The changing face of Events
As 2020 unfolded the Events calendar diminished and businesses all over the world started to wonder where their pipeline would come from. There was much debate about whether “virtual” really could replace F2F. Early on businesses who flexibly adapted their events into the virtual world certainly delivered success stories; a healthy registration rate and a good pipeline of leads, but now virtual event fatigue has set in and it’s harder to persuade audiences to join ‘another’ event, and even harder to keep them engaged. In response we’ve seen innovative technologies change the way virtual events engage with their audiences in the hope of maximising their enthusiasm to attend and remain on-line. Virtual break-out rooms have replaced on-site roundtable discussions and with the aid of chat bots and chat rooms customers have been attended to with the click of a mouse. The overriding advantage of the virtual event for all concerned is the time saved. It negates the need for travel, attendees can be invited and accept at much shorter notice and by attending, they’re not taking too much time away from their day job. But this has come at a cost as virtual events can never truly replace human interactions, walking around an exhibition hall to see what catches your eye and the social aspect of meeting colleagues old and new.
As we’re promised more freedom to meet up and travel in 2021 it will be interesting to see how quickly businesses will rush back to the F2F Event circuit. Attendees are sure to delight in the opportunity of a change of scenery and the chance to meet up and socialise with peers again.
Our prediction is that businesses will adopt a blended approach to their Events with more consideration over where to spend their Event sponsorship budget and more scrutiny over the potential attendee list.
When delivering their own Events, businesses now have much more choice in terms of format and this will enable them to build an Events programme that is more precisely targeting based on where their customers are in the buyer journey and making sure the content is relevant.
Our other prediction is that event organisers will adopt a blended approach to individual events, with some aspects live – ensuring there is enough value to convince prospective attendees to travel, with some content also streamed live, or on demand to reach a broader audience.
How tone of voice is changing message
Breaking through the digital noise has become even more challenging this year as everything has gone digital with some B2B businesses struggling to differentiate themselves from competitors. IT buyers are swiping their way past product and feature based marketing because they have access to a mountain of content online so can self-select what to engage in. Coupled with the fact that budgets have been diverted to keep the business afloat, buyers are spending much more time in their research phase. In fact, research suggests that 70% of the purchase cycle is spent engaging with content, before the prospective customer even begins to reach out to a sales person (Isoline 2019)
So how do B2B brands stand out? Towards the end of this year, we’ve seen B2B brands adopt the lessons learnt from B2C with tone of voice and message focussing more on the human side of the business, reflecting the personality of an organisation and featuring the people who make up the workforce. Audiences want to feel a connection to all brands, not just the consumer brands they invite into their homes. Now more than ever organisations need to show authenticity, diversity, transparency and social responsibility. Into next year we can expect to see this approach grow as customers demand brand values they can relate to when making decisions.
It’s no surprise that during the lockdown society turned to more entertaining forms of social media and this saw the rise of TikTok. With £17 million UK users which is a quarter of the population is hard to ignore the impact of TikTok albeit the age range of the audience is 10-24 – but pay heed – over the next 5 years these will become business leaders and decision makers. Before TikTok’s second birthday, it had achieved nearly half the UK users that Facebook had taken 15 years to acquire, wo betide ignoring that in 2021. B2C marketers are already pulling out all the stops to create branded TikTok assets that use amazing and inventive new techniques based on video, imagery and competitions and most, with great success. Soon we’ll see this happen in the B2B space too as the lines between social media platforms blur. We don’t expect our tech B2B brands to fully embrace channels like TikTok in 2021, but we expect them to watch what their B2C counterparts do with curiosity and an open mind. One learning we do expect to roll into our B2B channels is more snackable video content, for example short, live events on social, promotional videos, vlogs and the like.
Digital Marketing Transformation vs Creativity
We’ve noticed that throughout 2020 marketing has become more of a science than ever before; with the move to digital it’s now possible to analyse and report on the effectiveness of every single go-to-market tactic and even campaign development projects are now digitally programmed methodologies. Experts agree that we are in the midst of a marketing revolution, with rapid change, evolving from traditional marketing to a new digital marketing mix. The use of Marketing Technology or MarTech to plan, manage, test, optimize, implement, measure and report on marketing campaigns and programs is now essential. The introduction of analytics and tools mean digital marketers can now test, refine, measure and optimize campaigns like never before. And this has allowed businesses to measure and track their KPIs and cost per lead at an extremely granular level.
Into 2021, we think we’ll see more and more businesses embark on a digital marketing transformation, but our word of caution is not to quash the creative juices that keep marketing innovation alive. Too much automation and meta-tagged templating can put creativity at risk with little room to spin up new ideas or brainstorming outputs. We’re hoping that businesses will optimise the time they save through their MarTech to focus on delighting their audience with new exciting and creative content and medias, not as an excuse to cut cost and creativity.