Posted by: Dennis Shiao | October 13, 2010

Interview with The Funnelholic: Virtual Events, FOCUS Expert Network and More


We had the privilege of interviewing The Funnelholic (Craig Rosenberg).  See our Q&A below.

Q: You wrote an entertaining post on your Funnelholic blog, in which you described your new role at FOCUS. Briefly tell us about your new role?

A: Ok, I’ll try to abide by the request to be “brief”.  First let me say, I’m just really excited.  I can’t really think of a better thing to do all day than to engage with some of the smartest people in business.  In a nutshell, my team’s job is to recruit, engage, and manage the world-class industry and technology Experts who make up the Focus Expert Network.

Focus.com (www.focus.com) was founded on the premise that business and industry expertise should be open, free and available to everyone. While this type of in-depth expertise traditionally has been reserved for the Fortune 500, Focus.com is fostering the democratization of industry data, information and advice by reinventing how expertise is created and consumed by business professionals.

At the heart of Focus.com is the Focus Expert Network. Our experts power the real-time Q&A, research and personalized support that so many businesses now depend on.  In other words, our Experts are fueling the website and helping us lead this information revolution in B2B.

One plug (I know I shouldn’t, but I have to):  We’re always recruiting, so I encourage your readers to contact me if they want to get involved: crosenberg AT focus DOT com.

Q: We’re noticing more content on FOCUS.com related to virtual events and virtual trade shows, which is great. Why the growing interest?

A: It’s no secret that the virtual event/virtual trade show market is taking off like gangbusters.  Focus.com is one of those media properties fully committed to virtual events. We do hundreds of webinars a year and in 2010 entered the virtual trade show market.  We call our virtual events, Focus Interactive Summits, and we went from zero last year to over 10 this year and have plans to do 40 next year.

In other words, virtual events/trade shows are hot! If social media wasn’t as hot as it is, virtual trade shows would get even more attention.  Also, while the market is growing and buzzing, there are still a lot of questions about not what a virtual event or trade show is, but what the successful approaches are. That drives the community activity around virtual events.

Q: What have you learned so far from doing Interactive Summits?

A: We call them Interactive Summits because “trade show” has a connotation of being a vendor bazaar.  Today’s buyer has choices on where he/she can spend their time, and will always choose education over being sold.  We try to create as much educational value for the audience as we can.

We believe in 3 core elements:

  1. Expert delivered content — We like to say “not pay to play but brains to play” – all of our presentations are third-party, vendor neutral content that is designed to educate not shill.  We leverage the Focus Expert Network to source speakers
  2. Social – We have each presenter follow their presentations in a chat room where session attendees can interact with the speakers and other attendees in a more interactive session. For our recent Summit for social media, users got to chat directly with Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan). There were like 300 questions.  That’s access you just can’t get anywhere.
  3. Specific, Targeted Content – We don’t try to make topics as broad as possible to get the most people, we go the opposite way to make topics that are as specific as possible so that the content is targeted and meaningful.

We are driven by attendee feedback data, and the survey data has been overwhelmingly positive.

Q: What’s the one thing that prevents marketers from getting the most of their virtual event sponsorship?

A: Planning is a big issue.  Most people approach virtual events with a “if you build it they will come” strategy.  That doesn’t work for traditional trade shows and won’t work in virtual trade shows.  The marketer thinks because it is not a live show, that program management isn’t a necessary step and the media company running the event will use words like “turnkey” that just egg the marketer on.

The level of coordination is not even close to a live trade show, but shouldn’t be viewed as plug and play.  I would view it as any other campaign or program and make sure someone is in charge of thinking about the following aspects: pre-event audience development; booth layout and look/feel; who’ll man the booth (and who’ll answer certain questions); the content in the booth; the giveaways you might want to do; and, lead follow-up.

Lead follow-up and expectation setting are two other closely tied barriers to success.  Let’s start with lead follow-up.  Virtual trade shows have unprecedented scoring opportunities based on demographic (who they are) and psychographic (what they do/level of engagement in the show).  Figure out during the planning process how you’re going to follow-up.  Make sure that only the truly engaged folks get phone calls, everyone else should be nurtured.

You should set expectations with everyone, including yourself. The biggest downfall of the traditional tradeshow is and has been the problem of marketing dumping “bingo” cards on the sales people’s desks.  A bunch of “lookie-loos”, consultants, and non-buyers were in the batch, and then sales says “marketing sucks”, and ultimately, nobody gets ROI.  Lead scoring needs to alleviate this.

Keep the “not-sales-ready” away from sales and have marketing nurture them.  Keep in mind, there’s an important cause-and-effect here: ROI may take longer.  Most marketing departments that are committed to lead nurturing understand this and will continue to cultivate the leads until they are ready to be passed.

I recently heard a talk from a major marketing automation vendor who said “I have seen my virtual trade show conversion rates rise over time”.  Those are all those un-dispositioned leads that he chose to nurture and he eventually converted.  He will now invest more in virtual trade shows whereas the non-nurturer would probably stop doing them.

Q: How can marketers best leverage their virtual event engagement data in the nurturing and follow-up process?

 

A: I touched on this in the previous question. First, because of the incredible data capture, virtual trade shows and virtual events in general are made for nurturing.  Here’s an example: If someone downloads a whitepaper, you don’t know if they read it.

On the other hand, if someone goes to a virtual event and asks a question, they are listening and engaged.  That’s powerful data for the marketing department.  Here are a couple of tips:

  1. Who you don’t call is as important as who you do call – I’m telling you, trade show leads are the ones you get the most grief about from sales.  Embrace that and keep them away from sales until the leads are ready.  Send them follow-up emails and make them take a secondary action before you apply human force to them.
  2. Have a scoring plan, stick to it – Do this before the show please.  If you don’t have scoring structure in place, use the event to do so.  Start with demographic (lead definition – typically of company size and geography) and then psychographic (What activities constitute interest to you? Is it just downloading your collateral? Engaging your sales reps? Etc.)
  3. If you do get someone to engage you in the booth, call them fast – Isn’t that obvious?  This is why you need someone who owns the event, they care about making sure “hot” leads get in the hands of the right people and converted.

Q: Thanks for  all the great answers, Craig!

A: You’re welcome – hope this helps.

 


Responses

  1. […] An interview with The Funnelholic, which includes insights on lead generation with virtual events. […]

  2. […] From the INXPO blog, “Interview with The Funnelholic: Virtual Events, FOCUS Expert Network and More“ […]


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