For the better part of three decades, in-person, B2B events have been a cornerstone of the corporate marketing portfolio. They’ve withstood the test of time because in-person events remain differentiated in their ability to provide real, tangible connections to the brand in a way that no other medium can... including digital marketing.
However, as the world continues its work-from-home regimen and events shift from in-person to digital, the event industry is testing its creative and logistical boundaries in the hope of keeping remote, distracted audiences engaged.
This has truly been a necessity—how else do you eke out a return from a year or more of hard work and retain your hard-earned audiences?—but so many event teams are beginning to see the opportunity in the challenge. With a near-term, singular focus on digital connection, brands have the chance to capture broader online mindshare and either retain it with hybrid events or attempt to convert those digital-only audiences to the legacy in-person event experience.
A Critical Inflection Point
We’ve been impressed with and inspired by the creativity, experimentation and optimism we’re seeing as event teams move quickly to digital and make the most of the opportunity to connect online. But we’re also sure that the experiences we’ve had under pandemic pressure will leave a more lasting impression on the way we build and model our overall strategy.
Through all of our quick-turn strategy adjustments and experiments, we learned that digital has great potential to extend and capture audiences. We also learned that audiences are quickly becoming expectant in terms of digital access. And, somewhat painfully, we now understand how vulnerable it felt to have our marquee in-person event—the result of many months of planning and investment—be so utterly threatened by a virus.
So, now that we know all of that, it’s clear that there’s both critical need and immense opportunity in adapting quickly and adjusting our broad, long-term strategies in order to retain and capture audiences, while also building an integrated network of in-person, digital and hybrid experiences and touchpoints. And this holds true whether we’re talking about customers, prospects, industry partners or employees.
Shifting The Mindset
Now is the time to go beyond the thinking of "online, virtual or digital events" to create a comprehensive engagement strategy, comprising a portfolio of assets and audience experiences that leverage both in-person and digital platforms. And I believe there is no one better positioned to lead this next chapter of transformation than the event professionals who have truly mastered the art and science of audience engagement thus far.
Don't get me wrong, this will certainly be a collaborative effort that requires team and functional integration that we haven't seen previously. Corporate brand and digital marketing teams are adept at navigating the digital landscape, amplifying brands and shepherding the lead and opportunity pipeline... but they don't necessarily have familiarity in designing experiences, curating audience engagement and measuring results and impact—certainly what event teams can and will bring to the table.
"There’s both critical need and immense opportunity in adapting quickly and adjusting our broad, long-term strategies in order to retain and capture audiences, while also building an integrated network of in-person, digital and hybrid experiences and touchpoints."
Event professionals will continue to curate content and experiences for the audience and objective—a huge differentiator in our new reality. Digital marketing teams will continue to drive marketing promotions and audience acquisition, support post-engagement nurture campaigns and assure content repurpose and syndication strategy. And, collectively, this “engagement team” will create and drive forward a persistent, year-round experiential engagement strategy that includes a centralized digital hub of content and other assets that can be utilized across different channels, formats and engagement points. When these powerhouse teams come together, we expect to see some truly awe-inspiring and high-return digital and hybrid experiences emerge.
At Impact Point Group, we've been working in the trenches with both teams, helping brands create an integrated engagement strategy that’s focused on business impact and has long-term shelf life. Our role as “integrator” has proved to be a crucial one—ensuring cohesive execution across all layers of the engagement strategy and driving brand and audience experience continuity, while executing flawless, standout digital and in-person engagements.
And while each of our clients are working through a unique plan and set of challenges, reaching toward different objectives, the conversations are all gelling into one: we’re building something far more complex, integrated and, in our humble opinion, beautiful than we attempted previously—a constellation of thoughtfully engaging touchpoints that integrate into and support the total brand experience while driving business results.
Audiences have already adjusted… and, I believe, expect more. Now, it’s our turn to reframe, expand our perspective, and collaborate together to do more, better and more efficiently.