The Many Flavors of Hybrid: Creating the Perfect Event Portfolio.
The need for and usage of digital experiences has exploded. Virtual events offer rich data and account insights, but how do companies combat user fatigue? | Originally aired on April 20, 2021
Rather read a transcript of the session?
Experiences drive customer engagement.
Develop purpose-built digital experiences to drive prospect and customer engagement.
Interactive content boosts campaign results.
In the right use cases, interactive content can be greatly beneficial to marketing and sales.
Content always needs a purpose to succeed.
Execute outcome-based strategies over content-led strategies for the best results.
Zoom fatigue is real and and now that we're staring so much at our computer screens, people are looking for an elevated experience in order to commit time and energy into what we're asking them to do.
Uzair Dada: Hi there. Welcome to the Iron Horse Coffee Break series. We're super excited. I'm, the founder and CEO of the company. And I'm super excited to have my good friend, Kevin Croxton from Ceros today. Kevin, welcome and excited to have you on board today.
Kevin Croxton: Yeah, thanks for having me, should be a fun chat.
Uzair Dada: Yeah. Should be a fun chat. So we chat a lot. We work a lot together and the interactive content space has been hot over the last year or so, and largely because we, since COVID have been doing a lot of digital experiences and digital experiences of all forms and format, everything from webinars to virtual events to now hybrid events. And as we're doing that, we have all the other Zoom meetings in between that happen. So we've been hearing about Zoom fatigue a lot, but really what I'd love to do is maybe start by you talking a little bit about Ceros just for people who don't know you guys, but then really talk about what are you guys doing to enhance and create awesome content and working with customers to make the Zoom fatigue go away.
Kevin Croxton: Yeah. So a little bit about Ceros just off the hop. So Ceros is a interactive platform that enables anybody with Photoshop and design skills to be able to create these digital pieces of content without having to write any code. So at the click of a button, you're able to publish directly to the web and it's basically Photoshop meets and designs, sprinkle in PowerPoint and shove it in the cloud. So we've been growing rapidly over the last couple of years and certainly with everything that's going on with COVID and Ceros, like a lot of companies that are listening in today, we had a lot of our lead gen pipeline was physical events and we've had to pivot and we're eating our own dog food in that sense, is that we've looked to virtual events and certainly have been doing that with our clients as well. So trying to find different ways to cut through the noise, different ways to engage with people.
Kevin Croxton: As you said, Zoom fatigue is real. And I think that now that we're staring so much at our computer screens, people are looking for an elevated experience in order to commit time and energy to what we're being asked to for them to do. So it's been great. Everything from invites to landing pages, to the content of what people can expect from a virtual event to the follow up that happens afterwards, we're helping folks take those meaningful touch points and elevate them a little bit at scale because there's technology now behind it, where you don't need that developer in order to create this type of content.
Kevin Croxton: So as you mentioned, it's been a pleasure working with you and sharing some clients together and having your team be so proficient in the platform and working across it. That enables folks that might have thought this is too hard or too expensive to do in the past. It's really lowering that barrier of entry. It's no longer just large companies that have insane budgets and large dev teams that can create this type of content. It's really opening it up to everybody and putting it in the hands of the people that can be the most creative with the platform.
Uzair Dada: Yeah, I think that's been awesome to me. I think that the key things that you guys bring that didn't exist prior was velocity. So everyone thought this was a massive hurdle and including agencies, it was like, "Oh my God, I need to have dev resources available to code up stuff." The fact that I can have a design team focus on getting something done and manage end to end. This is game changer. It's awesome. And the ability to be able to do it fast. I mean, we're doing content for our companies to do some interesting stuff within days and weeks, rather than weeks and months, which is also super awesome. So we started talking about it. I think my favorite topic, we were an agency that had been focused on doing integrated marketing for a lot of companies. We've been doing a lot of virtual event stuff before virtual events were a thing.
Uzair Dada: And since last year we've been talking about virtual events as being the launch point of engagement, not the end point of engagement, a lot of people thinking about virtual event as a place where people come, you do all the stuff. And then "Wow, what a let down." And to me, virtual events really is a continuum. So in our classic days, our webinars and any kind of Zoom and team meetings or whatever else to the full blown, multi-day beautiful events using Visibo or Hopins or [inaudible 00:04:15] of the world.
