Just In Time For The Holidays: Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

December 16, 2010

Introduction

Virtual events can be a dream for marketers.  In 2011, you can leverage virtual events to generate more leads to fuel your sales pipeline.  And, you can qualify those leads “on the spot”, in what I call “accelerated lead generation”.

With a virtual event, you have the opportunity to engage in real-time with your sales leads and review a rich engagement profile that uncovers their degree of interest in your products – and, their position in the sales cycle.

Got marketers on your holiday list?  The printed version of “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Event” is now available at a list price of $12.99 (UPDATE: the book is now listed for $11.69).

Amazon

Buy the Paperback: at Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

Buy the Paperback: at BarnesAndNoble.com

Additional Resources

  1. Find more information about the book, including where to buy it for assorted e-readers.
  2. Read the Introduction of the book online.

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!


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


How To: Generate More Effective Virtual Trade Show Booths

October 19, 2010

My local farmers market had a “Vote 4 Your Favorite Booth” contest.  While the contest was active, I noticed that the fruit vendors were much more engaging and the amount of free samples increased dramatically.  The fruit stands had become more customer-friendly as a result of the competition.  This was a great thing.

I immediately thought – virtual trade shows are a lot like farmers markets – how about creating a similar contest?  Let’s consider a “Vote For Your Favorite Booth Contest” at your next virtual trade show.  The benefits:

Attendees Take Notice

The contest causes attendees to take notice, especially if you offer up prize(s) for voting.  The contest provides attendees a framework (and context) for their booth visits.  Now, when they enter any exhibitor booth, they are paying more attention to what’s there, to judge the current booth to other booths they visit.  Ultimately, they will need to determine their top vote, which requires a certain level of engagement and awareness as they move from one booth to the next.  And that’s a good thing for exhibitors.

Exhibitors Boost and Optimize their Presence

Ever sell a home or condo and host an open house?  I bet your home was de-cluttered and nearly spotless.  And I bet some of you baked cookies for the occasion.  A booth contest is a lot like the open house: the host knows that its visitors will be evaluating the space.  This results in:

  1. More captivating and refined booth imagery
  2. Booth content that aims to please (the visitor)
  3. A higher level of booth staffers
  4. More engagement from booth staffers (just like at the farmers market)

With everyone “raising their game”, this means that exhibitors win and attendees win as well.

SaaS: Sampling as a Service

In the picture above, a fruit stand placed a large assortment of samples in labeled bins, allowing visitors to sample for themselves. I call this Sampling as a (Self) Service!  The idea here is to allow “prospects” to sample your “products” (on their own) and then have a “staffer” come by to see if they have any questions.

The same could be done in a virtual trade show. Place your products in your virtual booth and allow visitors to take them on a test drive.  Let them do their thing, but check in with them from time to time to see if they need assistance.

Logistics

Here’s how the booth contest could be run:

  1. Heavily promote the contest prior to the event
  2. Educate and inform exhibitors on the ground rules
  3. Create meaningful incentives for attendees to vote
  4. Announce the winner two-thirds of the way through the event. This leaves the remaining one-third of the event for the winner to receive the benefits (traffic to their booth)
  5. Create a badge or logo that the winner can place on their web site and share via social networks

Conclusion

The virtual booths at some events can be underwhelming.  A contest can encourage and motivate the exhibitors and create a win/win/win for attendees, exhibitors and you.



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.


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