New Book: Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

December 1, 2010

Book Cover: Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to sites on which the book is available for purchase.

“Virtual events can be a dream for marketers. They can generate leads cost effectively and they facilitate real-time interactions with sales prospects that can lead to quicker and more efficient marketing qualification.”

That’s the premise behind my new book, “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events”.

Previously, I posted the introduction of the book – you can find it here:

Introduction: Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

And here’s what I cover in the other chapters:

Chapter Listing

  1. Get Started
  2. Assemble a Plan
  3. Build Your Virtual Booth
  4. Use Social Networks to Generate Interest and Awareness
  5. Engage with Virtual Event Attendees
  6. Score and Follow Up with Leads
  7. Conclude Your Virtual Event Campaign

The book also includes an eloquent Foreword, written by Craig Rosenberg (@Funnelholic), a lead generation expert.

Purchase for Kindle

Purchase for Kindle

“Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events” (Kindle version) ($9.99)

Purchase for iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch

“Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events” – via iBooks ($9.99)

Purchase for NOOK (BarnesAndNoble.com)

NOOK Reader

“Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events” – NOOK ($9.99)

Purchase the Paperback

Purchase from FastPencil, the publisher of the book:

http://www.fastpencil.com/publications/818-Generate-Sales-Leads-With-Virtual-Events ($12.99)

Buy the paperback on Amazon ($11.69)

Buy the paperback at BarnesAndNoble.com ($11.69)

Praise for “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events”

“This book should be required reading for any event producer or marketer that plans on using online events to engage with customers and prospects. Done properly, using virtual events for lead generation and lead nurturing as well as sales acceleration can yield impressive ROI and drive customer relationships. Dennis is one of the few experts with real-world experience from having produced lots of virtual events across many markets.”

— Michael Doyle, Executive Director, Virtual Edge Institute (@virtualedge)

“Interacting virtually is now a must-have marketing skill.  In Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events, Dennis Shiao shows you exactly how to run a successful virtual event from end-to-end. What’s amazing is that the opportunities to engage with leads virtually can be as productive, or more so, than attending events in person.”

— Ardath Albee, author of eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale (@Ardath421)

“Dennis is one of the pioneers when it comes to virtual events.  He certainly knows and understands the environment, and his information is right on target!”

— Susan Friedmann, CSP, The Tradeshow Coach (@Tradeshowcoach)

“As interactivity becomes an increasingly important element of marketing campaigns, virtual events offer marketers a cost-efficient solution to engage with prospective buyers. Dennis’ book offers real-world examples and turnkey tactics that marketers can apply to increase their success with virtual events. Whether a marketer is just getting started with virtual events or just looking for tips on improving their metrics, Dennis provides the insight marketers need and want to know to maximize lead flow from virtual events.”

— Amanda Ferrante Batista, Associate Editor, DemandGen Report (@Amanda_Ferrante)


Live Webcast: How Smart Marketers Succeed with Virtual Trade Shows

October 26, 2010

“Now, more than ever, B2B marketers are sponsoring virtual trade shows because they are cheaper and can attract larger audiences than live, in-person events.  Next year and beyond, B2B marketers will be able to choose from 100s of virtual trade shows. In other words, what was once considered a gimmick is now a part of the B2B marketing mix.  But just signing up as a sponsor doesn’t guarantee success — a proper plan and execution does.”

That’s the lead-in to a Live Webcast that I’ll be doing with Craig Rosenberg (@funnelholic) and FOCUS  (@FOCUS).  Register to view the Webcast on-demand:

http://www.focus.com/webcasts/marketing/fad-roi-how-smart-marketers-succeed-with-virtual-trade-shows/

View the slides:


With Lead Generation and Virtual Events, It’s a Journey, Not a Project

October 23, 2010

Introduction

Virtual Events can be highly effective in generating leads to fuel your sales pipeline.  Here’s a 5-step process that I call the “Virtual Event Lead Generation Virtuous Cycle“:

  1. Generate
  2. Engage & Qualify
  3. Score
  4. Re-Engage
  5. Assess

Step #2 (“Engage & Qualify”) is quite unique for virtual events, compared to other online lead generation activities.  Virtual events allow you to generate leads (Step #1) and engage and qualify them on the spot.

With a white paper download or an on-demand webinar, the engagement and qualification occurs after the prospect has requested your content.  Note that I said “requested” – with a white paper download, you don’t even know if the prospect read the paper.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

As the diagram above illustrates, effective use of virtual events for lead generation is done in a circle (or cycle), where you begin the next event with learnings from your prior event.

