Ravi Chalaka is the CMO of Jifflenow, and a marketing and business development expert who creates and executes business strategies, generating demand and raising brand/product awareness in competitive markets. As VP of Marketing at both large and small technology companies, Ravi built strong teams and brands and enabled faster revenue growth for a wide range of solutions based on Big Data, SaaS, AI and IoT software, HCI, SAN, NAS.
Best Practices to Exceed Expectations with Your 2021 Virtual Event Strategies
Major live events are where sales conversations get jump-started — those major venues where marketing, product and sales teams engage with hundreds or thousands of prospects and customers. However, for the first half of 2021, virtual events will be the norm: 95% of enterprises are now implementing virtual events and webinars (compared with less than 25% before the pandemic).
To drive ROI from your events budget this year, focus on booking more virtual customer and prospect meetings in connection with your virtual events. B2B meetings, whether they are in-person or virtual, are excellent drivers of sales pipeline and revenue because they enable your prospects to have more in-depth conversations about your products and services.
A key fact has emerged over the last year: the pandemic has subtly changed the enterprise B2B sales cycle. Socially distanced customers and prospects are motivated to set up an informational meeting to determine whether your product or service meets their needs. But they don’t always want to contact a salesperson to set this up — many would rather request a virtual meeting with the appropriate experts.
Empower virtual event attendees to meet with your experts and executives
To engage with customers and prospects at live events, sales teams typically reach out to the prospects and customers they are working with for an opportunity, in advance of the event to book face-to-face meetings with internal experts and product teams. This outbound, sales-initiated approach is still valid for virtual events, and of course, the sales team can expand on this concept to book even more of these virtual customer meetings.
For event marketers, our new secret weapon is the inbound, attendee-initiated meeting. The trick here is to integrate contextual inbound meeting request links throughout your pre-, during and post-event marketing programs. Inbound meeting requests, unlike outbound efforts, are initiated by customers and prospects themselves, which make them an excellent indicator of purchase intent.
Virtual customer meetings include the following: product demos, executive meetings, roundtable discussions, webinars and special sessions, meet the expert (MTE) briefings and partner meetings. (Yes, don’t forget to include your partners in this program – it helps them drive additional value and ROI from their sponsorship dollars.)
How to book more meetings from virtual events
Remember, it's more than just volumes of meetings; what we’re looking for are high-engagement meetings with the right people within your organization — this is how you will convert prospects to pipeline. We’re looking to activate all those industry experts, technical experts, product managers or pre-sales engineers who can influence the sale by making them available to your information-hungry prospects.
Here’s a three-step process that many enterprises are already successfully employing:
1. Make it easy to book a virtual meeting by integrating a meeting request button into all your pre-event digital marketing (emails, ads and social media). You should also integrate meeting request links within your virtual event lobby and at key locations within the virtual event itself. And, of course, offer them in your post-event follow-up activities.
2. Automate the booking/reservation process to methodically capture key information such as the prospect’s specific information request, objectives for the meeting, stage of evaluation, features and technical parameters that are important, and so on.
3. Ask the prospect to select from a range of dates and times for the meeting (ideally, based on the real-time availability of your internal resources).
To further streamline and scale-up this process, you can automate the mapping of internal experts and executives to specific topics, integrate all available calendars to facilitate match-up and create rules for how meeting managers are involved to approve or manage each request.
Scale-up with a meeting automation platform
You can significantly increase the number of virtual meetings booked with prospects and customers by adding a meeting automation platform (MAP) to your marketing tech stack. This automates the scheduling of outbound and inbound meeting requests; enables precise workflow management (gives meeting managers or the marketing ops team the ability to oversee all meeting requests and confirmations, ensures essential sales information is captured and manages meeting logistics), and then delivers post-meeting analytics (provides dashboards for meetings and influenced revenue metrics, and manages surveys to understand performance and buyer intent).
Keep in mind that collaboration is key. To drive maximum value from events, all marketing teams will need to put their heads together — event marketing, field marketing, demand gen, corporate marketing and marketing ops. Make it a great year!