It’s easy to think of the popularity of online events in isolation. As if their rise was due to something specific. Nothing’s farther from the truth.
If we take a step back, it becomes clear that digital events were part of a bigger movement.
BYOD, digital nomadism, work from home and the gig economy were taking the world by storm. The message was loud and clear. People wanted more control over how they worked and interacted.
Online events are a better fit in this paradigm relative to their more grounded kins. They’re cheaper to pull off, (relatively) easier to manage, and can accommodate far more people.
It’s no wonder that more organizations are adding them to their marketing kitty.
Even so, the coronavirus has really riled things up here. As remote working becomes the norm, the future of events looks distinctly virtual.
But, as face-to-face communication is becoming increasingly harder, you need to up your marketing game to fill up that attendee list. Here are eight ways to do so.
#1 Use Your Live Event Material for Content Marketing
The coronavirus took us all by surprise. There were many planned live events that were called off or rescheduled.
Chances are you were looking forward to attending some of them. If so, then don’t throw out all the marketing material you prepared for them just yet.
Instead, why not take them online? Remember, the people you were going to meet at the events are still interested in learning about your products/services. It’s just that the venue’s no longer there.
SEO backed content marketing is still the best way to drive leads through the door. In fact, it’s become all the more important as online content consumption has gone through the roof.
Consider publishing your brochures, videos, and presentations online as part of a lead generation campaign. You can also videotape your keynote addresses and share them on social media, too.
The content platform, Pathfactory is a great example of repurposing content during a crisis. They were due to attend Oracle’s Modern Business Experience Event (MBX), which was rescheduled.
So, they created the “No MBX, No Problem” campaign. The page consists of content on how to deal with problems that came with the pandemic.
#2 Use Targeted, Budgeted Facebook Ads to Increase Event Awareness
Facebook is a great place to advertise your event for a couple of reasons. Firstly, people actually look for events to attend on social media.
But, more importantly, Facebook has an event-specific ad format that you can use to drive targeted leads to your page.
You can find the whole list of instructions on how to run an event ad here.
But, you need to look beyond basic instructions to get the best bang for your buck.
It’s ridiculously easy to waste money on Facebook ads. There are some common mistakes that marketers make again and again.
Too many times, brands end up worshipping metrics that look impressive but don’t do much. For example, a low Cost Per Click (CPC) shows your creative is a hit. But, it doesn’t mean anything if people aren’t subscribing/RSVPing.
The Facebook Pixel is a piece of code you place on your landing page. It tells Facebook when someone takes action. It’s also an easy thing to mess up. So, be sure to double-check the pixel is installed correctly.
Finally, it’s also easy to treat Facebook ads as gambling, thinking the win is just around the corner. You really need a robust budget strategy if you’re going to pull this off.
Instead of just setting an arbitrary test budget, try to get the why behind your ads. Consider asking yourself how much Facebook ads should cost?
#3 Incentivize Employees to Refer Your Events to their Contacts
While traditional lead generation routes are great, don’t forget that your biggest cheerleaders are sitting right next to you.
Each of your employees brings experience and knowledge to your organization. But what about their network? Too many times, companies don’t capitalize on their own staff’s connections.
Most employees operate within an industry. They may have contacts from previous organizations that might want to attend your event.
While some employees might be open to sharing their contacts, a referral incentive program will yield better results. Some ideas to try here —
Start early: Incentives and recognitions should be a part of your organization. Else, they’ll seem awkward if offered suddenly. Share your team member’s successes and triumphs in team meetings.
This will help your event referral program seem like a natural fit in the grand scheme of things.
Turn it into a competition: Creating a tiered referral program where more referrals mean more/better rewards can help speed things up.
Give incentives beyond monetary rewards: Cash rewards are passe` and bonuses are all good. But sometimes, an unexpected reward can drive better engagement.
For example, you can offer a robust insurance program to the winner that will be valid even if they leave the company.
Don’t overdo it though. It’s going to get pretty hectic as it is and your employees will need plenty of rest to perform well.
