Although we’re one quarter into 2021, there are still many unknowns about what the rest of the year will look like. One of the biggest question marks is still event marketing. Are people starting to finally push past lockdown fatigue and willing to venture out to in-person events as the year progresses? Will the increase of vaccine availability make people feel safer and things will return to normal, like nothing ever happened? Or will much of this year play out like 2020 did, with Zoom meetings and webinar registrations, or even hybrid models for events?
Honestly, we don’t know, and after I (virtually) sat down to talk with Jody Guetter, CMO of Social Assurance, last fall, I learned that that’s okay — it’s time that we not only come to peace with the unknown, but to welcome it with open arms.
Think outside the box with your digital events plan
“We’re all going through many firsts together,” Jody said, speaking about reacting to the pandemic from a marketer’s perspective. “We’re all kind of figuring it out as we go, so how do we get permission as marketers to try new things and be creative and learn and fail and experiment?”
Thinking of events from a budget perspective, Jody explained that the reality of in-person events is that they’re a big investment. She advised marketers to use this fact to form a business case with your supervisors to get a little creative: while you’re saving money on hotel, staff and travel, for example, you can potentially afford to reallocate some of that budget to try something new virtually.
However, Jody emphasized that it’s important to go above and beyond just translating a traditional event into a Zoom meeting “and call it a day.” Now is the time to try something new, like a different platform or strategy, and focus on driving engagement.
“A motivating factor of why people attend in-person events are the social and networking components. From a marketing and communications perspective, that’s what you naturally lean into as a value proposition of going to a conference,” Jody said.
As part of a SaaS company who works directly with financial service providers, Jody and her team leaned into the unconventional. They didn’t shy away from being different because of the virtual nature, but they embraced the changes and used it to their benefit from a marketing point of view, as well.
“From crisis comes opportunity,” Jody said. “You recognize the scenario and create a message that resonates with people.”
She explained the unique social components of her industry: “In the financial space, there’s an exclusive element when it comes to the social piece of conferences. There are official dinners where people come together and present, celebrate, commiserate and share information together.”
Their biggest question was how to inject the social component and after-hours conversation — “the organic natural conversation where you recap the day and learn from each other” — in the virtual world.
Thus was born the “unconventional convo”— daily conversations streamed live on multiple social channels, which incorporated different participants on each day, providing a variety of dialogue with a hook to get people to come back again and again.
“Zoom fatigue is so real,” said Jody. “So this was a good win for us. The live component created a different experience than just sitting in front of a computer hearing content. This was a true dialogue, super casual, super entertaining, and super informative.”
The key was to provide diversity in personality, experience, background and expertise, as well as maintaining an organic, non-scripted environment.
However, going forward, Jody said that marketers should have a higher level of scrutiny when it comes to deciding who is the best person to put on camera. “You can be the smartest person in the world, but that doesn’t mean you can translate to digital presenting.” Be ready to have these conversations with presenters to make sure the standards are set ahead of time.
[Read More: Top Marketing Conferences in 2021]
But, what about lead generation?
“This is the tough nut to crack from a B2B perspective and the SaaS space,” Jody admitted. So much of the industry has historically been driven through live demos and conferences, so it’s natural that this is an urgent pain point for companies.
First, stop and think: If people aren’t going to conferences, what happens to that sales funnel? This is where marketers will have to continue to get a lot more creative. Reassess that process and think about where you can reallot your budget.
Think of your website as a 24/7 lead generation channel and what content you need to curate to see success there. Reinvest in your content and put your attention into multiple channels instead of being so reliant on one. Focus on true channel engagement.
Another piece of advice that Jody had relating to digital lead generation was to develop more thought leadership to position your brand online, telling your story in ways that you usually would face-to-face.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to pull in user-generated content. Even if you’re a SaaS or B2B company, your customers are thought leaders in your industry. Find those individuals and work with them to grow your reach farther than you can with your brand alone. “They can help you get more eyeballs on your brand and put you in direct contact with your target audience,” Jody explained.
“We’ve always done it like this” doesn’t work anymore
Marketing is always moving at a fast pace, and the pandemic has kicked that into hyperdrive.
“It’s what I love about marketing,” Jody concluded. “There are always new channels and new tactics; it creates an environment of constantly learning and challenging yourself.”
Foster a culture of experimentation, and don’t be afraid to try new things as you’re executing.
“We have to be doing at the same time we’re learning.”
Jody Guetter, CFMP, is the Chief Marketing Officer at Social Assurance, a SaaS company that provides financial service providers sales, marketing, and compliance software solutions and digital marketing services. Jody previously was the VP/ Director of Marketing and Sales at a $2B community bank for seven years and attended the ABA Bank Marketing School in 2017, followed by earning her Certified Financial Marketing Professional designation. Jody has served on the ABA Bank Marketing School Advisory Board since 2017 and has also served as Co-Chair for the ABA Bank Marketing Conference in 2020. With a career focus on data and analytics, Jody completed an Executive Leadership program at MIT in 2019-2020.
For more information on Social Assurance, visit their site here.