How to Create Demand from Virtual, Hybrid, and Onsite B2B Events
When done the right way, events help to create awareness, establish authority and credibility, and enable B2B companies to generate interest amongst members of their target groups. Events have changed significantly due to changing market dynamics and rapid digitization. How can B2B companies keep up and adapt accordingly?
On this week’s episode, we have a thought-provoking conversation with industry expert Julius Solaris (VP of Marketing Strategy – Events, Hopin) about events. During our discussion, Julius talks about the major events industry trends and shifts, what mistakes to avoid, and how B2B brands should think about events as a channel to generate demand. He also discusses the importance of online communities, how to conduct better post-event follow ups, and provides some actionable advice on how B2B marketers can generate more demand from their events.
Topics discussed in this episode:
Christian Klepp, Julius Solaris
Christian Klepp 00:00
Welcome to B2B Marketers on a Mission, a podcast for B2B marketers that helps you to question the conventional, think differently, disrupt your industry, and take your marketing to new heights. Each week, we talk to B2B marketing experts who share inspirational stories, discussed our thoughts and trending topics, and provide useful marketing tips and recommendations. And now, here’s your host and co-founder of EINBLICK Consulting, Christian Klepp. Okay, everyone, welcome to this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast where you get your weekly dose of B2B marketing insights. So this is your host, Christian Klepp. And today, it is a pleasure to a guest who has been on a mission for quite some time. And that mission is to help B2B companies to generate demand from their virtual, hybrid and onsite events. So coming to us from Las Vegas, Nevada, Mr. Julius Solaris. Welcome to the show.
Julius Solaris 00:52
Hey Christian, thank you so much for having me. Very excited to talk to you and big Thank you.
Christian Klepp 00:59
Yeah, absolutely. It’s my pleasure. So let’s get this conversation started. Because man, I was thinking about this just before the interview, Julius like if any industry has gone through a challenging time, has experienced that kind of revolution. It is certainly yours. Right. So I mean, your name, I would say, you’re no stranger to the events industry. And that’s a massive understatement. You’ve been nominated as an influential individual. In the event industry by many publications. You’ve spoken around the world about event tech, trends and innovation. But for this conversation, let’s narrow down to a key pain point that I think many B2B brands and marketers have, and that is generating demand with virtual hybrid and onsite events. So what are some of the major shifts that you’ve seen in the full virtual and hybrid event industry in the past 18 to 20 months that you think B2B marketers should be aware of?
Julius Solaris 02:00
Totally Christian. You got it. I mean, that’s absolutely true. The amount of change the event industry has been going through over the past few years, you know, first to go, last to come back. That’s the way we say, right? Because that’s, that’s the story of the event industry, you know, events have been associated with the spread of the virus. Therefore, you know, there’s been a lot of negative connotation. We had to fight against, you know, super spreader events, and all those negative thoughts that, you know, with time also we’ve, we’ve understood better as well, right. So there’s been a lot of learning curve in terms of the in person business that, you know, was completely wiped out March 2020, as we all know, as cancellations were building up of all major events. I remember a Mobile World Congress first, then South by Southwest, by South by Southwest, we all understood, this was like going to be quite epic in proportion, nothing like we’ve seen before. I’ve been going through a few crisis in the event industry, been a commentator. For the past 15 years, I’ve seen the mortgage crisis, you know, impacting, you know, events are the first to be cut on budgets, when budgets get sort of impacted, and then it’s seen also the Zika virus as well. So there’s been a lot of like, you know, we’ve been going through challenges as an industry. But we’ve never seen anything quite like what we’ve seen in March 2020. And the industry reinvented itself to kind of embrace virtual, I remember, I put out a tweet, I’m Italian. So I was watching this kind of a couple, two, three weeks in advance what happened in United States, ZTE was impacted first. And I put out a tweet on February 28, saying, listen, event professionals, I think we need to start looking seriously at virtual events, because this is going to become a problem in a few months. And that was the what happened, essentially, you know, we as an industry had to reskill ourselves, you don’t choose events because you like technology, let’s be clear, you know, you choose events, because you’d like to stay close to people have that human interaction like to be offline, right? So it’s almost counterintuitive, and event professionals had to go through complete reskilling of their toolset to embrace what virtual had to bring on board. And as the uncertainty kind of kept on going because we all thought that by summer, we were going to go back to in person. We understood that hybrid was becoming as important to keep continuity right and also avoid the travel bans, the International of lack of attendees, which is a big deal for large events that rely on international travel to make a profit right? You break even nationally. You make a profit internationally, right? So all of that sort of push the hybrid agenda, we had some problems. You know, hybrid is not a straightforward proposition, especially if we’re thinking about synchronize cyber events. This is like the first term that I want to throw to your audience, you know, hybrid events, like when we think about that, we always think about one event that is happening in person that has an online component, it’s very important to define it when we talk about synchronicity, but also, we’ve discovered that hybrid events do not necessarily have to be synchronous, right? You have