As the world of digital marketing rapidly changes and evolves, marketers must continue to adapt to the latest best practices for the content we produce. Being informed and aware of emerging trends in online experiences becomes half of the battle when determining a marketing plan for your growing business.
Today’s marketing landscape has become geared around how effectively we engage with our virtual audiences. Since 67% of a buyer’s journey is now done digitally, understanding how to connect with an audience using webinars and other virtual events will improve your business performance by leaps and bounds.
Digital marketing is undergoing a metamorphosis where powerful content creators are evolving into syndicators and producers of engaging online experiences. The role of virtual events is changing quickly to keep up with this change in buyers’ behavior. In fact, nearly 80% of B2B sales interactions could take place within virtual channels like live events and webinars by 2025. In other words, the roles of sales and marketing will continue to merge in new ways that will optimize the customer experience.
Here are the top five webinar and virtual event trends to keep in mind as we head into 2023:
1. A Shift Toward More Interactive Conversations
As marketers look to make their content more engaging in real-time, we are seeing a big shift toward a conversational approach to presenting information, such as with webinars, Q&A forums, or keynote presentations. Gone are the days when a presenter will simply run through a slide deck for a passive audience. Instead, presenters are actively engaging with their audiences—from taking polls in real-time and inviting them to ask questions, to turn their presentation into a casual, two-way conversation via live chat tools.
With that understanding, how can we effectively make this transition from presentation to conversation? Essentially, it becomes less about simply conveying information and more about encouraging and guiding conversation about a particular topic. People love to feel that their voices matter and there is no better way to scratch that itch than to involve them in the conversation. Sales and marketing must engage in this discussion with their audiences by combining expert knowledge and interactivity.
As digital marketers, we want to successfully communicate with our audiences in a fun, interactive manner while still providing them with the knowledge that salespeople and other subject matter experts hold. This approach of inviting meaningful, two-way conversation that simultaneously provides the audience with useful information will become increasingly more effective in 2023.
2. Creating a More Intimate Online Experience
In recent years, we’ve seen a major push away from large-scale seminars and instead moved toward a smaller, more intimate experience between the audience and the presenters. Merging the concepts of virtual meeting platforms like Zoom with the interactivity of a live event format allows your audience to engage in Q&As, polls and more—all while capitalizing on the power of face-to-face interaction. Not only do inclusive virtual events create a more familiar space for audiences, but they also allow us as marketers and salespeople to learn more about our target buyers.
The key takeaway from this trend of creating smaller, more intimate customer experiences is that going into 2023, audiences are no longer looking for an expansive ocean, but rather a really good glass of water.
3. Incorporating Serialized Content into Virtual Events
In today’s marketing landscape, most of the content watched by consumers is represented by serialized programs—whether that be talk shows, podcast interviews or a docuseries. People are increasingly more inclined to consume content where they are highly engaged over a longer period of time through bite-sized chunks of information.
By incorporating a variety of opportunities for serialized content into your virtual events—such as a webinar series that is based on specific topic tracks—you are inviting your audience to subscribe to a more digestible and repetitive schedule for the content they consume. This will be one of the most impactful and effective approaches you can take with content related to virtual events as we head into 2023.
4. A Push for Hyper-Targeted Virtual Events
The days of large-scale, in-person seminars with hundreds of people are behind us, as it has become much more advantageous in recent years to digitally host a smaller, hyper-targeted group of people based on various factors like industry, role, or location.
However, it’s important to remember that these virtual events still need to feel like more than just a digital version of a physical conference. Because they can take up much less time and space than a physical, in-person conference, you are able to segment your audience into multiple instances. In other words, there is a unique opportunity for one conference to become multiple events!
The biggest trend we are seeing is a push for hyper-targeted, niche content. This exclusivity can make all the difference when attracting C-level individuals to your event. Business leaders are also more inclined to join in on virtual, segmented content since it requires no travel cost while also respecting their busy schedules.
5. Bringing Sales into the Experience
Over the past couple of years, salespeople have been forced to throw out their playbooks and adapt to the changes of our modern working world, where virtual and hybrid work are the new norm. Salespeople have increasingly less facetime with their prospective buyers, and, because of this, it has become our job as digital marketers to stimulate buyers’ interest through virtual experiences.
Virtual events that are focused, serialized, and conversational in nature provide an excellent opportunity for salespeople to engage with their buyers. A good example of how to achieve this is by creating webinars with breakout rooms where key salespeople can share their expertise, lead a product demo, or answer questions. Another example could be to feature private, niche topic rooms that take the place of the familiar socializing aspect of in-person events. Finally, virtual happy hours can also serve as great conversation starters with a more casual feel.
All of these virtual event examples provide unique opportunities for salespeople to interact with prospective customers who have already opted in and expressed their interest in a particular topic, brand, or service.
Finding new ways to engage our audiences in a virtual space is becoming increasingly more important as we embrace a future of interactivity in 2023. The buyer is no longer primarily looking to make purchases in person and instead wants to complete the process digitally. Our job, as marketers, will be to produce meaningful and engaging digital experiences, where the point of sale will take place for these future buyers.