Events Have Gone Digital, and Marketers need to Adapt
The meetings and events industry has undergone a dramatic shift during the global pandemic, causing an acceleration of technology adoption and digitalization. While this has certainly been a strain on planning professionals, marketers too have been forced to adapt as the live, in-person marketing channel has all but disappeared. The digital transformation of events meant having to re-think traditional event strategy, in a hurry.
As organizations have pivoted to virtual events, marketers have embraced this digital channel as a way to recover leads, pipeline, and revenue, which is more important now than ever.The truth is, a great deal of opportunity exists as organizations look to bring more events online and integrate them with the rest of their digital marketing mix. Managing this new channel for maximum value needs to become a core competence for marketing leaders.
A Five-Year Digital Leap
This past summer, we vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks. This was no different in the events industry. After a wave of early cancellations, the pivot to online events was swift and borne out of necessity. The industry flourished as a result. For marketers who rely on events, the main takeaway was both eye-opening and encouraging: the potential to exponentially expand awareness and lead volume at virtual events as they attract new and larger audiences, with many virtual events experiencing at least a 3X-4X INCREASE OR MORE in attendance over their in-person equivalent. The challenge for CMOs has been how to turn that reach into revenue and do it at scale. As more and more events go online, events increasingly resemble the digital channels familiar to most demand generation functions.
Opportunities Abound in the Digital Events Space
How do marketers take full advantage of this “growth spurt?” Virtual event technology is the clear solution that’s established itself in these past several months. Virtual event tech helps drive engagement and then enables marketers to capture that valuable activity and interest data in ways that just weren’t possible (or, at least fully realized yet) at the start of 2020.Combiningthis digital event data mine with what you already know about prospects and customers means opening up this wealth of opportunity strategically, allowing marketers to route hot prospects to sales and marketing nurtures based on readiness and interest off of better data than ever before. And, when in-person events do return, these same practices will scale across the full event channel(virtual, hybrid, and in-person), allowing you to utilize and optimize all event types.
Rethink Your Teams Through the Virtual Event Lens
The silos that separate marketing and planning should forever be torn down—in reality they never should have existed in the first place. Your planning team may have been a fine-tuned machine when it came to in-person events, but as we mentioned above, virtual events require some rethinking of traditional workflows, hand-offs, and many of the new skills required to excel in the digital space.
The reliance on digital means planners taking on the role of video producer, concerning themselves with camera angles, recording sessions, etc. Planners are now finding the traditional run-of-show to be much more comprehensive, and complex. This shift in thinking means more of a tech-first mentality for planners, with digital marketing and marketing operations skills increasingly needed to onboard new technologies and manage key integrations that allow data to flow. At Cvent, we’ve offered virtual and hybrid training certification to help ease the transition for event professionals.
Eliminating silos and bringing these new teams together to reimagine checklists and processes means a faster route to adaption and success. As planners, marketers, digital teams, and IT work more closely together, there will be inevitable benefits for the rest of your event program. Breaking down traditional event execution silos will not only allow you to deliver a better experience to attendees, but also ensure that you programmatically capture data that will ultimately drive better sales conversations, conversions, and revenue.
Your Digital Nurturing Efforts Should Now Include Events
More new thinking, with a bit of traditional thinking in the mix. As you approach your events moving forward, success means starting to think of virtual, hybrid, and in-person events as an actual program type—the way your teams now look at webinars. Webinars, like most of your digital channels, are scalable programs that you know how to run, powered and engineered by templates, consistent data capture, and technology. Virtual, hybrid, and in-person events run on event activity data, or data from session registration, attendance, feedback, appointments, and booth visits. As you expand your marketing mix and include virtual and hybrid events as a new program type, systematically think through the data points you want to capture for all your hosted and attended events.
Convergence of Your Marketing Technology for a Single Source of Truth
Marketers have been relying on marketing automation systems and CRMs for years, allowing organizations to automatically update prospect activity and either drive them down the funnel, or push them sales. The substantial growth of event technology means marketers can integrate with existing automation and CRM tools to finally create that single source of truth. This allows marketers to programmatically capture activity and interest from events, such as attendance and web analytics, to better understand engagement scores, and combine it with existing behavior to suggest the next course of action.
Virtual events, as well as hybrid and in-person events, are a valuable touchpoint in the prospect and customer journey. Because of this, they should work in conjunction with the rest of your marketing mix to better understand your attendees so you can take the next best action. This mindset is critical, as it informs the systems and technologies your virtual event will use to capture data and integrate it with your marketing tech stack and CRM systems.
Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay, and that means reaching a much larger audience than was previouslypossible. For marketers, optimizing this channel is critical to organizational success in 2021 and beyond.
If you’d like to read more about this subject, we’ve created a brand-new messaging brief on the digitization of the events channel, and how marketers can take full advantage of the “new normal.”