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Your Business Event is Cancelled - Now What?

Written by Declan Mulkeen

Mar 18 2020

With in-person events cancelled, and business and social lives being impacted in unimaginable ways, here are 10 things you can do now, to reinvest resources and adapt to a 'new normal'.

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We’re living through unprecedented and uncertain times.

Our business and social lives are being impacted in unimaginable ways, with many of us confined to home - be it mandated or voluntarily, travel curtailed and our social and commercial interactions limited.

As B2B Marketers we are all coming to terms with this new reality and questioning what it means for us and our businesses. One of the most immediate and tangible ways that the outbreak of Coronavirus has impacted our marketing has been the cancellation of in-person events.

In-person events have represented a significant percentage of any B2B marketing budget with those companies that regularly invest in event marketing spending up to 40% of their budget on event marketing as can be seen from the chart below:

CEIR-B2B-Exhibitors-Marketing-Budget-Allocation-in-2017-Feb2018

The needs gap: How to engage clients and prospects in the absence of events?

With such a large part of marketing budgets traditionally dedicated to in-person events what should B2B Marketers do to continue to engage with their clients and prospects? The statistics of the impact of an in-person event are compelling indeed:

  • 98% of users feel more inclined to purchase after attending an event. (EventTrack)
  • 84% of event attendees have a more positive opinion of a company brand after an event (EMI & Mosaic)

  • 70% of users become regular customers after an experiential marketing event (EMI & Mosaic)


So what strategies and tactics can B2B Marketers deploy to substitute in-person events?

Online marketing activities clearly need to replace in-person events for the foreseeable future. Cometh the hour cometh the digital marketer!

It is time for digital marketing to step up, innovate and show how it can bridge the gap that in-person events has left. The debate about event attendance/sponsorship/ participation vs. digital channels has raged for some time now.

Online marketing activities clearly need to replace in-person events for the foreseeable future. Cometh the hour cometh the digital marketer! 

Just like the world we have known to-date will not be the same once the current crisis ends, it may well be that a new form of engagement is borne out of the necessity to find new ways to engage with customers and prospects.

Clearly knee jerk reactions and launching webinars will not replace the effectiveness of an in-person event. Digital marketers need to innovate and stand out from the crowd, break through the noise and engage with their target audiences in order to succeed.

Digital marketers need to innovate and stand out from the crowd, break through the noise and engage with their target audiences in order to succeed.

Here are our thoughts on how best to reinvest the resources you had allocated for events.

How to Reinvest Event Resources - 10 Tips

1. Invest in your brand


B2B companies with brands that are perceived as strong generate higher EBIT margin than others (Forbes). It has never been more important to stay front and centre in the minds of your audience.

2. Invest in your content


75% of B2B buyers want branded content that helps them research business ideas and find solutions - but 93% of brands focus their content on marketing their own products and services.(MarketingCharts)

75% of B2B buyers want branded content that helps them research business ideas and find solutions - but 93% of brands focus their content on marketing their own products and services. - MarketingCharts

It’s time to review and fix this disconnect. Revisit your clients’ challenges and pains, talk to your clients, ask them questions and turn these conversations into relevant content for your clients and your community.

Also mix up your content - repurpose and rethink - ROI calculators, executive briefings, videos, etc. to engage all stakeholders. 

3. Repurpose that event keynote


You undoubtedly went to a lot of effort preparing your cancelled events. Don’t throw all that hard work away. Take the keynote, presentation or other collateral that you created and repurpose and remarket it to your audience.

Spin up a webinar (or series of webinars), deliver them live or pre-recorded and get your message out to your clients - separately or in conjunction with one of your partners? While you typically get around 25-35% webinar attendance there is now a record number of people consuming pre-recorded webinars.

LinkedIn have now launched LinkedIn Events - this is a great way to create and promote more intimate events with your LinkedIn connections.

Don’t throw all that hard work away. Take the keynote, presentation or other collateral that you created and repurpose and remarket it to your audience.

