Do you have a bread maker?
I got one as a gift for my wedding nie a decade ago. It sits, forlorn-like, on a shelf, staring at me when I walk by as though it’s my fault it’s entire existence depends on my lackluster need for bread.
I’m sure it’s a fine bread maker as bread making machines go, I just don’t have an overpowering desire to spend money on special bread making flour and eggs and baking powder (or is soda?), an assortment of other ingredients, and the time it will take to mix them up, drag out the bread maker, make room for it on the counter, plug it in, re-read how to use it, get everything poured in and set, then wait for the bread to arrive in an odd square-with-hole. Not when I can buy a loaf for a few bucks.
Maybe you can relate.
Hey friend, I hope you’re having an amazing day. I’ve been super focused on virtual event strategy in recent months as you may be aware. I’m working with SaaS brands who want to create the most unforgettable experiences for their virtual attendees, and I’ve been documenting a tremendous amount.
You know me, I love to write and blog, and when I opened up an all-new category for virtual events on The Social Media Hat blog, it was a pantry begging to be filled with, ahhh, bread.
But truly, it’s been fun creating new content and watching it perform, and brainstorming ideas. I already have dozens of blog post ideas and drafts in my Evernote that will soon be shared.
What I wanted to talk to you about today though was the platforms on which virtual events are run. These are typically software as a service (SaaS) subscriptions you’d pay for monthly or annually, and use to put together the details of your next event. What it’s called, when it’s going to be, what the agenda will be, and so on.
At Agorapulse, I’ve used quite a few different virtual event platforms over the years, and have been a speaker for other people’s events on others. I’ve also worked with clients on yet more platforms.
When the time came for me to consider which virtual event platform we’d use at Agorapulse for the coming year, and the major virtual summits I had scheduled to organize, I started of course with the platform I’d used most recently, Airmeet. It’s a terrific platform that helped to make our Agency Summit a huge success in 2021. But because my event plans for the year are likely to result in 15,000 – 20,000 attendees, my needs are typically priced into the Enterprise range and the tends of thousands of dollars.
In order to justify that budget and investment to my CMO, I needed to do my due diligence and go shopping. I quickly booked demos for half a dozen virtual event platforms that I knew and wanted to get a fresh look at and quote from. Hopin, Kaltura, Cvent, Whova, Hubilo and Bizzabo. A few other platforms popped onto my radar while I was in the midst of discovery and before I knew it, my calendar was filled with 20+ demos and sales calls.
I still have a couple stragglers coming in but that was an intense week of Zoom meetings, let me tell you. And for the most part, all of these platforms are delivering proposals that are significant investments.
Now, I’m planning three major virtual summits for Agorapulse that are going to bring in thousands of attendees as I mentioned, and our community team is also interested in running social meetups. But that got me thinking…
How else could we use a virtual event platform?
Or put it another way: who says we only have to use this expensive tool once a quarter for a virtual event?
Is this the most expensive bread maker ever?
I imagine you, too, have your share of software or subscriptions that you’ve purchased that have very specific, unique purposes and benefits. But I also imagine your investment was far, far less than what I’m looking at for a virtual event platform.
If you’re considering hosting a virtual event this year, and I strongly recommend that you do, I’m happy to have a chat about it in fact and just talk through whether it would be a good idea for your brand. But if you’re thinking about it, then you’ll need to be thinking about a virtual event platform, if you haven’t already. So wouldn’t it be nice to have other uses for the tool beside that big event?
I thought so too.
In fact, I think it’ll be easier for me to get budget approval if, in addition to powering my events and those of the community team, I’ll be able to tick off eight other boxes of ways we can leverage the investment!
Certainly, we can run more events. That’s a given. In fact, I’d already considered that and added an additional event in Q3 to my original plan of Q2 and Q4 events. I also think it might be great to run smaller, more interactive webinars and panels throughout the year, and the virtual event tools I’ve been looking at are supremely well suited for this purpose.
But wait, there’s more.
What if we set aside some time later this year to put on event that was devoted to our own customers exclusively?
No… Mike… you can’t do that, you won’t bring in any new leads, you say!
As a SaaS company, Agorapulse is definitely focused on new customers, new monthly recurring revenue, of course. But we’re also heavily invested in making sure our customers are successful so that they continue to want and need Agorapulse and, as a result, continue their subscriptions. We want to reduce churn and increase the lifetime value of our customers.
Imagine if I were to host an event where ten thousand Agorapulse users were invited to learn industry best practices, hear about the company vision from the CEO, see the roadmap of the product, and network with Agorapulse’s power users. They might even get their hands on some amazing swag and gear.
First, I think you’d agree, those users would come out of that event motivated and excited and eager to leverage their investment in Agorapulse even more in the coming year. There’s no doubt it would have a positive impact on customer retention, right?
Second, if planned well, the virtual event would have key features and opportunities, such as embedded gamification, that encouraged attendees to share their experiences to social media. Now suddenly there might be thousands of Agorapulse users tweeting and posting about how awesome this event is – oh and by the way, it’s only for Agorapulse users, sorry non-users.
That creates buzz and FOMO and brand awareness and interest outside of the existing user base.
Don’t think I can bring in new leads with a user conference? Watch me.
And that’s just one of several ideas I came up with how a company can use their shiny new virtual event platform. Other ideas included team retreats, onboarding and more. I detailed all of them in a new article on The Social Media Hat if you’re interested. You’ll also find an article and webinar outlining ten significant benefits that brands, SaaS companies in particular, can realize thanks to virtual events.
We’ve already talked about two of them here today! Leads and Customer Retention.
But there’s so, so much more that virtual events can do for your brand, so give that a read or sign up for the webinar if you’d like me to walk you through it in a video.
And remember, if you or a brand you know is thinking about hosting a virtual event this year and wants to make it a Sold Out Summit, select clients can reserve a VIP Strategy Day and get their entire event strategy knocked out in an afternoon. Let’s talk soon.