Virtual events are here to stay: and they’re a digital channel

Integrate argues that virtual events should be seen more as a replacement for the team.

“It was an interesting year for events in many ways.”

Chris Wickson, co-founder and former CEO of UK Events B2B and Akkroo, is a bit underexposed in the UK. Acroo was acquired by the Integrate B2B Demand Orchestration platform in April 2019 and Wickson is now General Manager of Integrate for Opportunity Solutions and EMEA.

The state of affairs

We spoke with Wickson and CMO Deb Wolf on the first recording, “The State of Events: Crafting Your 2021 Event Plan”. There are 500 senior marketing associates in the US and UK who have been interviewed to get an idea of how prospects see personal, virtual, and hybrid opportunities in the next 12-14 months. The results are generally consistent with what we found here at MarTech Today:

•In the future. there will be in-person and virtual events (80% of the interviews);

• There is uncertainty about when personal events will occur – the situation is constantly changing – but the feeling is that it will be in the second half of 2021 or early 2022;

• Nearly 60% of respondents will not attend an in-person meeting and 27% plan to wait for a vaccine;

• Planning the right mix of virtual events and webinars is a challenge for B2B marketers, even as they see their budgets for these types of events increase.

Buying a solution-focused opportunity to acquire and manage opportunities reflects Integrate’s mission to bring together a full range of channel options for B2B marketers.

The omnichannel journey for buyers

“For example, we think there are interesting things happening in ABM, but we are very focused on a few channels, mainly programmatic announcements,” said Wolf. ‘When I think about it, when I use stuff in my toolbox, I use everything from webinars to events and content references, of course to programmatic renderings. We try to bring all the different technologies to our demand acceleration platform, where we validate and purify data and make sure it complies, before moving to a marketing automation system or CDP.

Jon Miller, CTO of Demandbase, recently told us, “Emails don’t work and marketing automation has a lot to do with email. Wolf echoes the sentiment,“ Being an MA, you really are a pony with just a trick. : you have to take care of the email. Marketers are starting to see a much smaller percentage in the sales cycle, especially this year when so much of what we do is digital. ‘The challenge is to find the best ways to communicate with other digital channels, and events are now a digital channel.

Do not turn on the watch

Integrate’s research confirms the common sense that the post-COVID landscape will not be the same as the pre-COVID landscape when it comes to events. “The common thread between our customers,” said Wickson, “is that no one really has an answer to what 2021 should look like. Everything changes over the months.

For the first half of next year, Wickson hopes to see a combination of webinar launches, ‘full’ virtual events, and hybrid opportunities – a combination of personal and virtual elements. “It’s annoying,” says Wickson. In terms of distribution, reintegration is a daunting task for organizers and marketers. We are currently grappling with virtual events not to mention the merger of the two.

“If you choose the hybrid model, Wolf plans two events,” adds Wolf. There are two different thoughts, two different capacities, and two different costs ”.

Personal, except virtual

Wickson finds it helpful to make a clear distinction between personal and virtual events. “A personal event is by nature an event for which people travel; you are physically present as a captive audience. On the virtual side, earlier this year, people almost expected to turn the key and recreate people in a virtual environment, which led to disappointment. A virtual event is a form of content that can be used in many ways, and the most successful virtual events we see right now respond with a certain attitude.

Research shows that involvement in virtual events is weak, which makes the on-demand aspect of virtual events important. “Allow people to consume content in their spare time when they’re ready,” Wickson said. Is there a virtual equivalent to the kind of involvement seen in a personal event? “I saw a statistic that 20 percent of visitors are responsible for 80 percent of the live chat and network, and the other 80 percent are just there to passively consume content,” Wickson said. “It’s not possible to recreate a custom event on one screen and everyone is starting to realize that these are two different experiences.”

Integrate events into the digital experience

The good thing, Wolf said, is that event marketing teams – which are more or less independent of the digital components of the buying journey – are now accepted as responsible for what has basically become a digital channel. “I think it’s an advantage for the organizers to think about the buyer’s journey and how it fits into it.”

“Many of the traditional event marketers that have emerged this year will now have to work closely with their marketing partners to prepare for next year,” Wickson added.

Wolf reflected on the implications of shifting personal budgets to digital business opportunities. “You get to the point where you connect with someone – which is a funnel activity – and you turn it into a funnel channel. I think the jury is not really available, but the whole personal budget for the event is digital. Channels “. If you look at the channels and issues before COVID and during COVID and after COVID, it’s really interesting.

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