like an in person event, and then you have virtual event after a week a month, and use our content, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself, and then you know, pure in person come back, right? Big shift. In terms of like, I don’t know, if you’ve been able to attend any events in person. Here in the US has been easier for me to be I’ve been to at least three, four industry events large in the region of 3,000 to 10,000 attendees. And I’ve been able to experience a completely different environment to the one I was used to, I was used to write about, or used to comment about. So there’s a lot of learnings. So major shifts that have happened, in terms of how we think about events, you know, going into the pandemic, I want to refresh everybody’s memory here in terms of B2B marketing. The North American Content Marketing Institute said that 75% of B2B marketers surveyed voted in person events as the most effective marketing tool that was going into the pandemic, right. We were living a new era of events. We were like the beginning of the experience economy happening for the events industry, we were elevating events to experiences, we are living this new activation, social media rich type of environment. So in terms of the effectiveness of events, we can agree there’s some effectiveness to it that a lot of B2B marketers agree on. Still tough to decide, right? What how to measure that because events are intangible by nature, right, can’t touch. And it’s very tough to measure that offline interaction. So major shift number one that happened to the industry, it’s really, that a majorly intangible proposition with virtual all of a sudden becomes tangible. And all of a sudden, all these event professionals that run programs in the past, and that feedback by three or four people that bother to fill out a feedback form. Now all of a sudden there though, doing all those events in a very data driven environment, everything can be tracked from activity, you know, people dropping out of sessions, which speaker is best, like which speaker brought in most engagement, which exhibitor booth got more traffic why, what time, when. So you know, everything about stuff that was very difficult to measure, I mean, you still could measure that in-person event, but much more expensive. Therefore, I would say I would sum it up that all of a sudden, we have a tool, a new tool that it’s available, because virtual events have been around for 15 years. But at least, but you know, they’ve never been like they’ve been in the past 15 to 20 months, I’d like to say that we’ve had more changes in the past 20 months than in the past 20 years when you got, event technology specifically. So therefore, we have a completely new set of tools that propel especially virtual events, as the tool a B2B marketers should be looking at right now.
Christian Klepp 08:37
And what a great way to kick off this conversation. But no absolutely, you know, to answer your question. So we don’t have any in person events in Canada at the moment. And it’s been more or less in place. It depends on which part of the country but more or less that’s been in place since March 2020 right. So I guess I suppose it’s, it’s completely different in the United States. And I suppose it depends on which country you’re referring to. But I think you touched on something which I thought was really important. It’s, it’s the sudden, rapid acceleration within industries to maybe pivot is not the right word, but to reinvent themselves as a result of a crisis. Right. So and I think you mentioned it, but you know, things like we’ve had, we’ve seen more innovation in the past 20 months than we have in the past decade, at least when it comes to like the digital aspect of it. And digital and events is generally something that everybody’s talking about right now. But if you think back to even like, maybe not even three or five years ago, nobody was really Are you thinking about doing anything online to that degree, right?
Julius Solaris 9:50
Totally, um, you know, at least we got a chance to reinvent ourselves. And I think where I can see the silver lining for the industry has been, like completely wiped out. I’ve seen, like businesses that have been around for 20, 30 years completely gone overnight. Um, you know, it’s an industry that, you know, it’s very close to the hospitality business. It revolves around very fast or no turnaround. And, you know, pop up opportunities, therefore, you know, if you… we’re in a good cash position, we’re gone overnight, so, very scary. But we got a chance and that chance, almost like create a new category for marketers, you know, I come from Hopin, that’s the company I work for, you know, we were the result of that new category opening, right, the fastest growing SaaS company of all time, fastest growing company in Europe, you know, zero to $1 billion funding in a space of a year and a half. So it’s been incredible to see that growth and how fast corporate marketers specifically recognize the value of running virtual events, as a further touch point in their strategy that could move things around better than all the social media interaction where the environment is extremely controlled by social media giants, there’s only so many things you can do, the noise is incredibly high. All of a sudden, you have your own little world, we can do whatever you want, you direct a message, or you can participate as a brand to support those event planners that are creating value for virtual events. So the birth of this new category is probably one of the most exciting things that I’ve seen in terms of digital marketing in the past few years. Definitely. Because it’s also like the, you know, we’re just in year two, right? And everybody’s talking about Metaverse, and we see, you know, this virtual online, virtual event or revolution as the basis of the matter. We’ve experienced the metaverse, all of us dream from March 2020, for the next six, nine months, where reach was ridiculously high, everybody was locked down at their homes. We’ve seen the first layer of what online interaction looks like, right? Massive experience that it’s important, like would have taken probably 15, 20 years to realize that capacity. So they’re exciting. But also, you know, challenges come along.
