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Event Cancellations: The challenge of audience engagement caused by COVID-19

Event Cancellations

It could well be time to update the age-old proverb: ‘for the want of a nail the shoe was lost’. Maybe in the current climate a more apt rhyme for the world of B2B would go:

For the want of a tissue, the respiratory hygiene was lost

For the loss of hygiene, the office was lost

For the loss of the office, the prospect was lost

For the loss of the prospect, the meeting was lost

For the loss of the meeting, the pipeline was lost

No more face-to-face – at least for now

Amidst all the sad and deeply worrying news on the COVID-19 outbreak, come announcements that help bring us back to the day-to-day. Stories of a drastic shrinkage in business travel, employees working from home, and a predicted $500 million ‘direct economic loss’ from cancelled business events.

Obviously we need to keep such numbers in perspective when the human impact of the virus is considered. But let’s face it, we’re all basically hoping that normality will return as soon as possible – that the crisis is temporary, to be followed by a return to ‘business as usual’. And of course with usual comes the standard pressure to keep the leads coming in and the sales pipeline looking lively.

All of which puts us in damage limitation mode. Especially when you examine the role of in-person events, tradeshows, and everyday meetings that collectively play a huge role in driving prospect and customer engagement.

A level playing field

The question facing many marketers today therefore is how to replace the impact of face-to-face interaction? With events ranging from Google NEXT and Facebook F8 to E3 (the world’s largest gaming show) being cancelled, what can be done to keep introductions, conversations, and conversions occurring with all the necessary regularity?

Tough questions indeed, and while answers are sought we should spare a thought for those marketers feeling despondent over the ‘spilt milk’ of lost event spend and ‘no returns’ policies. Yet arguably not all is lost. To start with it’s a level playing field for all. COVID-19 isn’t targeting a niche group like supply chain vendors or cloud service providers (though what a conspiracy theory if it were!). Everybody is affected, including you and your nearest and dearest competitors.

The task at hand is therefore to get creative in how you inspire on-going dialogue:

  • The more fleet of mind are already planning to take their events digital

  • Others are investing in direct mail to maintain a ‘physical’ connection with audiences

  • Martech is another big option, and using email to keep prospects moving through the sales funnel

It’s also fair to say that the phones of decision-makers and influencers will be ringing hot (it’ll be interesting to review statistics in a year or two to see if COVID-19 leads to a temporary spike in people accepting such calls).

Agencies can also step up to the plate. For those who consider themselves ‘demand generation experts’, now is surely the time to shine. That’s the objective we’ve set ourselves at Quantum Marketing. For those clients creating digital events we’re helping drive audiences; for those attempting to stimulate new demand we’re crafting attention grabbing DM. For those wanting comprehensive eDM or ABM campaigns – well, you get the picture.

Summing it all up…

With the world seemingly ‘battening down the hatches’ business engagement is obviously going to suffer. But amidst the concern and worry, there exists the opportunity to get your story out there. Now’s the time to get creative, to get innovative, and to earn your stripes as an out of the box thinker – with a little help from the experts!

At Quantum Marketing we’re already helping a number of our clients re-direct their budgets by taking a multi-channel approach to opportunity generation. please get in touch if you’d like to know more.

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