Uzair Dada: And then there's all this in between space that exists, right? We used to go to executive briefing centers before that we can't do anymore. We used to have those schmooze days for customers where the reps went out and set up a booth and a table for people to interact and have account days, that can't happen. I can't really have digital experience that can't go take you out to a steak dinner during my sales cycle. All those are sort of gone and people are thinking about inventing new ideas to sort of engage and interact. So love to hear from you. What are you guys seeing? What are your customers doing in terms of cool ideas for virtual content?
Kevin Croxton: Yeah, I mean, I think you hit the nail on the head and whether it's a virtual event or even back in the day when we were doing physical events, is that the amount that you get on your return and investment on an event? I mean, how much are you going to sweat it leading up to the event? How much promotion are you going to do of it? What is the content that you're using in order to pitch that event to the follow up of that event? Whether once again, it was physical or it's virtual, some people watch the recording. Some people want just a synopsis of what happened at the event and creating content around those ideas, as well as being able to repurpose content and leverage it for months to come. A lot of effort goes into these virtual events and the physical events.
Kevin Croxton: And certainly the folks that we were engaging with and were preaching to about these different approaches to it, which is create other pieces, create follow up pieces, create different tidbits of information that get dribbled out over the course of time because that virtual event should be paying dividends months after the event.
Kevin Croxton: And you can do that, especially when you have a partner like Iron Horse or a platform or something that you can use where you can all of a sudden leverage that situation in order to be able to do it right. And content is king. It's hard to come up with content. So when you do create a meaningful event or a meaningful piece of content, where really good insight comes from the speakers or the presenters, why not create other content off of that and repurpose it and be able to leverage it, to optimize it at the end of the day.
Uzair Dada: Yeah, totally. And I think we were talking about this earlier, but to me, if you look at this continuum, just even within an event, we're so centric on the event itself, we actually forget all the goodness of pre and post. I mean, pre-event marketing, we get emails about come to my event, but we don't socialize content for people to engage and get warmed up and enthused before they show up to the party. Once they're at the party, content could be Trevor Noah, right? I've seen him 14 times in the last 12 months now it's awesome. But I saw the Trevor session and now what do I do? I have beautiful platform. The next is a round table. Whoa, I'm already got three screens. I'm working on different things. What do I do to engage you? And then my God, the poor sponsors, I feel so bad for them.
Uzair Dada: They've spent all this money coming to the party. I've got these beautiful things. The guys are dressed up waiting for you to show up and you are not showing up. So we're spending a lot of time from a platform perspective, getting people to go check things out. We're doing gamification. We're doing interesting notifications in the platform and using chat bots and other things to move people from one place to the other, but wherever they go, they need to have something interesting and purpose built. So love to hear about what you are seeing in terms of purpose-built content. How are people using Ceros and interactive experiences within virtual events?
Kevin Croxton: And actually funny enough, when we were chatting before this, you had mentioned there about the mashup of technologies. And I think that when you start to bring those types of technologies together and really leveraging them, I mean, the world is your oyster. So another thing is if your pre or post event content is all of a sudden transferred into a digital medium, where you can add an intercom chat bot right to it. And you can start to create a conversation with people from the second that they get interested in your event. Maybe not necessarily the old adage of drive to a gated landing page, get information, but creating a memorable event or creating somewhere where they're getting value in return right off the bat and engaging with the brand right from the start is such a key component to it. But yeah, absolutely. All of a sudden, if you look at once again, post event follow up where it's a digital piece of content that is not a PDF and you can create, put in a chat bot, whatever you guys might be using.
Kevin Croxton: All of a sudden you can drop in tracking codes. If you know who the person is, now you can tie it back to your marketing automation platform and you're creating a full journey of what that person's looks like as far as what they're doing pre, post, during an event. And as marketers, it just gives us a better chance to create a full picture of it. It's no longer the event did they attend? Did they get to my booth or not? Were they there? How long were they there for? And now of a sudden it's like, "Okay, are they engaging with my stuff afterwards? Am I blindly having my SDR team follow up with a person because they scanned a badge at an event or that they registered for something." And now all of a sudden you can start to really look at that pipeline that you're creating from a virtual event standpoint, much more sophisticated.
Kevin Croxton: Right. Okay, cool. They were there. They're engaging with my post event content. I can see this because it's tracking in my marketing automation platform. So it's really creating that fuller picture and not having any black holes in that customer journey as far as where are my blinders for where those journey is happening and where do I dedicate my time? And that's been meaningful for a lot of folks because obviously the people that are engaged, the people that are at the event that are looking at the post-event content that are revisiting pre-event content. Those are folks that we want to make sure that we're putting into the funnel at a different area that maybe somebody that registered, but didn't attend or registered, but didn't [inaudible 00:10:14] attended, but didn't look at any of the post event content.
