Few roles have changed more dramatically since the pandemic than that of the event marketer. With events shifting from in-person to virtual and now to hybrid formats, the way attendees experience and interact with event content has also changed.
This new reality and shifting landscape have created significant opportunities to use virtual and hybrid events — and the technology that powers them — to elevate brand awareness, increase demand generation, enhance user acquisition, and ultimately accelerate growth for your company or your clients.
In essence, the role of event marketers has transformed from a cost center to being a revenue-generating profit center. Knowing how to take advantage of this new opportunity is the key to your future success. In this mega guide, we will take a closer look at the new expectations of the event marketer position, what it means, and how event marketers can adapt and maximize the opportunities that now exist.
Feel free to jump to a specific section or buckle up and enjoy the entire ride 🚀
Table of Contents
The Shift in Events For Today’s Event Marketer
Historically, events followed a standardized framework. Attendees came together in a physical location to consume event content while networking with other attendees and exhibitors. The format of events hadn’t really evolved in decades.
But in early 2020, everything changed.
As the pandemic made in-person gatherings impossible, our lives, and our events, moved online. Virtual events are not a new concept but until the pandemic, they were not in widespread use, and for most of us, they were considered a nice-to-have or extra but not necessarily a primary tool. In-person was often the focus.
The rapid spread of the virus forced the entire industry to adopt an event format that was either completely foreign or had only been used as an add-on to physical events.
And while event professionals were making this hard shift, event attendees had to learn how to experience events through a new medium.
This quick adoption of digital event technology by event marketers allowed many events to carry on and helped brands and event marketers reach their target audiences even with stay-at-home orders in place. But when we emerge on the other side of the pandemic, it is a near certainty that the events industry will not simply return to exclusively in-person events.
Both event professionals and attendees believe that virtual event elements are here to stay. In fact, according to research conducted by Freeman, 3 out of 4 attendees expect digital elements to play a bigger role in events post-pandemic.
Despite the inherent separation that comes with digital events, the opportunities for personalization and connectivity are everywhere.
Live Events, Redefined
The pandemic has shown us that flexibility and adaptability are keys to success. And few things embody these qualities more than virtual and hybrid events. Events as we have known them, situated in a specific place, at a specific time, are no longer enough.
Live events will no longer exclusively mean in-person and will instead encompass a range of platforms, media, and digital interactions.
Virtual events offer the flexibility to create a live event that defies expectations and connects people in creative and unexpected ways.
This type of live event will meet your audience where they are, on their terms, and thus create a deeper impact. If people can absorb and process event content in the manner and pace that suits them, they will feel more positively about the experience and report a deeper understanding of the material and a deeper connection with your brand.
In a virtual format, live events will truly put the attendee experience front and center.
Creative Engagement is Key
It will not be enough to just live-stream an in-person experience and call it a virtual event. Attendee engagement and omnichannel communication that fosters creative communication will be essential.
Using a virtual events platform creates an entirely new medium and to succeed, you will need to reimagine and reinvent what you know works about events. Go all-in on enhancing your knowledge of some components that may feel unfamiliar. That’s why teaming up with a technology solution with amazing customer support is critical.
Virtual events offer several unique advantages that can improve engagement, drive leads, and grow your brand.
For example, event marketers can plan for certain ticket types that could gain exclusive access to event content through digital gateways that unlock follow-up webinars, Q&As, or networking sessions. This will allow individuals to access the content whenever they want. If you continuously update the content and offer new event options, you are adding real value to the attendee and creating a scenario where you could easily attract more attendees. Convert this digital gateway into a paid membership community and a new revenue stream is born!
If a marketing strategy doesn’t allow for subscription-based pricing, consider offering tiered access levels to the event content. That way, attendees can decide how they want to interact with and participate in your event.
When it comes to virtual events, the sky’s the limit. Creative engagements will be the key to capturing attention and keeping virtual audiences active and engaged with your brand. The opportunities are there, you just need to find the best way to capitalize on them.
The Changing Role of the Event Marketer
With all the shifts in the events industry, there has also been a drastic evolution in what it means to be an event marketer. The role of the event marketer has emerged from the pandemic era as an influential player that can move the needle.
Event marketers have more influence over lead generation and the buying cycle than ever before.
Even pre-pandemic, major brands were starting to shift significant portions of their marketing budget towards hosting and sponsoring events. This commitment to increased spending indicated that top decision-makers and C-level executives were seeing the value and returns associated with hosting events.