By knowing what worked and what didn’t work from your last event, you fine tune and optimize your strategies and tactics and become more effective in generating and engaging leads with each event.  So think of virtual event lead generation as an ongoing journey and not a discrete project.

To help on your journey, here are some useful resources that I’ve come across.

Generating Leads (Step #1)

  1. From BetterCloser.com, “Sales is Personal, Why Isn’t Your Lead Generation?”
  2. An eBook from Brian Carroll, “Eight CRITICAL Success Factors for Lead Generation
  3. From BtoB Online, “2010 Lead Generation Guide
  4. An interview with The Funnelholic, which includes insights on lead generation with virtual events.

Lead Scoring (Step #3)

  1. From Brian Carroll, “Lead scoring thoughts to share

Lead Re-Engagement (Step #4)

More commonly referred to as Lead Follow-Up, also includes Lead Nurturing

  1. From Marketo,  “Perfect Timing – When to Call a Prospect
  2. From LeadSloth, “What Lead Nurturing Content to Send When?”

Lead Assessment (Step #5)

A subset of Lead Management

  1. From The Funnelholic, “Lead Management: 67 tips from the biggest experts in the field

Lead Generation and Virtual Events – A Book

I’ll soon be publishing a book that provides related advice on generating sales leads with virtual events.  For further information on lead generation and virtual events, “Like” the book’s Facebook page.  Updates on the book’s availability will be posted here.  Best of luck on your own journey!

Eight CRITICAL Success Factors for Lead Generation



Book Excerpt: Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

October 9, 2010

BUY THE BOOK: Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events (Amazon.com)

I’m finalizing a book, “Generate  Sales Leads With Virtual Events.”  I’m self-publishing the book via a neat service called FastPencil.  The book will be available for sale in a few weeks – it will be listed on Amazon in both traditional (printed) format and for the Kindle.  The book will feature a great foreword written by Craig Rosenberg (@Funnelholic), a lead generation expert.

I’m including Chapter 1 (“Introduction”) to the book below.  In addition, I’ve posted this chapter on a wiki:

http://allvirtual.pbworks.com/w/page/Chapter-1%3A-Generate-Sales-Leads-With-Virtual-Events

Feel free to edit this page, to show us how you would have written this chapter – thanks!

Chapter 1: Introduction

I can vividly recall my first experience exhibiting at a trade show.  It was the early 1990’s and I was fresh out of college.  I worked for a company that sold Internet connections to corporations.  My colleagues and I flew across the country for the conference, where we sought to generate sales leads.  We arrived at our destination a day or two prior to the conference, so that we could set up our booth, network our demo workstations and place our sales collateral in neatly organized stands on the show floor.  Undoubtedly, a colleague or two got stranded in their home airport, forcing a lucky few of us to pick up the slack and handle the booth set-up.

Then, there was the workstation monitor that wasn’t delivered to our booth.  Did our colleague forget to include it in the shipment?  Was it lost in transit?  Or was it on the conference facility’s loading dock?  It was late in the evening, so no one was available to answer these questions.  Hopefully, we’d be able to sort it out in the morning.  The workstation monitor ended up arriving a day late, but everything came together and we had a successful show.  I spent my time giving demonstrations to curious booth visitors, who wanted to know more about the “Internet”.  This was before the Mosaic and Netscape browsers hit the scene, which meant that Internet demos centered largely around character- based “telnet sessions” to services called Archie, WAIS and Gopher.

At the end of the conference, we were tired and weary, but managed to collect some 50 business cards that we’d distribute to our sales team when we returned to the office.  For particularly “hot” leads, we scribbled notes on the back of business cards, sending along important notes to the receiving sales representative.  Fast-forward to our present day era of widespread broadband, Web 2.0 and social marketing.  But now imagine a trade show that has global reach.  A trade show that requires no travel, lodging or “out of office” time.  A trade show with no physical booth set-up.  A trade show with detailed tracking of sales lead activity.  A trade show that remains available after the scheduled activities conclude.  Welcome to the virtual trade show!

Virtual trade shows are a flavor of the broader category of virtual events.  In the coming chapters, I’ll cover how virtual events can be effective in generating sales leads.

The Marketing Landscape: Where Virtual Events Fit

Marketers today face the same challenges that my colleagues and I encountered in the early 1990’s.  From their CEO or CFO, they’re tasked with generating an increasing flow of sales leads, but at lower cost.  From their VP of Sales, they’re tasked with the same flow of sales leads, with the additional condition that the leads be “marketing qualified” and “sales ready.”  Often, the two objectives can counteract one another, as lower-cost sales leads tend to be lower quality, which means that they’re less “sales ready.”

