RainToday.com Podcast: Accelerated Lead Generation via Virtual Events

November 30, 2010


I was interviewed by Michelle Davidson, Editor at RAIN Group, on RainToday.com’s “Marketing & Selling Professional Services Podcast”.  Michelle and I talked about lead generation via virtual events – a process I call  “accelerated lead generation”.

About RainToday.com

RainToday.com “is the premier online source for insight, advice, and tools for growing professional services businesses. Marketers, rainmakers, and leaders in consulting, accounting, law, AEC, marketing, advertising and PR, training, financial, IT, and other professional services industries, turn to RainToday.com for research, tools, training programs, and recommendations to help them market and sell their services.”

Virtual Events Questions

The questions Michelle asked me:

  1. What is a typical virtual event?
  2. What’s the cost of a virtual trade show compared to a physical trade show?
  3. Do people worry about the lack of face-to-face interaction in a virtual event?
  4. What kind of success have B2B service professionals had with virtual events?
  5. You wrote on your blog that generating leads with virtual events is a process, not a discrete project – tell us about that?
  6. Is the use of virtual events growing?
  7. How does a company get started with virtual events?
  8. If people want to get more educated, do you have any resources to recommend?

You can find the podcast here:


Additionally, you can directly download the MP3 here:


College Recruiting 2.0: The Virtual Campus Experience

October 7, 2009

Source: flickr (User: Heidi SeraKorea)

Source: flickr (User: Heidi SeraKorea)

I read an interesting article in the New York Times this week – titled “M.I.T. Taking Student Blogs to Nth Degree“, the article describes how M.I.T. (and other colleges and universities) is leveraging student blogs as a recruiting tool.  The idea is that the blogs allow prospective students to get a glimpse into life on campus – and help them determine whether they’d like to apply for admission.

The dean of admissions at Haverford College was quoted in the article: “High school students read the blogs, and they come in and say ‘I can’t believe Haverford students get to do such interesting things with their summers.  There’s no better way for students to learn about a college than from other students.”

While I’m certainly a big fan of blogs, it occurred to me that virtual world and virtual event technologies could extend this concept to a whole new level.

3D Virtual Worlds

Hundreds of colleges and universities have a presence in Second Life (and other 3D virtual worlds).  Professors have been using 3D virtual worlds to complement their real-world classes – and in some cases, classes have moved entirely into a virtual world.  Universities who created 3D replicas of their campus (in Second Life, for example) could leverage the existing island(s) as a recruiting tool.  One could provide links from the student blogs, inviting high school students (who are so inclined) to enter the virtual campus for a real-time and interactive experience.

Recruitment activities you could facilitate in a 3D virtual world:

  1. Student-led virtual campus tour – the same exact concept as the real-world – prospective students meet the student guide at a designated place and time and the guide takes visitors (and their parents!) on a tour of the campus.  Of course, in a 3D virtual world, visitors would be required to download the client (if needed) and familiarize themselves with the user interface – they’d also need to teleport to the tour site and learn the basics of navigation / walking.  For colleges who built extensive campus replicas, however, the virtual tour gives prospective students a great feel for the real-world campus.  Later, prospective students can return at their own leisure to explore the campus at their own pace – and have random encounters with enrolled students or other prospective students.
  2. Student blogs -> 3D virtual dorm rooms – existing student bloggers can create “in-world content” to complement their blogs.  How about an in-world replica of your real-world dorm room?  It would come complete with in-world residents (you and your roomates), along with renderings of your wall posters, unwashed clothes (strewn across the floor), collection of beer cans, etc.  What better way to give a taste of campus life than taking prospective students into some 3D virtual dorms?

Virtual Event Platform

While the 3D virtual worlds facilitate outreach from enrolled students to prospective students, virtual event technologies could be leveraged by admissions and administration (of the university).  Instead of an immersive 3D environment, admissions and administration could utilize a 2.5D rendering of the campus in a virtual tradeshow fashion:

  1. University Departments as “booths” – Admissions, Administration, Law, Chemistry, Mathematics, etc. – each department could have a “booth” in the virtual environment, where they provide information on the department – and, representatives can staff the booth to greet and interact with prospective students via text or webcam chat.
  2. University Resource Center – a convenient one-stop-shop for all content placed in the department booths, allowing students to find the documents, web pages, videos, podcasts, etc. that interest them.
  3. Auditorium – allows your administration and departments to put a face and voice to your university – by way of live (or on-demand) video, podcasts, etc.  How about a monthly live videocast from your University president, provost or dean of admissions?  Prospective students would get a lot of value from that.
  4. “Lead” and engagement tracking – by requiring prospective students to provide a minimum amount of demographic information, you can use activity reports (provided by the virtual event platform) as a gauge of applicants’ interest level in your university.  This type of data may be quite relevant to the admissions department.