When COVID-19 forced the world to stay at home, this value only increased. Now, it is the event marketer who can maximize these returns by positioning a virtual or hybrid event to appeal to a target audience, delivering increased registrations, and providing event content that can not only increase brand awareness but better nurture leads through an event-first sales funnel.
By using event technologies like an all-in-one virtual event platform, event marketers can demonstrate a direct link to growth and revenue generation. Event marketers who are nimble and can adapt to recent trends in digital transformation are the ones who will prevail and deliver the most value to their stakeholders. One way to best adjust to the new landscape is to partner with an event platform that makes it easy to set up and run an event digitally. This way, most of the hard work has already been addressed and an event marketer can focus on what they do best.
Events as a Growth Driver
In general, events were always considered an essential part of a marketing strategy, however, justifying the investment with confidence was always elusive. With advancements in technology, hybrid and virtual event platforms have made it easier to track ROI and increase visibility into how leads travel through a sales funnel. Through strategies such as attendee segmentation, tailored communication, behavioral activity tracking, lead scoring, and automation, an event marketer can architect a pathway towards sustainable and tangible growth.
Even with all of this potential, events are an underutilized commodity. The reality is that they provide brands and event marketers with unparalleled opportunities to capitalize on new leads by nurturing them on-site and digitally by converting passive leads into inevitable customers.
Here are some ways that virtual events can drive leads and accelerate growth.
Shorter Sales Cycle
During a virtual event, attendees can be isolated within your brand and your product/service. Instead of moving through the sales funnel on their own or participating in a weeks-long back and forth with your sales team, they can get everything they need to know about your product within the confines of your event.
Not only will they have access to product demonstrations and a knowledgeable sales team, they may, depending on the nature of your virtual event, have unprecedented access to industry experts who can provide more context for your product or service. What’s more, by filling out a form to registering for your event, attendees are subsequently pre-qualified as leads. This fact alone will place them further along the sales funnel and deliver them to you at a stage more prepared for a sale.
Virtual events are the great equalizer for event marketers of today. The relatively low barriers to entry allow mom-and-pops and global behemoths to play on the same level. A virtual event can take your brand from a local standout to a global household name. Virtual and hybrid events allow event marketers to reach a much wider audience by eliminating location-based barriers. A physical event is limited by geography which can really narrow your audience and limit growth opportunities.
Interested potential attendees may have been unable to attend your event in person. But now with virtual attendance options, they can log in and attend online. By using inclusive language and including accessible options, like closed captioning and real-time language translations, you can welcome a diverse audience and expand your reach.
This increased reach means both increased brand awareness and a larger number of prospects and leads.
Sharing a Brand Narrative Through Interactive Content
The digital age has completely changed consumer expectations. You can no longer simply market a brand or product and walk away. If someone interacts with the brand, they expect a response. And they expect that response to come in a hurry.
This can be difficult to track and manage without full customer service, sales, or marketing teams at your fingertips. If you do not have someone actively monitoring your marketing channels around the clock, you may miss the ability to qualify a lead or advance a lead further through your sales funnel.
A virtual event provides several opportunities for real-time communication with your target audience. Whether you plan to hold a simple webinar or are thinking of something larger, like a multi-day conference, virtual events allow you to create content that leads to conversations and interactions between the brand and your target audience.
Interactive content available through virtual events include:
- Live text and video chat
- Virtual showroom or trade show floor
- Q&A sessions
- Fireside chats
- Interactive workshops
- Live-streamed video
- Live product demos
- Expert panel discussions
Be creative with your event agenda. It is not necessary to create content that exclusively connects attendees with your sales team. Create content that seeks to create deep engagement centered around value delivery. Content that involves gamification or AI matchmaking will leave your attendees talking for days.
These sorts of content features create the perfect environment for nurturing leads. They lay the necessary foundation by providing nearly all the information someone would need to make a purchase decision.
Make it easy for the audience to connect with your marketing and sales team, and it will be easy for them to connect with your brand or product.
Data-Driven Lead Tracking
One of the truly beautiful things about virtual events is the wealth of data they can provide. By taking a close look at the numbers, you can better understand the overall success of the event itself and the quality of the leads you have captured.
Some of the data you should track includes:
- Total number of attendees
- Session views
- Session durations
- Real-time attendees
- Download volumes
- Number of interactions
- The volume and the total value of transactions during the event
The data collected through virtual events or conference registrations can give a sales team a lengthy list of qualified prospects to pursue.