Christian Klepp 12:27
Absolutely, absolutely. And I can tell how excited you are with the way you’re describing it. Like, so a lot of new things, too, a lot of interesting and new things to come. And speaking of which, and you touched upon it a little bit, but talk to us about like, some of these common mistakes and misconceptions that you’ve seen, more specifically when it comes to generating demand from events and what you think should be done to address this.
Julius Solaris 12:56
So yeah, I mean, there’s different phases, right, there’s also a virtual, there’s hybrid, there’s in person, so we can go super deep on some of these, but general misconceptions about where we are right now, and what the opportunities are and the common mistakes that we’ve seen. So to assume that the volumes, the reach, we all understand there’s a benefit in running a virtual program, as opposed to an in person program in terms of cost cutting, extended reach, right? Those are the two most recurring benefits that all our client base are hoping. But in general, all the corporate marketing world tends to rely on saying like, you know, running events can be a nightmare. If you’re not an expert in it, it takes a lot of work. It’s it’s, you know, massive undertaking, people have to travel, things can go south every second. So therefore, all of a sudden, also the risk factor. I mean, even though, trust me things can go south in a virtual environment as well. And we’ve all seen catastrophes when it gets to virtual. Oh, yeah, I would say. Yeah, I would say that. Everybody thought, okay, March 2020, to June 2020. I would say everybody thought that the reach that we were getting at that time would have been the reach that was going to be for the future. That’s obviously was… that wasn’t reality, right? We were all working from home all locked down bored. So therefore, I would say we had to rediscuss and redimension the level of reach that virtual events have, which is still way bigger than I would say in person. Still humongous component compared to that, but the opportunities are there. But to think that you’re going to reach the same people that you’re going to reach during that specific timeframe, it’s probably the most common biggest. So the biggest misconception that I see at every stage from different brands that look at advertising. The second one, I think, is that this applies pre pandemic, during pandemic. And post pandemic, is really the misconception that buying space in an event for your brand, whether it’s like sponsorship of banners, or a booth at a trade show, you know, equals leads, equals demand generation equals new business, right? I caught up on your podcasts on one of the latest episodes, one of your guests was saying, why should I invest like in a B2B like tradeshow to begin with, like, makes no point compared to an online interaction, I get it, you know, I get why he was saying that, the same time I feel there’s a big space. And we’ll get to talk about what the value that in person interaction is in this new environment we live in. But to think that you’re just going to buy and you’re going to get in an event environment where the virtual in person, you’re far away from reality, you’re detached from reality, you will soon discover that you’re going to waste a lot of money. if you think that way. You got to think strategically. Events are a tool in your B2B Marketing Toolkit. And you got to be able to strategize and see and like, deliver what we call activations in our world that deliver based on value to attendees. So to give an example of those. One, I was attending an event last week, and one of the industry sponsors, they sponsor the session with Orangetheory, founder, they actually came on, on the hotel where we were all were to do massive HIIT session for all of us there, which was incredible, I really bonded with the people actually, I was genuinely prone to listen more from that activation, I was like feeling that my human side was taken care of. But that’s not the only way to do it. The most simple way to do it, something that I talk about, with my team all the time when we as Hopin evaluate, where to go and advertise these events where to go and have a position, there’s no activation without content. So if you bypass content, trust me it’s going to be the same game of assaulting people that are passing by your booth trying to grab them as you’re playing like the Super Bowl, you know, in trying to block someone that is going for the touchdown, you know, that same type of feeling that you really almost forcing that interaction, that even past pandemic, where we all tired, we’re all out of burnout, you don’t want to get you don’t want to get any of that, right, unless you’re motivated, and you walk into a booth and you’re willing to learn more, but like how many people do that, and it’s like information is, is available. So trade shows that that sort of objective back in the days where there was no Internet, now I can get information about everything, I don’t need to go to a trade show to discover new things. So content is THE way in person and virtual, where you can actually create value. As companies embrace content marketing strategies, you know, you have people like myself, right? I come from a media background. I’ve been hired work on content for Hopin, like many, many businesses have invested in strong content resources that are thought leader in delivered value. Content is like THE number one tactic I can give to your audience to think about.
