A few years ago, when I thought about virtual events, I was mostly thinking about them in the context of “webinars.” These were typically presentation-style events that were half-lecture/ half-sales pitch, and neither half was all that engaging. The pandemic changed this entirely. Virtual events became an outlet for people to connect with each other when they had no other option. They became lunch and learns, happy hours, town halls, birthday parties, concerts, and even award shows.
This mass acceptance of virtual engagement has opened up the doors for anyone to host events online, no matter the size of the audience. In the case of MSPs, they have the additional incentive of Market Development Funds, which help to offset the cost and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. Many vendors in the IT Channel are willing to offer MSPs full reimbursement of such expenses for these events, and some will even host it on your behalf.
The most challenging part of hosting a virtual event for your Managed IT business will undoubtedly be getting registrations (and converting them to attendees). Here are a few of the tactics that have worked for us when helping MSPs launch virtual events, which you can do yourself as well:
Launch A Drip Campaign
If you have an email list (and have been nurturing it for some time) then this should be one the most engaged audiences you have at your disposal and thus one of the most important. This list typically consists of existing clients, prospects, and partners that know you and your brand. If you don’t have a list, then take a moment to compile one using data you already have (here’s where to look). Using your list, set up a drip email campaign consisting of at least three emails. I like to schedule the first one at least 10 days out and then rest on the Monday before and the day-of the event respectively (events are usually on Wednesday or Thursday).
Create A LinkedIn / Facebook Event
Creating an event page on LinkedIn or Facebook will allow you to get more engagement compared to just a basic promotional post. This is because people can see others who are attending and can also invite their friends or co-workers that may be interested. It also allows you a more streamlined way to send invites, as you can filter your connections and check off who you would like to attend. The biggest issue with using these event pages is that people don’t always click through the link to fully register, so you have to post a few reminders leading up the event to make sure these people make it through the full registration.
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Offer A Limited-Time Promo
Offering an additional promotion on top of whatever content you will be providing will help to sweeten the pot for your potential attendees. One media company claimed that the addition of a promotion increased their signup rate by 61% overall. Not only does this increase registrations, but it also helps to boost attendance and the amount of time they stay logged in to the event. These promotions may include gift-cards, physical gifts (shirts, mugs, etc.), food / alcohol, or even free services. No matter what promo you choose, just be sure to make it clear and obvious right at the point of registration and clearly state any terms and conditions that may apply to your offer.
Collaborate W/ Influencers
Having guest speakers at your event will help to add some variety to the content. It will also help to bring an additional audience that may not otherwise participate. When selecting people to collaborate, look for those who have a large amount of influence with the target demographic. Their quantity of LinkedIn connections and average post engagement are good indicators of how much clout they might have. Don’t be afraid to reach out to even the “biggest names” in the industry as well. They want to grow their audience just like you, so many will be happy to participate even if its only in front of a small audience of 25-50 attendees.
Send Out A Press Release
If your event has “local appeal” then you may be able to get some free press by sending out a press release. While I have never had much success with “official” press releases per se, I have managed to track down bloggers and/or journalists directly to pitch a topic. The key to getting your story covered is not necessarily in the writing of your release, but more so how you position the story so that it appeals to their audience. If you find a good angle for how your event will impact the community, and you provide some really convincing quotes to accompany it, then the story essentially writes itself.
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Share To Groups & Forums
If you are targeting a specific niche or local area, you can leverage groups and forums to generate registrations. This can be done by posting organically (if you are an active member), or through targeted ads. We have found that Reddit ads work exceptionally well to target verticals, as the platform allows you to bid on specific “subreddits” (and filter geographically). The same type of bidding strategy can also be used to target Facebook and LinkedIn groups on their respective ad platforms.
Create Employee Incentives
The most powerful resource you have at your disposal when generating registrations for your event is your own employees. Salespeople and Account Managers have proven to be exceptional good at producing event attendees, primarily because it helps them engage with their clients and prospects. Consider creating some type of bonus or incentive program to reward employees for producing event registrations. This will give them the extra motivation they need to participate and will help to expand your reach exponentially.