Virtual events are here to stay: How marketing automation keeps you a step ahead - ClickZ

30-second summary:

  • Virtual events are our new norm and they aren’t going anywhere, even after the pandemic subsides. Marketers need to embrace this to deliver modern customer experiences. 
  • Tap data to segment your audiences and strategize the right topics and formats for your virtual events. 
  • A multichannel automation platform will support effective marketing for your online events no matter where targets are expressing interest. 
  • To maximize engagement with online events, use them as long-term content resources to nurture your audiences. This will prove your brand is a thought leader and trusted source, even if attendees missed your event.

At this point in the pandemic, most major conferences, networking events and seminars have been cancelled or they will be. Without a clear end in sight, social distancing continues to cause major revenue losses for companies that depend on physical events to drive audience engagement. How do marketers put a stop to the bleeding and take control back? 

Getting back to planning online webinars, Q&As, fireside chats, focus groups and beyond is a step in the right direction.

While the above take time and effort to produce, the brand devotion these types of events can drive is well worth its weight in gold when it comes to growing your business, providing a memorable customer experience and engaging around your offering.

Savvy marketers knew the value of webinars and virtual (Read more...) before, but never has this value been so widely recognized.

In fact, according to GoToWebinar’s Big Book of Webinar Stats, B2B companies produce webinars because more than 70% of buyers have used them to make a purchase decision in the past 12 months.

Despite obstacles thrown at the marketing industry this year, people are still craving events. Brands need to crack the code on offering educational ways for prospects and existing customers to learn about their solutions, from a safe distance.  

At this point, it’s clear all marketers need to embrace virtual events as a part of any proactive marketing strategy. Don’t know where to start? Lean on the powers of marketing automation to build events, promote to the right audience and track engagement. 

Build events for your core audiences and segments

As a modern marketer, you are no stranger to making data-driven decisions to drive successful campaigns. You should plan your online events no differently.

Leverage the data you are collecting on a daily basis through your marketing automation platform to inform your strategy and build the perfect event for the right audience. 

Start brainstorming topics by going to the source — your prospects and customers. Which posts on your social channels are garnering the most engagement? Did your last ebook receive a record number of downloads?

The data you are collecting on your content speaks volumes. Prospect pain points, hot topics and customer questions are great springboards for strong event content. 


Now that you understand the topics your audience cares about, it’s time to think about the right format for your event. Lead generation is always important, but so is keeping current customers engaged, and those two audiences respond to different formats.

Prospects need a more general overview on your solution, while current customers may be underutilizing a specific feature you know could deliver more value for them. You should always tailor virtual events for audience segments based on where they are in the customer journey.

Lead generation events tend to be one-to-many, whereas customer events can be (and should be) much more intimate.

To take the pressure off of prospects who might not be as comfortable speaking up or committing to a fully immersive networking event, consider offering a webinar that doesn’t require them to display their video feeds.

This will enable them to focus on absorbing the information they need from your team, without your brand coming off as sales-y.

Loyal customers that know your offering from the inside-out will only respond to intermediate content that deepens their existing knowledge.

For customers, explore moderated virtual user groups or advisory meetings that dive deeper into your capabilities and enable a dialogue to show customers how they can keep growing.

In today’s market, focus more on educating customers instead of persuading them, especially when you’ve already earned their loyalty.

If you’re feeling nervous about planning an entire series with no virtual event experience, it’s okay to take it slow. Before announcing events to the masses, produce an event for your top customers only.

Offer them a coupon code in exchange for attending the webinar and submitting their comments and questions.

Your greatest evangelists can provide priceless insight into your future strategy, and this advance look at your programming creates a touchpoint to demonstrate how much you value their input.

Track engagement with an integrated stack 

For you to successfully execute and scale online events, you need a platform that can help you easily create, measure and streamline the unique funnel of these events.

Top-of-market platforms come with webcast integrations that allow you to design, execute and measure the success of your virtual events all under one roof. 

Using a marketing automation platform that tracks each event campaign in real-time enables you to optimize your planning and promotional efforts, driving better engagement for the sessions you’re investing in.

An end-to-end event management solution should fit effortlessly into your online marketing context and allow you to do a myriad of functions. These include planning and designing your sessions, creating a schedule and developing promotional, confirmation, and follow-up emails.

Once you have your promotional content squared away, a marketing automation platform can support your webinar execution by scheduling messages, tracking responses, generating reports, and keeping your program running smoothly.

If you plan to promote your event through multiple channels (and you should), you can generate trackable links for each one.

The views and submissions driven from each of these traffic sources can then be monitored and measured, giving you valuable insight on what your audiences are best responding to and where to dedicate your efforts to hit key targets. 

Driving long-term value post-events

Much of the value in virtual events comes following the event’s conclusion, depending on how strategically you can adopt it into your ongoing marketing strategies.

Archiving and repurposing online event content on your website allows you to generate more value from your virtual events, attract new keyword searches, and incorporate tantalizing content into your future promotional and sales strategies.

Not only will archiving content support lead generation and give prospects more avenues to explore your solution, but also it will add to the library of resources you have available for loyal users.

Providing continuous opportunities for education and engagement is key to help existing customers keep growing their businesses and derive maximum value from your solutions. This in turn ensures they remain brand evangelists for you.

Additionally, audiences are becoming more diverse in how they prefer to ingest information. You may find after examining your audience segments that certain industry professionals prefer downloading ebooks, while other specialists may prefer to watch a 30-minute webinar recording. 

In fact, a recent study conducted by Zenith found the average person will spend 100 minutes each day watching online video in 2021, up from 84 minutes this year. Webinars are designed to be digestible and engaging, and by offering content that your audiences enjoy viewing, you’re creating a better customer experience.

After you host a stellar online event, think about what other audience segments beyond the attendees might be interested in receiving it as a recorded version. Perhaps you dove really deep into a specific product function and you realize a segment of prospects could benefit from the topic.

You can use your marketing automation platform to create a nurture campaign offering the recording as gated content, persuading customers to provide additional contact information in order to access it.

Using past content to drum up excitement for the future optimizes your efforts and kicks off an ongoing cycle of engagement. 

In the world of physical events, you can only access customers in the room. On the other hand, online events let prospects and customers educate themselves in a no-pressure environment, and they create a rich chain of touchpoint opportunities for you to help them grow.

The more you meet your customers where they are most comfortable, with content they are dying to get their hands on, the more engaged your audience will become. 

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