. A lot of companies scaled down their marketing budgets at the beginning of the pandemic as a result of the uncertainty and the economic impact.

While that was most likely a wise decision at that time, it’s not viable for the long term. With churn going up and pipelines drying up, you need to take action to bring in new business.

Unfortunately it’s not as easy as moving budgets from in-person events to, say, PPC. In general, every channel has its limitations and cannot be scaled into infinity (otherwise you would have done so already, right?).

Event organizers — including us at TNW — have to help educate the market on how companies can get most out of their presence at digital events.

The alternative to in-person events are the digital equivalents, BUT here comes the issue. Not all digital events are created equally.

You’ve go really shit ones, while others are really great and valuable — the problem is you can’t tell which ones are which from their landing page. Thousands of digital events have sprung up and — just as with in-person events — most of them are not worthy of your time, let alone your precious marketing budget.

But this aside, the opportunity for your company in participating and sponsoring digital events is huge, arguably equal or even bigger than in person events. Why? Well, digital event presence scales better.

Think about it: no travel costs, no hotels, no travel time, a lot cheaper to participate. You can actually participate in multiple events with the same team on the same day. That’s IF you nail your digital events strategy.

We organized five Couch Conferences in May and June, as well as The Global Boardroom in collaboration with the FT in May, bringing together over 100,000 people at our digital events already.

The results for our partners are really promising — especially when they’ve had a clear plan for what they want to achieve — and there’s a lot more room to optimize. We’ve also advised partners on their own client events and helped them implement and execute their digital events strategy (if you want more details, ping me on Linkedin).

Just like with in-person events you need to have a battle plan: how you are going to get the most out of the online event, how you are going to capture leads, how you’re approaching people, how you’re positioning your product on the digital events platform.

You also need to decide what story you’re telling at the event. Are you for example launching a new product? Or there to catch up with current clients? Are you perhaps testing a new market or product? Or looking to hire new digital talent?

Based on that, you need to determine who are the most suitable people to join the event from your team to execute your battle plan, and nail down how you are going to follow up after the event.

Event organizers — including us at TNW — have to help educate the market on how companies can get most out of their presence at digital events. I’m confident digital events are here to stay, even when in-person comes back. This belief also means that there’s a business model supporting it that works for all parties involved: exhibitors, sponsors, as well as event organizers and attendees.

So to sum up:

My take-it-or-leave-it-advice

  • Decide (and put down on paper!) whether and where digital events fit into your customer acquisition or retention journey.

  • Do your research and go beyond the landing page of an event before you decide to participate, exhibit, or partner with them.

  • Set your KPIs — which outcomes are you focusing on and can be measured?

  • Create a digital events battle plan.

  • Host an internal workshop with your sales and marketing team to discuss KPIs, responsibilities, and best practices.

  • Implement KPI tracking: make sure your conversations and leads are logged into your CRM and other tools.

  • Go out and test with a couple of digital events to try out your new strategy. The costs of digital events is lower, so it’s easier to fit more into your events budget.

  • Evaluate the results and adjust where needed.

Note: if you’re unsure or in doubt if digital events should be part of your marketing mix, a really good place to start is to attend a few events (start with TNW Conference) with a small group of people — with marketing and sales at least — to experience and see what can be done, and how digital events can fit into your marketing strategy.

At TNW2020 we have tickets for all budgets available, I personally recommend a Business Pass (to get a good view, you want to have networking features) which is just €99 excluding VAT at the moment.

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