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This Week: HubSpot Inbound Marketing Virtual Conference

June 14, 2011

Introduction

According to HubSpot, “The Internet has profoundly changed the way people learn about and shop for products. To connect with today’s buyer, you need to stop pushing your message out and start pulling your customers in. The rules of marketing have changed and the key to winning is to use this change to your advantage.”

HubSpot is hosting the first ever virtual conference on inbound marketing.  It’s this Thursday (06/16) from 11AM to 5PM ET.

Session: Inbound Marketing for Your Virtual Conference

Previously, I wrote about how content marketing can drive registrants to your virtual event.  I’m excited to share similar thoughts at the HubSpot virtual conference.  I’ll be joining Eric Vreeland, HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Manager, in a session titled “Inbound Marketing Best Practices for Your Virtual Conference.”  Our session kicks off the virtual conference at 11AM ET.

Save the Date

Virtual conference details:

Date: 06/16/2011

Time: 11AM – 5PM ET

For further information: http://www.hubspot.com/marketing-webinar/inbound-marketing-virtual-conference/

Disclosure: The HubSpot virtual conference is hosted on the INXPO virtual events platform (my employer).

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Virtual Event Audience Generation via Content Marketing

June 13, 2011

Introduction

Email marketing is far from dead. For proof, look no further than Groupon, which recently filed for an IPO. Groupon’s business hinges on “daily deal” emails to their growing audience of subscribers. For virtual events, email blasts bring in 75% (or more) of the registrations [my estimate].

Despite Groupon’s success, virtual events’ reliance on email blasts is not sustainable. In this post, I introduce the concept of applying content marketing to generate an increasing percentage of your virtual event registrations.

Content Marketing is a Renewable Resource

Develop content that promotes your virtual event – and, remains viable well after the event is over. Market your event, while creating sustaining content at the same time. In the process of driving registrations to your virtual event, you’re also creating “inbound marketing,” – your content gets indexed by search engines. Content becomes a renewable resource, which can generate ongoing “returns.”

Email blasts, however, are a different story. You may open that Groupon daily deal email, but an offer to attend a virtual event may not garner the same interest. In addition, “repeat sends” of the same offer have diminishing returns. Get it right with your first offer, because subsequent blasts (to the same list) are dangerous. You’re more likely to generate opt-outs than opens or clicks. Email blasts are interruption-based, while with content marketing, users find you while they’re actively looking and searching.

Virtual Event Planners: The New Media Company

Consider the goals of a media company:

  1. Generate an audience (and associated lists)
  2. Engage the audience
  3. Sustain (and grow) audience loyalty

Virtual event planners are media companies. For virtual events, the above 3 steps become:

  1. Generate registrations (audience)
  2. Engage registrants (so they attend)
  3. Create a great event (so they come back next time)

Content marketing should be leveraged to generate a high attendance rate (i.e. number of attendees divided by number of registrants). Email reminders do not qualify as content marketing. In addition to reminders, share valuable content with registrants on a regular basis, leading up to the virtual event.

Content Marketing Portfolio

Never fear, you don’t have to build a media company on your own. Instead, leverage key stakeholders in the virtual event and invite them to provide content:

  1. Speakers
  2. Exhibitors
  3. Partners
  4. Your employees

The types of content you should be publishing:

  1. Blog postings (your blog)
  2. Guest blog postings (related industry blogs)
  3. YouTube videos
  4. Social sharing (of the above) via your social media channels
  5. Occasional email touches (to registrants) with valuable content [include an opt-out]
  6. Earned media

This content should be mixed and matched to attract new registrations and to interest existing registrants into attending the live event. An added benefit of all this content? Inbound links to your virtual event’s registration page, which increases its ranking with search engines.

Conclusion

Developing quality content is not easy. With a heavy reliance on email blasts (for virtual event audience generation), however, content can be a secret weapon. It’s your natural and untapped resource – and it’s renewable! Share your thoughts in the comments below – how are you using content marketing for your virtual events?


