When the subject line “canceled” appears after months of planning (and a huge chunk of budget) have gone toward an event, marketing and sales teams have to scramble to go back to the drawing board. It’s gut-wrenching (my stomach is dropping even writing this) and they’ve potentially lost a primary source of leads for the year.
Events across the globe have been canceled amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
As a result, large enterprise and consumer companies are taking their announcements virtual and sharing the huge activations they were planning. For example, Luca shared a documentary that was supposed to be featured at SXSW on YouTube, and Poo-Pourri uploaded an interactive version of its SXSU experience. These companies have ample budget and resources to adapt to these changes. However, for smaller B2B marketing teams that don’t have budgets the size of Twitter’s, or the consumer appeal and recognition as Bumble or Lush, showcasing “the activation that could have been” is not an option.
As a B2B marketer, you may need to be a lot more creative than consumer brands or companies with multi-million-dollar marketing budgets. However, you don’t need to start from scratch. In fact, event cancellation can be viewed as a creative opportunity to reach customers in new ways while they are more active than ever on their digital channels.
Following these three tips will help refill the sales funnel and get your B2B marketing team back on track:
Get Up Close and Personal With Your Contract
As obvious as this sounds, it’s essential to re-read your event contract front to back. The majority of event organizers will have a “Force Majeure” clause in the contract to cover certain unfortunate events, such as the one we’re currently experiencing. For a portion of your sponsorship fee, try to negotiate all or some of the following:
- List of registrants
- List of registered companies and titles (if they will not give you the registration list)
- Attendee list from prior event/s.
- Have event organizers do a mail drop on your behalf (physical mail or email)
- Premium slots if the event goes virtual
Once you’re clear on your contract terms, brainstorm productive ways to work with the event organizers to obtain any of the above. Now’s not the time to play lawyer and threaten to sue for a refund. Remember, event organizers are hurting even more, are likely willing to work with you and – they hold the key to your return on investment: access to the registration list.
Repurpose Your Event Plans
Getting a full or partial refund will alleviate some pressure on the bottom line, but there are still sales funnels to fill and an audience to reach. This is where you’ll use the registration list to share topics and solutions that your audience was expecting to see at the event.
Take inventory of the work you’ve already done and then brainstorm how you can use your existing materials to reach your audience in new ways. This can include re-purposing swag into direct mail, or turning 1:1 booth scripts into killer SDR sequences. Speaker sessions and decks can also be turned into webinars, e-books, and blogs.
Repurpose your amazing, time-intensive stories into digital content for your own channels or bring to market jointly with partners. If you can prove to your audience they are valued during these times, they’ll remember your brand in the long term.
Double Down on Digital
Companies have quickly mobilized into a nation of remote workers. Mandatory work-from-home policies mean more workers spending more uninterrupted time online than ever before. This enables brands to meet their customers halfway, and pour their messaging into a targeted digital ad campaign.
While it may seem like a digital ad campaign can’t get as personal as a 1:1 conversation, the truth is you can get pretty close. What’s lost in awkwardly trying to catch eye contact with someone strolling by your booth, is gained in digital ads, thanks to the ability to quickly optimize messaging and spend based on performance.
Think about parts of your offering that might appeal to your customer’s current situation and enhance display ads with special offers. Put all your persona work to use and bid on search terms that might spring up with your prospects’ changing business challenges.
Marketing Is A Customer-First Sport
The threat of this global pandemic extends beyond company, industry, and national borders. We’re fortunate to live in a time where – even though we’re socially distant – we are all still connected through technology. Despite the event cancellations, marketers must pick themselves up by the bootstraps and continue to connect with their customers. All it takes is a little creativity to turn existing assets into new experiences, demand gen plays and audience connection touchpoints.