Let’s Take This Online: Why Virtual Events Work for B2B Marketing

SXSW, CinemaCon, B2BNext, TED 2020, and B2B Marketing Ignite USA

What do the aforementioned events have in common?

They’re among the hundreds of leading in-person conferences and conventions canceled or significantly altered due to the threat of COVID-19. However, many B2B companies are meeting these challenges with innovation: by hosting virtual marketing events. Take the Google Cloud conference, for example, which was intended to be held in San Francisco in April of this year; the organizers transitioned from an in-person experience to a “free, global, digital-first, multi-day event.” It was renamed to “Google Cloud Next ’20: OnAir” and featured live-streamed keynotes and interactive sessions.

Even before shelter-in-place mandates became the norm, digital events were already shining. And any experienced account-based marketer or demand generation extraordinaire will champion this channel as a fruitful outreach strategy. Evites can be personalized and targeted to the exact buyer persona your company’s interested in; webinars and virtual events require a lower lift for attendees, so they’re effective ways of increasing your numbers of leads.

You may already be contemplating hosting a conference or industry event online, but you haven’t quite gotten your stakeholders on board. It’s time to change their minds. Below, read five key reasons going virtual for your next B2B marketing event is a win for everyone.

1. Digital events are cost-effective. 

Hosting a digital event costs less to plan and execute than in-person events; virtual events don’t require the added expense for each attendee (usually consisting of travel, food, hospitality, and venue). In fact, the U.S. Travel Association found direct spending on business travel by domestic and international travelers totaled $334.2 billion in 2019 alone. This massive amount included meetings, events, and incentive program (ME&I) expenses. In 2020 and beyond, a large chunk of that budget can be investing in virtual events or other impactful marketing initiatives.

2. Virtual = scalable.

Most in-person events are limited in size as a result of the venue in which it’s held. Thanks to streaming platforms (such as Dacast), you can scale as large and fast as you need to. And there’s no need to worry about staying 6 feet apart, either.

3. Reliability.

Nothing can prevent a virtual event from taking place, not even unpredictable weather or a pandemic, for that matter. Since attendees can participate from anywhere, external factors that would typically inhibit a physical event are no longer issues.

4. Virtual events provide ample insight and analytics.

If you want to know how many people viewed an entire presentation or find out how many questions were asked during your digital session, you can pull these stats accurately—which can be difficult for larger in-person events. By understanding the viewing and engagement numbers, you can gauge the efficiency of your content and determine what’s working and what’s ineffective without relying on something like a post-event survey.

5. Connect with industry peers and leads on an international scale.

With in-person events, geography poses a challenge; virtual events, on the other hand, can attract attendees from all over the globe. Travel logistics are nearly always challenging for busy execs and anyone with family or home obligations—not anymore. With so many events going virtual, more potential accounts than ever have the ability to attend online events. According to a recent survey conducted by the International Data Corporation (IDC), there’s been a 46 percent gain in attendees of virtual events since the first half of the year.

So what’s next?

Now that you’re aware of the benefits of digital events, the next step is to host a successful virtual event.

Hosting a digital event requires a strategy. If you’re already using account-based marketing tactics, it’s helpful to develop relationships with key accounts before the event. Engage with them by regularly offering valuable content through weekly or monthly email newsletters; this is a great way to receive the trust and respect of individuals you want to connect with. This way, they’re more likely to engage with or even attend your virtual event. Keep in mind, it’s not about the number of attendees. Instead, it’s about making sure the right people attend.

Much like conducting an in-person event, your virtual event needs to incorporate a combination of appealing topics and formats in order to capture the rapt attention of your attendees. This means it’s a great idea to stick to smaller, personalized events and focus on moving target accounts down the sales funnel. Include content that’s both timely and relevant; emphasize the solutions your audience needs right now by presenting imaginative ideas that inspire and motivate.

Virtual events are very much a part of the present and future. In fact, one April 2020 survey sent by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) in April 2020 found that “7 out of 10 respondents have moved their face-to-face events partially or fully to a virtual platform.” The same survey noted many see virtual events lasting far beyond a successful vaccine, complementing regular in-person events.

If you’re interested in B2B marketing virtual events, check out our webinar series on account-based marketing.