I don’t think that virtual worlds and virtual events will be adopted by all prospective students – there will still be quite a few who prefer the simplicity and low-overhead of browsing blogs.  That being said, those who are so inclined to participate virtually may signify the more “engaged” of the prospective student base – and next Fall, they’ll be the ones leading the virtual campus tour.

Virtual Event Adoption By The C-Suite (CIO, CMO, etc.)

May 8, 2009

In my former role as a b-to-b media industry product manager, I developed product packages that utilized audio podcasts for delivering IT-specific content to IT practitioners and IT managers.  The conventional wisdom at the time  (early on, at least) was, “CIO’s will not download and listen to podcasts”.  I wasn’t so sure about that – after all, podcasts made it easier for busy executives to consume content they wanted – when and where they wanted to consume it.  So why wouldn’t a busy executive leverage technology to make her day more efficient?

Lo and behold, a CIO speaker at an event I attended was asked about the different content types he leveraged to get his job done.  He mentioned that he takes a 30 minute ferry boat ride to and from work each day.  While most boat passengers are reading the daily newspaper, this CIO would listen to IT-specific podcasts on each ride – and, he insisted that each downloaded podcast be 30 minutes long (or less), so that he could listen its entirety on the ride.

With virtul events, I’ve heard from event organizers and event sponsors who wonder whether the CIO (and her companions in the C-Suite) will adopt virtual events and virtual tradeshows.  I think the answer is “yes”.  First, let’s characterize some of the C-Suite occupants:

  1. CEO – may be too busy to attend virtual events – but, will occasionally make the keynote appearance to kick off a virtual event.  Many CEO’s do not use a computer, but most carry PDAs.  This means that the path to CEO participation in virtual events may be via the PDA.
  2. CMO – they see the value of virtual events as a marketing and lead generation vehicle, so one of their key roles today is in funding and approving budget.  As for attendance, my feeling is that they’re interested in doing so.
  3. CIO – like with podcasts, virtual events enable and empower an executive.  The CIO can attend a virtual event to peer network with like-minded CIO’s and not miss a day in the office to do so.
  4. CTO – intimate with technology, the CTO is virtually a slam dunk to participate (pun intended).
  5. CFO – not so sure about CFO’s, but I will note that IBM Cognos produced a virtual event called Virtual Finance Forum 2009 that targeted finance executives.  Cognos produced the same event in 2008 as well.

B-to-B publishers have caught on to the notion that CIO’s will attend virtual events, as past virtual events have specifically targeted the CIO.  Two upcoming events are taking a similar approach:

  1. CIO Virtual Forum: Navigating Through Dynamic Times (May 19, 2009 – CIO.com and Cisco)
  2. CIO Summit:  Driving Business Value and Customer Value in the Global Economy (June 10, 2009 – InformationWeek)

In my experience with technology focused virtual events, I found that of all registrants, 7-9% had senior IT titles (CIO, CTO, VP of Technology, etc.).  So an event with 1,000 registrants would have 70-90 of them be CIO’s or CTO’s.  Why would the C-Suite attend a virtual event?  I think there are a few primary benefits:

  1. Conveniently network with like-minded peers – one of the draws of attending an event is the ability to network with other attendees.  With a virtual event, a busy executive can do so without losing a day outside the office.
  2. Efficiently connect with partners and customers – an online experience can’t re-create the dyamics of an in-person interaction, but it does allow a busy executive to connect with many more partners and customers than could have occurred in-person.
  3. Extend your social graph and social presence – some C-Suite execs have enthusiastically adopted Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.  Industry-specific virtual events allow the executive to further expand the social graph.  And of course, they’ll be tweeting about the event as soon as they login.

What has your experience been – has the C-Suite at your own company attended a virtual event?

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