October 30, 2020
Here's how to grow your accounts using online events.
Planning any online event is exhausting, let alone executing one that benefits both your customers and your bottom line.
You’ll need to make lots of decisions about your presenters, content, design, marketing, sponsors and exhibitors, follow up, technology and more—and nail each one. A recipe for analysis paralysis, unless you and your team can judge each of those decisions against a unifying marketing strategy. (Note: For our purposes, “online events” encompass webinars, webinar series and multi-day virtual conferences.)
Increasingly, the strategy of choice is Account-Based Marketing (ABM)—a hyper-personalized approach that prioritizes selling to select high-worth accounts instead of generating as many leads as possible. In ABM, the endgame isn't to earn leads, but to serve the accounts you already have.
To meet that goal, your marketing team will need to use a wildly different online event strategy—one in which you're providing individual decision makers the right content at the right time, in hopes of driving them toward the right decision. Heavy lifting, but hugely rewarding if your online events can drive results for your high-worth accounts.
Ready to start? Learn more below:
Demand generation campaigns are usually targeted at individual decision makers with relatively simple, isolated purchasing decisions, i.e., they can commit to a purchase without consulting too many channels within their own company.
But many B2B buying decisions are too consequential and multi-faceted to leave to one department or even the board. That’s where Account-Based Marketing comes into play.
ABM is a more customized, personalized approach in which you target buyer companies with the best revenue potential for your business. ABM deals in more complex, B2B purchasing decisions that require a longer sales cycle and many, many more approvals. From an event and content marketing perspective, this requires more daily collaboration with Sales and hyper-specific content offerings.
In a demand generation setting, you’re targeting a company’s CMO as an individual. But in an ABM context, you need to appeal to the CMO, plus many other company stakeholders with their own agendas, which has important implications for your online event strategy later on.
The KPI of an ABM campaign is your increase in the number of deals closed and the number of opportunities advanced in your pipeline, as well as the speed at which they progress.
Now, let's learn how to use online events to support your ABM strategy:
Demand generation campaigns drive leads through a sequential, siloed pipeline: Marketing uses content to attract leads, directs leads to sales, then moves on. However, this doesn’t hold true in an ABM context, which affects your both content strategy and marketing pipeline.
Instead, the Sales Representative/Account Executive owns the relationship, and knows what content their decision makers need to make decisions at any given time. Marketing’s role is to fill those content needs, through online events and other content, both at the individual account level (i.e., the buying company) and at the broad persona level (i.e., CEOs for every buying company).
This requires strategic and creative synergy between teams, starting with the following:
Like any marketing initiative, start by mapping out the buyer journey. But since the “buyer” is the company as a whole, this also requires an understanding of the company and industry context, using information from multiple sources.
Some starter questions include:
What’s their competitive context?
Who are their customers? Which segment of their customer base brings in the most revenue? Are they prioritizing growth in a specific segment over the next six months to a year?
Who are the most important decision makers within the company? What information do those stakeholders need to make a purchasing decision? Pay attention to organizational politics that may sway decision-making in one direction.
What are their biggest pre-purchase objections and information gaps? How can you alleviate those concerns through your webinars/virtual events? Here, it’s important to evaluate what has failed for them in the past, and organize your recommendations around those insights.
After defining your account’s marketing needs, remember that you’re not marketing to the “account’ as a collective. You’re marketing a group of company stakeholders—real people with their own vested professional interest in their company’s buying decision. And the company’s final buying decision is just the sum of those individual choices.
For example, the company CMO may be the final decision maker, but other company leaders can influence the decision with their own department-specific questions and concerns: the CFO will have financial questions, the CIO or CTO will have InfoSec questions, the CEO may want successful case studies, etc.
And because each of these people enter the process with different goals, subject knowledge and knowledge gaps, each of them travels their own individual buyer journey as part of the company-wide buying process.
Your online event strategy needs to account for each of these individuals, then give each of these people the right content at the right time. By moving each individual through their personal buying journey, you’re moving the company closer to a final buying decision.
This can work on the individual account level or at the broad Persona level.
So if the VP of Marketing from one of your accounts has a question about an ultra-specific process, you can create a very small webinar solely for that person. But since every single CTO from every single one of your accounts will ask the same questions about data integrity, you can publish a longer webinar about data security that’s applicable across all of your accounts, then make it available to all of your sales coworkers to send prospects on a moment’s notice.
As you begin to brainstorm and create a strategy for your account, keep these ABM-specific considerations in mind.
The biggest advantage of account-based marketing is the ability to create hyper-personalized, highly relevant content for your accounts. Through on-demand and automated webinars, both of which are pre-scheduled, you can re-record or edit certain sections so they align more closely with your audience’s needs. More generally, you can incorporate the company branding and colors into your landing page and webinar room.
