No market segment has been immune to the shock caused by the lockdown and declining global economy. The current crisis has put extraordinary pressure and uncertainty on the software distribution channel. To better navigate these unprecedented times, channel partners have to adjust their business strategies and shift from in-person demand-generation events to online events.
This shift can actually be beneficial. For instance, one of our value-added resellers, DigitalEra, recently launched a series of webinars dedicated to cybersecurity in the digital era — and broke all their previous records for registrations and attendance, despite the crisis. To help you achieve similar success in these challenging times, I’ve put together seven key tips for creating and hosting effective online events:
1Try out new formats
Almost everyone is doing webinars now. To stand out, mix in panel discussions, keynote presentations, joint webinars or happy hours (which have become especially popular these days!). DigitalEra and Netwrix recently co-hosted a Q&A Crazy Hat Happy Hour to enjoy cocktails … oh, and to discuss how to protect data when everyone is working remotely. The event garnered a 68% attendance rate, a record for us.
2Examine topics from different angles
Mix and match the topics you discuss so you won’t be seen as pitching a product every week. Ana Curreya, Director of Channel and Field Marketing at DigitalEra, said, “It is important to spread the message that you are here for your customers and bring content that is relevant by providing strategies to conquer the current situation. That is why we focused our webinars on different aspects of cybersecurity threats that are relevant to our customers, such as endpoint security, data protection and security of collaboration tools.”
3Don’t hard sell
The event topic should be relevant and add value for your target audience, instead of just selling a product from your portfolio. Norman Huszar, Sales Director at DigitalEra, commented, “Partners should focus on the outcomes and value their customers will get, rather than just selling the product. This is not the time to do a hard sell; this is the time to be more about taking interest in how the current situation affects your customers.”
4Stay positive and offer a personal touch
Face-to-face events are helpful for improving customer engagement and building stronger relationships, but online events can be effective for that as well — provided that you deliver meaningful content and show that your brand cares. As Huszar explained, “When people see the personal touch and recognition, that makes them want to be a part of this. I was amazed that the majority of attendees for our webinars are not our customers. And that’s an opportunity for the company in the future.”
5Invite charismatic speakers
Another factor that makes a successful online event is a talented speaker talking about relevant subjects. A speaker who is popular in your region or your industry and knows how to engage the audience and bring a bit of fun will take your event to the next level.
6Give something back
Offering incentives, such as gift cards and swag, not only encourages people to attend, but is also a way for you to give something back to your community during hard times. Curreya noted, “We raffled several gift cards and came up with incentives for each happy hour attendee so they could order in drinks or food. This is a great way to build stronger relationships with existing and potential customers and let them have some fun.”
7Use partner enablement tools
Finally, vendors often provide tools that help their channel partners launch marketing campaigns that will resonate with their particular target market and customer needs. Seek help from your vendors in adapting to this unusual situation, and take advantage of their support and any ready-to-use content they develop. Remember that we are all part of the same team!
In the long term, your goal is not only to fill the sales pipeline, but also to raise awareness in the market, build lasting relationships, support your customers, and educate your prospects about how they can solve their most pressing problems more efficiently.