It’s no secret that event marketing has changed in the last few months. What’s less clear is how this shift from live events to virtual ones has happened and what it means for the event industry going forward.
We’re putting together a series of posts on virtual events to shed some light on this new direction for event marketing. Our next post will discuss the virtual events attendees challenges and more details about virtual events.
COVID-19 has impacted the business world as much as it has people’s social lives.
Cashiers serve us from behind plexiglass, office employees work from their kitchens and living rooms, and live marketing events are all but impossible to organize while respecting social distancing regulations.
Businesses still need to meet their revenue goals in this new, fully digital business setup.
And that also includes event marketing that needs to continue in some form.
Virtual events have emerged as the go-to safe solution to keep event marketing going during the pandemic and until, well, indefinitely.
This form of event marketing is not new, but many marketers are still unsure of what to make.
Let's go over some of the changes event marketing has gone through during the transition to virtual operations.
We'll cover why event marketing still matters, point out some of the unique benefits of going virtual, and even suggest some ideas for virtual events that you might have tried, and if not, you can go ahead and try out.
The Evolution of Event Marketing
It’s taken a lot of time and effort to get the event marketing industry to adjust and operate under pandemic conditions.
Businesses have had to rethink their old event marketing assumptions regarding budget and planning schedules.
New considerations (such as figuring out what tools are needed to operate in a digital event space) have also emerged.
Some specific developments include:
- Far more virtual events are taking place than ever before. May 2020 saw a 208% increase in webinars compared to the number that has been typical during that month in 2019.
- Most of the budget that marketers spend on virtual events are dedicated to the event platform, with speakers and moderators as the next highest cost.
- Virtual events are more of a team effort than ever before; on average, more decision-makers take part in the planning process for these events than live ones, and 48% of marketers say their CEO even takes part.
- Planning time frames have compressed. Small virtual events take an average of 3 to 4 weeks to plan, while live ones take 8 to 12 weeks. Some marketers have even been able to set up virtual events in as little as 2 weeks.
- Getting people to register for virtual events is a challenge, but marketers are quickly determining the most effective practices to solve this issue. 76% of marketers say email is the best way to reach your leads and get them to register.
- Marketers are discovering that virtual events require different resources than live ones. 59% of marketers say they need better tools and solutions to support their digital events and help them perform key functions like data collection and measuring ROI.
Recap: The Benefits of Event Marketing
The fact that the transition to virtual events happened in such a short time frame speaks to the importance of event marketing. The following are just some of the many benefits of event marketing as a whole:
- Event marketing was responsible for $2.5 trillion in total global sales in 2017.
- 52% of marketers say that event marketing outperforms all other channels in terms of total business value.
- 48% of brands estimate that they achieve between 3:1 and 5:1 ROI on the events they hold.
- 84% of attendees leave marketing events with a more positive opinion of the brands, products, and services being promoted, and 70% are more likely to become regular customers of those brands.
- 85% of business leaders in 2019 felt that marketing events were critical to their company’s success – a figure that had nearly doubled in comparison to the previous year.
- More than 60% of brands use data collected at marketing events to shape upcoming product development strategies.
“Events are just a big part of our marketing effort,” Eric Stahl, senior VP of product marketing for Salesforce’s Integration Cloud, said recently in an interview with HBR. “They’re one of our top tactics for attracting and connecting with customers.”
Even though it must be approached differently now than it has been in the past, event marketing is too valuable a business strategy to be set aside. Virtual events allow you to keep reaping these benefits while also ensuring that your team and leads stay safe.
Why Virtual Events Have the Edge Over Live Ones
Virtual events are the only option the event industry has right now. Still, they also have some unique advantages over conventional live events that make them an appealing option in their own right.
- Virtual events cost less – sometimes much less. 84% of marketers who have hosted virtual events in 2020 report that they have spent less on those events than on live ones.
- Virtual events greatly reduce the risk you face when organizing an event, even when there are no pandemic-related restrictions in place. They are much easier to reschedule, adjust, and even cancel outright than live events are.
- Virtual events can reach a much wider audience. Some companies hosting events online have seen as much as 7 times as many people attend compared to their live events.
- Virtual events help to democratize the event experience. 80% of virtual events are free to attend, and guests don’t have to spend any money on travel either; even leads from small companies with more restricted budgets can easily attend. Virtual events are also much more accessible to people with disabilities.
- Virtual events extend the shelf life of your content. 65.9% of marketers make their virtual events available on-demand after they have concluded, allowing guests who can’t make it to the real-time presentation to catch up later; up to 20% of invitees choose to access virtual events this way instead of attending them live. You can also easily record your event's footage and upload it to your website or social media accounts.
- Virtual events are much more eco-friendly than live ones. A person attending a four-day trade show in person generates around 1874 lbs of emissions, but doing the same thing virtually generates just 5.5 lbs instead.
These advantages suggest that virtual events might not be a temporary thing.
While live events are sure to come back once it’s safe for people to gather again, virtual events might stand alongside them as an equally viable option.
Learning how to host these events now will give you more options as a marketer even when the pandemic is over.
Ideas for Virtual Events
Ready to get started planning your own virtual events? Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Webinars are the standard choice for virtual events: they are straightforward, relatively easy to put together, difficult to derail, and are proven to be effective.
- Virtual workshops give you a chance to do some more hands-on work with your leads and peers and give you more opportunities for spontaneous interactions.
- Don’t want to appear on camera or have to worry about the quality of the video feed? Consider hosting a podcast event instead.
Try including some case study webinars in your virtual events schedule to target leads who are further along in the sales funnel and nudge them closer to making a purchase.
Don’t forget to include some opportunities for more casual interactions among your staff and leads. Laid-back gatherings like a virtual happy hour allow people to relax and get to know each other better without a formal setting's added stresses.
It’s Never Too Late: Start Planning Your Virtual Events Now
Investing in virtual events not only allows you to carry on reaping the benefits of event marketing during the pandemic; it’s also a proactive move that diversifies your skillset as a marketer and provides more potential revenue streams for your company.
In addition to planning yours, make sure to take part in virtual events that your leads attend because you can find a way to connect with them, chat and exchange ideas.
Marketing events have propelled many of the fastest-growing companies straight to the top, and you can use them the same way. With the right solutions and some know-how, you’ll have everything you need to host and attend virtual events that will have a noticeable impact on your bottom line for years to come.
Be sure to return next time for our upcoming post on virtual events!
Meanwhile, get the most out of your virtual event and become a master in lead data acquisition and qualification👇