Christian Klepp 18:51
Yeah, no, those were, those are some really excellent points. And I think, you know, back to your point number three, um, maybe it was a combination of what’s been going on for the past two years or just the industry trends in general. But I think digitalization and what you mentioned with content marketing, it’s forced industry, that event industry professionals to rethink their approach. Right? You know, we’ve all been to those trade shows where like, like, what exactly like what you said, where people are just handing out flyers, right. But now it’s forced them to become more intentional with their approach, right? Because this, this old tactic that people were using before all of this happened, you know, it wasn’t really relevant to begin with, but not now. It’s definitely not relevant anymore. Let’s put it that way.
Julius Solaris 19:37
Absolutely. And there’s a lot of talk from the event industry, people from the in person, people saying there’s nothing like face to face. Everybody keeps on saying that. That’s true. I think there’s a lot of there’s a lot that face to face achieved that virtual and online in general doesn’t. And but to say that face to face was perfect going into the pandemic, that’s a big statement. I don’t think I don’t think it was perfect at all, I think it had a lot of problems. I think we all sat in a conference like looking at a page from a sponsors like 10 point bullets, right, that nobody could read, you know, we’ve all experienced a bad coffee, you know, boring, sort of, like we’ve all seen it. So some events were doing extremely well, right. But not all events were doing extremely well. And if you were doing it not well, in-person, you probably weren’t doing it well, virtually. So all these anger towards virtual that a lot of people have, listen, a bad event is a bad event, whether it’s virtual or in person, the medium sometimes can make it easier to make it worse, but it’s not an excuse for bad design. Bad design is the problem here.
Christian Klepp 20:58
100%, 100%. And I remember having a similar conversation with another guest, and it was specifically on the technology that marketers use. And sometimes the technology gets blamed for the, you know, less than satisfactory results. But the truth is, and you mentioned it just now, if the strategy is not in place, if the approach is not correct, and if the content is bad, no amount of technology is going to fix that. And it’s the same thing for events.
Julius Solaris 21:29
Absolutely, you’re spot on. That’s what we’ve seen again, and again. And again, you know, technology gives you a great toolset to create some amazing experiences. But you don’t think with the attendee in mind, then you’re going to have problems.
Christian Klepp 21:46
Yeah, that’s absolutely right. That’s absolutely right.
Hey, it’s Christian Klepp here. We’ll get back to the episode in a second. But first, is your brand struggling to cut through the noise? Are you trying to find more effective ways to reach your target audience and boost sales? Are you trying to pivot your business? If so, book a call with EINBLICK Consulting, our experienced consultants will work with you to help your B2B business to succeed and scale. Go to www.einblick.co for more information.
Okay. So, and I know that you’ve probably been going through many challenges, but talk to us about one challenge that you and your team have managed to solve in the past 12 months.
Julius Solaris 22:25
So obviously, you know, we’ve been in the storm navigating with Hopin, through incredible amount of change over the past years. I don’t think a lot of companies can scale from, you know, two to three employees to almost 1000 these days. So in a space of two years, so you can imagine the pace of the scale, so a lot of challenges. But I would say that, looking back at what made Hopin like such a viral product that everybody wanted to use, and especially in the marketing world, is really, one of the issues that we all felt, at the beginning of this experience, attending virtual events, was the problem of those encounters that we always go back to when we think about in person events. Everybody was saying on social media, oh I missed that serendipity about being in person and event, those occasional conversations that were happening on the side during a coffee break or during a party. So that concept, I thought I actually did some research on it. It’s called the liminality. And if you think about attending an event, you think about having an agenda, you know where you are, and your session, once the session is over, you take a hallway, you’re walking, you take a coffee break to your next session. So that space in between the two sessions, it’s very risk prone for all of us that like to feel safe, in a sense, right? I’m exaggerating here, the the feeling, but that openness to risk, it’s like where we’re most vulnerable. And almost like where we engage more, because that’s where the serendipity starts, and it’s born. And that concept of liminality, that unexpected meeting, it’s to a science, I feel what the challenge that Hopin was able to solve better than other platforms. And one feature specifically that we have, which is a roulette type of networking module, where you can just click and get randomly assigned to another attendee, and meet with them, which can be awkward to some people. And you know, you can pre create meetings with, you know, groups of people if you want to avoid that. But for some others, that was the unexpected moment. That was like the person that you didn’t expect to meet. It was like making the event a little bit more more engaging. And you were like they’re a little bit more than just, you know, listening to someone speaking on video, which is some activity you can do on YouTube. Right? You don’t need you don’t need necessarily in a event to do that.
