5 Lessons Learned After One Month of Virtual Events | Field Marketing

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.

Test Everything

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

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The 3 Essentials of a Successful Qualified Leads Program

In a way, sales reps are like nurses or doctors. They take people’s temperatures to determine how they’re feeling. A “hot” prospect is ready to buy. A “cold” prospect is merely browsing inventory.

Before the internet, this heat check was usually performed in person. Sales reps would get a good sense of how interested someone was in their company’s products or services by spending some time with them.

Qualified leads would ultimately receive more attention—the sales rep might play 18 holes with them to help close the deal. For people looking to buy later, an occasional phone call to nurture the relationship would suffice.

But with the way modern customers conduct online research prior to purchasing, the human interaction aspect of qualifying leads has all but disappeared.

Many companies today have turned to innovative marketing automation software to analyze a prospect’s digital engagement behavior and determine whether they’re qualified enough to move on to the next step in the sales cycle.

But successfully qualifying leads for sales means having three key fundamentals in place:

1. A solid definition of “lead”

First things first. What’s a lead? At Marketo, we define a lead as any “qualified prospect that is starting to exhibit buying behavior.” That could mean when somebody begins following a social media account, subscribes to an email newsletter, or browses a product page on a website.

Of course, every business should have its own definition for what a lead is. Why? Because differentiating a lead from a non-lead will help you determine who’s worth nurturing and who’s not.

If you haven’t yet defined what a lead is for your organization, here’s how to get started:

Schedule a sit-down between sales and marketing. Talk about what your target market looks like, who’s in your database already, and what kind of buyers are currently closing deals. You’ll also want to discuss things like when to start lead nurturing and what makes a bad lead.

Marketing operations usually has access to the tools, systems, and data that tell you everything you need to know.

Once you’ve developed a solid definition, write it down. You’ll what to share what you’ve come up with so everyone’s on the same page.

And don’t forget to meet regularly. Your definition of a lead will change as your business grows or your priorities shift.

2. An effective lead scoring system

With a lead scoring system, you can assign values to prospects based on actions they take, behaviors they exhibit, and more. This will help you rank leads to determine which prospects are ripe for nurturing and which are ready to engage with your sales team.

There are four attributes you must identify through your lead scoring system:

  • Lead fit: Collecting information around your prospects’ demographics (title, role, location), firmographics (industry, company size, name of company) and BANT (budget, authority, need, time) will give you an idea of whether they fit your ideal buyer profile. You can capture a lot of demographic and firmographic information through a registration page form. Gathering BANT data may require getting to know your prospects a little bit better—perhaps through progressive profiling.
  • Lead interest: Studying your prospects’ online body language by analyzing how they engage with your brand will give you insight into how interested they are in your product or service. The more interest they show, the more likely they are to buy—and the more heavily you should shower them with attention and valuable content. 
  • Lead behavior: Certain prospect behavior shines a light on where they are in the customer journey. Visiting a website or attending a webinar are the signs of an early-stage prospect. Checking out a pricing page or watching a solution demo reveal buyer intent. You can take advantage of this information by offering early-stage prospects more educational content and passing off leads with high buyer intent to sales. 
  • Buying stage/timing: Knowing when your lead intends to buy is extremely important. If a prospect is just beginning to research a product, it’s not the time to put the hard sell on them. Instead, send valuable information about how the product can help solve their problems. By closely evaluating a prospect’s behavior, you’ll get a firm sense of where they are in the buying journey.

Developing a lead scoring system is a core component of lead management—and no department is better suited to help your company bring this system into fruition than your marketing operations team.

That’s because marketing operations has access to the data required to establish a lead scoring program—so it doesn’t have to rely on guesswork.

3. A culture built on testing and optimization

Like most things in marketing, your lead nurturing program shouldn’t be a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor. You’ll want to regularly test what’s working and what’s not so you can optimize your processes.

But what exactly should you be testing? In a word: Everything.

The goal of your lead nurturing program is to provide satisfying customer experiences that align with your audiences’ preferences and ultimately drive sales.

So, scrutinize every method you use to engage with your prospects. Measure how people respond to your social media posts, the offers on your websites, and the material in your videos.

Email nurture streams, in particular, provide a plethora of opportunities to test and optimize. You can:

  • Assess how different variations of a subject line impact open rates
  • See if click-through rates improve by swapping your content type
  • Evaluate whether readers respond better to short or long emails
  • Change the layout to learn what kind of design resonates most with readers
  • Modify send frequency to get a better idea of how often audiences want to be contacted

By creating a culture of testing and optimization, sales and marketing can collaborate to turn qualified leads into surefire customers.

A new frontier of qualifying leads emerges with AI

The three fundamentals above will go a long way toward helping you successfully qualify leads for sales. But like we’ve seen before with the emergence of the internet, there’s always something new around the corner ready to shake up the status quo.

Today, that’s AI.

Sales reps currently spend a lot of time and attention just determining if a prospect is a qualified lead. Sometimes, it’s all for naught, as a months-long engagement could develop into nothing.

Hiring more sales reps isn’t the answer. But leaning on innovative conversational AI and machine learning could be.

Instead of an employee interacting with a prospect, an AI-driven bot could communicate with them. When a person visits a website, the bot can converse with them, help them, and, most importantly, collect the valuable insight needed to decide if they’re a qualified lead.

This allows human sales reps to limit their focus to building relationships with prospects who are actually worth their time.

A chance to transform lead qualification

With a few key principles and an eye on the future, you can do wonders for your lead qualification program. And it won’t be long until your entire organization feels the effects—experiencing more closed deals and higher revenue.

Via Marketo blog

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