Increase Your Virtual Event ROI: 10 Tips and Tactics

March 22, 2009

Source: Flickr (Ewan McIntosh)

Source: Flickr (Ewan McIntosh)

If you recently exhibited at a lead generation virtual event, then I’ve got some tips for you.  While most exhibitors consider the program “complete” at the conclusion of the live virtual event, your work is just beginning.  Outhustle your competition and you’ll generate more ROI, beating them to the punch on shared sales leads.  There are two primary strategies for generating a higher return on your investment:

  1. Leverage your existing investment to generate net new sales leads
  2. Better convert your existing sales leads

Leverage Existing Investment

  1. Convince the virtual event host to light up the environment – most virtual events remain “on demand” for 3 months after the live show date.  During those 3 months, you’ll see intermittent activity – some attendees return to visit your booth – some new leads sprinkle in, 1 here and 2 more a few days later.  Your event organizer should be incented to produce another “live date”, in which past attendees are invited to return – and, new registrants are invited to participate.  After all, the event organizer has fixed costs as well – and lighting up the show again means more revenue.  The organizer will want brand new content to draw users in (e.g. compelling Live Webcasts, like they used in the original event) – and you’ll want to leverage the same amount of booth reps to interact with attendees.
  2. Convince the virtual event host to support portable booths – you spent a lot of time getting your booth just right – selecting the right logo and Flash movie, finding relevant White Papers and producing some case studies just for the event.  Your booth is a great marketing vehicle and should be leveraged elsewhere – how about placing your booth on its own microsite – or, embedding the booth on your corporate web site?  The eco-friendly practice of re-use applies here as well.
  3. Syndicate booth content – for the White Papers, podcasts, Case Studies, etc. that you placed in your booth, syndicate them with the event organizer and related web and blog sites.  This broadens the reach of your content – and allows you to generate more sales leads.
  4. Syndicate Webcast content – if you had a speaking slot at the virtual event, ask the show host for a copy of the Webcast – then, host it on your corporate web site and syndicate it with the event organizer and related web sites.  Any content generated for the event should be re-used – it can generate new sales leads with minimal overhead or cost.
  5. Syndicate the supplemental Webcast content (in different forms) – convert your Webcast into an MP3 audio podcast and make that available on your web site along with the Webcast.  Syndicate the podcast as well, in case your target audience prefers the convenience of a download over the viewing of a streaming presentation.  Take the Q&A of the Webcast and transcribe that into a PDF or HTML document – and place this on your web site as well.  You get the idea here – spread your wings, without thinning the pocketbook.

Convert Existing Leads

  1. Find those Top 10 leads – whether you have an automated system or need to do this manually, comb through the wealth of engagement data that a virtual event provides and find those Top 10 leads.  These are the folks who Sales must call now.  Perhaps they downloaded 10 of your White Papers – or, perhaps they did a text chat with a booth rep and requested that a sales rep call.  Either way, they need immediate attention.  If you know the sales reps who should handle these leads, don’t be shy about personally walking the leads over to them and providing the details as to why the leads as so hot.
  2. Get the basics right in your follow-ups – if Inside Sales is following up by phone with some leads, make sure the reps have a script that covers the correct name of the virtual event – and arm them with some important details of the event (e.g. date, topics, speakers, etc.).  For email follow-up, be sure to include the virtual event title in the Subject line.  Always be sure to reference the context of the event in all of your touchpoints.
  3. Build customized follow-up paths based on prospect activity – again, whether it’s automated or manual, factor in the prospect’s specific activities within the live event and tailor the follow-up touchpoints based on that activity.  Study the 5 White Papers they downloaded and recommend a 6th that brings it all home.  Study the chat transcript with your booth rep and send an email follow-up that ties up any loose ends.  Believe me, the prospects will appreciate the personal attention and the value you deliver to them.
  4. Use the virtual event platform to faciliate your follow-up – your show host is keeping the environment open for 3 months – so it would be a shame not to leverage it for all its worth.  When you do secure a follow-up appointment – consider complementing your phone call by meeting your prospect back in the virtual event.  There, you can do text or webcam chat in an environment s/he is familiar with.  And perhaps you place some additional content in the booth for your prospect to review.
  5. Send small prizes to highly engaged prospects – not everyone could win a prize during the live event – so, find those top 10 leads – or, top 10 most engaged users (in your booth) and send them a memory stick or webcam.  As discussed, reference the context of the event in your communications.  Perhaps the memory stick contains additional White Papers that may be of interest.  Just make sure the touchpoint is personalized – and don’t send the prize just for the sake of sending something.

So there you have it.  Don’t forget that your campaign doesn’t end at the conclusion of the live virtual event.  That signals the starting point of the important phase – the one in which you’re head to head with the competition.  So make sure you score a higher ROI than they do.

Virtual Event Best Practices

January 23, 2009

With a number of virtual events on tap for 2009 (see the calendar of events here), marketers and exhibitors are busy preparing – assembling content for their booth, rounding up colleagues for “booth duty” and preparing the sales team for a burst of hot sales leads.  I’ve assembled past blog posts into a collection of virtual event best practices.  Without further ado:

  1. Bring the right people, have the right content (in your booth), perform the right actions and provide the right prizes (
  2. Utilize surveys to provide a deeper understanding of your customer prospects and generate insights back to your product management team (
  3. Leverage Twitter – show-hosts can look to Twitter to expand the reach of the event’s audience and exhibitors can leverage Twitter to invite their followers to visit their booth at  the event (
  4. It’s not always about “net new sales leads” – get closer to your existing customers (
  5. Use treasure hunts to increase engagement (
  6. Have a process in place to handle the hot sales leads (
  7. Utilize multiple metrics to judge success – Cost Per Lead (CPL) is the key metric for most marketers, but also consider other success metrics [e.g. quality of leads, conversion of inquiry to sales engagement, etc.] (

What best practices do you utilize at virtual events?  I welcome your input – feel free to drop a comment below.

