Events have long been powerful tools in the marketing repertoire. In fact, 76% of B2B leaders said that events are their top tactic for generating quality top-of-funnel leads, according to Demand Gen Report. But even as the event industry took a massive hit from the pandemic, it didn’t take long for B2B companies of all sizes to grasp the impossible-to-ignore upsides of virtual events. We’ve seen work at every level of the funnel—from getting new leads to closing deals—thanks to their flexibility and scalability.
To dive deeper into this topic, we recently invited three Go-to-Market leaders from Brex, Adobe, and Outreach onto the Welcome stage to find out how they've used virtual events to drive revenue, generate new leads, enable strong connections (sometimes even more so than in-person events), and deliver highly meaningful experiences. Watch the full recording of the fireside chat below.
We’ve distilled the conversation down to the three key factors that can take your virtual events to the next level: personalizing the experience, leveraging follow-ups, and understanding your audience.
Virtual experiences remove the time, cost, and geographic barriers to entry that come with physical gatherings. That’s what makes them better than in-person events, says Sam Blond, Chief Sales Officer at Brex. “Say someone gets invited to a Thursday night dinner by a company that’s trying to pitch them; would they prefer to go to the dinner or hang out with their family? We’ve seen that people would rather get sent a bottle of wine and join a virtual event that provides valuable content.”
He believes that creating personalized, intimate virtual experiences are well worth the effort. “The most memorable events I’ve attended were smaller and highly produced. If you have the ability to throw a small event for a curated group of people, you can get a super high return on your investment.”
Gary Specter, Adobe’s VP of Growth of DX Business, agrees that virtual events can offer the best bang for your buck, especially from a marketing and pipeline perspective. “If you’re a sales rep who’s working with 40-50 prospects, you can’t get them all in one place physically. A virtual gathering allows you to have targeted conversations with a solid group of people.”
“The most memorable events I’ve attended were smaller and highly produced.”— Sam Blond, Chief Sales Officer, Brex
Like countless other companies, sales engagement platform Outreach was forced to cancel one of its biggest events at the dawn of the pandemic, after months of preparation. But what happened instead was far beyond their imagination. The Go-to-Market team pivoted its sales engagement conference to a virtual summit that resulted in 14,000 registrants and influenced $119 million in pipeline. The key to their success? A complete overhaul of their engagement strategy to focus on pre and post event follow-ups.
Using a hand graph to illustrate the “engagement” bell curve, Scott Barker, Outreach’s Head of Strategic Engagement, explained that in contrast to in-person events—where engagement skyrockets during the event—virtual events follow the reverse curve. Most of the engagement takes place before and after the event. With this in mind, Outreach “put the onus on [their] sales team to take a really tailored approach to inviting attendees,” said Scott. “Prospects were 65% more likely to move into the next stage of the sales cycle when sales reps invited them, compared to marketing sending the invites.”
Following the summit, the team filtered all attendees using their lead-scoring model, identified the most qualified leads, then followed up using personalized messages. Through this strategy, Outreach ultimately generated six times the pipeline they would have with in-person events in 2020—via expectation-shattering virtual events. Scott emphasized, “You can throw the best virtual event in the world but it's not going to turn into revenue if your follow-through isn't there.”
“Prospects were 65% more likely to move into the next stage of the sales cycle when sales reps invited them, compared to marketing sending the invites.” — Scott Barker, Head of Strategic Engagement, Outreach
To identify topic ideas for their events, Scott explained that Outreach often examines the content they’ve published throughout the year, then teases out the best-performing pieces through their events. “We look internally to see what content our audience is responding to and double-down on that,” he said. All three speakers agreed that to have the most meaningful and relevant conversations with customers, you need to start by getting a solid understanding of your target audience. “You’ve got to share highly focused content that’s applicable and valuable to the folks who are at the event,” noted Sam.