Virtual Events – An Evolution


Pandemic aside, there’s no denying that events have changed substantially in recent years. As we plan for the year ahead, we are tasked with reimagining our events to fit the current circumstances. Organizations have been forced to restructure or cancel them entirely. We have quickly had to learn how to effectively turn in-person events into virtual ones. Learning how other organizations have tackled this challenge can offer valuable insights.


Walks, Runs & Rides

This fall we have seen annual walks, runs, and rides take a never-imagined virtual approach.  And with surprising success!


Lauren Holmes, the events manager for our client Boston Medical Center provided us with insight on how she was able to ensure that her team was still able to participate in the Rodman Ride for Kids. Team BMC has participated in The Ride since 2009 and they weren’t  about to let the opportunity to raise money in support of various pediatric programs slip by this year. The Rodman Ride successfully transformed the event into a virtual one where participants could bike, run, swim or choose their own adventure.


Holmes said, “We approached this ride similarly to how we have in past years, recruiting captains from our pediatric programs to help recruit other riders and raise funds for the programs they work in. Since these captains are very busy running pediatric programs in a hospital during COVID, we were worried that they might not have the bandwidth to add something else to their plates. However, we are happy to say that we saw many riders come back again this year, as well as several new additions. The Rodman Ride did a great job of incentivizing riders, which is crucial for a virtual event, and we tried to add excitement to that with some team specific incentives as well.” Participants secured their sponsors and set their own goals while Lauren and her event team made sure that everyone was able to participate with or without a bike, by adding options to choose from such as running, walking, doing lunges, yoga, or even baking cookies. Staying true to ride rituals, the team coordinators also sent out team performance shirts (designed by HGX!) for the participants to wear and sell.


Organizations like BMC have refused to let the pandemic stand in the way of meeting their charity goals. Holmes added that “The Rodman Ride also removed the fundraising minimum expectation this year, which put less of a burden on participants. Overall we are happy with this year’s results and we’ve been able to raise over $95,000 for BMC Pediatrics to date!” Reinventing how the ride was done posed some challenges for the organizers, but it paid off in more ways than imagined.


Top 10 tips and takeaways:

Though virtual events will never completely replace in-person experiences, they do remedy the gap. Here are our top ten tips and takeaways:


  1. Make it personal: In the absence of true face-to-face engagement, creating online event guides and individualized support for each participant can help. Online guides will outline what participants should expect.
  2. Build excitement: Combat ‘zoom fatigue’ with pre-mailers and interactive online components such as a website or an app. Pre-mailers will help ramp up the excitement in the days leading up to the event. Interactive components across platforms, such as a social media scavenger hunt or a twitter campaign can keep participants engaged during the event.
  3. Ensure accessibility: Make sure to send out clear instructions for logging on and navigating interactive elements. Make it as simple and snag-free as possible so you keep them engaged and coming back.
  4. Create a social media page: The page should be specific to the event. Use it for promotion and to keep everyone informed and engaged leading up to, during and after the event. It will also serve as a way to create a lasting ‘legacy’.
  5. Assign team captains: Those who have participated in the past and who can rally and inspire a team tend to make great advocates and team leaders.
  6. Provide options: Make sure to provide lots of different activity options to choose from so there are as few barriers to participation as possible.
  7. Give a team jersey: Send everyone team apparel to wear while doing their activities, just as they would if the event was in person. Branded team gear fosters unity and camaraderie and promotes your event long after it is over.
  8. Incentivize participants: Offer an incentive for referring friends and colleagues by using specially selected commemorative branded merchandise as the reward.
  9. Reward milestones: Set goals and milestones and reward people for reaching them by using social shoutouts and badges to recognize fund raising levels.
  10. Implement post-event touchpoints: Don’t miss the opportunity to keep the momentum going. Use social media to stay engaged, for example, ask participants to post a picture sharing a key takeaway from the event or wearing branded team merchandise. Make sure to create a unique hashtag they can use.


Learn more about Team BMC here.

The Resurgence of Direct Mail Marketing

Direct mail is making a comeback - and for good reason!

Given the dominance of the online sector, digital marketing has become a ubiquitous practice in the modern era. Gone are the days of mailboxes stuffed with magazines, envelopes, and packages. Instead, the onus has shifted towards targeting consumer’s e-mail and social media feeds. Is this still the best way to actively engage people with your brand’s message today?


Worry not, digital advertising should continue to be a mainstay in your marketing strategy. However, as we shift into a virtual world on account of the pandemic, many are experiencing digital advertising fatigue. Consumers are so inundated with advertisements across multiple platforms that they’ve become somewhat immune to it. Think of how often you skip through a YouTube ad or scroll past a targeted post.


Enter direct mail, which is making a comeback- and for good reasons! This seemingly antiquated marketing strategy is becoming an increasingly effective tool for brand engagement. Our clients are finding that dimensional direct mail engages consumers in a meaningful way in the absence of face-to-face marketing. Direct mail is a personalized, experiential approach that provides an excellent opportunity for people to reconnect with your brand. It yields fantastic results and response rates, making it the perfect tool to integrate with your digital marketing campaigns.


Direct Mail Kits: More Effective Than Digital Marketing?

Curated, dimensional direct mail is created specifically for experiential marketing. Designed by HGX based on client goals, campaigns focus on kits that reach customers or employees wherever they are – home or office. Colorful, classy, scented, loud, or just plain fun, these packages evoke excitement. Most importantly, they provide incentives for people to take action and reconnect with your brand.


After all, who doesn’t love getting a package in the mail? Although digital marketing has dominated the industry, direct mail is a powerful tool to reach people because it makes them feel good. It can be difficult to make your brand stand out amidst the noise of ‘digital clutter.’ Receiving direct mail allows customers to connect with your brand through a tangible experience. Further, recipients can’t overlook direct mail as easily as online advertising.


Even so, adopting a direct mail strategy doesn’t mean you have to forego your digital marketing agenda. Combining the personalized experience of direct mail with an online marketing campaign can create a powerful marketing mix. Consider this sample approach for an effective mailing campaign:


Touchpoint 1: The client is sent a piece of personalized direct mail that incentivizes them to visit your website or take the next step.

Touchpoint 2: Client visits the website and directly interacts with the desired component of the webpage

Touchpoint 3: The client is sent another direct mail piece that thanks them for their action


Though this campaign can be implemented from an entirely digital approach, utilizing direct mail elevates the intended recipient’s experience while boosting your results.

Social media can also prove effective in strategically integrating direct mail and digital marketing. Many users, especially younger groups, are apt to post their curated ‘gift’ on their social media feed. If your mailer reaches a user with a large following you can earn your brand some extra media exposure. Encouraging a high-profile user to share their direct mail with their followers makes the experience both individualized and universal. Be sure to include a thank you note to the influencer for their part.




Is it worth it to invest in direct mail marketing?

The pandemic has created a new world where we lack our usual points of connection. In the absence of tradeshows and events, direct mail allows you to put your brand directly in your clients and prospects hands. Clients are tapping into the power of direct mail and finding that it boasts impressive returns. Approximately 90% of direct mail gets opened, ensuring that your brand ends up in the customer’s hands. What’s more, 75% of people can recall a brand after receiving direct mail, compared to 44% brand recognition with email.


Employing direct mail for your brand doesn’t have to break the bank either. Opportunities for face-to-face marketing remain limited if not obsolete for the foreseeable future, leaving product budgets in limbo. Our clients are repurposing marketing dollars that would typically be used for in-person events to fund direct mail campaigns.


Overall, direct mail has an equally impressive return on investment at a median of 29%. Consumers are more likely to engage with direct mail because it’s creative, memorable, and personalized. It transcends the capabilities of digital marketing by being tangible and multisensory. Most importantly, direct mail has been utilized much less frequently in the digital age. That means your brand has less to compete within the consumer’s mailbox. Pairing curated direct mail with digital marketing can help your brand receive the undivided attention it deserves.


If you’re aiming for a B2B approach, sales kits can help strengthen existing partnerships. Or, if you’re gearing towards a B2C approach, direct mail can help consumers reconnect with your brand in a refreshing way. No matter what your goals are, implementing a direct mail strategy is an essential step in the right direction for your brand.





Debbie Nierman, Founder and CCO, HGX Creative

SBA, Small Business Genius, Neil Patel