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Digital, Nimble and Agile – The New Normal of Events and Conferences

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. In this blog, we will look into newer ways of bringing back in-person events and how you can leverage existing tools (technology) to achieve the same.

Time to pause and pivot

5% of B2B organizations 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: 

Offer alternatives 
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. For example, while the traditional GoToMeeting and Zooms still rule the world, orchestrate some fun discussions with MakeSpace.fun that allows you to bring any face to the forefront, with just a few clicks.
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. For instance, use the Blackboard tool to host training like webinars, or even Tame that allows you to activate Live Polls and Q&A during sessions or even use mmhmm.app and say bye-bye to boring decks.
Events that deliver the right message
Any industry webinar or live-video conference event can have between 400 to 800 registrants. Plan your webinars to emphasize any experiences or solutions that you can offer to your customers. You can alternatively host the webinar on high-level thought leadership discussions that may be applicable to a larger audience. This is where well-crafted content comes into play. Gimmicks are out, so stress on messaging that lays importance on durability and reliability. At the end of the day, make it as interactive as possible. One of the most well crafted webinar was Ogilvy’s Nudge Stock that bought over an eclectic mix of talks and case studies held over 12 hours. It was broken up to address each time-zone.
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. 

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. 

List of events that needs your SaaSy presence

Here is a list of the top virtual and in-person events/conferences happening all around the world.

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 like ScanBizCards, Cluster Cards 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 already been canceled or postponed, there may be some who are still planning to host or even attend an event physically sometime later in Q4 or even early next 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. (WHO has a detailed guideline for events, here

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. Here is another blog that talks about contract clauses that can save your business during the pandemic. 

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. While the list here will definitely help you choose from some of the most interesting conferences and meet-ups that are high on your ROI, it is time to adapt fast to be able to rule the emerging market space. 

How are you leveraging your marketing budgets, now that most of the events are either postponed or canceled? Which webinar or virtual conference has made it to your checklist?

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Aditi is a Product Consultant at Revv, a leading document management software company that provides document templates that help run your business. All about chasing sunsets, her thoughts collide with everything SaaS and oscillates between the midnight musings of a poet and her fav authors. Can be mostly found near dogs or in a cafe with a book.

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