Monday, March 7, 2011

Audience Acquisition

If you build it, they might not come. Apologies to "Field of Dreams" for chewing up a signature line from the film, but this is an important point. Organizing and producing a virtual environment, even one with excellent content, is not enough. You have to focus some effort on audience acquisition, and it should be an ongoing effort.

10 steps for success:
  1. Define your KPI - key performance indicators. In other words, what does success look like? For some virtual environments the amount of attendance is not as important as making sure one small, well defined group attends. Know what your objectives are, first.
  2. If your target audience of attendees is large, segment it into groups that have common characteristics and develop messaging that will resonate with each. For example, if your target audience is made up of both executive decision makers and mid-management level "influencers", produce marketing materials that show each group how their jobs will be made easier by attending your virtual event or environment.
  3. Craft your message with a sense of urgency. If your targeted groups feel they'll be "missing out" on key data that will further their careers, purchasing decisions or efficiency by not attending, they'll have a compelling reason to make sure they do. At the very least, they'll be more likely to attend at a later date for on-demand content (more on that later).
  4. Promotional content is very important. Most virtual environment providers will enable a promotional micro site for your use. This should be used to creatively promote speakers, key content and important sessions that will be a part of your virtual environment. Again, consider your target audience segments when creating these promotional elements.
  5. As in all marketing, frequency of the promotional messaging around your virtual environment is important. The most successful virtual events understand this. They begin with basic information and steadily ratchet up the details as the start date gets closer. One of the key options many overlook, however, is the actual day of the event. Consider using an automated calling service to gently remind registrants to attend when your virtual environment goes live.
  6. Another time-tested method is to host "pre-live" days within your virtual environment. Essentially, you offer sneak peeks at content that will be available when the your virtual event is live. This builds excitement, helps convert registrants into attendees, and bolsters the "tell a friend" viral element that can boost your overall attendance.
  7. The most flexible virtual environment vendors offer great ways to maximize your on-demand period by allowing for specialized "pulse events" - smaller live days during which you can provide subject matter experts able to answer questions from each of your main audience segments. Pulse events keep your virtual environment top of mind, help you gather more customer intelligence and give you more one-on-one time with key customers and prospects.
  8. Some virtual environment vendors offer advanced social networking options. Certainly you can link out to social networking sites, but even more effective is the ability to enable your attendees to connect and interact with one another within your environment. If that's the case with your vendor, keep an eye on this activity. This organic "pooling" of people will help you understand customer segmenting strategies that might not have otherwise been obvious.
  9. Your virtual environment, even if it's not an "evergreen" site, is a living entity, hopefully with an active community. Keep it that way by offering fresh content over time. Consider this when building your content strategy. Don't push it all out at once - that will be overwhelming and most people will not consume it all. Instead, plan out your content distribution much like an editorial calendar. Over time, market to your segments, informing them of what's new and why they should come back and visit. Each new visit generates more valuable customer information.
  10. In short, reward your audience for giving you their time. View it through this lens, and you'll find they reward you with allegiance and the data you need to serve them better.

A final note, 6Connex offers consulting in this area for all of its customers. Ask your sales rep for details or email us:

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