This article originally appeared in the April 2013 edition of the Marketing GPS Newsletter.
The importance of video to online marketing success has been growing for several years. In 2013, marketing efforts will depend more on video than any year previously. According to Jim Parker, President of Digitell, Inc., it’s bigger than we may think. He believes there’s a “perfect storm” brewing in video conferencing, particularly for conferences. This storm is perfect not merely for all the reasons you might imagine, like increased bandwidth and rising travel costs. Video conferencing will have a significant impact on you this year, regardless of whether you host or attend conferences. While technology and economics set the right conditions, the wave of innovation will come from marketing.
I spoke recently with Jim Parker at the Great Ideas Conference, hosted a few weeks ago in Colorado Springs by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). Jim co-presented a session titled “Next Generation Learning: The Strategic Impact of Digital Technology on Meetings, Membership, Marketing, and Monetization.” This was one of several exciting sessions but also one with particular relevance to our readers, as we discover ever-increasing concern about how to use video for marketing.
Will Streaming Technology Replace Live Conferences?
So, do availability and cost-savings incentives to stream quality, embedded video nearly anywhere mean that live conferences have no future? Not at all, counters Jim: streaming technology won’t replace live conferences; it will only make them more valuable. “Hybrid” conferences (live conferences that are also streamed) will gain ground because they make content more accessible to new audiences.
“Charge the same price,” Parker advises, to both the live and the streaming audience: the content is the same, so it should be worth the same. But surely attending the live event is a better experience? Not anymore, he believes. Streaming technology is more seamless than ever, and any disadvantages from being remote are now offset by new advantages:
Conference chat: real-time audience participation through chat is in parallel, not serial like the live event. This means the streamed version includes more feedback, brainstorming and Q&A than the live event can ever hope to aggregate simply by passing around a mike.
Archives: all of the content, from the opening remarks to the last feedback, is preserved. Parker reports that archives are often actually more popular than the streamed conference, as news about the content spreads beyond the initial attendees.
Convenience: streamed material is as close as your desktop or mobile device. You can now attend a conference on your daily commute, or even en route to another conference.
After presenting his Great Ideas session, Jim Parker reflected “…I’m trying to focus on how we change the ‘from one to many,’ to the knowledge of the whole group — because I think collective knowledge can move industry further and faster. I have experience, and I have ideas. But everyone in this room has experience and ideas, too. We didn’t get to hear any of their ideas. We really need to hear all of the ideas….”
Video Capture Opens Up New Audiences and Revenue Streams
Even if you don’t attend conferences in person, video capture means conferences (a) don’t lose value, and (b) gain audiences; hence, like any syndicated product, they become more efficient revenue streams. Syndication means more channels, including ones penetrating deeply into your local community. These new channels become accessible, in part, through new sponsorship opportunities that will allow conference hosts to stream customized versions of a single conference to dozens of segmented markets.
These personalized versions can be sold to each attendee—or to a sponsor, who then provides the content to selected customers as a way to boost traffic to its own website. According to Digitell customer Laura Wenger, Executive Director of Practice Greenhealth, “To our corporate sponsors, live streaming education to their website was seen as a huge benefit. Some jumped on the opportunity to step up their sponsorship, even after assuring me they had no more money.” Sponsors increased spend by $80,000 to $200,000 in just eight weeks, and reported an improved ROI over the previous year.
New audiences include overseas professionals, students and even legislators and their aides, who would attend a few sessions from their Capitol Hill offices. Parker described a recent hybrid conference on material-sciences sustainability held in Boston that included streaming to different student groups. “The people in Boston were blown away that the students in Saudi Arabia had a completely different concept of sustainability than the students in Stanford [had],” he said. “We would never have been able to [learn that outside of a hybrid conference]!”
Retailers Can Create Targeted Campaigns with Specialized Video
Retailers can create targeted marketing campaigns that feature specialized video streams. For example, an auto-repair shop trying to reach female drivers could stream a session set up by the Women’s Automotive Speakers Bureau, powered by AskPatty.com, Inc. Or a Chinese restaurant could stream “Joyce Jue’s Chinatown” from the International Association of Culinary Professionals recent annual conference.
Local retailers could acquire streaming rights via purchase, or gratis as part of a loyal vendor relationship. Either way, highly specialized content that once had a shelf-life of a few days at most can recruit new customers across communities worldwide, even months after the live event. And meeting planners facing declining numbers can develop entirely new revenue streams.
It won’t be long before streaming clearinghouses will be set up to connect video-content buyers to sellers, eventually with the same sophisticated infrastructure used to sell music and other recorded content. That’s the element of the storm that accounts for Jim Parker’s passion for streamed content: increasing collaboration.
A Vision for Streaming Video’s New Marketing Possibilities
Though Parker shared this vision at Great Ideas, the conference itself wasn’t streamed or even video-recorded. Until the huge potential of the new technology is fully embraced, attendees at this conference, and many others, will make do with audio recordings and handouts. It appears obvious, though, that it will not be possible to hold back video technology for much longer. “[Hybrid conferencing technology gets] people from different perspectives,” Parker says. “That’s the exciting thing about Cisco, IBM…those companies have been doing this so long they’re now at the level where they’re engaging groups [almost daily]. Most [association executives] are just trying to figure out [how to avoid] losing attendance….We need to think bigger. Once we get going,” says Parker, “we’re going to start really feeling that we can move the learning process faster.”