#4 Use Website Promotions to Encourage Signups
Did you know that the average website email opt-in rate is a measly 1.95%? Even top marketers usually only manage to get 4.7% of their audience to subscribe.
These numbers are valid for traditional email marketing methods— so sidebars, popups and CTAs in digital content.
The reasons why this happens are varied, but they all share a common thread. All of them lack a strong incentive to get the user to subscribe.
Why not use online promotions to power your subscription efforts?
Even if a user doesn’t buy immediately, they may still subscribe to get future offers.
#5 Go International
The advantage of moving from live events to virtual events is that you’re no longer geographically restricted.
You can invite your partners and customers regardless of wherever they are. Not only will this add variety to your event, but it’ll also help everyone network better.
This has ramifications for your lead generation program too.
Since you don’t have to restrict your targeting to your local market, you can take more creative liberties with your lead generation.
Start by identifying your demographics and geographic locations. Are you a SaaS company throwing an event for cloud engineers?
If so, then where are most of your clients located? Do you outsource certain services to other locations?
Consider running a targeted ad campaign on LinkedIn or Facebook to target potential candidates in these locations.
Also, chances are some of your attendees may be from non-English speaking countries. In this case, you can hire a language expert to help your staff out.
#6 Target Influencers in Your Industry
Influencers are people who have considerable influence over a certain group of people. Think YouTube reviewers or Instagram stars. Thousands, sometimes even millions of people follow them online.
Every industry has its own influencers. And since your audience trusts influencers in your industry, the latter makes a good fit into your lead generation program.
For the most part, brands like to go for the biggest, most influential influencers. But, sometimes, it’s the smaller, lesser-known ones that have the most engaged followers. In fact, 82% of people are extremely likely to act on the suggestions of a micro-influencer. So, don’t ignore the little guys.
There are a few ways you can use influencer marketing to help you with your lead generation.
Firstly, you can sponsor certain episodes. The influencer will open his vlog with a “this episode is sponsored by <<your brand>>.”
But, you don’t just want them to introduce your brand. You want them to talk about your event.
Consider discussing episode angles with your influencer on how they can talk about your event in an episode.
You can invite them to your virtual event which will give their followers a strong incentive to try it out as well.
#7 Use Account-Based Marketing for Highly Targeted Lead Generation
Traditional lead generation methods have their own limitations. They follow a fragmented approach where marketing and sales work in silos. There’s often a big disconnect between the two.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) attempts to solve this problem by turning the sales cycle on its head. In traditional marketing, we focus on the largest group of people and drive them through a sales funnel.
ABM on the other hand focuses on a small, highly targeted audience. It then tries to nurture relationships and build a better Lifetime Value (LTV).
ABM gets better bang for your buck as it tries to get the best possible customer-client fit first. This results in fewer wasted leads and more engaged prospects.
Now, not all ABM strategies will be applicable here. We’re just trying to get people to your event, after all. But, there are certain strategies that can prove very useful.
ABM needs hyper-personalized messages to work. You’ll need to segregate your audience by role, industry, position in the company, etc.
High-value prospects include keynote speakers, influencers, and thought leaders. These are people who can bring a lot of value to your event. Consider assigning one rep to one person here.
Other people can be targeted with personalized ads and messages on email and social media. Here are some great examples to follow.
#8 Use a Chatbot to Turn Visitors into Leads
Chabots are all the rage in lead generation circles for a reason — they just flat out work.
A chatbot usually pops up with a question from a person. This coaxes any visitor into answering said question which can start a conversation.
Chatbots may require the user to feed in their email address. Or, the user may leave their email voluntarily to be approached later. Check out this page.
See the little chat window that opens up at the lower right corner? You can add something similar to your own site with a popup question.
There are many time-tested lead generation strategies you can use to drive traffic to your event. But, creating an awesome experience really is the best strategy of all.
Everything else is peripheral.
Try and find what people are looking for. Is it to network? To hear a leader speak? A chance to speak with influencers? To just have a good time? The more such questions you answer, the better a response you’ll receive.