Christian Klepp 25:14
Yeah, no, absolutely. I was just gonna say, oh, you made it sound a little bit like, it’s speed dating, right? Like where they try to match you with certain vendor or… Yeah, right.
Julius Solaris 25:23
So it is like that. You can make it as that, you can reduce the risk by assigning different groups if you want to, but like you can keep it as open as you want and like literally have speed dating type of capability. Speed Networking has been a practice in in person events for a while for why not signing it? I don’t know if you know, the story of Hopin, right, our founder, Johnny Boufarhat, he was stuck in bed with an autoimmune disease for two years before the pandemic. So that’s when he built the product because he wanted to attend these events and wanted to have the same opportunities that in person events have, but he couldn’t. So obviously, we all experienced that during the pandemic. And that’s why I feel some of the product functionalities were so spot on because they were thought with, with a, you know, sort of locked down in mind to a certain extend.
Christian Klepp 26:18
Yeah, no, I didn’t know that. That’s an incredible story. Yeah. But very, very relevant. very pertinent, right?
Julius Solaris 26:24
Christian Klepp 26:26
Okay. Based on your experience, like, talk to us about how you think B2B brands should think about events as a channel to generate demand?
Julius Solaris 26:35
Absolutely. So I think that right now, the tool set available to B2B marketers, it’s been there for a while, right? We all know the tools you have, you know, the content marketing initiatives, you have the blog, the podcasts, the video, the social media engagement, you have email marketing, it’s been pretty much the same tool set. For a while now. Yes, tools get better, you have a little bit more context, enter the new category, I believe this is like the big breakthrough new category that puts yourself if you were doing in person events to generate demand, you were left with all these online tools, including social media. And then in person event, there was like, no middle ground between while you were doing online, I’m gonna take social as an example here. And then use social maybe with a combination of email marketing, to then engage in person somehow. Or if you were doing advertise, you would send an email you were doing like activations at some, some other events and participating in trade shows. Just send a few emails to your existing customers, and then just be there. Try to advertise on social media, and hope for the best…, when you show up at the tradeshow, right. All of a sudden, we have this middle layer, which is very important for middle of the funnel type of engagement, right? Because it really creates a more personal way of interacting more. That’s why like our motto for Hopin is feel closer, because like really, virtual events help in creating a bridge between this noise that it’s happening on all existing channels and in person. In person is the closest I believe. It’s the…, when you experience and co-create brands together with someone in person, you can change the message when you’re pitching in person, you can elaborate the message based on the response you’re getting from facial expressions from who’s in front of you. So there’s nothing more personal than in person, but you need something in between. And virtual is the perfect middle of the funnel type of tool to create a little bit more intimacy, to create a little bit more connection with your message and with your brand. And to start being like extremely strategic and tactical about the things that you’re doing. Whether you’re buying space in an existing event online, or you’re creating your own activation. We had webinars before, right? So we understand the role of webinars in creating that sort of thought leadership content, opportunity, but we’re talking about elevating the webinar experience and getting people to connect as well on a platform and interact with each other. So all of a sudden entered the era of community right, which is the big word that everybody’s navigating around these days. I think that event-driven communities are going to be the next iteration of B2B marketing where value is constantly created by you, as a brand by organizing touchpoints for the year, that culminate in an in person experience. So you can think of your long activations that are virtual, easy to do, to a certain extent, still require sort of time and investment, do it properly. But then, you know, one big in person type of opportunity. And what we’ve seen from our customers that used to spend money at in person events or participating in other virtual events, they’re running their own virtual event program is they see the value of that, they see how people tend to go back to that type of experience and networks are created, connection is creating among the customers, content is being created from the customers all of a sudden, and you can capitalize on that, by Yeah, keeping it together for the year. So incredibly personal touchpoint, that it’s better than what’s available right now out there as it creates horizontal interaction. But it’s event driven. So it has a level of novelty. The problem with a lot of groups online right now in existing platforms is that how do you create that freshness, the novelty events have that built in, you know, it’s not an event, if it’s not novel in some form, right? If it’s not exciting, if it doesn’t have that new content, that great speaker, so you can create sort of attention around there and build your community prettier, and culminate that in in person events. Because what we’ll discover, let me tell you a little bit of a story here, when I was in 2009, started to get involved with social media, and events. I told people like, you know, this Twitter thing is, is the thing, these hashtags like we have to keep an eye on those because it’s important for events. So there was a lot of pushback from the industry, they thought that social media could cannibalize in person attendance, believe it or not. So what we’ve seen for the years that the constant use of social media actually creates the opposite. We creep we experienced the Omo effect of social media, you see all these people having fun in person, you’re like, Oh my God, I want to go there so bad. If you think about what’s being built right now, in Las Vegas, the new venues. They are stadia are gamers, right. And if… can you think about a community that meets the most online then gamers like, that’s where they meet, they live their lives online, but they need a stadium to come meet in person, because the frustration that you build, when you meet online all the time, can only be released by meeting in person, that’s a correlation that we’ve seen again, and again and again. And here. So in person is never going to go away. That’s actually going to be the combination of the tension that is built through your community through the year.
