The New Digital Normal: Staying connected with your customers

Face-to-face meetings, gatherings and events aren’t possible at the moment, and subsequently businesses are facing an opportunity to move these experiences onto digital platforms. Our Senior Digital Planner outlines some approaches businesses can take to do just that.
hands coming from opposite laptop screens and shaking in the middle

With COVID-19 meaning social distancing is the new norm, we’re seeing profound effects on our lives. Face-to-face meetings, gatherings and events aren’t possible, making this a difficult time for the general population and most industries. For many businesses, budgets are under increasing pressure as revenue streams are cut and operational and marketing methods undergo huge upheaval.

As a society, we’re worried about our health, our families’ health, our wellbeing and our job security. Now is not the time for brands to choose a hard-sell approach, or to appear to be ‘cashing in’ on – or even preying on – social insecurity, as audiences become less receptive and more critical of insincere marketing.

So how can businesses maintain those physical interactions that are so vital to customer engagement, and promote their services in as effective and relevant a way as possible?

One option for connecting with your customers is through hosting a digital event.

Digital events have become more prominent in the last few years, and offer a range of benefits:

  • They’re quick and easy to set up
  • They’re interactive and allow two-way communication
  • They help maintain your position as category experts and market leaders
  • They’re great lead-generation tools and provide a touchpoint with your customers
  • Any digital assets created for the event can be used for ongoing marketing purposes, maximising your available resources and budget

A digital event for every business

Two of the primary forms of digital events are webcasts and webinars. The terms are often used interchangeably, but in fact, they both feature a distinctly different approach to hosting an online event.

If you want to engage with a larger audience, featuring tens or even hundreds of participants, a webcast is an ideal way to broadcast your message.

Webcasts are typically a one-way flow of information shared over the internet, delivered like a lecture or speech. In cases where there are a large number of participants, a webcast gives you the opportunity to deliver a valuable presentation with minimum disruption.

If you’re looking for a higher level of engagement with your audience, a webinar might be a better option. A webinar more closely resembles a meeting, often with fewer participants who are more involved in the content. In this two-way, interactive option, your audience can ask questions, and there’s more opportunity for you to drive direct interaction.

For the very highest level of engagement where creativity and collaboration is needed most, virtual workshops create an effective environment within the digital sphere. In ‘real-life’ face-to-face creative workshops, structure is often more fluid, but this can be difficult to achieve in an online environment. To successfully deliver a virtual workshop, you should have a clearly-defined process for organising and managing participation, and use easy-to-implement, highly intuitive technology, to smooth the delivery process.

If you’re looking to fully replicate an existing conference or event, then a virtual tradeshow could be well suited for you. Virtual tradeshows can be hosted indefinitely, taking place online with on-demand information. By using live chat options and providing customer support, your visitors can experience the same feeling of instant, responsive communication as they would in a face-to-face expo.

In a virtual tradeshow, you can host digital exhibition halls, booths and auditoriums, helping you to replicate the immersive experience of a real-life event. However, it’s worth noting that this type of event the longest lead time, and can be costly to set up.

In this blog, we look at the different types of digital events, how you can build your audience for your events, and provide some top tips for success.

Building an audience

Different events will attract different audience sizes and levels of engagement. Its success will often rely on the quality and number of participants in the audience you manage to attract.

Traditionally, digital events are split into two audience segments; your existing database contacts, and audiences built through new lead generation.

Unless you have a well-managed and maintained database of contacts, GDPR and other data legislation, such as CCPA, can restrict the opportunity for direct email invitations to your event. So you’ll need to check this, and consider alternative lead-generation tactics if this is the case.

Social media is a great tool for driving lead generation when used creatively, and can be supplemented through media partnerships or other paid media channels – for example, search engine advertising.

Going beyond the main event

One of the greatest benefits of a webinar or a webcast is that either one can be held live or made available on-demand, depending on the platform you choose to host your event. By making an event recording available after it’s taken place, you can make connections with customers and prospects who can’t necessarily attend in real-time, or who may be researching the subject after the event has already taken place.

In fact, with any online session you’ll want to consider post-webinar activity – just as you would with a live event. Your digital session is just the beginning of potential engagement, and with strategic follow-up activity you can continue to nurture leads and maintain interest. Repackaged content following a webinar can be an ideal way to sustain the conversation with customers, as can additional ‘exclusive’ materials.

With a combination of session playback and additional content, your sessions gain additional longevity – and that means maximum impact for your brand.

Our tips for delivering successful digital events

At P+S, we’ve been hosting digital events for years, both for our own brand, and for our clients too. Our top tips for success include:

  • Ensure the content you plan on delivering is relevant, interesting and useful to your target audience
  • Prompt participants to think about your session and gather their initial thoughts and questions in advance to ensure your content is in-line with their expectations
  • Maintain audience engagement during your session to discourage multi-tasking, or session abandonment
  • Ensure everyone’s contributions are collected, and consider using a virtual whiteboard to allow people to record their own thoughts
  • After the session, write up and distribute your session outcomes, and provide a session recording to ensure maximum event longevity and effective lead follow-up

When it comes to digital events, our in-house team can take care of everything: from determining the strategy and execution of lead generation campaigns, to designing and copywriting your presentations and content. And it’s all tied together by our expert strategists, who’ll work with you to ensure we meet – and exceed – your expectations.

If you’d like to find out more about what type of digital event would best suit your business, and how we can help you deliver it, get in touch today, by emailing marketing@proctors.co.uk.