Just like any other business process, mastering conference networking is impossible without understanding current industry trends. Are events even a thing in 2020-2021? Yes, they are. However, with the pandemic, in-person events are transitioning to online events and conferences.
For the past few years, the number of online conferences and trade shows, their duration, and attendees, as well as overall spend has been steadily growing. And the reason behind this growth is that B2B marketers want to leverage online events for lead generation, in the absence of availability of in-person events and tradeshows. In fact, for some industries (like biotechnology and genomics, for example) conferences (in-person or virtual) are far and away the best source of potential customers.
Transitioning your in-person events to online events for lead generation may seem hard, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right technology and strategy, you can offer similar experiences and gain the leads you want. Here is a five step process to make this transition.
1. Event planning
We suggest planning your outreach campaign at least two months prior to the conference or trade show. At this stage, you need to complete several important tasks:
a) Make an Ideal customer profile (ICP) of the event. Get your SDRs on top of it. Make a separate list of your existing and former clients. Conferences can be a great opportunity for upsell, account expansion, or for mending relationships that have gone sour.
b) Get the right team which includes content strategist, copy writer, event researcher and SDRs
c) Finalize the channels for outreach. Choose them based on where your audience hangs out.
d) Set up KPIs and goals for the event campaign. Monitor them closely as per pre-event, during the event and post-event goals.
2. Event preparation
This involves content preparation for the event including deciding on the right event format. One of the easiest ways to transition from an in-person event to an online one is hosting a webinar. Webinars are online seminars that allow you to connect with your audience in real-time. Many people are already familiar with this concept, so the transition won’t quite be as large. Some of the elements we need to keep in mind at this stage:
a) Event theme
Choose some major theme for the event and apply it wherever appropriate. Think of something that will resonate both with your prospects and with the conference.
b) Informational materials
As it's an online event, you do not need printed materials such as brochures. However, you can be creative with content and use snackable videos, flipbooks, AR/VR content as per the audience type and event objectives.
Most of your meetings at the event will match the discovery stage of your funnel, so make sure you prepare the respective materials and arrange them in a separate folder for easy access and sharing.
c) Email Templates and Scripts
While inviting people to the event, it is suggested to use the name of the event in the subject line and to ask for an appointment in the text body. Make it more about the meeting and less about the sales pitch. The value is in the face-to-face online meeting more than anything. If you’re presenting, ask if they’d like a “sneak peek” before the event.
d) Landing pages
It’s a great way to enhance your outreach efforts and provide all the information your prospect needs to make a decision about the appointment.
- Add a Google form to set an appointment right on the page.
- Provide the link to the landing page in the emails you send to your prospects.
- Place some valuable gated content there (e.g. industry insights).
e) Have an influencer to join you
The objectives of attending an online conference is as much as learn from experts and peers as much to network. An authority in a domain related to the conference theme, an influencer or even a celebrity presenter can add great momentum to the conference registration and attendance.
f) What's on offer?
If appropriate, an enticement such as a free product trial for the conference attendees can prompt many to attend the event, if that's deemed valuable enough. You can also include sweepstakes or Amazon gift cards or something similar.
g) Social campaigns
Leverage #hashtags and get your social networks buzzing around the event. You can also write some valuable content related to some of the conference topics. Articles like “10 must-listen speakers of XYZ Conference to keep up with the trends in Cyber Security” will draw the attention of the attendees.
h) SDR training
The outreach for online events is similar to the regular outreach that your SDRs are used to. However, they should be prepared to assist you during the event, namely with rescheduling some of the appointments and setting up the new ones with prospects that raised their hands in the last moment.
3. Get the CTA right
When creating your online event, think about your goals and try to create a compelling message and/or include a unique story so that you can keep your viewers hooked. It’s important that you also focus on customer experience by asking questions and conducting live polls. Certainly, the switch from in-person to online reduces the level of connection and interactivity between you and the audience. You will no longer have an in-person emotional appeal. Therefore, you need to make this up in your event by including interactive elements and unique messages.
A large part of the lead generation is making sure you have a CTA at the end of your webinar. A CTA encourages your audience to take action, and it can be anything from “Download this free e-book” to “Sign up for a free consultation or product demo.” Your online event viewers won’t really know what to do unless you tell them. CTAs are often ignored but is one of the better ways to bring in leads.
4. Using the right tools
There are many different webinar software available for you to use, so it’s important that you research which one is right for you. Salesbox.tv uses Zoom, which has many features that make it a great choice for your next webinar. It allows for up to 100 interactive participants, you can broadcast your webinars to social channels such as Facebook Live and Youtube. You can also create polls, Q&As and live chat for engaging viewers among many other things.
Along with the right webinar software, you might/will need strong internet connection, an external microphone, software for making slides such as PowerPoint, multiple computer screens, etc.
Undoubtedly, hosting an effective webinar not only requires the right tools, but also an audience. Here, you can leverage salesbox.tv's audience network to get ongoing engagement for your content. It's important to provide step-by-step instructions on how to navigate the technology so that attendees can easily access the event. You don’t want technological issues to be the reason your clients and prospects don’t watch your webinar.
5. Post-event follow-up process
Got new leads? That’s great! However, getting new leads is just as important as keeping them. You need to nurture your leads and follow up with them in a timely manner after your online event. This doesn’t mean sending them just one email a month after your webinar.
Rather, use tools such as Salesboxai's conversational AI to personalize communication with your prospects and clients through a steady and continuous stream of messages with less SDR effort. These messages can be through emails, social media ads, phone calls etc.
For example, one post-webinar drip campaign email can be sending a recording of the webinar. Another one can be sending a list of questions that came up during the webinar along with their answers. The idea is to provide information on a regular basis without overdoing it. Successful human-like conversational emails allow you to build brand loyalty and relationships with your leads, increasing the chances of them converting into clients.
Having a set process for identifying and following-up with leads directly will impact your conversion rate. Not everyone will respond to your first email or book a time on your calendar right away – following-up with them over time is the best way to increase your conversion rate.