Virtual events started out as a fad in the early 2000s with corporate giants like IBM and Microsoft pioneering the innovative, tech-savvy phenomenon that everyone couldn’t stop talking about. Despite being the torch-bearers of technology, these leaders, along with all their followers generally delivered digital events with clunky interfaces and a substandard user experience. Screens would get stuck, web pages would take long to load, event navigation seemed disjointed and the whole experience was miles away from being a seamless extension of a physical event, which was what it was touted to be.
Owing to the declining global economy near the end of 2009, most US companies adopted aggressive cost-cutting techniques to keep themselves afloat. Naturally, travel budgets also shrank which led to companies hosting hybrid events where live events were broadcasted online for remote employees. This budget-friendly alternative began to grow more and more popular across developed countries where some even started to use digital events simply for the added convenience rather than for cost savings. Wider adoption of online event broadcasts coupled with technological developments in the IT industry brought forward far better digital event platforms over the following years. This, in turn, made people warmer to the idea of both participating in and hosting virtual events for all the benefits that they offered.
For B2B Marketers, virtual events particularly help with the ‘evaluation stage’ in the Sales Funnel. Once your prospects have identified their need for your product and are scouting for the best option, a virtual product launch or trade show helps really set your offerings apart. They help marketers showcase the best product features through rich interactive tools like webinars, discussion forums, product demos, chats, and videos. What comes particularly in handy with a digital event is the room it allows for real-time customization and conversation. Once a prospect visits your virtual booth, you can engage with them to identify their unique requirements and tailor your product demo to deliver the most relevant experience to them, there and then. This personalized interaction develops a superior lead-nurturing environment that leaves a lasting impression on the attendees.
Scalability and reach are two other noteworthy benefits that help B2B marketers cater to a global audience and deliver as inclusive or exclusive an event as they require. Since an online event records every registration, login, click, download and share, event tracking has become easier than ever. For this reason, B2B marketing has started to revolve around tracking metrics, measuring ROI and developing data-driven follow-up strategies that improve the performance of upcoming events by enabling decisions backed by hard numbers.
Another major development for B2B marketers is the growing reliance on real-time two-way communication with high-touch interaction points. The market is quickly distancing itself from age-old communication tactics that relied on contact forms with a 5-day reply notice period. Several B2B businesses are also leveraging the ‘on-demand’ tools in their virtual events which enable visitors to absorb content at their pace as opposed to following a strict schedule of conferences and presentations. Attendees have the liberty to bookmark, save and download content that they wish to see and can even access video recordings once the live stream is over. This further boosts event engagement and brings prospects one step closer to becoming loyal customers.
Advertisement saturation is one of the biggest obstacles marketers face. We’re surrounded by billboards, magazines, display advertisements when we’re off the computer and with pop-ups, push notifications and Social Media advertisements when we’re in front of our screens. In a world where companies are aggressively pushing their products onto potential prospects, one of the best things a B2B marketer can do to cut through the clutter is to step into the blue ocean of pull marketing.
With virtual events, marketers offer a rich environment that the audience chooses to participate in. This puts them in the driver’s seat and clears the path to the finish line which is where you make your sale. Since most B2B companies aim to help businesses overcome their obstacles by selling innovative solutions, it goes without saying that the agilest and innovative B2B marketers will reap the quickest and strongest benefits in the highly competitive B2B landscape of today.