How can marketers satisfy both objectives simultaneously?  With the evolution of the web, many have turned to online lead generation.  With online lead generation, marketers can distribute content across the web – white papers, product collateral, case studies, webinars, videos, podcasts and more.  Prospects “discover” the content via the company’s web site, search engines, publisher web sites or via social networks.

Before a prospect can gain access to the content, they may be required to complete a registration profile.  When the prospect completes the profile, we call this a “generated lead” and the marketer has just gained a “sales inquiry.” Web-based, online lead generation comes with fairly low costs, since the “transactions” occur entirely on the web – the costs for shipping, print, freight, travel, etc. are from days long gone.

Once a lead is generated, marketers must qualify the lead.  Often, Marketing will perform an initial evaluation of a lead via pre-defined criteria, such as country, job level, company type, size of budget, etc.  The marketer will need to gauge the prospect’s interest, along with their position in the sales cycle.  Is the prospect engaged in preliminary research to define the solution space?  Or, has the prospect defined the solution space and is looking to narrow the list of potential products?  Or, perhaps the prospect is at the tail end of the evaluation and is looking to make a final decision on a product.

To determine the prospect’s position in the sales cycle, marketers often use a series of communications (e.g. emails, phone calls, etc.), evaluate the responses (if any) to those communications and then follow up with subsequent communications.  Marketers decipher the clues provided by the prospect and determine whether to forward the prospect to Sales – or, to continue the qualification process.

Common clues in the qualification process include:

  1. Did the prospect answer my phone calls?
  2. Did the prospect answer the questions we asked?
  3. Did the prospect open my emails?
  4. Did the prospect click on any of the links in the emails?
  5. Did the prospect download any of the documents referenced in the emails?
  6. Has the prospect requested more information – or, a meeting with us?

Marketers can develop formulas around the prospect’s interactions, to determine which combination of actions moves the prospect from a sales inquiry to a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL).  Once prospects have moved into MQL status, they can be distributed to the Sales team for further follow-up. A primary challenge in this process is the amount of qualification that occurs “post-lead.”  At the time the lead is generated, a minimal amount of information is known about the prospect, beyond the information submitted in the registration profile.  With a webinar, a marketer may know how many times it was viewed – or, the total viewing time across all views.  With a white paper or podcast download, however, the marketer only knows that a request for download was made.  The marketer may not even know whether the download completed – or, if the content was consumed!

As a result, marketing qualification depends upon ongoing touchpoints with prospects, with the hope that they continue to respond to marketers’ communications.  Now, let’s consider virtual events.  I define a virtual event as “a web and occasion-based gathering that facilitates information sharing, collaboration and interaction.”  Alternatively, consider a trade show, with its sessions, presentations, exhibitor booths, networking areas, etc. – and have it occur 100% on the web.  We call that a virtual trade show.

Conclusion

Virtual events can be a dream for marketers.  They can generate leads cost effectively and they facilitate real-time interactions with sales prospects that can lead to quicker and more efficient marketing qualification.  The “post-lead” nurturing process has been combined into the same act of generating the lead.  I call this “accelerated lead generation” and for marketers, this means more “sales ready” leads that Sales can then turn into faster bookings.

This book will show you how to create those valuable, real-time interactions – taking you from the planning process, to audience generation and engagement strategies and finally to lead qualification and follow-up.


What Virtual Events Really Do

September 9, 2010

In the book “Duct Tape Marketing” by John Jantsch (subtitle: “The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide”), there’s a paragraph in Chapter 2 titled “What You Really Sell.”  Here’s an excerpt of that paragraph:

“Here’s the funny thing about business. You don’t sell what it is you claim to offer.  You sell what the eventual buyers think they are going to get from your product. For instance, insurance sales folks don’t sell insurance; they sell peace of mind.  Chiropractors don’t sell neck adjustments; they sell some form of relief.”

Virtual event platforms sell a lot of things.  To some degree, the term “virtual events” is an injustice (or misnomer), based on the wide variety of applications supported by today’s platforms.  In fact, I wrote previously in a “virtual events futures column” that the term “virtual events” would disappear by 2011.

I don’t know whether my 2011 prediction will come true, but I do expect that by later this year, the “virtual” qualifier will start to be dropped, in favor of broader names.  With that being said, and in the spirit of Duct Tape Marketing, here’s my Top 10 List of what virtual “events” really do:

  1. Sales Pipeline Fueler
  2. Learning Platform
  3. Analyst Relations Venue
  4. Product Launch System
  5. HR Recruitment Engine
  6. Partner Community Enabler
  7. Corporate Training System
  8. Content Distribution Platform
  9. Revenue Generator
  10. A Marketer’s Ultimate Dream

Each of these terms better describes “what the eventual buyers think they are going to get from your product” than the term “virtual event.”

