How to Help Your Customers When There Are No Events

There are still plenty of ways to engage creatively with your audience, even without the ability to come together in person.

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In the world of marketing, events are big business. According to a survey from Bizzabo, the typical marketing department allocates nearly a quarter of its budget to events.

Of course, we’ve now been thrust into a world where there are no events. So, what do those in the world of marketing events do now?

The bad news is that we don’t have a clear timeline for when events will be coming back in full force. The good news, though, is that without events on the calendar, that events marketing budget can be redeployed to other efforts. And there are still ways for you to add value to your audience, beyond the bounds of your traditional events offerings.

How do you do that? Data can help you get there. Let’s take a closer look at the steps meeting planners and convention professionals should be taking right now to pivot into new avenues for reaching their audience.

Start By Identifying the Problem You Solve

The best place to start with any marketing effort is thinking about the problem you solve for your audience. For events professionals, there are two separate audiences to consider: your attendees and your sponsors. If you want to hone in scientifically on your value to these two audiences, it pays to start with a hypothesis.

Take a Stab at What Matters Most

Both your attendees and sponsors rely on you to solve a specific problem for them. No one knows your audience like you do, so start by thinking about what it is that makes them tick. Setting up a framework based on hypotheses makes it easier for you to turn to the data to test your approach.

Your attendees may come to your events for educational purposes. Perhaps they enjoy the in-person networking. Or maybe it’s the ability to take a step back from the day-to-day in the office and gain fresh, new perspectives.

Sponsors, on the other hand, get a different type of value. They may choose to work with you to gain access to a new audience for their product or service. It may be that you allow them to establish themselves as thought leaders with your audience of attendees. Or maybe it gives them additional insights into new trends that their prospects and customers care about.

Check the Data to Confirm or Rethink

Once you’ve spitballed some ideas about how you add value, look back at the data from your previous events. Perhaps you’ve hypothesized that what your attendees really love about your events are networking opportunities. Do you have data that bear that out? Maybe you find that the majority of attendees download your event app and are incredibly active in the direct messaging area, which allows them to reach out to fellow attendees.

For your sponsors, has there been a trend over the years in the types of benefits they like to see in their contracts? Perhaps a decade ago there was a larger focus on getting their logo onto banners and gobos in the conference hall, but now you’re seeing an uptick in requests to participate in panel discussions during the day. That would indicate that thought leadership is pulling out ahead as a main focus for your sponsors.

When in doubt, ask! A short survey to your top attendees and sponsors can help you create offerings now that continue to serve their most pressing needs.

Connection Beyond the Webinar

With the rapid advancement of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve all had to pivot quickly. In that time, a lot of businesses were wise to get webinars up and running quickly for their audiences. But now that market is saturated, and to stand out, it pays to come up with new ways to connect virtually.

Depending on what your audiences crave, think of creative ways to serve them from afar. If your attendees are still wishing for that networking and access to new perspectives, consider crafting an interactive discussion online. We at the Sterling Woods Group just hosted our first campfire chat in a series, bringing together leaders in our circle to share ideas about the best ways to reallocate marketing budgets in this strange, new environment.

Or consider taking a page out of IOFM’s book. It found a way to build an online membership program that keeps that community engagement alive online, in between events. This is a helpful platform under normal circumstances, and it’s even more of a lifesaver now that everything is virtual.

As for your sponsors, there are novel ways to serve them, too. Ask them if they’d be interested in sponsoring or underwriting any of your virtual offerings, in much the same way they would for in-person events. Or invite an expert from their team to take the proverbial stage in one of your online gatherings to share expertise with your audience on the web.

And of course, track the results of your new marketing efforts. Are sign-ups robust? What kind of feedback are you getting from attendees afterward? The more you can track and measure the results of each experiment, the better informed you’ll be in the next iteration.

Events professionals have experienced particularly jarring disruption as a result of the pandemic. However, there’s no need to lose heart! There are still plenty of ways to engage creatively with your audience, even without the ability to come together in person. If you continue to add value now, your attendees and sponsors will be more excited than ever to attend your next in-person event, whenever that may be.

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