What Cost Per Lead (CPL) Should I Pay for Virtual Tradeshow Sponsorships?

December 28, 2008


Flickr (TheTruthAbout)

Source: Flickr ("TheTruthAbout")

For online marketers responsible for lead generation, the name of the game is Cost Per Lead (CPL).  While it’s not the be-all, end-all, CPL is certainly top-of-mind for marketers – and in this economic environment, CPL is receiving heightened attention from the online marketer, her CMO and her CFO (and possibly even the CEO).

So let’s get the numbers out of the way first.  For B-to-B virtual tradeshows (VTS), I’ve seen CPL’s in a range of $15-$50 for worldwide leads.  The low end reflects events where the organizer has over-delivered on leads or priced the sponsorships reasonably (or both). The high end reflects a more focused event or an event that has slightly underdelivered.  I’ve seen a few events fall outside this range, with CPL’s as low as $10 (or even lower) and as high as $70.

So you’d want your sponsorship to be within this range.  But, I think that for VTS, “What is my CPL” is not the right question!  The following questions are more applicable:

  1. What’s the quality of the audience and does it match my target profile (e.g. geography, purchasing authority, has budget, etc.)
  2. What level of interactions did I have with the attendees
  3. What was my cost per sales engagement and how does that compare to my other marketing activities
  4. What was my cost per customer acquisition and how does that compare to my other marketing activities

So as an example, I’d be fine with paying a CPL of $60, if the resulting cost per sales engagement was lower than my other marketing programs. Remember a key point about these leads, though – they are shared with the other exhibitors at the event.  As such, it’s important to:

  • Distinguish your company at the event – attract visitors to your booth and generate interactions with sales prospects.  If you put in the hard work here, you can short-circuit the lead nurturing and lead follow-up stages – as you can find prospects who are in the later stages of their purchasing decisions and very receptive to hearing more from you.
  • Distinguish your company after the event – follow up with prospects intelligently and promptly.  Don’t forget that if you do your job at the event, then the after-event steps become much easier.

Like with most purchasing decisions, shop wisely – and rememer that there’s much more to the equation than just the CPL price tag.

Online Marketers: How to Sell Virtual Tradeshows to the Boss

December 15, 2008

Has Bruce Springsteen (The Boss) ever participated in a Virtual Tradeshow (VTS)?  I’m not sure, but if I were an online marketer, here’s how I’d convince my Boss on them.  The first thing I’d do is look for B-to-B publishers who are “flooring” industry virtual events that align with my product marketing initiatives.  Go find out (from the publishers) who’s already committed to sponsor the VTS.  If you’re picking the right events, you’ll notice that your competitors are already on the list.  If they’re not there, then perhaps you need to seek out alternative events.  But wait – you could also be “first in” with the right event – so just be sure the event’s theme aligns with your marketing plans.

So the first point to make to your boss is that your competitors are already on board.  So, NOT participating in the same event is a lost opportunity to have a place at the table alongside your competitors.  I do see attendees at virtual events ask, “Why isn’t <COMPANY> here?”.  If it’s a prominent industry VTS, your absence can speak volumes.  Next, develop an explicit goal for your boss  that clearly demonstrates the ROI.  For instance, how about a goal of 5 late-stage sales engagements – where you’d have to come up with a clear definition (for your boss) of “late-stage”.

Now that you have your boss’ ear, go with the lower tier sponsorship available.  These sponsorships are priced less because rather than receiving all leads (including no-shows), you only generate leads from attendees who directly interact with you (e.g. visit your sponsor booth or download your content).

This puts the onus on you, because you become directly responsible for the success of the campaign – the more visitors you can drive to your booth, the more leads you generate.  The upside, though, is that you can influence the cost per lead (CPL) that you achieve.  And there’s a possible win-win scenario: low CPL’s and a better qualified lead.  Your boss might like to hear about the low CPL, but make sure to emphasize the qualified leads – they’ve had direct interaction with you and their actions with your people or your content tells a lot about them.

Now, to get you to those 5 late-stage sales engagements, you have more work to do.  Remember that these are shared leads, not exclusive leads.  If a VTS had 10 exhibitors, a given attendee might have visited 7 of the 10 booths.  This means that they become leads for 6 other companies, some of whom are your direct competitors.  You’ll need to convert these leads more effectively than your competition.  And often times, this comes down to the simple determinant of, “who acts first”.  Don’t let those hot VTS leads sit in limbo in a spreadsheet or CRM system queue.  Get those leads over to telesales (or direct sales) and call them tomorrow.  If you don’t, you can be sure that your competition is.  And that hot lead suddenly becomes your competitor’s customer.  A shame!

So in summary, here’s an approach that leverages VTS to fuel the sales pipeline at a reasonable cost (making you and The Boss look good):

  1. Convince the boss
  2. Go with the lower tier VTS sponsorship (costs less – but places onus on you)
  3. Be an All-Star performer at the VTS (see related article)
  4. Close the loop by having Sales follow up with the hottest leads
  5. Reap the benefits
  6. Lather, rinse and repeat!

If you’ve never exhibited at a VTS before, enjoy the ride.  I think you’ll find it to be fun.

%d bloggers like this: