mardi 22 avril 2014

10 ways to leverage digital for better B2B events

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Get more performance from your 'analogue' live events by integrating these top digital strategies: influencer outreach, attendee profiling, shareable content, digital communities, electronic press-kits and more.
Traditionally, B2B companies spend a lot of money on live events and it’s easy to see why. Once you get to the big end of town, especially with large-scale technology or finance solutions and consulting engagements, it’s hardly an “Add to cart” purchasing decision. You’re looking at long sales cyclesmultiple decision-makers and a loosely defined set of ‘purchase influencers’.
While face-to-face engagement remains a crucial part of the marketing process, the fact that digital channels are now simply part of the fabric for B2B audiences means marketers have plenty of levers to pull to ensure that the investment in ‘meat space’ events continues to deliver. And creative strategists have plenty of opportunities to use contentsocial and mobile to create great digital customer experiences, using a live event as the base-plate. Here are 10 ways to give your b2B event a digital boost:

#1 Set clear, realistic objectives for digital 
Generally, an event is a response a business problem. That problem could be something like “Our user base is shrinking” or “We need to onboard a new brand acquisition” or “The C-suite don’t understand what our product or solution does.”
In each case, the problem rests with an audience or a target, and that’s where your objective-setting should start and end. Who are these people? What are they concerned about? What are they motivated by? And, critically, what is their relationship to digital?
Once you’ve got a handle on the audience, write down the thing that you want them to do. Do you want them to change their mind about something? Do you want them to give up some sort ofprofiling information? Do you want them to introduce your brand to one of their colleagues?
You might end up with a list of things you want to achieve – that’s good. Now you can assign them to digital, or the event itself, or another channel, like the sales force, or traditional PR. Getdetailed and make sure you have the right tool for the job in each case. If your event is to launch a new product or solution, for example, and that’s an incredibly complex story, leave that part to the live event. Make it digital’s job to find the right people and encourage them to be there.
If you can only afford to run your live event once and your audience covers a much broader territory, make it digital’s job to broadcast as much of the event as possible to people who would like to come, but can’t physically be there. Think about what your audience use digital (mobile & social in particular) to do, and play to those strengths. Don’t ask digital to create trusted networks and thriving communities, when you know your audience prefer to make connections face-to-face.
Once you have that sorted, it’s time for a very serious and important question: Why on earth would they do that? What would I have to give them in exchange? What’s your answer when they ask you ‘What’s In It For Me?’

#2 Identify influencers, manage outreach
When someone says ‘social media’ we tend to jump immediately to our own experience: using Facebook or LinkedIn or something similar.
One useful approach for Social is to think about it as traditional PR, updated for the tools and platforms of the digital age. Who are the online movers and shakers in the industry or topic your event will be covering? Who gets quoted a lot? Who publishes? Who do they work for or represent?
The reason you might want to pursue a social influencer strategy is to utilise these individuals as a de facto media channel. An influencer is described as such because they have a large or important audience. The more closely their audience maps to yours (remember, you took time to detail who your audience is when you set your objectives), the more valuable that influencer is to your event.
Your ‘influencer audit’ is simply a list of the individuals that you want to have at and talking about your event. Your ‘outreach strategy’ is really just a simple plan of how you might approach them – the channels you might go through, the things you would say and the offers you might make. It’s important to construct a benefit for the influencer first. Also important is to have someone withworking knowledge of the topic (not just the event) do the outreach.
It can be time-consuming, but getting a keynote speaker or other senior, visible expert from your brand to make the first contact can be very effective. Ideally, your speakers and company experts should be influencers too, and they can use their ‘digital eminence’ to generate interest and social coverage. There really aren’t many areas of social that you can safely ‘leave to the intern’ – influencer outreach has been off that list for a very long time.

#3 Re-boot the EPK for Social

Just like influencers and outreach, the Electronic Press Kit is a PR-based concept that needs to be tweaked a little for social media.