Christian Klepp 33:02
Wow, just give me a second to absorb all of that. But like, no fantastic points. And you’re absolutely right in saying that in person events won’t go away. But I think if I understood you correctly, in the past couple of minutes, they’re gonna come back new and improve because of virtual because of hybrid, because all of these, these mediums and this technology and this approaches that are now available to people, right. And you also touched on something that I thought was extremely pertinent to the listeners with, which was going to be my next question about online communities, right? Because at least from what I’ve seen, and my own experience of, you know, being a member of some of these B2B marketing groups, the most effective communities out there who also run successful events, are the ones that manage their communities properly and what do I mean by that, um, they don’t allow people to like pitch in the community. The discussions are all around very relevant topics based on area of expertise, because you know B2B marketing is very broad. Alright, so you have a group for ABM, you have a group for, uh, you know, SEO and so on and so forth. And then they discuss these topics that are either challenges that these marketers are thinking about, problems that they need to, you know, have solved or recent trends like for example, if if there’s new legislation that comes into place, and you know, that affects, that affects online marketing and so forth. How does that impact people’s work? And more often than not, what I see happening around those is that they then organize events that talk about these trending topics, and it’s easier for them. Then to pitch it to the well not pitch it but to announce it to the community, because the community is already warmed up to it.
Julius Solaris 34:55
You’re 100% right. Two things about community That’s a segue to what you said. So I’ve been lucky, I’ve started on three different communities from ground up, I’ve been working. Now some of them, there are multimillion businesses of their own that deliver incredible revenue. I’ve managed the group, a massive group of 400 event planners, 400,000, event planners on LinkedIn. So I know a couple of things for the past 10 years on, on building community and community moderation. The problem with static communities where it’s just a group on LinkedIn or Facebook, let’s take the basic example there, I’m not talking about those companies that invested in their own platforms, that would be more sophisticated. But like, if you want to use a group, you’re constantly left to the initiative of people to post the right content not pitching themselves. It’s a nightmare. It’s a nightmare of moderation, you need to have people that moderate only after a while members start to self-moderate. But even there, there’s a component of pitching, it is not an easy proposition. What I love about event driven communities, as we’ve discussed, so communities where there’s at least like a monthly bi-weekly type of event driven interaction is that you are essentially getting all the efforts of the members of the community around the topic, you’re getting them all together, and you’re co-creating a message together where everybody feels involved. Even if they’re not necessarily the keynote, you can start with the keynote. But you can have breakouts, where people interact with each other, they go on video, start talking to each other, right? We have one of the best examples that one of our clients saw Miro did by integrating their collaboration whiteboard, into Hopin so that attendees get together and discuss issues live by collaborating on whiteboards. So all of a sudden, you’re channeling all this energy, even the pitching comes from a good place, it doesn’t come from a bad place necessarily. But like if you don’t channel it in the right way, you don’t give opportunities for people to come together and express themselves and what they do. And part of it could be also the promotion of their business, you don’t get avenues for them to do that. Or you can set up a booth to do that you can give them sessions to do that. So you’re empowering them to channel all of that energy. So you don’t have to babysit them constantly, you still going to be left with it. That’s inevitable in every community, but you’re giving a clear opportunity to do that. And you can put the cherry on top, which is the in-person media. And that’s where the beauty of community comes. Second point, economies of scale, the problem of event marketing is you constantly have to reinvent the wheel, you constantly have to rev up excitement about attending an event, if anybody listening here has been in corporate marketing, they know what I’m talking about right here. They know you have to send emails again, and recreate reinvent the wheel again and have spent a million dollars incredible keynote speakers that don’t give a damn about your event. They’re just there for the money. And and all of a sudden, you’re left with this engine that requires a lot of gas all the time to go. The beauty of our community is that the engine keeps running all the time. People know what’s happening within the community, and they’re like, When are we going to meet in person, that’s a completely shift in the proposition, the marketing effort that you need to have, the need to put in place to get these people together is nowhere as comparable to a brand that doesn’t have a community element to it. So all of a sudden economies of scale, efficiency running in person events, it’s easier than it was before. So the benefit that virtual has to in person is undeniable.
