One consequence of the tragic coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak is the cancelation of numerous events. In fact, we are now at a point where almost any substantial gathering of people has been banned, canceled or postponed. It feels like the world has completely turned on its head.
So, what does this mean in terms of shifting the marketing mix? Whether because of the coronavirus or something else, how do you pivot quickly when an event is canceled? How might this impact how people go to market? And what if we do see wholesale postponements and cancelations of industry events that are key parts of our marketing schedule?
Let’s Start With Content
Anyone who’s read my work will know that, for me, it’s all about content. Every event we work on has a parallel content plan to position clients as thought leaders in their sphere. If you have a content plan running alongside an event, don’t just cancel that with the event. Think about how that content can be leveraged elsewhere and how content can help fill some of the shortfall left by the event.
Here are a few tips relating to event content:
• If you’ve made media appointments, ask those editors if you can do an online or telephone briefing instead.
• If you have a speaker slot or panel participation, consider a webinar with the same content. The result could be that you get a similar audience and collect registration details. Everyone loves lead-gen!
• If the sales team has made customer appointments (and they should have), explore the best way to brief those customers and share what you would have shared on the booth, perhaps with a user-group webcast.
• Consider the event objectives and explore how they can be met and what part of the budget should be diverted elsewhere.
• Consider the best way to redeploy funds that are surplus because of event cancelations.
Changing Up The Marketing Mix
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with trade shows. They offer so much in terms of networking, thought leadership, media relations and even lead generation, but they absorb too much marketing budget for my liking, and, let’s face it, they’re really hard work. When I compare the bang-for-buck of a well-planned and executed webinar to a trade show, the cost per lead is disproportionate. I know trade shows deliver lots of intangibles, like face time with clients, but they’re expensive. Marketing should always deliver value.
So, is now a good time to review the marketing mix? I think so. If the event you planned to go to gets canceled, take some time and quantify how much you have back in the budget and maybe use that to try a few new routes to market.
In replacing a trade show, you’ll want to consider a few things. You’ll want to have an element of lead generation. You’ll want some media engagement. You’ll want to position your executives as experts and industry leaders. You’ll want a chance to tell people about new products, features or services. And you’ll want the chance to speak to existing accounts and find out how they’re doing. Here are a few solutions:
• I’m a big fan of webinars for lead generation and thought leadership. If someone signs up for a webinar, the title has caught their eye and they’re prepared to give you up to an hour of their time to explore the issue. That’s good lead qualification.
• Think about user-group webinars to share product and service updates. If you can’t do that big product launch on the show floor, why not do it online?
• This is a great time to leverage video content. Perhaps build a studio at headquarters, or work with a specialist vendor to get some great video production underway.
• I see rising numbers of podcasts — some are great, some less so. Those that are well-hosted and promoted and fit your niche can be a great thought leadership tool. Panels are great too, and those hosted by media are even better. Video podcasts are also valuable.
• I don’t think there’s such a thing as too much media relations. If you don’t have a good PR team or an outsourced service, get one. I’ve worked with some amazing PR firms recently that deliver great opportunities. Now’s the time to step on the PR gas.
• Use this time to write more and leverage every word you write. If you’re writing a white paper, create an accompanying webinar and a series of blogs. Translate it and get it into as many journals as possible. Make that content work for you!
It’s time to up your game and double down on your online content. That means more and better written content, more and better video content and delivery through more and better online channels. More content, more quality, more reach!
As with any disruption, a solid Plan B is essential. And who knows — perhaps the silver lining will be the discovery of some new routes to market that deliver real value.