Marketing is going through some pretty rapid changes over the last few years. I’m not just talking about the rise and power of inbound strategies. Sales and marketing have become components that work closer together than ever before. Communication between the two branches is crucial and strategies work best when developed together. It’s all very kumbaya don’t you think?
At GroupHigh, I try to keep the communication lines open and flowing between myself and the sales team. I create content and marketing strategies not only to target different stages of a consumer’s journey but also items that the sales team asks for and that they can send to leads they are nurturing.
With that said and with input from the sales team, I organized an event that generated more leads than my company had received in the entirety of last year.
The Outreach Marketing Summit was an all-day online conference in which some of the top thought leaders in the digital marketing and PR world gave 15 minute presentations.
The conference was free to attend and registrants provided email address, company info, job role, etc. Not only did I get to position GroupHigh a little higher in the digital marketing world as a thought leader but I also generated over 2,000 leads and captured enough of their information to start the process of forming a real connection with these marketing and communication professionals.
Another awesome component is that the entire conference is archived for a year so it will continue to generate leads even though the event is over.
If you think a similar virtual event would benefit your company as well, keep reading because I am about to tell you exactly how I pulled it off!
Determine the Right Virtual Conference Platform
If you check out the conference I put together, you can see it’s not just presentations. There is a whole virtual environment complete with chat lounges, a library of downloadable resources, a lobby and an area where attendees can take notes and save presentations to watch later.
There are a variety of platforms in which companies can host virtual conferences. The best one and priciest is On24 and if your budget can handle it, I do think it’s the best one out there.
Besides On24, there are some “mid-level” platforms that I demoed and narrowed down to Expos2 and vConferenceOnline. We went with Expos2 because of their initial visual appeal but I had wished I had chosen to work with vConferenceOnline as we encountered some technical difficulties with Expos2…
Finding the Right Presenters
Because a virtual conference is a lead generation tactic and increases brand awareness, the first step is thinking of topics that would spark the attention of people who would be interested in your brand. You know, to qualify the leads a bit from the beginning.
When you reach out to presenters don’t even think about using a mail merge. Introduce yourself and your brand if they’re not already someone who is in your network and tell them exactly why you think they’re a good fit for your conference.
In your initial communication to all potential presenters, offer them something in exchange for their time. It can be anything from a presenter gift, monetary compensation, sponsorship or leads from the conference. Preparing a presentation and recording/streaming it takes a lot of time so make sure you acknowledge and reward this!
Topic Variety and Deadlines
Don’t be afraid to set a series of deadlines. These help keep you and your presenters organized. Keep in mind when you send out your deadlines and presenter schedule that the deadlines should be “soft” ones to make room for unforeseen technical difficulties and life circumstances. Here are the deadlines I put in place:
- Topic proposal, presentation title and description of presentation. This allowed me to make sure I had a good variety of topics and none of them overlapped.
- Our presentations were pre-recorded and we streamed them on the day of the conference. So I had my presentations due a week before the actual event. Because we had some technical difficulties with Expos2, I received presentations until the night before the event.
- Tell your presenters exactly when their presentation is streaming so that they can be available to interact and answer questions on Twitter.
Marketing Your Event
Organizing the platform, presenters and topics is only half of the process.
You can have an awesome event full of thought leadership topics and well known presenters but unless you have a strategy in place to get it in front of your target audience, it’s all moot.
Depending on your audience and industry, of course marketing tactics are going to vary but I can share what tactics I used and how effective each was.
- Email blasts. We purchased a variety and found that this tactic converted mediocrely but enough that it was worth the budget spent.
- Newsletter insertions. This tactic worked better than email blasts. I’d guess because newsletters are opt in pieces of content and having a spot in a newsletter is less abrasive than an email blast.
- Sponsored tweets and LinkedIn updates. This tactic worked pretty well. I like how targeted you can make these sponsored pieces of content, that you can set a budget and that you can try out a variety of messaging to see what converts best. I experimented with seven different tweets, here is the one that converted best:
- Blog posts. Whether it was through blogger outreach, posts that I wrote or organic posts that were accrued through the blogger’s own accord, this tactic converted the highest.
- Speaker activation. By asking my speakers to share the event with their own networks through some suggested tweets, linkable assets and other tactics that made it really easy for them to share the conference—this tactic also generated a lot of leads.
- Reaching out to our network. Between our clients, brand advocates and influencers we’ve worked with in the past—simply asking for shares of the event proved to be a fantastic way to earn organic mentions of The Outreach Marketing Summit.
Prepare for a GIANT Time Commitment
Before organizing the conference and marketing it, I was prepared to work nights and weekends. Even with this in mind I still ended up burning the candle on both ends the two weeks leading up to the summit.
Between being available to support your presenters, planning and executing a marketing strategy, and working on the technical side of things via the conference hosting platform you need to make sure you can give your event everything you have.
But, it will be so worth it!
Have you organized an online event before and have some tips or advice to add? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, cheers to a good discussion!