4. Turn the camera on!


51% of marketing professionals cite video content as delivering the best ROI. Video marketing is by far one of the most effective and impactful ways to engage with your audience.

Whether it be via creating high quality video production or more “off-the-cuff” personalised videos as part of your sales and marketing outreach.  Oh - and remember to always add subtitles!

5. Get social


We’re all on LinkedIn, aren’t we? But how many of us are really using it to its full potential. Social gives you almost limitless options to start (and maintain) a conversation with your clients and prospects and, over time, build a relationship built on trust and knowledge sharing. 

Social selling has the power to catapult your brand and turn your sales and marketing teams into true brand advocates. There are exciting new ways to build your LinkedIn audience and create a communication and engagement strategy.

Social gives you almost limitless options to start (and maintain) a conversation with your clients and prospects and, over time, build a relationship built on trust and knowledge sharing. 

6.  Harness the data


You may not realise it but you have access to invaluable data on your clients and prospects and how they interact with not only your brand, but also how they research subjects related to your products and services and that of your competitors.

Harnessing first-, second- and third-party data and using it to inform your account selection and targeting strategy can not only identify those accounts that are in an active buying journey but also (and importantly in these uncertain times) accelerate your sales cycle and generate positive cash inflows for your business.

Related: How to Use Intent Data in B2B Campaigns

what gets us through this

Related: Strategic Perspective: What Gets Us Through This?

7. Where are you on your ABM journey?


Account-based Marketing (ABM) is revolutionising the growth strategies of many organisations. It goes beyond Marketing departments and embraces many parts of the business (Sales, Operations, Customer Success, etc.).

Its importance is reflected in the questions being asked by C-suite and investors as they look to deploy predictable revenue growth models to their businesses.

ABM gives you that predictable revenue model and can be used to not only grow existing accounts but also win new customers.

ABM gives you that predictable revenue model and can be used to not only grow existing accounts but also win new customers.

There are considerable opportunities to focus time and resources on your best fit customers and target accounts. Not only growing revenue with existing budget holders, but also campaigning into those large accounts to develop relationships with new teams. This is in addition to a One-to-many ABM strategy of targeting net-new accounts.

Related: ABM in Action: Watch How Acxiom Created a £1.5m Pipeline in 120 Days

8. Consider direct mail


Direct mail has experienced a resurgence in the last 24 months. Don’t worry - it is not the direct mail of old but rather a far more targeted, innovative and personalised way of engaging with your audience.

While direct mail gifts to your customers’ office is not the right play as everyone moves to remote working, the use of electronic direct mail could be an interesting outreach strategy with response rates of 4.4% (compared to less than 1% from email (Epsilon).

The use of electronic direct mail could be an interesting outreach strategy with response rates of 4.4% (compared to less than 1% from email (Epsilon).

9. Make the most of chat!


Chatbots and conversational marketing have been all the rage for some time. But how many companies are actually deploying them successfully? Combining automated bots and your sales team (SDRs?) providing live interaction can significantly increase your website conversion rates.

10. Consider: What channel are you on?


Finally, choosing the right channels in these unprecedented times is more important than ever. Building brand, credibility and trust with your customers and prospects is key as we navigate through the coming weeks and months. Ensure that any campaign channel and tactic is aligned with the overarching brand and corporate strategy. 

Choosing the right channels in these unprecedented times is more important than ever. Building brand, credibility and trust with your customers and prospects is key as we navigate through the coming weeks and months.

In summary: Event cancelled?

Then now is the time to ensure you:

  1. Invest in your brand awareness

  2. Review and invest in your content

  3. Repurpose your event content!

  4. Use video; personalise engagement

  5. Use social to build relationships

  6. Harness intent data to reach active buyers

  7. Assess where you are on your ABM journey

  8. Consider direct mail

  9. Make the most of chat and conversational marketing

  10. Be active across the right channels


 

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