Events Horizon: What Virtual Events Will Look Like in 2021

It’s fair to say that COVID-19 has fueled a boom for the virtual events space. Unable to connect with customers and prospects in-person, businesses across the U.S. have instead turned to the power of virtual events to spread brand awareness and form meaningful relationships at a time when health concerns have made it almost impossible to do so.

It’s been a benchmark year for the industry, and the likelihood is that in 2021, companies in the space will see revenues grow even further. In fact brands like Bizzabo and Hopin, both platforms that help organizers plan and run virtual conferences, already raised more than $260 million between them this year, with Hopin increasing its valuation to more than $2 billion.

However, ten months into this pandemic, it’s safe to say that we’ve hit peak virtual events fatigue. Perhaps compounded by the ‘Zoom fatigue’ that has left many yearning for the day when they return to the office, marketers have struggled to virtually engage audiences that already spend the majority of their day in front of their screens.

It has been a pain point for an industry that has offered tremendous benefits, and one that needs to be swiftly addressed as brands continue to place virtual events at the top of their marketing stack. With that said, here are three ways we expect businesses will get the most out of their virtual events in 2021.

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B2B selling in 2021 - give me industry expertise over the flawed pursuit of hyper-personalization

Last week, I threw hyper-personalization under the bus (The myth of hyper-personalization - algorithms are still undermining the customer experience). My beef with hyper-personalization raises another question: how should B2B companies approach marketing and sales in 2021?

One of hyper-personalization's biggest drawbacks? Throwing technology at the wrong problem:

Are we really prepared to argue that algorithms are savvy enough to anticipate our needs in a moment-by-moment context?

Is hyper-personalization the right sales and marketing goal?

This personalization obsession has spilled into sales and marketing, with the fantasy that if we present the prospect with the right offer at just the right time (marketing), or send an "intelligent trigger" from our CRM system (sales), we'll magically have ourselves a new customer. Alas, that ambition gets mucked up by the near-irresistable temptation to blast our contacts with spray-and-pray offers hiding under the personalization rationale, but that's a rant already made.

For sales and marketing to earn relevance in today's economy, we need to redefine the problem. I believe this is fundamentally about culture change, not tech.

I have the apparently unfashionable view that marketers need to become educators/content producers with a journalistic bent, while salespeople need to become advisors.

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B2B Sales & Marketing Leaders Take Note: Brand Is Trust At Scale

"I don't care about brand. I care about revenue." We've all heard some variation of this countless times.

One of the most pervasive and value-destroying misconceptions held by many business leaders is their belief that brand only — or mostly — matters for consumer products.

“We build serious products that solve serious problems for serious buyers,” say these B2B leaders. “We identify pain and position our solution to alleviate that pain.”

Dials. Emails. Leads. Meetings. Demos. It’s all very logical. Clearly measurable.

Marketers Contribute To The Problem

We marketers are often complicit in this value-destroying mindset. We’re data-driven marketers, aren’t we? We’re modern marketers. We scoff at the old days of billboards, television commercials and ads in newspapers and magazines.

That world is over, grandpa.

We use serious tools to deliver serious messages and to report on every activity taken. “Good” marketers speak the language of MQLs, SQLs, lead scoring, conversion and attribution.

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Why Sales Should Ditch MQLs for Intent Data

We live in an on-demand world. Our customers’ expectations are always evolving, which means the way we engage with them as salespeople must evolve, too. Today, customers are at the center of everything we do in the revenue-driving function – or, at least they should be. So in order to create a customer-centric experience for our prospects, the tools and technologies we use must inform and support all aspects of the sales process.

Modern buyers have more information at their fingertips than ever before. As a result, they’re doing more behind-the-scenes research – with more than 70% of buyers defining their own needs before engaging with a sales rep.

In sales, our success in sealing the deal depends on how well we can empower and engage buyers throughout their journey. But with marketing qualified leads (MQLs), you only have an opportunity to provide value to your buyers after they’ve made themselves known to you.

Luckily, today’s sales teams can instead use intent data and Conversational Marketing to reach the right prospects at the right time and provide value throughout the entire buying process.

Stop Guessing, Start Knowing

Historically, one of the biggest challenges for salespeople has been knowing exactly what our customers want. Typically, we rely on MQLs to provide us with a general idea of who the prospect is and what their pain points are before going into a meeting. But, more often than not, those MQLs leave us with generic information mapping back to our ideal customer profile (ICP), not the specific insights into each unique prospect we need to create a personalized experience.

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How to set the content marketing world on fire.

As a copywriter and content marketer that has been fortunate to work with some pretty stellar startups, I’ve seen first-hand (and admittedly at times by my own hand) what works and what doesn’t in the content marketing world.

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Majority of B2B advertising is ‘ineffective’

The majority of B2B creative is “ineffective” according to new research from the LinkedIn B2B Institute and market research agency System1.

Of the 1,600 B2B ads shown to a sample of 6 million people worldwide over the past four years, 75% scored one star or less on System1’s FaceTrace emotional measurement tool.

In this context, a one-star rating means a piece of advertising is contributing zero in terms of long-term market share growth. A one-star rated ad essentially means the brand is entirely reliant on out-spending the category, rather than benefitting from the strength of the creative.

None of the 1,600 B2B ads viewed in the research attained a maximum score of five stars. Five-star ads, which score highly on emotion, fluency and intensity, have been found to help a brand grow by an average of 3% in the long term, aiding the excess share of voice and category spend.

The principles of a five-star ad, as defined by System1, are a strong story arc, characters, soundtrack, emotion and a fluent device which drives brand recognition. However, the research suggests B2B advertising is failing to deliver on many of these elements.

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LinkedIn uncovers the key frameworks for successful account-based marketing

The alignment – or the lack of it – between the sales and marketing teams has been one of the key concerns of businesses across categories and B2B marketing is no different in facing this roadblock often.

One of the ways in which LinkedIn is resolving the challenge is by deploying tools that support account-based marketing (ABM) and making it a focused growth strategy integral to B2B marketing.

Fundamentally, ABM is an effort at creating and sustaining relationships with key accounts. Many marketers are already convinced of its importance, as LinkedIn found 87% of marketers who measured ROI said ABM outperforms all other marketing investments.

Owing to LinkedIn’s proven track record as the most trusted digital platform, it is being increasingly picked by many marketers as the foundation of their ABM strategy. To help marketers navigate their challenges LinkedIn has worked on solutions around the ABM strategy and created a robust ecosystem of marketing partners across audience data, campaign management and measurement.

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7 Costly Misconceptions About B2B Content Marketing

B2B marketing has changed a great deal over the last decade (and arguably even more so over the last year). To be sure, such transformations have affected content marketing just about every step of the way.

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How Marketing From Home Will Help Align Marketing and Sales

Misalignment between your marketing and sales departments can cost your business money, waste valuable B2B content, and cause lead-to-sale conversions to fail.

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What B2B marketers can look forward to in 2021

“For me, this is the best time to be a B2B marketer. It’s not only B2B marketing’s opportunity, but it’s B2B marketing’s responsibility to take back control of the buying cycle.” Forceful words from Nick Heys, CEO of Jabmo, a global ABM platform serving industrial and manufacturing businesses, bio-sciences and healthcare.

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