Comparing Virtual Events and Virtual Communities

April 30, 2009

While virtual event platforms can certainly support a 365 day-per-year virtual community, my estimate is that 95% of the use case (today) on these platforms is for the single day or multi-day live virtual event.  I’ve seen some pick-up in the “ongoing community” concept and I believe that by this time next year, the 5% share (for virtual communities) will be more like 15 or 20%.  As I’ve written several times before, there are plenty of ways in which a virtual event platform can support a virtual community:

  1. The future of newspapers as virtual communities
  2. Online dating, powered by a virtual event platform
  3. An ongoing virtual crisis center to combat swine flu

There are important distinctions to keep in mind when considering a virtual community.  If you’re a veteran of virtual events and want to consider the community concept, I outline five key differences between the two – differences that will change the way you fundamentally plan and execute each one.

  1. Outbound marketing vs. inbound marketing – with a live virtual event, 90% of your registrant and attendee base will come from outbound marketing.  And today, most of that outbound marketing comes in the form of email blasts to assorted lists.  With a virtual community site that’s available 365 days a year, attracting an audience is more about inbound marketing – such as search engine optimization (SEO) to attract visitors to your community from search engines.  You’ ll want to complement the inbound marketing with some outbound promotion, but you’ll start to wear out your lists by promoting your virtual community site too often.  One common tactic is to use social media (e.g. Facebook fan page, Linkedin Events listing, Twitter, etc.) to drive visitors and attendees to your virtual event and virtual community.
  2. Local vs. global access – most live events take place during the course of a business day – and typically within a narrow timezone (e.g. the schedule is arranged around a US/Eastern or US/Pacific schedule for US-based events).  While I’ve seen attendance at North American work-day events from visitors across the globe, it’s the middle of the night for these folks – so 60-80% of the audience participate from the local timezone(s).  So for live events, the top priority of the virtual event platform is to support the local language at that timezone (e.g. English).  For a virtual community, access is 7x24x365, which means that all languages can apply.  As such, the virtual event platform ought to support rendering in as many languages as possible, both single and double byte.
  3. Concentrated vs. intermittent audience – live events are great, because a large and captivated audience can result in valuable interactions between attendee and attendee, as well as between attendee and exhibitor.  For a virtual community, a large, ongoing and engaged audience is nirvana – but, the more likely experience is that a few attendees will be in the environment at the same time you are.  This places more onus on the community organizer to provide compelling content and useful asynchronous tools (e.g. blogs, message boards, etc.) to keep the visitor from wandering away and logging out.
  4. Large staffing commitment vs. minimal staffing commitment – for a live event, you want an entire team of booth reps who can “man” your booth for the extent of the live show.  For a 7x24x365 virtual community, it’s not practical to have booth reps online in the environment around the clock.  Here’s where technology innovation can help – virtual event platforms that support an auto-attendant, for instance – a “chat bot” that engages visitors in text chat, which attempts to provide automated answers to common questions.  Or, perhaps some auto-triggered notifications to booth reps.  For instance, 5 visitors happen to be in my booth right now – so I receive an email alert that encourages me to login to the environment right away.
  5. Intra-day support vs. ongoing support – for the virtual event producer, the priority is to provide support for the duration of the live event.  For a virtual community, you want to ensure the service has 100% availability, but it’s not practical to personally monitor the environment at all times.  Here, you might want to rely on automation to continually monitor key indicators and send you email alerts (or text messages) when exceptions occur.

Here’s a thought – do a little of both (above) – think of your virtual event as an experience that has a repeatable schedule.  Once a live event has concluded, it transforms into a 7x24x365 virtual community.  And when it’s time for the next live event, you simply “light up” the live features within the community.  Then, when the live activities have concluded, you dim the lights and return to the community focus.  Either way, make sure you think about the importance differences I’ve outlined.  And have fun!


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