After a year or so of uncertainty during the pandemic, event marketing has begun to re-establish itself as a key component of a modern B2B marketing strategy.
However, the B2B events industry has obviously changed a lot since the start of the 2020 lockdowns. While technology has opened up new channels for events, that has also created plenty of new challenges as well.
In this week’s episode, Julius Solaris discusses the technology driving the recent evolution of event marketing, and shares his advice for making your own B2B events successful today.
Who they are: Julius Solaris, was VP of Marketing Strategy, Events, at Hopin when we recorded this podcast.
A bit of background: Julius has over 15 years of experience in the events marketing industry, and is a seasoned keynote speaker in his own right. He’s currently based in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Where you can find them:
Here you’ll find some of the best advice from the podcast that you can easily digest and learn from.
Events and conferences were a huge part of the annual B2B marketing calendar before the pandemic. Of course, when COVID-19 arrived and forced us all to work remotely during lockdown, the event marketing industry was under serious threat.
Thankfully, though, the majority of people were receptive to virtual events even though they would take place online rather than in-person. In fact, some people may have even preferred it.
Now, as things are opening back up within the ‘new normal,’ we’ve found ourselves in a new type of B2B event landscape as well. Based on a few technology-driven trends that have emerged since the pandemic, there are even opportunities to expand the scope of what events can achieve.
“Virtual events have been around for a while,” said Julius. “They’re nothing new. Webinars, for example, we all know those. But the evolution that we’ve seen in the past two years is just something that I personally haven’t seen before, and I’ve been keeping an eye on these things for a while. So, the pace of development that we’ve seen in this category has opened a new sub-set of opportunities for marketers and event planners as well.”
“Right now, I feel there’s a lot of range of opportunity. That’s why it’s relevant to evaluate what this virtual event category is, the application of hybrid as well as in-person, and how these events are changing in the future.”
According to Julius, some of those opportunities include how events can now serve as another means for marketers to capture customer data, as well as finding new ways to build bigger communities.
He explained, “The biggest reason is that, as we enter a cookie-less future, where tracking is going to become more difficult, and GDPR is very strict, events are part of this category where the audience feels comfortable sharing their data to enter and access the event.”
“So, there’s a lot of interesting opportunities for marketers there, not only at entry and registration, but also within the platform of virtual events. There are dozens of data points you can create to understand your audience more, and to create a community with them. Because that’s the future of marketing, as a lot of people are saying, we’re navigating towards communities.”
As touched on above, events have evolved significantly. Not only are many events now held online, we’re also seeing events incorporating a range of different formats or mediums simultaneously.
This has allowed event marketers to expand, innovate, and engage bigger audiences than ever before. It also presents the opportunity to leverage your events after they’ve happened, to gain greater value in return for your efforts.
Of course, to take advantage of that, it’s important to understand these trends and take a strategic approach to set yourself up for success.
Julius said, “When we think pre-pandemic, we had a precise idea of what an in-person event was. We didn’t have to differentiate between in-person, hybrid, and virtual. That tells you how much the concept of planning events is evolving, and how the tool is evolving for marketers.”
“My number-one tip is to think about what we call a hybrid event strategy, meaning strategy that encompasses all the tools available right now to you, which are virtual, in-person, and it’s a mix of the two, which we refer to as hybrid. So, when we say hybrid, we mean one event that is happening for two audiences, one online, one offline, in most cases at the same time. Sometimes we’ve seen also a-synchronous hybrid, which is one event happening in person and then later a virtual component, a week later, for example”
“So, consider all the tools available for you to diminish the risk,” Julius continued. “That’s very important right now. And use the tools that work best for your budget, for your audience, for your brand, or the message you’re trying to give. Sometimes a series of virtual events that culminate with an in-person experience, that’s what a lot of people are using right now, because there’s an advantage in that.”
Another useful idea to consider is to focus on whichever format would attract the best possible audience to help you achieve your specific goals, or that would give your attendees the best experience.
Julius added, “As we enter the year of experience design, and we’re all drawn to experiences, one of the most important elements of an experience is customisation. We’re all very different people. Therefore, offering both worlds really offers something that suits different personality types.”
If you’re hosting or marketing an event, Julius warned to try not to let the planning and logistics distract you from generating excitement among your audience.
Be aware of all the things that could go wrong, prepare for those in advance, and be sure to dedicate enough time and effort into building a positive pre-event experience for your community.
Julius said, “In most cases, there’s a lot of stuff happening on the logistics side, and that takes a lot of the effort, whether that’s the speaker cancelling, the venue cancelling, the technology not working. You could face a million problems. But don’t forget about the attendees and the fact they’re looking forward to this event. There’s a lot of excitement, because it’s part of the community.”
So, when it comes to generating that excitement, Julius suggested the following tips to help you find the right balance with your pre-event communications:
Julius added, “We often create excitement with some sort of session or speaker announcement at the right time, to create a little bit of surprise. Events are about novelty as well. There’s got to be something special. Otherwise, I’d just go on YouTube and watch a video. I don’t need to attend an event, especially virtual ones.”
“So, think of how you can make it special. How can you make it a surprise? Find the right cadence of communication, share only the information that matters to your audience, and only info that really creates that excitement.”
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