Turn lemons into (some) lemonade for fuel lead generation and thought leadership.

Author: Sean Hargrave. Reposted with permission by Digital Doughnut.

Canceled events are prompting mar-tech and ad-tech companies to redouble webinar efforts by creating compelling content they will subsequently use to fuel lead generation.

The list of events cancelled over coronavirus just keeps growing. Mobile World Congress was one of the first, soon to be followed by just about every sizeable gathering for martech and adtech executives in the calendar.

Many conferences, including Ad Week Europe, have been postponed. Others, such as Facebook’s F8 and Adobe Summit Europe are going to proceed online only. At the same time, many companies are extending foreign travel bans to encouraging home working.

Put bluntly, the chance to press the flesh at industry events is all but gone for the next few months and opportunities to grab a coffee with a prospect are going to be curtailed. This raises the question, how are companies going to keep their pipeline healthy? While eMarketer figures show that trade shows are rated third by US marketing for engagement, behind email and websites, they are actually top of the chart for conversions.

Difficulty in getting new customers signed up is one of the impacts which has seen McKinsey estimate GDP growth forecasts made for this year in Europe will need to be revised downwards by 9% to 59%. In a worst-case scenario, the forecast growth in global GDP this year will need to be reduced by 60%, meaning virtually no growth for the world’s economies for an entire year.

Event ROI not clear

Peter Simpson, Global Head of Partnerships at Trustpilot was recently on his way to fly to a conference in Dublin when he heard the company had asked employees to cancel all overseas work trips. Like many martech execs, in one call, a route to keeping the sales pipeline healthy was seriously diminished, although he’s not entirely sure how much of an impact it will have.

“Conferences are useful because they help add new people to the top of the sales funnel and push existing contacts towards converting at the bottom of the funnel,” he says.

“You meet people at a conference and then follow up later or you already have warm prospects who want to meet up and chat at an event before they sign up. It’s hard to work out the precise ROI, though, because with big events you may get a lot of leads but they’re not always high quality and with small events you talk to people you already know. They’re definitely a central part of keeping a healthy pipeline, though.”

Webinars need great content

Similar to many other execs, the route forwards for Simpson to add and win over prospect is looking likely to be ramping up webinars. It’s here that there could be a knock-on effect as crafted content design to earn and maintain attention during an online presentation could open up new avenues for content distribution.

“Webinars are a more efficient use of your time but they do take a lot of effort get together some compelling content,” he says.

“Ideally, you need to conduct research and before you put a webinar together which also means you then have some great additional content for reports and blogs. We do quite a lot of this already and I can see us doing more.

“It’s too early to say what’s going to happen to budgets but there could be a time later this year or next year when we say we’re saving money on travel at the same time as webinars and content are turning out to be great for lead generation. So, we may end up saying, let’s put more budget there.”

Conferences missed, but not that much

Courtney Wylie, VP of Product and Marketing at Mention Me, is similar to many other martech execs who have had to recently grapple with turning, in her case, a breakfast sales event into a webinar. While she will miss meeting up with prospects and clients in real life, she believes missing larger industry events will have less of an impact on lead generation than would have been the case just a couple of years ago.

“We’re not overly worried about relying more heavily on webinars because we find with big events you don’t get the contact details for people who have come to your presentation any more, due to GDPR,” she says.

“You used to get a couple of hundred potential leads from the organiser in return for sponsoring a stream but now you probably only get to arrange a coffee with, say, three interesting leads. For us, conferences are now mainly about brand building or second-touch, because people are already aware of us through our digital marketing; we focus a lot on SEO and PPC.”

Great webinars create compelling content

The big opportunity Courtney sees is that to hold webinars, the company is going out and pre-recording keynote speakers and during the event they will record the stream of panelists answering questions. This, she feels, is going to give the company some content to distribute as video and podcasts.

This could serve as a lead generation tactic, particularly as Mention Me already relies heavily on thought leadership content to help boost its SEO performance. While Wylie is not clear yet what budgetary impact cancelled events will have, she’s confident it will lead to the company relying more on content to boost its thought leadership credentials.

“It’s too early to say if we’re going to, say, double our content production, but we’re likely to increase it through video, podcasts, reports and articles,” she says.

“Getting our content out there is a good way of showing thought leadership which is only going to become more important if there aren’t events taking place where we can speak at.”

Distributing content to new eyes

It would appear, then, that the route of replacing live events with webinars is about to heighten interest in creating compelling content that shows thought leadership on a range of topics. The goal will be to grab the attention of prospects and existing customers on their laptop rather than an exhibition hall.

Martech and adtech companies will have their own properties to highlight this new raft of engaging content to existing prospects. However, to turn new content into fresh leads, from people who are not already visiting a company’s website, the likelihood is many may consider looking further afield to distribution partners.

–Sean Hargrave, Digital Donut. Read more articles from Digital Donut.

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