The virtual event is seen by many B-to-B marketers as the marketing tool of our time, offering the effectiveness and efficiency organizations require in today's business environment. As virtual show hosts and exhibitors embrace this solution, however, they also must adopt core best practices to attract high-quality leads and maximize event ROI.
1. Engage attendees. Event length is not the most critical factor related to attendee interest and engagement. Instead, the key is to develop interesting, compelling and educational content. If content is boring or does not bring relevant value, you will lose your attendees—and their sales. Inviting an industry expert, customer or partner to present a case study or conduct an interview during a virtual event can be highly effective. This stimulates more interest and helps drive participation.
For example, a marketing consulting group offered a virtual event that provided tips for maximizing holiday sales at a time when the holiday period was key to many retailers' survival. More than 90 percent of the registrants attended; more typical attendance for virtual events is half that.
2. Match message to audience. Virtual event messaging varies, depending on topic and audience demographics and interests. A high-level briefing delivered by a CEO is a typical application, as is a technical new product demonstration delivered by a product manager. One recommended best practice is to quiz registrants about their interests; doing so provides greater insight into the audience's priorities. This information then can be used to tailor presentations and other content to the audience's needs and level of expertise, as well as to qualify participants.
A virtual technical conference for design engineers, for instance, featured a keynote delivered by a noted researcher and university professor. The 4,000 engineers who attended launched more than 3,000 webinars and opened more than 6,200 documents in the event environment.
3. Fully leverage virtual reporting tools. One of the biggest advantages of a virtual event is the reporting tools that are available. They provide comprehensive information about attendee behavior. In addition, virtual event sponsors and exhibitors should take advantage of other opportunities to collect analytical data, such as:
- Soliciting participants' feedback. For example, as attendees exit the show, ask them a few questions to further qualify them as sales prospects.
- Focusing on sales follow-up and lead nurturing after the show.
Mark Szelenyi is director of product marketing for San Francisco-based virtual events and webcasting provider ON24. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.