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A New Way to Follow Up with Attendees after Events

July 6, 2013

The New Way

Photo credit: Flickr user bernatcg via photopin cc

Introduction

Recently, I attended a virtual event. The event had a large number of sessions and virtual booths (exhibitors). Due to a number of meetings I had scheduled that day, I couldn’t stay too long. I attended one session and visited a few booths to see what was going on.

The Current Way

A day after the event, I received an email from the event organizer. They thanked me for attending and invited me to log back in to view all of the sessions on-demand. So far, so good.

And then it started. Over the next two weeks, I received emails from exhibitor after exhibitor. I recalled visiting some of the exhibitors’ booths. For others emailing me, I had no idea they were even part of the show.

The New Way

I don’t like the current way. It results in too many emails, most of which aren’t relevant to me. So here’s the new way.

Warning: this takes extra work on the part of the event organizer. But in the end, I think everyone wins.

1) An exhibitor can only email an attendee when the attendee requests it, on the event website.

2) All post-event emails come from the event organizer (only).

3) The event organizer becomes an Editor of sorts, assembling emails that pair vendor-neutral content (the on-demand sessions) adjacent to vendor information (product listings that relate to a session).

4) Continuing the Editor role, the event organizer builds sections of the event website (or, the virtual event environment itself) segmented by “solution type.” As attendees view on-demand sessions, they’re able to view lists of vendors within each solution type.

5) In this way, it’s the event organizer who’s helping move attendees along the sales cycle!

Benefits of The New Way

More Credible Emails

In The New Way, the emails come from a credible source. I attended the event, so I’m likely to consider the event organizer credible. An exhibitor I never heard of that’s decided to start emailing me? Not so credible.

Better Email Management

We receive far too much email

Photo credit: Flickr user deltaMike via photopin cc

The New Way results in far less emails. By centralizing the sending from a single source, attendees have one opt-out to manage, rather than 5, 10 or 15 opt-outs from all the exhibitors. With a single opt-out, the stakes are also raised for the event organizer.

More Effective Emails

Today’s approach (from exhibitors) amounts to a shot in the dark. The recipe for the email is:

You attended event X. I sell a product, Y that has some relation to X. Want to buy?

With The New Way, the emails focus on the content of the event and attendees are invited to self-select their follow-up paths. They do so based on the sessions they view, the pages they visit and the requests they submit for more information.

More Qualified Leads

The New Way can invert the process: instead of exhibitors pursuing attendees, the attendees can be the ones asking for appointments with the exhibitors. It’s the job of the event organizer to facilitate this match-making: NOT to simply hand over lists of email addresses to exhibitors.

For bonus points: event organizers can create multiple “email tracks” (by topic) and invite attendees to select the track(s) most relevant to them. Combine this with email analytics and marketing automation to tailor subsequent content down to an individual basis.

Conclusion

It’s up to you, event organizers. By adopting The New Way, you can make your attendees much happier. And if done right, you can enable your exhibitors to achieve higher ROI than they’re getting today. Let’s leave the shot in the dark emails to those selling snake oil.

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Marketers as Event Organizers

January 2, 2009

Rebecca Lieb of ClickZ penned an interesting article titled “Marketers as Publishers”. Rebecca discusses the trend of marketers as full-blown content creators, especially in this age of digital media.  Examples cited by Rebecca include:

  1. Low cost video content creation and distribution (e.g. with a digital video camera to record and YouTube for distribution)
  2. Big brands creating original content (e.g. Bud.tv, along with Johnson and Johnson’s Baby.com)
  3. Creation and propagation of consumer generated media

I agree with Rebecca – spending the past few years in tech media, I’ve watched the transition of technology vendors into prodigious publishers, with their mix of White Papers, Webinars, Podcasts, Case Studies, Videocasts and Product Collateral.  Some technology vendors are producing hundreds or thousands of pieces of content a year, giving their technology media partners a run for their money (on volume).

Adding to Rebecca’s list, I think we’ll see an increasing number of marketers turn to virtual events – whereby marketers can easily morph into event organizers (in addition to publishers).  Perhaps you’re an up and coming vendor in an IT market – you see the benefits of doing a customer conference, but the business case isn’t quite there yet.

With costs for virtual events coming down, you now have the opportunity to launch that customer event in 2009.  You do it online, making it efficient and convenient – and bringing its availability to a global audience of customers and prospects.  Take Quest Software as an example.   This maker of products and services for Enterprise IT has run virtual conferences the past two years.  Last year’s event was titled Quest Connect 2008 and included presentations (webcasts) on just about every technology produced by Quest.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Quest produce the same event (or events) in 2009 – so as you can see, they’re morphing into an event producer and event organizer (where the ongoing events occur online).

With regard to consumer generated media (CGM), I’ve found that virtual events are a natural venue for fostering CGM.  Engaged attendees who participate in your event are not shy about expressing their thoughts and opinions.  You’re bound to see a lot of CGM around your products and services – and I’d argue that good or bad, the discussion and interaction  is valuable to your company.  In some cases, I’ve seen questions posed by attendees that are directly answered by other attendees.  How efficient!  Customer support (and prospect management) via CGM.

So publishers (I mean, marketers), as you plan your activities for 2009, consider the virtual customer conference.  And, consider extending your (physical) customer conference into the virtual world.


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