Collecting and analyzing advanced analytics based on behavior activity will allow your brand to further segment audiences, personalizing the nurturing process and maximizing the ROI potential. Take the time to analyze engagement levels for each virtual attendee persona type to determine where each virtual attendee is in the buyer’s journey.
This data can also help you improve future events that you plan to host or provide insights that can inform your brand marketing strategy. By knowing which sessions or content pieces were the most popular, you get a window into what the audience enjoyed most. In the future, you can create related content that will further engage and educate your audience.
Ability to Create a Series of Events
In-person events exist in a specific time and place. And when the event ends, so does the engagement with attendees and leads.
With a virtual event, you can keep the fun going! Event content can be made available to attendees for days and weeks after the event is over. This is beneficial because, depending on the event format and the fullness of your event agenda, attendees may not have been able to explore or engage with everything they had wanted. By allowing them access to the content after the fact, they can circle back and revisit anything that piqued their interest.
A virtual format gives you the ability to host multiple events, or even an event series, throughout the year. Physical events can be limited to venue availability and a handful of other considerations. Virtual events are not restricted in the same way which means they can be used as a central piece of your brand marketing strategy.
Virtual events are no longer a cost center and are ideal for an integrated, omnichannel marketing mix.
Simply put, digital events are revenue generators. According to the research of over 700 senior executives conducted by Harvard Business Review, the respondents who reported revenue growth of 30% or more over the last two years have also been the ones increasing their event activity the most.
It is not necessary to hold multiple large-scale events during the year (although, it is possible!). Instead you can hold several smaller, bite-sized events as part of your marketing strategy. Consider hosting one cornerstone event with multiple, smaller virtual events throughout the year. The nature of these events will depend on your marketing goals but they can function to continue moving leads through the funnel by providing informative, entertaining, and interactive content.
As mentioned previously but important to reiterate, use the data collected from previous events to inform the content and marketing strategy for subsequent events. You will have all of the contact information from previous event participants that can be used to promote future events or send relevant educational materials, warming them as prospects and turning them into even better leads.
Actionable Event Growth Strategies
While events organically provide increased opportunities, they still require proper strategic planning, context, and execution to maximize lead generation and growth acceleration.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning a virtual or hybrid event for marketing purposes:
Make Communication Easy
Create a frictionless environment where it is seamless for attendees and prospects to communicate with the brand or sales team. The harder you make it for people to “find” you, the less likely they will be to bother and the less likely they will be to make a purchase.
Ensure that all chat functions are activated and book demo call-to-actions are accessible throughout the event portal. Note, attendees will expect an immediate response to their questions, and failure to meet this expectation can impact brand reputation.
Provide Valuable Content
Today’s digital world has a ton of noise. Cut through that noise by crafting event content that is hyper-relevant and valuable to be worth the price of admission– even if it’s free because time has a cost as well.
When choosing event partners, presenters, speakers, and event sponsors, it is important to choose brands or individuals that bring something new to the table. Can they provide thought leadership, expand knowledge, bring in a network, and add value to the conversation? The event marketer will play a key role here as they build a strategy that drives value to attendees.
At a virtual or hybrid event, every touchpoint must add something to the experience. If there are steps in the registration process or event elements that do not contribute to the experience, they should be avoided. Events should be streamlined and tailored to audience intentions, interests, and pain points.
Explore the Data
As mentioned before, events, especially virtual or hybrid events, provide unparalleled data that can be used to collect, qualify, and nurture leads. But, there is also a great deal of data that can be used to ensure that event marketing materials are hitting the target in the first place.
Here are a few things to monitor:
- Email marketing: What subjects get the most opens? What is the clickthrough rate? How many conversions come from email? If emails are not driving registrations or converting sales, try A/B testing subject lines, segmenting the mailing list with customized messaging, and adjusting CTA placement. Good emails are key to increasing registration to attendance conversion rates.
- Registrations: Track event registrations to see the overall number but also where they are coming from. If the bulk of registrations come from a specific channel, like Facebook or Twitter, it means that marketing efforts have been most successful in that space. This can explain a lot about the audience and provide insight into how content should be created and delivered during the event. Adding items to each channel will help you track referral sources.
- Engagement with content: Virtual event platforms make it possible to determine exactly who and what each attendee interacted with throughout the event. It is possible to determine where they went, what they did, and anything that they may have downloaded or viewed. Understanding which sessions and speakers generated the most engagement can help narrow down the true interest and intentions of attendees while informing content for future events.
