How to Virtualize a Marketing Event

During the “Great Recession” many companies were cutting back on travel expenses so it became harder to drive attendance of physical attendees. It was a problem that everyone faced and we realized we needed to do something to virtualize our event to maximize our messaging to the audience even if they weren’t attending. So, we decided to stream the event online to our community, allow them to participate virtually and even engage speakers and other attendees from the comfort of their office.

Note that I said community and not website. This was by design as we were also looking for a way to drive membership adoption to increase the number of active members in our community. So, we created a virtual calendar of activities and topics that we would stream so members could coordinate their time and participate in the sessions they were interested. This was a combination of knowledge experts, customer testimonials, keynote speakers etc… We also created an active chat that could be engaged online during the video session where we could respond and answer questions in real-time. This was our solution to bridging the gap between online and physical activities. Those who attended would walk by the small stage we were broadcasting from and watch as well as provide the exact same experience to those who where not able to attend.

The result was an active and engaged audience both physically and virtually who helped drive additional awareness and messaging via our omni-channels. The content was then posted and available on-demand so it became and evergreen marketing activity that continued to provide engagement well after the event was over.

Bridging the Gap between Virtual and Physical Marketing

As my web master use to tell me “It isn’t Rocket Science”. Many companies are still looking for ideas on how to bridge the gap between traditional marketing events and virtual audiences. Back in December a large healthcare company contacted me about community and collaboration marketing and I shared a few thoughts. They then went and hired an agency who didn’t have any experience in this area who contacted the vendor. Guess who the vendor reached contacted to speak with the agency on how to do this? I love irony. So, without giving away my secret sauce here are a few things I have done that have been successful.

  • Social Contests
  • Virtual Events
  • Bridging the Gap with Gamification

All of these concepts are pretty logical it is a matter of identifying your audience and providing content and activities they would be interested in participating. Engagement and participation is the key and if done right it will not only help bridge the gap between traditional and collaboration marketing it will expand your share of voice, increase brand awareness and help build a community of advocates who are passionate about your company. I’ll dive into more details about each one of these items and examples of what we did to help bridge this gap in my next few posts.

If you don’t want to wait for my next posts and want to know more you can connect with me via linkedin and Twitter and am available for select consulting opportunites.

 

Show Me the Money

There is a good chance that a compelling story won’t be enough to get you everything you need and if you have the data then you should be able to pull together the value of community engagement in order to establish a base line of opportunity. If you don’t have that don’t let it stop you! Getting funding for social business initiatives is never easy and until you can associate revenue to your initiative it is very hard to secure incremental investment to further your programs. Linking your social engagement activity to booked revenue in order to come up with a measurable ROI and justification is the best way to get the attention needed to have a funding conversation.

Welcome to the wonderful world of big data analytics. You don’t have to be a data scientist but knowing statistical information to back up your engagement strategy will work toward your advantage to secure executive support and funding.

In order to make this ROI association my team went through the exercise of pulling new community registrants for a given year then matched them to booked revenue over that same period.

 

“This information can be pulled from a users profile and or email domain extension in order to associate the user to their respective company. However, there will be a need to clean up the data excluding personal email domains like gmail and yahoo.”

 

Once this list is compiled, the average purchase price of those companies who had members in the community can be compared to those companies who did not have members. The data in this example concluded that customers with members in a community had an average purchase price 240% higher than those customers who were not engaged in the community.

This was all I needed to get the attention I needed and it wasn’t even the most compelling statistic. What we further determined was if we could increase the number of companies engaging in the community by just 1% we could increase revenue by $12M. But considering there were over 12,000 companies listed as customers that growth opportunity had the potential to be upwards of 2500%. Now we were talking Billions and those types of numbers catch executive’s attention.

 

Create And Tell a Compelling Story

There are a few tactical steps you can take to begin to secure the executive support you need. You first need to be able to tell a compelling story. The fact that you have already established your top 3 objectives will help you frame out that discussion. These objectives are the foundation of your strategy so you should be able to clearly communicate your strategy, goals and ultimately the value it will drive to the company. Don’t confuse “Value” with revenue. Executives love to see bottom line ROI but they will also see the qualitative value of building an army of brand advocates.

This is where being able to tell a compelling story will help you get the attention of not just executives but your management, stakeholders from other departments and those on your team. There are a few things that will help you during this process. First you need to have just enough confidence and passion that it isn’t perceived as arrogance. It’s a fine balance but your confidence and passion for what you believe will contribute to the interest in your story.

In addition to this taking our objectives and building a roadmap strategy will help paint the vision of where you want to go. Executives have limited time and may not see the light at the end of the tunnel so you should present this right up front right after your state your objectives and within the first five to seven minutes of your presentation.

Think of it as painting a picture. I have always loved Monet paintings but if you stand too close all you see are millions of little dots. Help your executives stand back so they can see the full picture and keep your team up front to worry about painting the little dots. As a leader you will need to be able to do both. You need to convey to the executives that you are the person that can stand back and see the whole picture while being able to direct your team to ensure the tactical and strategy come together..

 

3 Objectives for Collaboration Marketing

Before you start anything, priority #1 has to be clearly defining your objectives. This will help you and your teams accomplish several things. First, everyone should be able to clearly communicate and agree upon the objectives set. This will help prevent conflicting priorities as well as help you engage your stakeholders as you will need them to help drive success. Second, keeping the objectives simple but achievable will allow you to execute and make progress. It is that progress that will help you with the third item and that is securing executive support. All three will be important as you start transforming the way you communicate and collaborate with your customers and employees.

3 Collaboration Marketing Objectives

This is the third company I have had the opportunity to drive this type of initiative and while each need is a bit different you can easily get started with the three items below.

Modernize Your Customer Platform

Do you have a platform that your customers can easily engage? And no, email and survey’s aren’t one of those platforms. Customers need the ability to provide feedback as well as share inquiries and knowledge with each other. This typically isn’t done through your website which are often one dimensional and while social provides some of the capability it isn’t often tied together to provide a complete customer experience. A good place to start is evaluating all the ways in which your customers can current engage and pulling together a strategy that will unify your customers search interest, support interest and product feedback.

Transform Traditional Customer Engagement 

If you are like me I delete more email than I read. So, take a look at all your current engagement program s and determine if they are effective and really providing your customers the experience they expect. Considering most of us live and die via our mobile experience, do you have the ability to engage your customers where they expect you to have a presence? One place to start is to look at your traditional engagement, email, phone, webcasts and see how to transform into a more virtual and digital experience. Some of this will be achieved via transparent communication and publishing content that is easily discoverable. Why pull together a webcast that is email invite only when you can make it open to all at a time that is convenient for them to view. Granted I do realize the importance of lead generation and measuring touch point but times are changing and consumers expect to be able to find anything and everything online without filling out a registration form. Ultimately, this will be the first step that will lead to building an advocacy program.

Customer Advocacy and Share of Voice

Another transformation is adopting a new way to engage your customers and treat them similar to they way you engage your market analysts. I think you will find that most of your advocate customers are under the same NDA that your analysts have signed so why not share the same information. This will help establish a level of trust with your advocates and provide them the opportunity to be thought leaders in their own professional career. As good as we are at selling and marketing most consumers don’t want to talk to us. They want to talk with other customers, share experience and come to their own purchasing decision. So, why not embrace this and help support that decision process journey by empowering those we respect the most with the information they seek. This will help identify those who should be considered advocates and allow you to frame a program for engagement around these individuals and help contribute to their success. Advocacy is as much about your customers as it is about your brand. And with a measured balance both can be achieved to create an authentic share of voice that will rattle your competition.