Uzair Dada: So I think that data part is really awesome. I think another piece that we love about it is I'm so tired of going to a page content page where people just throw up and there's just so much content and it's just unending. There's like 18 CTAs. It feels extremely disjointed because I'm just not curating anything. And one of the things about purpose built and interactive is there is that I can layer things in a way and a way at Iron Horse, we call about available and accessible. What are things I want you to focus on that's available and other things that you may like potentially are accessible, but maybe not right away in your focus area and allowing people to discover at their pace and go deeper in a place where they want to go is so important from an interactive perspective and same thing from a data perspective.
Uzair Dada: I now have so much better insight into your propensity of going deeper somewhere than if I just had everything on one page, because likely what's going to happen is you're going to look at it saying "I'm lost. I'm out of here." And to me, we call it catch and release. That's the most expensive mistake you can make, right? Yeah. You got me the tour. It's beautiful. The party's on, just looks too crowded. I'm out of here.
Kevin Croxton: Yeah.
Uzair Dada: Okay. And so focusing on that and I think is super important. So let's talk about, you touched on it a little bit about funnel stages, but if you talk about a sales and marketing life cycle, are there some cool things that you guys are doing, or even on your sales side that you guys are doing in terms of purpose built content, I've seen your reps do some pretty interesting stuff as part of the sales cycle of including proposals and conversations that are pretty interesting. It'd be great to talk about. Again, those to me are micro experiences. How are you eating your own dog food and creating some cool things for your sales team?
Kevin Croxton: Yeah, I mean, I think the biggest one with the Zoom stuff is sales presentation, sales desks. That's been a big use case for us as well as for our clients. Because once again, if you were in person doing a PowerPoint, which was more of a narrated journey that you're taking a customer on, certainly when you're on Zoom to keep somebody's attention, it needs to be a conversation. So what Ceros allows you, the ability to do are this more interactive type content is to create a situation where you're uncovering stuff together. It's more of a choose your own adventure. You can dive in and out of pieces of content has been certainly a big use case for us, but at the end of the day, we're a blank canvas. So it's been great to see what other folks have come up with too, across different industries.
Kevin Croxton: But because it is a blank canvas and we work with so many industries, it's been amazing to watch people and how they've leveraged it. And what it's about at the end of the day for us and in talking to our customers is find those meaningful moments that are happening, whether they're in your marketing and your sales funnel that we think is an impactful interaction, and let's try to transform them and elevate them. And you don't have to elevate them much to create an impact. So you had mentioned sales proposals. So in countless situations, that's the moment that if somebody is looking at several vendors, that they're going to make a decision on whether they're going to purchase you or not. And if you can elevate that and stand out a little bit more, how much of a percentage does that additional experience need to be better in order to create an impact?
Kevin Croxton: And then if you spread that marginal impact across all of your digital touch points, starting with the ones that you think can be most impactful, least amount of effort, just like doing any sort of product stuff. It's like, those are what we're trying to help folks with. Start there and work your way backwards. And eventually you'll get a much clearer picture and you'll be able to present your brand in a way that people will take notice of it, right? That a lot of us are in technology or using technology or we're pitching technology. And what greater way to showcase that you understand technology than to be able to use it as a way to pitch your product or service. So I think that you hit the nail on the head too, you there of, once you open up the ability to create a layered discoverable story, think about how many times as marketers or as folks that need to get a message across.
Kevin Croxton: Is it frustrating because the tools that at our disposal traditionally have been the need for a linear story. So think about a linear story where you're creating X amount of words, and you're trying to do it to a large amount of personas to appeal to them. And you're anticipating the reader is going to pick out the parts that they're most interested in versus quickly being able to click on wherever they want to go. And once again, to your point about the data, and then knowing, and being able to look back on the clicks and to drive content strategy, moving forward, you create a great piece that has interactions to say, "Okay, learn more about X, Y, Z."
Kevin Croxton: Even think about it from a event, a digital event or virtual event standpoint, which is, here's our whole agenda, who's clicking on what to expose more pieces of that agenda. And it could drive how you present the stuff in the virtual event. You might go deeper on a certain subject matter because you found that 70% of the people that registered were really interested in this session. Well, let's expand on that. You now have a better idea of what the demand for certain types of content will be moving forward. You're not sort of taking a stab or whatever it might be going into that event. So I think that's also a great opportunity for people to.