Where traditional Press Kits were designed to be published, the guiding principle for socially-adept Press Kits is ‘designed to be shared’. So think about how to break the information down into shareable chunks, suitable for popular social media platforms that your influencers may be using. Microblogging services such as Weibo and Twitter require, as their names suggest, micro pieces of content: sometimes as short as 140 charactersVine and Instagram’s video service are built on clips as short as 6 seconds duration. So think bite-sized. A couple of lines. A 60-word summary. A provocative question. An image, or a small photo gallery. And links, lots of links.
Speaking of links, a useful addition to the Kit is a custom shortened URL that can mask and re-direct much longer URLs. Services like and tinyURL not only condense and customise longer links, they also provide some fairly robust tracking and reporting, so you can see where yourtraffic is coming from and going to.

#4 Make your pre-event content shareable

Generating and distributing pre-event promos and ‘warm-up’ content.

Okay, this is where you start to blur the line between what is content and what is promotion. Which can be fun, because you can start to think less like a marketer and more like a network television exec putting a big game to air. What previews and ‘sneak peeks’ can I release? Can I get some pre-game commentary? Some predictions? Can I do review of the season, or run astats package on the main players?
Events generally come together over time, so why not consider releasing details as they are confirmed – such as speakers, notable attendeessponsorspartners and exhibitors. In classic Direct Marketing language, these all present opportunities to get in touch with your prospects with some ‘new news’, maintaining awareness and building relevance.
If you’ve already got some interest from your influencers, consider including them as talent, offering them a chance to give their views and opinions on the upcoming event.
Again, think bite-sized. A couple of lines. A 60-word summary. A provocative question. An image, or a small photo gallery. Lots of links. And a video or two if that’s within your means.

#5 Profile and segment your attendees

Using social listening and direct communications to profile individuals and identify opportunities.

This one is a bit tricky, but if you can execute it, your sales peeps will love you forever. Essentially, this exercise starts after an individual has registered and is an attempt to profile,segment and quantify their potential in some way so the selling conversation can start the moment they walk in the door. There are 2 ways to go about this: proactive and reactive.
Let’s talk about the second one first. Reactive profiling is just like stalking, only you can do it from the safety of your own desk, without the possibility of getting arrested. Take the information that an attendee has provided on their registration form and then add to it all the information you can find, freely and publicly available, on the internet. You may discover more about that person’scurrent role from their LinkedIn profile. You might learn which other competing events they have recently attended from their twitter account. Their opinions of brands and products (including yours) might be flowing freely in an online forum, or on the comments thread of a series of articles or reviews on a trade site.
Play detective, and you can learn a lot about someone’s experiences and opinions regarding your brand. Incidentally, this kind of work can still be given to the intern, provided they’re whip-smart and willing to learn.
Proactive profiling has the same intent, except you ask the attendee in advance to share this information with you – probably at the point of registration. Some will, some won’t. But you canimprove your strike rate by constructing a compelling value proposition for the individual – abenefit or an offer or an advantage that can only be accessed by sharing their social profiles.
Ultimately, the point of profiling is to analyse the data to do some scoring and segmentation, so you can identify your best prospects as they walk in the door (real or virtual) of your event. Work with your sales team to build a simple scoring mechanism – allocate points based on job title, previous roles, experience with competitors, opinions expressed and so on. Edit the info into easy-to-read one-sheeters and present a face-book (as its name suggests, it includes pictures) of top prospects back to the sales leads who will be working the event. This is probably the best example of the ‘digital lift’ you can give a live event, by taking intelligence gathered online andapplying it to your (offline) live event.

