It’s no secret that this is a challenging time for field marketers and event marketers. By now, we’re all well aware that we need to pivot from in-person to virtual events – but knowing how to get there and how to achieve your desired result is easier said than done.
For those who specialize in events, trade shows, or field activities, making the pivot from in-person to virtual events is likely uncharted territory. Many of us are figuring it out as we go, experimenting with new technologies, and learning how to fail fast.
We’re over a month into our new reality, and our field marketing team has launched six virtual events. To help as you continue to pivot from in-person to virtual events, I’m sharing the top five lessons we’ve learned so far.
Always Have a Plan B…and a Plan C
Our day-to-day reality is changing fast, and when it comes to events, there are a lot of factors that are outside of our control. What might seem like a fool-proof idea today, could be almost impossible to execute by tomorrow. Having backup plans in place is critical for success.
When we canceled one of our in-person dining experiences, our Plan B was to host the event virtually by having a celebrity chef live-stream a fully produced cooking class from a studio kitchen. As part of that experience, we would also send the attendees meal kits to cook along with the chef.
Shortly after launching, the shelter in place orders went into effect in New York City, taking studio production and meal kit assembly off the table. We then had to pivot to Plan C – having the chef film the video herself in her own kitchen, selecting a recipe that focused on pantry staples, and sending gift cards to all attendees to buy the necessary ingredients.
While the meal kits would have been a nice touch and a studio-produced video might have had more polish, the end result still allows us to connect with our customers in a meaningful way.
Shelve the Presentations
If your inbox is anything like mine, you’re receiving multiple webinar invites every day. While I still think webinars are an important tactic and content is (and always will be) king, what we’ve found our customers really want right now is an experience.
In fact, I’ve watched registration for some of our virtual experiences fill up twice as fast as our previous in-person events.
According to Forbes, the scheduling platform Doodle has seen a “296% increase in group meetings for virtual-only happy hours, cocktail hours, wine/beer/drink social events,” and a “100% increase in group meetings booked for virtual-only yoga, dance, exercise, workout, fitness, aerobics, and Pilates sessions.”
Consider swapping your next content-led event for a hands-on virtual experience, like a baking class, wine tasting, or craft workshop. You can still insert your messaging by having an executive speak at the top of the event or asking your sales reps to interact with customers on video or in a live chat.
Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
Launching an event that isn’t 100 percent planned might make you nervous, but I’m here to tell you to just do it. You need to move quickly in times of change.
Once you have an “MVP” (minimum viable product), go ahead and launch. Put your event out into the market to see how your customers are receiving the idea. Take note of what’s resonating and what’s not, and use that feedback to continuously adapt.
With some of our initial virtual events, we started small by targeting our “MVP” to a single market. We then gathered the feedback from internal and external stakeholders on how that event was resonating with customers. Once we were able to incorporate some of that feedback, we then expanded our efforts to target a larger, regional audience.
Along those same lines, don’t be afraid to try something different. Times of constraint can breed creativity. Not every idea will result in a home run, but as long as you’re failing fast, you’ll be able to continuously improve.
(Over) Communicate and Collaborate
As our team continues to pivot from in-person to virtual events, we’re noticing that some of our field marketing efforts are overlapping with other teams’ campaigns.
We’ve learned that it’s imperative to collaborate with other marketing teams to ensure we aren’t duplicating efforts. We also know that we share an audience with our entire marketing organization, so we need to be mindful that we aren’t overwhelming our customers with too many offers.
Since most people are working remotely right now, make sure you have the appropriate channels in place to facilitate an open, continuous dialogue with your marketing counterparts, and don’t be afraid to over communicate. This could look like a group chat forum or a daily standup via video conference.
In our case, we’ve increased communications in our internal Slack channel with our demand generation team. This has allowed us to quickly relay event dates, share marketing lists, and communicate updates as events evolve.
Without onsite IT support or your typical office setup, prepping technology for a virtual event can be a daunting task. While testing our new platforms, we’ve found numerous issues that could have derailed our events if left undiscovered.
If your event involves external speakers, I cannot stress enough the importance of testing. Test the technology on your own first, and once you have a feel for it, loop in your internal colleagues to simulate the actual experience. Finally, invite your outside speakers for testing.
This might seem like a lot of testing for one event, but making sure everyone is comfortable with the technology will ensure everything runs smoothly on the day of the event.
Via Marketo blog