Metrics like views, clicks and downloads communicate a lot about your viewer’s behavior, but not much about their intent or future actions, which places you at a disadvantage in a long-term sales relationship.
But webinar softwares now include down-to-the-minute engagement statistics, for each individual, for each session. This way, you can tell whether your audience members are fully engaged with the presentation, or they just streamed it because their boss told them to, and adjust your content strategy accordingly.
Since content creation requires much more communications between Sales and Marketing, create a streamlined method for Sales to communicate content requests with you, and vice versa. This could be a weekly touchpoint, Slack channel or Basecamp folder, or anything else that provides clarity and accountability.
As a marketer, it’s not first nature to approach a buying decision with its implications for data security or financial stability in mind. So to ensure your content provides useful resources for company leaders in those fields, ask coworkers from those departments, or friends and family, for feedback or additional context to strengthen both your content and your delivery.
Once you’ve created your online event strategy, it’s time to execute the individual webinars and virtual events for each of your accounts. Here, too, you’ll need to make programming decisions that meet your strategic needs. This includes your webinar format, presenter selection, webinar size and more.
Whether you’re hosting virtual events or individual sessions, it’s likely that your online event strategy will be webinar-heavy. There are a variety of different formats for varying use cases, ranging from live webinars to automated webinars, which are pre-recorded and broadcast in a simulive format.
Live webinars are excellent ways to stoke excitement and interact with leads in real time. But because ABM takes place in a more pressurized account management context, your online events should prioritize risk mitigation and quality assurance over emotional resonance and interaction.
For ABM, we recommend automated webinars for the following reasons:
Automated webinars are pre-recorded prior to distribution, meaning that you can edit out mistakes or re-narrate sections that didn’t resonate with past accounts.
Automated webinars can also be distributed and accessed in several different formats. You can schedule them to play “just in time” as a guest enters the webinar room, or at regularly scheduled intervals of 15 or 30 minutes (these are also called evergreen webinars). You can also save them for users to play on-demand.
Please your prospects while you’re not even in the room. On most online event platforms, you can automate some or all of your presentation—in just a few clicks. Pre-load all of your desired content (videos, polls, Q&As, etc.) into your webinar platform, organize them into an automated timeline, and save. All of these elements will be automatically triggered during your webinar, and its attendance and engagement records will be saved automatically as it would in a live webinar.
Besides reducing the risk of mishaps, pre-scheduled webinars also sidestep scheduling concerns by letting your prospects to view your content on their own time.
As your prospects watch your pre-scheduled webinars, you can answer their questions even if you’re not in the “room.” On your online event platform, you can automatically forward webinar questions from attendees to your phone via SMS, push notifications or a dedicated Slack channel. This way, you can respond to audience questions as they come in.
Bonus: If you create a dedicated Slack channel to host your webinars, you can add relevant company members who can provide your guestsmore detailed, targeted information about your product in real time.
You can also add more supporting visuals, graphics and videos after the fact, which is especially important if you’re presenting instructional content that your viewers may not comprehend from audio alone.
Your presenter selection is one of your online event’s most visible promises of value and therefore, one of its biggest marketing tools, especially if you can recruit industry-wide thought leaders with active social followings. That said, the strategic benefit of collaboration doesn’t always outweigh the logistic and financial cost of partner recruitment and coordination.
Since collaboration works by boosting your numbers, it’s a no-brainer for anyone seeking to grow their base. By cross-promoting your online event with another organization, you can double or triple your reach with almost no extra effort. And numbers aside, collaborations tend to result in more diverse presenter pools and better thought leadership. So not only are you attracting new leads, you’re increasing their chances of converting them to leads, and eventually customers.
(Tip: Use affiliate marketing to identify the most active promoters of your partners, then plan future events around that partner’s needs to pursue future joint ventures together.)
But cross-promotion is less advantageous in an ABM context, where you’re talking to specific decision-makers within a specific target company. Because your content should hone in on individual questions by those decision-makers, consider providing specific, tailored targeted customer stories or case studies instead.
Your target audience size will vary according to your strategy. If you’re looking for more leads, you’ll obviously want to maximize your audience. So ensure your preferred webinar platform can support your desired number of guests before sinking any costs into the system.
But if you’re using webinars to support ABM, your messaging will necessarily be more targeted and applicable for a smaller base of people. Consider limiting your audience size through privacy settings, ticket restrictions or gated access to your online event.
Similarly, the breadth and size of your audience should dictate the scope of your online event topic. If you’re broadcasting to an 10,000-person audience, speaking to the majority requires sticking to generalities. But the more narrow your audience base, the more niched your subject can be. Here, since you're speaking to individuals within individual accounts, your event content and topic can really narrow in their specific concerns.
Want to learn more about how the world’s most innovative companies are using webinars and online events to drive business results? BigMarker’s Account Executives are here to help! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.