Part 1: How to Pivot Your Event & Trade Show Heavy Marketing Program
While we don’t know how long the uncertainty and restrictions of COVID-19 will last, we know marketing calendars have dramatically changed for the foreseeable future. All of a sudden, your once jam-packed marketing program likely sports several holes as a result of many events being postponed or cancelled.
For organizations who have historically relied on in-person events (conferences, trade shows, road shows, etc.) to drive a volume of lead generation and engage target audiences, this is going to require a pivot in marketing strategy and tactics. This might mean new ideas, alternative marketing channels, and in some cases doubling down on channels you currently use.
According to a 2018 Gartner study, 15% of marketing program spend went to events. A year later, research indicates events rose to be 21% of marketing programs. Regardless of how COVID-19’s impact shakes out for your organization, a level of change is needed, and needed now.
Where Does That Budget Go Now?
In instances where event-based investments have been recouped, organizations first and foremost need to figure out where to allocate the newly available spend. Does all of the budget get distributed across other marketing mediums? Does the organization pull back some of the (new) program budget? In conversations with marketing executives in my network, it’s a combination of both redistribution and pullback. Organizations are deploying some of their “new” spend, but not all of it.
Where Do I Allocate This Budget?
While every organization is different, we’ve always been advocates of two things:
- Spreading your lead generation and marketing programs across many marketing channels to diversify lead sources and to protect long term performance against external changes. (ex. If your inbound marketing strategy is heavily reliant on AdWords and a sudden Google algorithm change impacts ad performance, that will hurt short term pipeline generation.)
- Testing new mediums, tactics and strategies to understand and potentially find different opportunities and (attempt to) optimize marketing plans around it.
Our recommendation for organizations is to combine both concepts with whatever new budget you have access to. Bullet 1 should provide a foundation of marketing activities your organization can repeat quarter-over-quarter with a level of predictability around performance. And with a bit of luck, Bullet 2 might unearth learnings and avenues for future marketing campaigns (new messaging, mediums, audiences, etc.).
Perhaps the combination of new or “extra” marketing program spend and more free time (event marketing is time consuming!) is designated towards innovative or new ideas you’ve always wanted to try. Here’s a few of the more prominent ideas we’re seeing marketers shift energy and marketing dollars into:
Increase Keyword and Media Spend
- For B2B organizations, Google, LinkedIn, and industry specific publishers/media outlets rank among the top digital channels for lead acquisition
- Secondary digital channels include other, potentially less crowded communities like review sites (Capterra and G2 Crowd Review), “alternative” social media platforms (Twitter for conversation, Facebook, Instagram)
Virtual User Conferences/Virtual Meetups
- Vendors like DocuSign, Magento (Adobe) and Salesforce are seeing even more engagement/attendance through digital livestream; Salesforce generated 80,000 attendees & 1MM video views to the Digital Sydney World Tour (note: the in-person Sydney World Tour originally expected 10,000 guests)
- In place of road shows, many events will and are moving to virtual meetups – particularly events reliant on strong communities with audiences that are familiar with each other. We’ve even heard examples of virtual meetups coupled with direct mail packages (alcohol drink mixes, etc.)
- If done properly your webinar content can become evergreen marketing material for many upcoming quarters
- Caution: the landscape of webinars and subsequent promotion is about to become ultra competitive as this tactic will likely become the top marketing medium for 2020. How will your webinar stand above the slew of other webinars? Your content/guests/promotions will have to be (even more) differentiated.
Account Based Marketing (ABM)
- Defensive Play: Develop a strategy and plan for ABM and launch it once ‘normalcy’ has returned
- Offensive Play: Shift focus to a new audience who’ve seen a positive or unchanged impact to their business as a result of COVID-19’s immediate economic impact
New Online Community Development
- Either internal communicated (for customers only) or external communities for prospects, partners and customers
While the ideas above are a bit more exciting and possibly more impressive, there’s certain a case for the foundational marketing tactics getting a second look and more love. In the event your organization is interested in the ideas above, there’s a strong chance some of these tactics below will play a vital role in some of the content and baseline components of those concepts. It’s also worth noting that these ideas likely require less marketing investment, but more strategic thinking:
- Get serious about deeper content tracks for specific audiences and persons through thought leadership, case studies, user cases, high level SEO driven themes, lead nurture campaigns, retargeting and look-alike programs, and more
- Lock down and solidify your base of customers to either secure longer term engagements or cross-sell additional solutions. The good news here is you already know this audience better than any new lead and it will cost significantly less to generate a meeting.
- A good tip here for organizations interested in Account Based Marketing: try a developing an ABM strategy for several of your largest customers to test your plan, process and operations that support it.
- This might be one of the most unheralded but necessary jobs in all of marketing. Proper maintenance and segmentation of your database (including prospects, accounts, and even customers) is crucial to virtually all of your email marketing efforts.
- Another tip: if your organization believes this is worth investing resources in, make sure to document the process you used to scrub and cleanse your database. This will come in handy the next time you do this – we recommend annual maintenance.
- Referral Programs: either customers, prospects, or even partners by landing pages with forms or a simple informal email
- Videos: thought leadership, explainer/drawing, whiteboard and concepts styles all work here
A Few Final Considerations
- If email marketing represents a key role in supporting new and existing initiatives, are you investing in it as such?
- Doing nothing (ex. Not adjusting your program in light event cancellations) is doing something. The result could easily threaten your long term pipeline development.
- Generally digital marketing investment is certain to rise in the coming weeks and months. There has never been a greater need to differentiate your message and offering as your prospects are going to get more and more emails/ads in all the usual channels.
Whether your needs represent a digital reboot, some kind of ABM QuickStart or immediate team augmentation we’ve got you covered. Contact us today! We would be happy to discuss how we can accelerate your pivoted marketing program and ensure your lead generation and pipeline targets get back on track!