Christian Klepp 39:08
That’s absolutely right. And I think you brought up a topic, which I think is so relevant when it comes to communities. Again, if it’s managed properly, is that support the members of the community give each other? Right.
Julius Solaris 39:20
Christian Klepp 39:22
Great. Um, you mentioned something which I thought was a beautiful segue into the next question because man, is this a challenge? So, many marketers at organizations sometimes struggle and you mentioned it with a post event follow up? So what can they do to improve this without pitching or sounding intrusive you know, when it comes to getting back to those, those guests, let’s call them, right.
Julius Solaris 39:47
So there’s two facets to this. There’s… so when you say for example, participate in a B2B trade show. I’ve been battling a war against planners that leave the ground open to sharing the leads with everybody and do whatever you want, because you paid us to be there now, take it away, I feel that that’s the most dangerous practice that a professional can do today, giving like, you know, no rules of engagement to the trade show, exhibitors, it’s, it’s like you really given a disservice to your audience. I mean, I was in an event recently, where I was ambushed, I was ambushed… I’m not even talking about the follow up here. Before a keynote, I had to witness 25 minutes, 25 minutes of advertising on stage from partners that were paying for that keynote. And it’s like, nobody told me about that, you know, I’m out of my room, you know, in calls all day, you’re putting me in a dark room, you know, okay, I’m gonna listen to someone for like 45 minutes, which is already a stretch. But then like, you’re adding that up with 25 minutes of advertising. That’s the worst you can do. And people, I’m becoming extremely sensible. I was like, going to my 16 to 15,000 followers on Twitter and like, bash them, like, as much as I could, because I paid like, 1000s of dollars to be there. So you know, why are you doing that to me. So that’s a different proposition. But it’s the same as happening when event professionals don’t put boundaries and say, to sponsor this, and you can’t do this, you can’t do that. So stay away from those events that sort of share the leads with everybody and like open field, open battle. And all of a sudden, everybody’s like reporting us phishing, reporting and spam in the Follow-up ops, because those events that don’t have clear practices in terms of why you got, what you should do, that’s a big red flag right there to move away from those immediately. Second, there’s the tradeshow component. So we understand that making business online, marketing online these days, especially for those that embrace content marketing, is not about the closing the hard sale immediately, right? You know, we all understand there’s a qualification process, you know, from marketing MQLs to SQLs, the level of depth that your audience has was like, we’re talking basics here of the funnel. And most companies, they have a lead scoring system. So you can expect that the in person interaction is 100% Qualified Leads immediately, right? So it has a lot of value in terms of the qualification process, right? So say you assign to a like on Twitter 10, as a voting, you need to get to 100, I would say the meeting in person, having a positive response, it’s the solid 60, right, that was gonna move you towards that level, but it’s not 100. So a lot of people feel that because we met in person, all of a sudden, you’re open to immediately close a deal. And that’s not the case, it means that you really have to deploy data here and think that these people may have had the same conversation that you had with them with at least three or four other vendors. So how would you differentiate yourself in the same fashion that you would do with content online, you move them down the funnel, by creating more value by giving more value. And to me, the best follow up, you can give after a trade show, unless there’s a, you know, a meeting that you made, and they’re interested in buying the product, they just want to demo. And like straight go to sale, of course, make it happen. Like if they’re unsure, follow up with some level of content that creates value, give a report, give checklists, give something that creates, establish your authority and thought leadership. I think that the follow up with content is the best follow up I would ever get. Invite them to your next event. Right? Invite them to attend your next virtual event. So you can nurture that relationship a little bit more. So don’t expect like, you know, this is like dating 101. I’m not an expert in it, because I’ve been married for the past 20 years or so. So you know, but the basics here is that, you know, you go out on a date, you want to close? Oh, doesn’t work like that, right? You need to kind of nurture the relationship both ways. I don’t want to make any graphic example here, but you get what I’m saying.
