Has your business relied on offline events such as workshops, lectures, exhibitions or conferences in the past? Then the current situation has probably made it more difficult for you to do business.
After almost a year of restrictions, offline events may seem like a thing of the past. Or maybe you consider them irreplaceable. However, recent research from McKinsey shows that online interaction can sufficiently replace standard offline events for the B2B segment, and is often even more effective, especially because of its speed.
We’ve summarized the appropriate online formats for your marketing plan and compared their biggest advantages and disadvantages.
The first stage of the buying cycle is the actual reaching out to the potential customer. In this section, we will focus on broad reach formats.
You could argue that you don’t want the biggest reach, but the biggest relevant reach. However, the available targeting in online systems is not always segmented enough, especially for the B2B segment. Therefore, it helps to have a sufficiently specific topic for the online event, which, even among a broad audience, can attract the very individuals you really want to reach.
The best choice when the intention is to get the greatest possible relevance are the so-called asynchronous formats, i.e. those that do not happen live but are prepared in advance. For example:
A major advantage of these formats is that they are suitable for beginners. You have the possibility to edit, cut and improve the content.
As they are usually published on at least one online platform (YouTube channel, audio streaming platform or social network), they gain long-term visibility in organic search.
Figure: Podcast Marketing for Lunch is visible in organic search on the Basta digital site and Apple Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube platforms
Longer formats also provide ample time for “working” your audience processing. Audience involvement is not necessary.
Unlike online lectures and discussions, podcast suffer from one disadvantage – they require long-term commitment. Producing a podcast for two or three episodes would be a wasted effort.
Figure: Summary of advantages and disadvantages of formats for wide coverage
At the stage when our target audience already registers us, we need to get into their active awareness (they start to consider us). This audience can be of two types1:
As an example of the first audience, we can cite the owner of a small craft company who realizes that few people know about it at the moment and that this negatively affects his business. We would therefore engage such an individual as an agency with content that presents them with opportunities to get their business in front of a wider audience.
In the case of the second audience, we can again imagine the owner of the aforementioned craft company. This time, however, he knows that his company is little known and that he needs to hire a marketing agency to help him spread awareness of his brand and services. Therefore, the content offered to him also needs to answer a different kind of questions he asks when making his decision.
At the stage when we want to “persuade”, more interactive formats are more than welcome. Ones where our audience has the opportunity to ask questions or engage in other ways.
A suitable format may be a webinar, which is a professional online presentation, but the audience has the opportunity to ask questions via chat or another platform, or vote and the presenter can respond. The advantage of this format is that it is relatively easy to prepare.
The second format that can be used is an online workshop. Similar to a webinar, it is used for sharing know-how. It requires the active involvement of the audience. Therefore, it is also more difficult to conduct, as it is necessary to ensure a good connection between the expert conducting (not only in the technical sense) the workshop and his audience.
Online conferencing is another option that can be used for audience engagement. However, this is the format that is the most challenging to organize. You need to arrange for speakers, a moderator, a suitable platform through which to broadcast the conference, quality technology, and much more. This also makes it the most costly choice of this part.
Figure: Summary of advantages and disadvantages of formats for audience engagement
The final step in our potential customer’s journey is the final decision. When will he be able to make it? For example, when he can “feel” our product or service.
We are able to provide the most authentic experience to our potential customers through an online trial. The advantage is that if it can be created from a given product/service, it is a one-time investment that can be used for all our other valuable contacts.
For cases where an online trial is not available, a video call to present your product or service in more detail may be a suitable alternative. This format gives you one very useful option – to answer any additional questions that the demo version itself won’t answer.
Figure: Summary of pros and cons of formats to persuade.
With this article, we hope that we’ve given you a glimpse of how to stay in touch with your target audience even when it is not feasible to meet them in person.
Remember that quality content is not enough. In an online environment, form is even more important than offline – experienced presenters, the right structure and visualization of the presentation, and fine-tuned technical parameters (quality sound and lighting). Get inspired by how TED prepares its presenters.
1: Based on Eugene M. Schwartz’s categorization of potential customers in his 1966 book Breakthrough Advertising.