Time to Pause And Pivot for the events industry: Rishi Kulkarni, CEO & Co-founder, Revv
As the world moves on and evolves their communication based on the uncertainty created by COVID-19, it is time to find new and safer ways to generate leads via events, writes Kulkarni.
For most B2B companies, in-person events have been the cornerstone touchpoints when it comes to lead gen and marketing activities. But as COVID-19 affected businesses across the globe, these worldwide events and conferences took a back-seat. While the cancellation/postponement of events certainly saved up money, this came at a great cost when it came to creating a lasting ‘brand’ impact, affecting sales and revenues at the end. Today, as the world moves on and evolves their communication based on the uncertainty created by COVID-19, it is time to find new and safer ways to generate leads via events.
Time to pause and pivot
5% of B2B organisations spend over 21% of their marketing budgets on events - 2020 Event Marketing Statistics, Trends and Data
Under normal conditions, B2B events just required the planning process. But in the current situation, it is more critical to pause and pivot when approaching any kind of event marketing.
Here are a few ways that you can achieve that:
As the traditional face-to-face events become unfeasible under the new norm, it is time to invest more in webinars and virtual conferences. These can be conducted safely from an environment that is comfortable viz a viz your homes. Webinars are also powerful tools to establish thought leaders and brand visibility.
Open communication channels
Ease the pain of confusion by maintaining proper channels for all communications. Give clear responsibilities and instructions and modus operandi to everyone involved. During the event, keep engaging with your audience. To successfully do so, involve the right kind of tools.
Events that deliver the right message
Breakaway from chats to network
While nothing beats in-person networking, there are certainly ways to improve networking opportunities during a virtual event. During the event, encourage people to say where they are from, their skills and leverage it by making these part of your conversations. Don’t make it a snore-fest of slide shows. Try and look into other popular online events to identify the ‘sweet spot’ of virtual speaking.
Saying ‘Yes’ to events and conferences
While there is still some time for the in-person events and conferences to make an official come-back, it is important to keep participating in these virtual events too. Why? Not only can these act as great platforms for networking and connections, but they are also perfect places for learning more about the industry.
●Say ‘yes’, if you are a tech developer: For an industry like SaaS, technology is forever evolving. Every month, there are new innovations being discovered that can disrupt the way things are presently done. Before some of these technologies actually became the Ubers and Facebooks of the world, they were often publicized in such events. Since then, these events became a go-to place to know more about disruptive technology and learning from it.
●Say yes, if you are a startup: Startups come with their own set of challenges and it’s in the conferences that you get a chance to discuss with your peers who are in a similar war-zone. Hearing customer testimonies from businesses can also provide insights about where you stand in comparison to others. These events - especially online panel discussions, webinars, podcasts - lets you know whether you are hitting the mark, or do you need a mentor or even some product beta testing done. These places are perfect for you to set up a brand identity without doing much!
●Say yes, if you want to begin your entrepreneurial journey: Some of these events are excellent to attend mainly because of the content that you get. These conferences and soirees are much more private and you might need to take the help of your SaaSy fellows to know which ones to attend. A good way is to set up Google Alerts and use social media platforms like LinkedIn for updates.
●Say yes, if you are looking for investments: Any founder would always tell you how important investments are. VCs and angel investors often host meetups that can act as your launch pads (incubators). You can either follow the investors and connect with them on LinkedIn or even keep an eye on Eventbrite/Meetup.com.
Now that you know why you should attend these events - how do you know which ones are actually worth your precious time?
Who catches the eye!
●Who’s who is attending?
Any conference which has a healthy attendance number should qualify, but here are a few sub-metrics that you should keep in mind. Remember, those large numbers are not always the most important factor.
1.Who all are attending from which industry and how were their past experiences with the same.
2.If it is a small event, like a panel discussion, or a soiree - check out the credentials of the panelists or speakers and understand what value and experience these guys are bringing to the event. Visit the speaker’s LinkedIn profile to understand their background and expertise.
3.Who’s backing or sponsoring the event - Depending on whether they are startups, VCs or even bigger enterprises will help you make a better call. Remember, conferences are not meant to be a cattle call!
4.Keep checking your competitors and find out what events they are attending. This can be done by following their company page on social media (chances are that they will promote), and their website.
●What is the ROI?
Decide the value metric you will use to determine whether the cost of attendance will generate any form of returns for you. This will greatly depend on the kind of the event and also, the value spent at the cost of attending.
Making them head over heels in love with you (post event)
Your customer is not your back-up plan and definitely not your second choice!
You do attend one of these online events and everything goes perfect - prospective customers are right swiped, investors details are collected, a lot of industry pain points are discussed - a lot of right swipes! But these same prospects probably right-swiped a lot of other companies (your competitors) too. So, how do you deal with them and make them fall head over heels in love, uh... become your brand advocate?
●Begin with a list: Always. Everyone would have a different agenda, would hail from a different industry, or even have a different job role. Sending them the same emails does not make sense. A list comes in handy. Differentiate based on job description, location, business domain, and interests (even pain points). Target your emails accordingly. If you are confused about where to begin, start with a simple ‘Thank You’ note.
●Prepped and ready to rumble: Before the pandemic, if it was a large conference, there would have been thousands of people visiting your booth every hour. This meant there would be hundreds of information pieces that you might have overlooked or missed even. Technology would help by scanning all cards and saving all info on your phone. But in an online event, things are much more sorted. These events usually have a limited audience and the guest lists are easily available. Reach out to the sponsors and try to gauge the audience before initiating marketing activities like ads, emails, etc.
●Go the digital route: Since in-person leads are on the lower side, opt for the digital marketing routes. Choose digital ads and drive more online content to provide the appropriate routes for conversion. You can also make brand awareness through online channels, turn to host online events, webinars and nurture via emails.
●Woo them over on social media: LinkedIn has always topped the list when it comes to building your business network, finding out more about your prospects or even looking for potential hires or business partners. Personalize your connection requests, follow up and be an active member of the social media to make heads turn.
A word of caution
While most major events have been already canceled or postponed, there may be some who are still planning to host or even attend an event physically sometime this year. Others are thinking of restricting the size of potential clients by hosting smaller events. If this is the case, check with the local governments in your area on restriction guidelines.
Respect people who don’t want to attend in person but who still want to participate in such events. Offer them alternatives like virtual booths, or even guaranteed spots on postponed events. Assure them of the hygiene and cleanliness steps taken.
Lastly, look over at the event-based contracts. For those who are attending, if there are clauses on lost attendance, especially due to the ‘threat of a pandemic,’ there should be an opportunity for restitution. For the hosts, contracts should clearly outline where the responsibilities lie, which assets are financially covered, and policies for unforeseen circumstances.
Attending events is no child’s play!
Events can prove to be a gold mine if planned correctly. But with thousands of events getting canceled, it's time to move the virtual way. It is time to adapt fast to be able to rule the emerging market space.
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