At the end of 2019, budgets were committed and strategies signed off. It was business as usual. No one could have imagined the outbreak of COVID-19 or its consequences, many of which remain to be seen.

Practically every large scale trade show and conference had to be cancelled. Of course, many businesses depend on such events for pipeline. As a result, sales and marketing leaders faced an abrupt and tough call to arms: What’s plan b?

For many companies, digital has always been an afterthought. COVID-19 overhauled that mindset in an instant. This has left many scrambling for the latest technologies to replace the event-sized hole in their pipeline. But what is out there, and what actually works?

Webinars: Take your presentations online

Webinars are used by 62% of B2B marketing departments and, on average, 20-40% of registrants turn into qualified leads, according to Ready Talk. By providing an opportunity for interaction with audiences in real-time, webinars go where videos can’t. It’s by far the closest match to onstage presentations. Here’s how to make sure your webinars will drive lead gen:

1. Plan every webinar around a buyer persona

Reverse engineer the subject matter and content of your webinar to match the needs and priorities of your target buyers. The persona should determine the topics, depth, and complexity of the subject explored in the webinar.

2. Promote to highly targeted audiences

Choose the channel, messaging and audience parameters in line with the types of leads you’re looking to generate when promoting each webinar. A scattergun approach might get more sign-ups, but sign-ups are not leads. You need the right people registering.

3. Use the principle of scarcity to nudge action

Create a sense of urgency around registering for the webinar or accessing the on-demand version. You can do this by placing a limitation on spaces or the availability of the recording. Make a point of this in your promotion.

4. Spend extra energy on the webinar title

Spend a little extra time nailing the webinar headline. Make it as irresistible to your target audience as possible. You can always A/B test two different titles in your early promotions to see which is most effective. Then, push ahead with the winner.

5. Be super clear about the webinar type

If people sign up for what they think is a masterclass, and it turns into a product demo, they’ll be out that digital door in a heartbeat. Be really clear in your promotion, title, and registration page what the nature of the webinar is: Q&A, product demo, masterclass, panel discussion, tutorial, etc.

Influencers: Give thought leaders a platform

An upside of events being canceled (for you anyway) is that many industry leaders and keynote speakers now have some spare time to fill. These influencers are feeling the pressure to maintain their position. As a result, they will be looking for new digital methods to reach their audiences. Here’s how you can embrace this opportunity:

1. Find influencers who resonate with your audience

You can’t just start working with anyone who has a decent social following. If that person is less knowledgable than the majority of your target audience, they will see through it in an instant. Look through the list of speakers and panelists who were meant to attend relevant events before they were cancelled. Find someone who can offer valuable insights.

2. Be aware of their limited time

Chances are these influencers are not solely being approached by your company. It’s likely you’ll only be able to get a small fraction of their time so make sure it counts. Whether it’s a webinar, video interview, or testimonial, you really need to think about what would impact your bottom line the most effectively.

3. Repurpose as much as possible

Since you were likely only able to work with the influencer on one occasion, you need to repurpose that one activity to get as much value out of it as possible. If they appeared on one of your webinars, turn some of that content into shorter video segments summarizing various points. Then, pull out specific quotes and make visuals for social, etc.

Content: Create something that cuts through

Content can feel more personal and engaging than most currently offer. It all comes down to empathy and whether you’re creating something specific groups actually care about. Did you know that individual customer stakeholders who perceived supplier content to be tailored to their specific needs were 40% more willing to buy from that supplier than stakeholders who didn’t? Here’s what you need to do:

1. Create personalized documents, not just emails

Stand out in the online litter of mass comms and content by personalizing every document you send to a given account or individual. This is like how you would personalize your proposition at a trade show. However, don’t just personalize something for the sake of it. Make sure it ultimately benefits the reader in some way. The most effective personalization is typically subtle or even the kind that goes entirely unnoticed by the recipient, but nonetheless creates a better experience for them.

2. Learn how to do this at scale

With the right tools, like Turtl (shameless plug), you can equip teams with the ability to quickly and easily produce versions of key collateral. This could include sales brochures, product guides, newsletters, and proposals. All of these would only contain the information relevant to their account, industry, priorities, or markets. You can even use automation to personalize collateral featured in your nurture programs. This makes it even easier to execute at scale.

3. Take a multimedia approach to offer the best experience

Content will never be able to replace the physical experience of being at an event and interacting with different people and objects. However, you can get it as close as possible. Instead of sending over a long-scroll text-heavy PDF, why not change it up? Integrate video, imagery, and interactive features like polls and charts to level up your content experience.

Head on over to our full guide on eventless marketing to learn more about all this plus how chatbots, videos, and e-courses can help too. But first…

Have you heard about Podium?

If you’re thinking that all of the above is something you want to be focusing on more over the coming weeks, let me (not so) subtly direct you towards Podium.

Podium is a new virtual event initiative co-created by The Crocodile, Onalytica, ON24, and Turtl. Essentially, it helps you elevate your virtual event from a dry, PowerPoint-driven monologue into an experience that’s closer to the theater and excitement of a physical event.

It combines all our collective technologies to create virtual versions of almost every type of event (of all sizes), including breakfast sessions, network events, sales forums, awards shows, and conferences. If you want to be proactive about filling your event slot with innovative digital alternatives, I strongly suggest you check it out and consider signing up.

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