#6 Encourage referrals

Build assets that prompt registrants to refer their colleagues

If your objectives are quantity or quality of attendees, then referrals are a good way to achieve them. And the wonderful thing about digital in general, and social in particular, is that is very social. Even in a B2B setting.
Some creative thinking can generate some new offers and incentives to encourage registrants tobring their colleagues, partners and contacts along to your event. It can be as simple and materialistic as a cup of coffee or bottle of wine (rules and regulations and budgets permitting), or as sophisticated and product-focused as private, tailored demos, or an offer of consulting time.
For events that are promoting larger solutions that require multiple decision-makers, think about constructing your incentives so that a registrant is compelled to bring along the other members of the ‘buying cell’ in their company, including perhaps representatives from Finance, Operations and Talent, as well as Technology. It’s far easier to get the buy-in of a group when they are present as an actual group. 
A word of caution: You’ll need to ensure the actual content of your event is also tailored to these particular POVs and that you’ve got experts on hand who can engage these individuals on their own terms and in their area of focus. People often talk of multi-channel marketing as a way to surround a prospective audience, with the message tailored to each channel and context. A similar philosophy is at work with multi-character storytelling: the complete message is woven together by individual storylines that speak to different audiences.
Tech brands are used to telling tech stories to tech audiences, but tech audiences are no longer the single decision-maker. Don’t make the mistake of inviting other members of the C-suite and then continuing to talk only about the technology. If there are there cashflow benefits of your solution, a CFO may be interested. If there are productivity benefits, the Operations people will tune in. If there is a user-experience angle, tell that side of the story to the HR or talentrepresentatives. Once you’ve got these ‘story threads‘ worked out, go back and offer them toyour primary audience as lures to get them to bring these other decision-makers along, to hear the side of the story that answers “what’s in it for me?”, for them.

#7 Content distribution strategies

Taking your live event beyond the four walls of the venue

Whether you are planning a physical or virtual event, digital holds the promise of increasing the reach of your event far beyond either the time or place you originally intended. Your core audienceis still the most valuable, particularly if they have offered you accurate profiling information during the registration or attendance phase, but you can continue to grow your audience by planning fora wider distribution of content after the event.
Before you think about how you want to distribute your event content, make sure you are clear on the ‘what’.
A word of warning: resist the temptation to video the entire event and make all of the content available online immediately afterwards. For those who attended, you are offering no new value. In fact, it becomes a disincentive to those who made the effort to register and attend at either a fixed place or time. This is particularly important if you run a regularly-scheduled series of recurring B2B events
Increasing the supply (of information) inevitably decreases the perceived value. this is very important if your brand runs an annual or recurring series of events:  if your audience comes to expect your entire event content on demand, they will see little point in committing themselves, physically, to your event schedule. You are basically training your attendees to stay home and log on instead.
So if full-blown telecasts are out, what’s in? Take a leaf out of the television industry’s book andget into the recap businessSummaries like these make better sense for people who weren’t in the room. Or commentary by experts. Or reactions from attendees. Or a discussion by a few speakers or panelists. Or a pitch from the trade show floor. As to formats, video is the obvious answer, but it can be expensive. An audio commentary over a slideshow (either a deck or a collection of images) can work just as well, particularly now that Slideshare is part of the LinkedInempire and is starting to become integrated into that experience in more meaningful ways.

#8 Reach out to no-shows

They said they would come, but they didn’t. Now is not the time to let them slip away.

