Over the last few months, we’ve seen our world slowly shut down due to the ongoing and progressive COVID-19 pandemic. And one sector that’s being massively impacted by this crisis is the events industry.
Whether voluntary to ensure the health and safety of employees, partners, speakers, exhibitors and attendees, or due to government mandates surrounding large gatherings, we’ve seen events of all sizes (from small local meet-ups to larger conferences, like SXSW) either postponed or canceled entirely until next year.
For many companies that have invested a lot of time and money into attending any canceled industry events, it might seem as if all the marketing strategies that you had planned for them are now on hold.
Don’t worry. Your marketing efforts are not all lost because your events calendar got changed.
Times of crisis call for true creativity. This is your chance to test those ideas that you’ve been wanting to try out. Pilot that campaign. Get your team on board. I started Zen Media during the worst recession in recent history. We succeeded because businesses were willing to try what it took to get results. Necessity truly IS the mother of invention — and innovation.
Smart companies are seizing this moment to position their brands as forward-thinking thought leaders. I know this because, behind the scenes, we’re helping many of these brands own the moment, stepping up to serve a need during a time that truly calls for it, while emerging as industry winners as well.
Based on the successes we’ve experienced helping our own clients, here are some things your brand can do to effectively replace any marketing efforts you might have planned for a canceled industry event.
Don’t Be Afraid to Lead the Conversation in the Press
In times of global turmoil, information is gold. Every media outlet is covering news surrounding coronavirus, and the COVID-19 disease. Your customers, your prospects, and your audience, at large, are all looking for your expertise and awaiting your guidance. EVERY single industry has been impacted. How is yours being directly affected by COVID-19? Are there any major public concerns that you can address? Now is the time to do some serious digital PR to amplify your voice.
A manufacturing client of ours, for example, had major factory delays. We’ve positioned their leadership as champions of the supply chain impact and landed them a spot on Fox Business to speak on how COVID-19 is affecting the global supply chain — highlighting their expertise and boosting customer confidence in them as a leader in the space. They now have customers and community rooting for them.
Another client we have in the restaurant tech space is getting stories published in multiple tier-one publications on how the COVID-19 epidemic is impacting the restaurant industry — and teaching restaurant owners how to cut costs through technology.
The leaders are emerging, while the pack is shrinking back. When the dust settles, who do you think will have greater trust — and market share?
Double Down on Digital
For the foreseeable future, live gatherings and events are impacted. This doesn’t mean you can’t still reach your audience. In fact, this might be the most captive audience you’ve had since the advent of TV. Host a webinar covering a major industry topic. Get involved in a Twitter chat to network with other colleagues. Do a live stream Q&A with your audience. The digital world offers so many opportunities for you to effectively market your business.
Another one of our clients had a major trade show canceled. This is where they get all their leads. We are now running a live web summit for them. They have already doubled the number of sign-ups they usually get…pre-event.
Be an Active Member of the Community
Marketing your business doesn’t have to always be about sales. Sometimes, one of the best ways to spread the word about your company is by simply being a good, helpful member of your community and industry.
A SAAS client of ours is getting major press because they are offering their software pro bono to schools and students who have been impacted. They wanted to help the community and the community is helping them.
And that restaurant tech client? They’re now also offering to turn any restaurant or grocery store with a parking lot into a “Sonic”-like takeout within 24 hours, using their technology — for FREE. This means that restaurants can let people order, pay for, and pick up their meals all without leaving their cars — a much welcome feature for businesses and consumers alike at a time when social distancing is strongly recommended.
The ongoing COVID-19 epidemic is expected to continue in the coming months, affecting industry events and likely causing more cancellations in its wake. But, no matter your industry, there’s a connection here and an opportunity to share implications, reassure customers, increase trust, and gain new business. And your company doesn’t necessarily have to attend an event to do this.