» Making Connections: Virtual vs. Face-To-Face
This ITAC roundtable was hosted at the MaRS Centre, Toronto, Ontario.
What we learned
- Investigate Second Life (a free 3D virtual world where users can socialize, connect and create using free voice and text chat), virtualization, LinkedIn and account-based marketing opportunities
- Everyone faces similar challenges despite budget, company type and size. Reinforce webcast and follow up with chat
- Get into people’s calendar on an individual basis rather than mass emails, but be aware of privacy and protection act. Establish and reinforce personal relationships with personalized invitations.
- Consider Eloqua for reporting and tracking
- Use virtual marketing for richer dialogue; position communication to “get their feedback”
What has changed over the last few years?
- Years ago, face-to-face events were highly used. Budget cuts occurred yet expectations increased with high quality leads requiring higher payback. Model has moved to e-based events to engage more discussion.
- Tradeshows are decreasing and are more account-based. Instead there is a focus on highly customized online events with client input.
- Broader all day community events have changed to smaller live events that can generate a 25% return.
What are best practices for face-to-face events?
- Schedule the event right into their calendar by sending an Outlook invite. This will enable you to view online attendance immediately.
- Integrate with sales channel for better partnership between sales and marketing. Show sales force value with event dashboard to demonstrate benefits to all involved.
- Develop relationship with target market incentive. Create reward/bonus program for sales channel to bring in a prospect
- Connection with sales channel is crucial. Engage in discussion on about how live events can impact their pipeline
- Change mentality: quantity versus quality. Only conduct face-to-face events with ONE key stakeholder.
What types of online events/methods are most effective? (webcasts, social networks, blogging, Second Life) What are the key benefits and drawbacks of online events?
- Have a customer “been there, done that” or third party to bring credibility to event
- Use/encourage interactive methods: “polling”, “chatting”, “ask question/raise hand” to maintain focus
- Webinar should be used at early stages of demand cycle. The key to virtual events is to continually follow up and engage the audience.
- Let it flow; keep it on track. Keep it interactive.
- Attendees don’t have opportunity to chat afterwards, investigate area of Second Life to attempt to bridge gap between real and online event
- Online events are cost effective but lack of intimacy.
- Face-to-face or online events shouldn’t be either/or; they should build on one another. Re-package content in two parts to establish fellowship.
How do you integrate and gain buy-in from the sales team into strategic event planning, execution and lead follow-up?
- Current tools used are Salesforce, Marketbright, and Eloqua
- Utilize your sales force to close the gap. Understand their needs for better success rate. Investigate social networking as tool.
- More informal than formal. Twitter will draw detailed substantial conversation. Use crisp headlines. Use LinkedIn as a hiring/background checking tool
- It’s not about talking but rather listening. Make it an open conversation with the sales team and use their feedback to craft your message.
- Consider Radian6 as listening/learning tool.
- Create a group to target event by geography, community, groups; use LinkedIn to see who knows who about what.
- Blend live event with virtual by re-purposing content for different media.
- One-to-few translates better than one-to-many
What are best practices for establishing ROI of online or face-to-face events?
- Never establish ROI from one source. Use RFM model (recency, frequency, monetary value analysis improving the profitability of campaigns and optimizing ROI); live events have a place in mix
- Investigate why deals are not efficiently closing. Review cusp; if too high, it may be false; if too low, training may be needed.
- Need to work with sales team for a healthy balance. Support one another to support budget.
- Illustrate/account for “touching” client; this will aid marketing team’s credibility to sales team.
- Validate budget at the end of quarter by reaching your target. Did “we” hit our numbers?
- Transform into “leads focused”; know your pipeline
Audience question: How do the factors of culture, mobility and geography affect which type of event to run? (e.g. Toronto is a great place to hold face-to-face events, but would online events work just as well? Remote locations – it may be more practical to hold online events, but would the audience feel comfortable with that format?)
- Use a balance of virtual and live events. Know your audience and what drives them.
- Know your market. Conduct analysis on historical registration and drop-off rates. For example, Toronto events have a 25%-50% drop-off in face-to-face events.
- Link “yield” to audience
- Latin America and Southern Europe are very relationship focused; no interest in virtual; lack of face-to-face events may be considered offensive.
Audience question: What are the most effective length, format and style of webcasts?
- For small businesses, evening may be the best time
- Profile and understand your target markets needs
- Length of webcast should be 5-10 minute clips. Steer clear of lengthy presentation
- For tech companies, know them and learn how you can impact their perception
- Rob Daleman, National Marketing Manager, Avaya Canada
- Regan Ogner, Senior Marketing Manager, CA Canada Co.
- Mike Tindal, Vice President, Americas Marketing, OpenText
- Linda Craenen, Director, Business Marketing, Telus
- Kimberley O’Brien, Country Marketing Manager, Canada, VMWare
- Drew Clarke, VP Americas Field Operations, IBM Analytics & Performance Management, Cognos