Personal information is a valuable currency in the digital world, and it is the lifeblood of Demand Generation. Perhaps even more valuable, however, are time and attention. In fact, some observers have coined The Attention Economy as a phrase to describe the trade between brands(who offer value, information and utility) and their audiences (who pay with their time, focus and feedback). As a theory, it has its critics but it useful to help understand the scarcity of your audience’s attention.
Keep this in mind when dealing with the inevitable ‘fall off ’ between registrants and actual attendees. These people  had some intention of turning up or tuning in – they made a small initial investment of time and attention to register or indicate their interest in some way. Ultimately, they weren’t able (or decided not) to be there. Either way, they didn’t continue investing. The question is: how do we react now?
It’s useful at this point to revisit your objectives, (what did you want your prospects to do as a result of coming to your event?) and skip straight to that for non-attendees.  What can you offer a no-show to bring them back into the fold and get them to continue the relationship or respond in the way you were trying to generate with the event itself? If you were trying to match prospects with your own internal experts at the event, for example, now is the time to reach out and offer to do that, virtually, for your no-shows.
It’s really important not to relegate or punish them for not showing up – sympathise with their plight and offer them a fast-track or make-good offer. Consider a summary stream of content that makes them feel like they have broadly ‘caught up’ with what happened at the event, but with very clearly marked paths to pursue more connection or utility. You might want to consider a way that also showcases other attendees – their contributions and reactions. This re-enforces the perception that the event was well attended, not just in terms of quantity but also quality. Give the non-attendees a sense of the community that was formed at the event and an opportunity to connect and still become part of it, perhaps as part of an ongoing digital community.
Finally, work out a plan B and offer it to your non-attendees: can you direct them to a similar or related event in the near future? Offer to pre-register them and send reminders to ensure they can attend your next event.

#9 Ongoing digital communities

After the party, move the conversation online for social lead mining opportunities

The digital world is full of simulations, some useful, others not so much. Live events themselves are meant to simulate communities, which becomes meta when you consider that digital events are a simulation of a real-world, meat-space, here-and-now gathering of people. Online communities, in turn,  are simulations of the loose collections and connections we cultivate everyday.
You might even combine your post-event content strategy with your post-event community strategy so that the place where you house your content automatically becomes the place where you cultivate these discussions and connections.
Providing a well-designed space where attendees can keep on attending (even though the event may officially be over) can yield lead identificationsegmentation and even sales opportunities. A word of advice: don’t build these platforms from scratch – leverage existing community-building platforms that are relevant to your audience: LinkedIn groups and Google+ circles are obvious examples. A more sophisticated approach is to develop a dedicated Social Lead Mining strategy, where you actively listen for discussions and, in particular, requests for assistance that relate to the solutions you are trying to promote.
A note of caution: dropping in, unannounced, on conversations amongst attendees and launching into a sales pitch will be as well received as an insurance salesman trying to sign new policyholders at a family BBQ. Think ahead to prepare the resources and social presence you will need to look for lead opportunities in a ‘digital social’ setting – this may include social training, creating specific nurture assets, developing a segmentation strategy and an execution plan. If you pursued any attendee profiling and segmenting strategies before the event, dust them off and aim them at your most socially-active attendees. If you are lucky enough to have your audience drawn from the local area, consider arranging a casual, real-world meet up for attendees who haveremained in contact after the event.
If this sounds like a lot of work, you are 110% correct. However, you have to ask yourself: who is a better prospect than someone who can’t say goodbye to the content and connections they encountered at your event?

#10 Keep the speakers turned on

Make it easy for speakers to keep sharing the content and feedback from their sessions

The speakers you have chosen to present at your event were probably selected for several reasons: expertise, experience, presence and their ability to draw a crowd. That last factor is probably also true in the digital space, perhaps even more so than in the real world. Many speakers work very diligently at growing the quantity and cultivating the quality of their online following.
This can be used to your advantage even after an event has passed, as speakers will generally be on the lookout for new content, in interesting formats, that they can share first with their followers.
So think about how you can help these speakers reach their goals first. Pay it forward and the benefits will automatically begin to flow back to you and your event. Ensure they have priority access to the content from the event – particularly the content they may have created orparticipated in. Capture their reactions to or commentary on the event as a whole. This gives a whole new texture to their presence and will extract more value from their appearance.
There can also be a cumulative effect to be gained from encouraging speakers to interact with each other online, particularly if they have audiences that don’t necessarily overlap, either in terms of topic specialty, geography, preferred social platform or some other characteristic.
Before you get carried away, make sure you have permission to amplify your speaker’s work. Betotally transparent about what you plan to do with their content and make sure your agreementwith them agreement covers it.

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