Analyzing this data can improve lead capturing and sales conversions by indicating what the target demographic actually wants to know. Brands and event marketers may think the audience is after one thing, but attendance metrics indicate they were after something else entirely. Knowing what they really want makes any post-event communication or lead nurturing that much more effective.
Follow Up with Attendees Post-Event
Speaking of post-event follow-ups, it is a critical step in nurturing and converting leads.
There are a few ways to go about this.
Begin by conducting a post-event survey. This will indicate what attendees truly thought of the event experience. It will offer the insights necessary to improve content going forward but will also inform the tone, tenor, and subject of post-event communications.
It is important to remember that all event attendees can be considered qualified leads to a certain extent (or at least evangelists or influencers). They displayed an interest in the product, service, or industry and went out of their way to interact with an event that spoke to this interest. Use the data collected through the event platform and the post-event survey to determine exactly where each attendee is in the buyer’s journey. From there, customize the follow-up to match this purchase stage.
Some leads need very little encouragement to purchase while others will require more nurturing. Collect and segment attendees based on buyer personas, where they are in the funnel, whether or not they have already made a purchase. This will help the sales team connect with leads most effectively and appropriately.
Do not let this opportunity go to waste. Reach out while the event experience (and therefore the brand or product) is fresh in the mind of the attendee. Sales are not going to convert themselves.
Choose the Right Platform
Using the right virtual event platform can help event marketers host, promote, and analyze an event.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to event platforms and software. The options are vast and nuanced so the right fit depends on the event type and the specific marketing goals at play. But there are a few absolutes that should factor into any platform choice that is equipped to drive growth by capturing actionable analytics.
Look for an event platform that:
- Offers scalability. Your current event plans may be small, as in a webinar small, but choosing a platform that is constantly evolving and improving, and one that can easily be scaled– both financially and operationally– to meet growing demands and attendance is more valuable than upgrading to a new platform every time something changes.
- Has real-time data dashboards. Keep an eye on how your event is doing in real-time and make adjustments on the fly when necessary.
- Provides excellent customer service. A platform with a dedicated customer support team that is available 24/7.
- Offers registration and ticketing form options. Fully customizable registration choices allow event marketers to construct an opt-in mechanism where attendees divulge both demographic and psychographic information that can be used in strategic analysis.
- Enables easy integrations. The last thing any event marketer or planner needs is to juggle different platforms. Look for an event platform that simplifies planning and marketing by doing everything in one place. Valuable integrations include a built-in payment platform, email marketing clients, social media channels, CRM software, and video live-streaming.
- Allows for customized branding. Event branding is an essential part of the marketing process. Look for a platform that allows for the creation of a branded event website, branded communications, and a branded virtual event space.
- Offers flexibility. Event marketers need to create an event that fits their goals so it is important to have a platform that allows for flexibility in creating the event format. Look for a platform that can handle all event types from trade shows to conferences to networking events.
The Growth Acceleration Framework
As we began to see more and more event marketers looking for ways to use data to accomplish their goals, we at Accelevents conceptualized a framework that we believe captures the essence of how to approach growth through events. We coined it the Growth Acceleration Framework, seen below:
The Growth Acceleration Framework bridges traditional event marketing strategies with current growth marketing and data-focused tactics to drive growth throughout the entire funnel. Each stage is specifically designed to attract attendees at scale and nurture them through persona segmentation and engagement that will cultivate actionable behavior insights. By incorporating this framework through a series of events, event marketers can begin to accumulate large sets of data that marketing and sales can use in aggregate to reach their own growth goals.
The beauty of events is that the attendee can be fully immersed in an environment where they do not feel like they are being sold to while simultaneously and subconsciously divulging their interests and intentions. Learn more about the Growth Acceleration Framework.
There is little doubt that events, especially in virtual and hybrid formats, are becoming a powerful marketing tool.
To continue to put forward successful events, event marketers need to be willing to adapt and grow with their changing role and embrace emerging event technologies.
Following these industry changes and trends can help marketers better reach their target audience, drive leads, and accelerate growth.
When you are ready to put these principles into use, get started with a robust, all-in-one events platform like Accelevents. With scalability, built-in integrations, real-time analytics, and superior ease of use, Accelevents is the preferred platform for event marketers who want to move the needle and make a difference for themselves and their companies.
Schedule a demo with us to learn more about Accelevents and speak to an expert who can demonstrate how to use events to drive growth 🚀