Christian Klepp 44:34
It’s all good.
Julius Solaris 44:35
I feel. I feel like you know, we have to nurture the relationship in the best possible way by establishing ourselves as the thought leaders, the ones that create value wants to genuinely care about the business and virtual event is the perfect opportunity for that. White paper on a specific subject is a great follow up to that. A link to a blog post that delivers value that you know everybody loves. It’s a great follow up and like, listen to the podcast, whatever, you know. So you start nurturing them as you would do with other contents generated online. This is by far, the simplest way, I would say, the most common mistake that a lot of people do.
Christian Klepp 45:17
Well, that’s absolutely right. And I think that was probably the best comparison. You know, like, if you’re going out on a date, because it’s pretty much the same, right? And it goes for people that attend events, the way people are probably prospecting on platforms like LinkedIn, you know, like, straightaway after the connection requests, pitch, right? And events probably is no exception. Hopefully, it’s, it’s improved. Hard for me to tell, because I haven’t been to an event in two years. But I would imagine it’s different now.
Julius Solaris 45:46
I mean, yes and no, you’ll be surprised to see that a lot of people are going back to do exactly what they were doing wrong. For in person, you would assume a more change. Not happening, still not happening in many facets, unfortunately. But like, you’re seeing the responses in people completely different. That’s what’s changing. Like, you know, customers are fed up, like, you know, people that are working right now, you know, they’re not resigning, it’s already, you know, a big stretch that they’re working, right, everybody’s in burnout mode. So people are reacting extremely negatively, to the same old practices that put us in an uncomfortable situation. Let’s say you get to meet someone, you have a nice conversation at your booth. It’s better than an interaction on social media or like, or it’s more personal. But to assume that that means closing? Not really. So be a little bit considerate of the moment that we’re all going through.
Christian Klepp 46:46
Okay, fantastic. So Julius, you’ve given us a lot of, you know, great advice and tips already, but give us something actionable. And what I mean by that is like, what can B2B marketers do tomorrow to help generate demand with virtual hybrid and on site events?
Julius Solaris 47:01
So first thing, do your research. Event technology platforms have evolved dramatically. So if you played with some virtual events back in the, in the days of early pandemic, completely different tools, so go there, know the tools that you have available to you. 85% of our customers spend time looking through analytics and data available, the amount of data that you can get right now in virtual, it’s amazing, you can like really be strategic about what you’re trying to do. Also, think about value driven type of activations, whenever you’re participating with your brand at virtual events, you’re buying space by content as well. Do not bypass content, by all means, a booth by itself, a virtual booth, nobody cares about going there, unless you’re giving ways to create… so think about consultations, think about link into your white papers within your booth. Think about gating some stuff in there. So you can be more strategic about the lead generation opportunities that there’s right there. Run your own events on your event program, think about elevating your webinar strategy to for event strategy, maybe start a quarterly or you know, every six months, then you know, increase the cadence. If you see positive response, you, you all of a sudden you have this amazing way to get people engaged and, and be engaging with the virtual events that you do. Because don’t use don’t use meeting technology to do events. Very important. The technology we always use that office is done for small meetings, not for large events. So invest in the right technology for the objective that you have. be engaging, be strategic, nobody wants to get bored. Think TV shows when it gets virtual events. Don’t think about listening to someone that’s something that you can do on YouTube. How are you going to engage people, how you’re going to get them to respond? That’s another podcast episode Christian. So I don’t think we have the time for that. But if you have any questions, absolutely. Julius@hopin.com to Juliusonline everywhere. Yeah, get in touch. I’d love to share more tips on how to make events more engaging. Sure.
Christian Klepp 49:18
Fantastic. Fantastic. Julius, thank you so much. This has been an incredibly insightful and relevant session on to B2B marketing professionals out there. So I’m going to say grazie mille as far as my Italian is gonna go. (laugh)
Julius Solaris 49:32
Oh my God, that’s perfect pronunciation.
Christian Klepp 49:36
Thank you. Alright. Thank you so much again for your time, so stay safe. Take care and talk to you soon.
Julius Solaris 49:44
You too. Thank you, Christian.
Christian Klepp 49:45
Alright, thanks. Bye for now.
Thank you for joining us on this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast. To learn more about what we do here at EINBLICK, please visit our website at www.einblick.co and be sure to subscribe to the show on iTunes or your favorite podcast player.
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