Uzair Dada: Yeah, I think the key part is experiences need creativity and purpose. And I think you need to define back to not that I need just need interactive content, but what's the outcome that I'm building for. And to me, that's where most companies fail. They build overly engineered and interactive content. I've seen some beautiful service examples, and some that I'm like, okay, go faster. Right?
Kevin Croxton: Yeah.
Uzair Dada: Exactly. And so for us, one of the coolest examples was, and we're fortunate to have awesome customers. One of our customers is Teladoc, and we have built this awesome experience for them, for their forum last year, where their whole notion was, we are not there physically. And usually people come and talk to us and we are a product company. People touch our products. They used to come into our offices in Santa Barbara and visit our innovation showcase, which was a lab where they could interact with the components. How are we going to duplicate that? And so we were able to do something really cool. One, we used something like Matterport to create a 3d innovation experience tour that we embedded within a Ceros experience. We took their products and we made those interactive. So people could mouse over and interact with different pieces of content that they would do physically when they were touching it.
Uzair Dada: And that was just phenomenal. The feedback we had and the interactions we had from that was fantastic. So again, I think one of the key things and key takeaways, I would say for everyone of listening in and thinking about this should be "Define the outcome before you think about the technology." And that's a mistake we see in people picking platforms before purpose. And so I think that's a huge area. So cool. So one area that we it'd be cool to talk about, we've touched on it a little bit, and we've talked about how data is king for us to get smarter. What's sort of some interesting examples of which you are capturing in your platform, but also how are people taking, which you have along with other content that they have from their [inaudible 00:17:48] or CRM systems and bringing it together to make more informed decisions?
Kevin Croxton: Yeah. I mean, I think that the biggest one for a lot of folks is that this is new to them, right? So it's creating a level of transparency with how the content's performing, which can be intimidating at the start, but it's very valuable to have those insights rather than done being that you've completed the PDF, done is now you've launched the piece, but you're also looking at the data and how it's performing. And I think that not to go back to it too much, but you had hit the nail on the head of start asking yourselves, what is the purpose of the content, because it's not just to get the content out there.
Kevin Croxton: It needs to serve a purpose. And the other thing I'll say is it took me a while to learn this and six years in the business at a creative platform company, it on how to speak with creatives and to come with the job of the creative is to figure out the solution, the job of the marketer or the person, the salesperson, the sales leader is to come with the problem they're trying to solve, not to be prescriptive in the approach of what we're trying to do, right?
Kevin Croxton: Hey, I need a landing page for 10 ways to leverage digital event leads. It's like, no, this is the problem that I'm trying to solve. Give creators the space to help you solve that problem. Maybe it isn't a landing page. Maybe it's something completely different. So I think that's such a key piece of it too. And that the data that we constantly are dwelling on is less about the impact of the content that we're doing. But just in general, right, about all the content, like 80% of readers, skim content. So how do you create more of a visual right? 65% of us are visual learners. So how do we create more of a visual approach to how we're communicating in our story? 93% of communication is visual of all communication is visual. Think about how important that is. Now we're having to do that over the web now over digital channels.
Kevin Croxton: And there are tools and expertise and systems that are in place that help us all do that. And the last one is just, we're all trying to get through the noise. We're all trying to have people retain content, but visuals are process 60,000 times faster. Think about that. They're retaining entire [inaudible 00:19:54]. So as folks that are trying to communicate a message, why not use that as a leverage point for once again, getting through the noise, presenting our content. I mean, people make decisions based on feelings.
Uzair Dada: Hundred percent.
Kevin Croxton: So how's your content, making them feel. That's our CEO, Simon is insisting that down the road, right? How are we going to track emotions when we have content that will be an interesting challenge to solve?
Uzair Dada: I think that's a great way to end the day. I think it's all about we are at the end of the day where humans and we've been talking about humanize, not personalize it's it really is. You need to do something to evoke emotion. You need to do something to not over message over communicate. I think it needs to be a purpose, whether it's a marketing touch, whether it's an advertising touch, whether it's a sales touch, it needs to have the perspective of there is a human on the other side. And how will they feel? And are you doing something to rise above the noise. Less is more, a hundred percent. And I think interactive helps. So Kevin, thanks again. Awesome to have you and looking forward to a great 2021. Always a pleasure. You there. Thank you. Take care. Take care.