By Joanne Moretti, JCurve Founder and CEO and Philip Spagnoli Stoten, SCOOP Founder
My goodness, how fast are things moving right now?! We’ve rapidly moved from an issue in China that was disrupting the manufacturing supply chain, to a global issue that’s disrupting everything. For marketers, there are numerous challenges to deal with right now, but perhaps one of the biggest is the impact of event cancellations.
Like the initial disruption to the supply chain and the current disruption to demand, the disruption to the marketing mix requires agility. Those that move fast and are creative will be able to pivot their marketing plans quickly and will win. Waiting for the world to return to normal is not a tenable strategy. Ideally, we’d already have a plan B ready to go, some do. We’ve been working with SCOOP and JCurve clients to create contingency plans for a while now and we’ve stood up new initiatives quickly to deal with the shortfall left by events. It might all feel a little rushed, but in any crisis speed trumps perfection, so getting plans up and running and then tweaking and improving is the way to go.
So, what are the options when events are cancelled?
We’ve seen major industry events cancelled or postponed recently and every day there are more. Now governments are banning gathering, so those that haven’t canceled or postponed will probably be forced to do so. Many in the electronic manufacturing sector have marketing plans that are focused around important events, like Hannover Messe, SMTconnect, SMTAi and Electronica, not to mention numerous smaller events, like SMTA chapter events, sales conferences and even user group meeting. Kudos to SMTA who were very fast to put a plan into action and take their meetings from face-to-face to online.
So, if your event calendar is disrupted, what does that mean, and how can that disruption be mitigated?
First, let’s face facts, events are expensive, so if they have been cancelled that could mean money flowing back into the marketing budget. If the event has been postponed that’s another matter and it may be unclear where marketing budgets sit. What’s more with Q2 events being pushed into Q3 and beyond, it is going to be hard to see how we avoid events clashing or event fatigue. Lastly, people are practicing social distancing and may continue to do so well beyond the crisis. Things are changing and they might not change back exactly as we expect.
Let’s start by understanding why we do these events in the first place and what we expect from them.
A good starting point is to understand the deliverables from trade show participation. Here are the top five:
- Lead generation – every trade show should return leads, that is the headline number that everyone looks at, but it is equally important to measure lead quality.
- Thought-leadership – conference presentations, interviews and panels position you as subject matter experts within your field.
- Media liaison – appointments with editors and perhaps an appearance in an interview or on a panel organized by one of the industry’s publications.
- Customer time – sometimes it feels like the only way you can get thirty minutes’ face-time with a customer is when they’re offsite and on your booth.
- Product or service launch – new product releases are often scheduled to coincide with a major industry event.
I guess we can count ourselves lucky to have got Productronica and APEX out of the way before this crisis occurred, but what about the rest of the year?
There are numerous other promotional tools, some of which we are currently using, many of which we should be using, and some that suddenly seem like a really good idea. The trick is to redeploy resources quickly. We talk a lot about agility in the supply chain, in manufacturing and in the business processes, well now it’s time for agile marketing. How quickly can we pivot and deliver the results we need without the trade shows we’ve perhaps been too dependent on?
One excellent tool is webinars. They deliver leads that are qualified – people sign up because they care about the topic and are prepared to give you an hour of their time! They allow us to present a paper as if we were at an event, ticking that thought-leadership box. They also have great potential for new product or feature launches. Finally, they also allow for some interaction with Q&A options. Like every marketing tool, webinars are “all about content”. If you can deliver the right content you’ll get the right audience, and as a result, the right leads.
And you don’t have to do webinars alone. Most publications can help you with a webinar, editors make great moderators, and they will have good lists to promote the event. You could also think of working up some webinar activity with a partner who can co-promote the event with you.
If you’ve got video content ready now’s the time to deploy that and make the most of it. Video is great in terms of search rankings and is a great tool for social media. If you haven’t got video content maybe give the executive team a good video camera that they can use while they’re in lockdown to make short video pieces. Animation can also be great if you don’t have the capability to shoot new footage.
Crank up your media relations, editors are also locked down and not attending shows, so try and engage them, perhaps organize a written or online audio interview. If you don’t have a PR agent it’s a great time to get one. They may be able to get you published in a whole lot more places than you are currently engaged with, especially if you’ve got good relevant content to share.
There are more and more podcasts out there and I’d expect even more to show up soon. These can be conversational and can be a great replacement for those panel discussions that you’re missing out on. Whether they are audio podcasts or video podcasts or programs, these can be great at getting you in front of an expansive audience from the comfort of your home office.
Use the time to write, and if you can’t, work with someone who can. There are some great content writers out there and you’d be surprised what is and isn’t ghost written. Connect and leverage everything 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!
Lastly, crank up your social media efforts, this is a great time to network on LinkedIn. Get some specialist help and explore some of the influencers out there, even in the B2B space.
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!