Share with us your thoughts – when you “purchase” a virtual event, what is it you’re really getting?


Virtual Events 101: Tips For Building Your Virtual Booth

April 13, 2010

Your company is exhibiting at a virtual event and you’ve been assigned the responsibility of building your company’s virtual booth.  You’ve had plenty of experience assembling a physical booth, but never before have you built one virtually.  What’s your first step?  To immediately resist the urge to start the virtual build.

Set/Confirm Objectives & Goals

The objectives and goals for your virtual booth should align with the goals for your company’s participation in the virtual event. If you do not set the direction yourself, be sure to round up the necessary decision makers and have a documented set of goals – publish them internally and be sure that all stakeholders have a copy.  Sample goals include:

  1. Obtain contact information from “X” number of prospects
  2. Generate “Y” number of meaningful prospect engagements in-booth
  3. Yield “Z” number of qualified sales opportunities
  4. Generate “X%” of brand uplift, as measured by “Y”

It’s absolutely critical that goal definition be your first step, as it drives the decisions you make regarding the build-out of your virtual booth.

Content is King

The main elements of a virtual booth are (1) content [e.g. images, signage, videos, documents, links, etc.] and (2) virtual booth staffers.  Your first job is “content curator” – review all content available and be selective about which content you’ll place in your booth.  It all goes back to the defined goals – the content you select should align with the goals.

So if your goal is demand generation, find the same White Papers that your marketing team is using to generate sales leads across the web.  If your goal is driving awareness around a product launch, grab that 2 minute video of your product manager and have it auto-play when visitors enter your booth.  Besides documents in your marketing library, be sure to cobble together useful links on your web site, along with third party articles, blog postings and product reviews that reinforce your objectives.

Booth Labels Are Like Headlines

Content in a booth is typically housed behind a set of “booth labels”.  Your next job is one of headline writer – you’ll want to craft captivating “headlines” for the booth label, along with attention-grabbing titles (and descriptions) for the underlying content items.  You’re like the home page editor for your favorite content site – you need to figure out how to write headlines (titles) that will grab your visitors’ attention.

While you certainly want to avoid the “bait and switch” (e.g. writing a label/title that intentionally deceives), your labels need not literally reflect the underlying content. For example, if you assemble a set of blog postings from your company’s blog, you need not label these “Blog Postings”. Instead, organize the blog postings into themes – a set of postings on best practices could simply be labeled “Best Practices” in your booth.

While I suggest you do not change booth labels while the event is live (that would significantly confuse your booth’s repeat visitors), you’ll want to review the activity reports from your booth to learn from the labeling decisions that you made.  You’ll begin to figure out what worked and what didn’t – and can use those learnings for your next event to more effectively use labels/headlines to achieve your goals.

Use A Call To Action – Not A Declaration

For signage within the virtual booth, I prefer to use a call to action (e.g. “Ask Us Why 2010 is The Year of The Hybrid” above) over a declaration. So instead of declaring, “The world’s leading producer of plastic widgets”, try a call to action, “Ask us why plastic widgets are the new metal widgets”.  The call to action initiates a conversation with your visitors, rather than telling them what they should know.  If visitors enter your booth’s group chat and proactively ask the question stated in your call to action, then give yourself a pat on the back.

Stand Out From The Crowd

You’ll likely have competitors exhibiting in their own virtual booths, which means that a key part of your job is to figure out how to separate your booth (and company) from the crowd.  Greenscreen video (aka an embedded video greeter) has been used at enough virtual booths that it won’t make your booth any different.

Instead, try an offbeat video that’s not yet made its way to YouTube.  Or, how about an avatar of your CEO whose mouth movements are synchronized to the words s/he is speaking.  Perhaps an animated avatar is the new greenscreen.  Thinking further outside the box, how about bringing one of your products to life – personalizing that product to the point where it speaks and delivers a message to visitors.  A good example (in general – not in a virtual event) is the DCX Man character created by Brocade:

Source: Brocade (dcxman.com)

Further information can be found here: http://www.dcxman.com/whois_dcxman.html

Optimize Your Content For Search

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not the sole domain of your web site or blog – it applies to virtual events as well.  How can this be?  Well, most virtual event platforms provide basic and advance search capabilities – they index all content in the event (e.g. documents, links, Webcasts, etc.) and some platforms even index the contents of uploaded documents.

As a result, keep SEO in mind for selecting documents to include in your booth, along with the labels, titles and abstracts that you use to catalog your booth content.  Taking a step back, be sure to write an SEO-optimized description for your company and booth – if attendees search for a key term and your booth is at the top of the search results, then all is good in the world.

