With the virtual event market predicted to reach $4 billion over the next five years, our ability to engage Channel Partners through online events is more powerful than ever. Of course, the time and resources required to successfully plan and execute virtual events do not come without challenges. Working with Vendors daily, the major hurdles we discuss center around delivery tactics and low attendance.
With the event season upon us, I’d like to share a few best practices we employ when working with Vendors to engage Channel Partners via online events:
Know your Partner audience:
Since most Partners work with multiple Vendors they are constantly bombarded by incoming information. For best attendance results, your first step should be to strategically plan and align your content with your objectives. Then ensure you’re inviting only those roles who will gain value from your presentation. For example, don’t invite salespeople to a technical webinar or vice versa. When the perceived value is missing, they’ll consider it a waste of time. Although it will take a bit of effort to segment your Partner contacts, doing so will yield an optimal return on engagement (ROE) when it comes to interest and participation, making it well worth your time!
Make it easy to register:
First, ensure the information on your registration page is succinct. I always say: clear, concise and consistent. Consistent of course with the message in your invitation. Don’t be afraid of white space and avoid too much text. Your call-to-action should also be above the fold and avoid using an event registration form as your opportunity to collect extra data. When you keep forms short and simple, requiring only the necessary information, folks are more inclined to opt-in. The fewer clicks it takes to register for an online event, the better. Another good tactic is to offer a one-click “add it to my calendar” option as part of the form submission process. This instant reminder in their calendar is not only a value-add but will surely improve attendance on the day. Consider it a win-win. (You’re welcome.)
Respect their time:
We all know Partners are busy; wearing many hats and highly focused on putting their customers first. So, it is very important that you earn their respect by choosing a day and time that works best for them. In the United States, we recommend Tuesdays and Thursdays between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. For other geos check here for best webinar times across the globe.
In addition, time is of the essence:
Don’t exceed the advertised event length
Allow ample time for Q&A (Oh, and it’s not a bad idea to have some seed questions on the ready, too!)
You may be thinking, no kidding Captain Obvious, but research shows that over 40% of attendees register for online events more than a week in advance. So, if you don’t start promoting earlier than a week out, you’re missing opportunities to capture your early bird registrants. Highly targeted drip campaigns executed 15+ days out are effective, especially when they’re strategically focused on Partner needs. Execute email promotion in parallel with other tactics like a partner-facing blog, calls-to-action on other topic-related blogs, promotional videos, and of course, social promotion across platforms.
Amplify with social:
Your social posts should promote the event, the related blog(s), the video, and so on. When you integrate all tactics it not only amplifies your message, but you cast a wider net, enabling more opportunities for your audience to receive the information, via the channel that appeals to them most. You can even create an event-specific #hashtag to encourage sharing. And remember, word-of-mouth is social communication and still key in today’s market, so motivate your Partner-facing teams to help build the momentum too. Start dripping registration and blog links over social channels a month in advance and gradually increase the cadence as the event grows near.
Say it with a smile:
As I always say, you only get one chance to make a first impression, so be sure it’s a positive one. Since this may be an inaugural experience for some of your online participants, be sure you have an event moderator on deck. Then, after your initial welcome and housekeeping, encourage the audience to take advantage of your group chat for questions and comments. You can even leverage the event #hashtag by suggesting participants keep the conversation going on social. Last, but certainly not least, do not deliver death by PowerPoint. Inundating viewers with endless walls of text stinks. Instead use as much relevant imagery as possible to tell your story. Even if it’s technical, you can still demonstrate the message with appealing, dare I say funny, visuals. Try it. I promise it won’t disappoint. If nothing else they will remember they had a good time and it was time spent with you. Their new favorite Vendor. (You’re welcome, again.)
The present informs the future:
When it’s all said and done, thank them profusely (especially for their valuable time). Depending on your online-event platform you can offer up a survey immediately or later as a follow up to gain feedback and hedge bets for future success. Then in the week that follows, publish another blog about the event, maybe include some of those great comments and questions, and of course a few of those hilarious pics. Be sure to include calls-to-action, and socialize links to what is now your “on-demand” event.
With proper planning and strategy, Vendors can not only better engage Channel Partners with targeted topics, but deliver useful information via Partner-facing webinars, podcasts, trainings and other virtual events. For more information on how our team works with Vendors to plan, execute, drive attendance and successfully engage Channel Partners in online (and live) events, contact us. We’re always happy to help!
Find out more about Jenn Reed, VP Channel Marketing and Operations