Subject Matter Experts as Booth Staffers

While you’ll certainly want sales reps and sales engineers as booth staffers, it’s critical to work subject matter experts into the staffing schedule.  A visitor who asks specific product or service questions is a hot prospect – and telling that prospect “let me get back to you with an answer to your question” becomes a lost opportunity.  Even worse, that opportunity could fall into the lap of your competitor, whose booth is only one click away.

If you’re a technology vendor, try to have your product manager, chief engineer or event your CTO available within the booth.  While some technology folks may not be comfortable face-to-face with a customer, most feel quite at home in a text chat session.

Optimizing For: Demand Generation

If you’re looking to generate sales leads, cobble up all your best lead gen content – the latest White Papers, Case Studies, product sheets, videos, podcasts, customer testimonials, etc.  Be liberal and selective at the same time – that is, ensure there is a good mix of content choices, but be religious in making sure the content you select aligns with your goals – and relates to the theme of the virtual event.  The beauty of a virtual event is that registration occurs once – but all activity with your content is tracked.  So you’ll have rich activity profiles at your disposal to help you separate the cream of the crop leads from the visitors who came simply to enter your prize drawing.

Optimizing For: Thought Leadership

Are some of your co-workers experts or luminaries within your industry?  If yes, then have them be staffers within your booth!  Visitors will have a natural inclination to engage with them – and they’ll be able to funnel the ripest opportunities to sales reps within your booth.  If your employees have not achieved rock star status within your industry, leverage some of the luminaries to produce content on your behalf.

Perhaps it’s a research report authored by an industry expert – or, a video interview (hosted by the expert) with your CEO.  Better yet, a Webcast within the virtual event that features the expert(s) who provide a presentation prior to your own speakers.  If the experts are available to attend the virtual event, invite them to provide Q&A within your booth, as they’ll serve to draw interest and engagement from visitors.

Conclusion

While much of the logistics occur “online”, building a virtual booth will take longer than you think (if done right).  Be sure to clearly define your goals first – then, make sure your booth achieves those goals.  Take planned breaks from the virtual build to assess whether your booth aligns with the stated goals.  Finally, be sure to study activity data from the live event so you can make improvements for your next event!

Related Links

  1. Browse the Virtual Events 101 Index Page
  2. Download the eBook, “Virtual Events: Ready, Set, Go

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


How to Handle Those Hot Virtual Tradeshow Sales Leads

December 31, 2008

It’s the holy grail of online lead generation – you generate sales leads that pursue you and your company (rather than the other way around).  This holy grail scenario often plays out in B-to-B Virtual Tradeshows.  Some attendees come to the virtual event with approved budget, purchasing authority and a specific need.  As such, they’re shopping around with the various exhibitors to see who offers the solution that best fits their requirements.

These attendees will ask you (or your colleagues) very specific questions, covering technical specifications, product features and pricing.  At the conclusion of their visit, they may ask to be connected to a sales representative from your company.  How better can it get for you as an online marketer?  For this opportunity that fell into your lap – be sure to close the loop (with sales) on this lead or else the happy ending may be told by your competitor.

Here’s a sample chat that’s representative of what I’ve seen in virtual events:

Attendee: Thanks for the information about your products.
Exhibitor: You’re welcome!
Attendee: I’d like to set up a meeting to price out a configuration and discuss a few requirements that the product needs to meet
Exhibitor: Where are you based?
Attendee: New York City
Exhibitor: (a few minutes later) OK, the area sales manager for NYC is Bob Johnson.  His email address is bjohnson@acme.com and his phone number is 212-555-1212.
Attendee: Thanks, I’ll contact him.

Not good enough!  The exhibitor missed out on a golden opportunity here.  Additional steps that I’d recommend:

  1. Copy/paste the transcript of the chat and immediately email it to Bob Johnson
  2. Connect with Bob via email, IM, etc. – letting him know about the hot lead
  3. Update your CRM system (e.g. Salesforce.com, SalesLogix, etc.) with the transcript of the chat and a summary of the sales inquiry
  4. Urge Bob to follow up immediately with the attendee — let the attendee know (during the chat session) that “Bob is ready to take your call right now” – or, “Bob will call you first thing in the morning”
  5. Get Bob to login to the virtual event right now – you already know that there’s one hot lead from his territory – a sales opportunity waiting for Bob to close
  6. Provide your own contact info to the attendee, letting her know that you can be contacted if Bob cannot be reached

Remember, leads in a virtual tradeshow can be very hot.  Handle with care and don’t treat them like hot potatoes.  If you do, then your competitors may be eating your lunch.


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