According to a 2019 survey from Bizzabo, most marketing departments spend nearly a quarter of their budgets on events. Now, with most events being cancelled, marketers are in a bind. What is the best way to reallocate those funds? Do you pivot to a virtual event, or redirect the money to an entirely different marketing effort?
Take the Event Online
In this article from eMarketer, which took a closer look at how different B2Bs are responding to the crisis, they outlined a few alternatives to in-person events that seem to be popular.
Many brands are taking their in-person events online, creating virtual events that still allow their audience to hear from their exciting keynotes and engage in conversations from afar. The trick here is ensuring that you’re able to get the tech right (do you have a video solution that allows a large audience to tune into a speech and interact in real time?).
It’s also important that you’ve strategized about how to generate sales conversations from a virtual event. When you can’t shake hands and pass out business cards, what’s the online alternative?
Create Personalized Experiences from a Distance
eMarketer also advocates for an investment in direct mail. While digital channels can feel impersonal and may be overwhelming at a time like this, direct mail allows you to create a personal touch. While a thoughtful direct mailer will never be quite the same as meeting with people live at an event, it can help you stand out in a good way from the flood of online messages.
Turn to Digital
That being said, many are still noting an uptick in digital advertising investment. Both Search Engine Land and WARC contend that if social distancing measures continue, we’ll see a greater investment in digital channels.
And that stands to reason: as consumers work from home and replace dinner and a movie out on the town with homemade soup and a Netflix binge, they’ll also likely turn to online channels for purchases. WARC makes the following prediction, “If e-commerce volumes rise, it is conceivable that investment is focused in digital advertising to facilitate the path to purchase, particularly in the channels that are closest to consumer decision-making (such as paid search and social platforms with a commerce element, like WhatsApp).”
And digital doesn’t have to mean banner ads and social posts. Some brands are using this time to test the waters on things like AR, gamification, and live streaming. In Vogue Business’s closer look at luxury brands’ marketing efforts in Asia, they cite the success of Shanghai-based cosmetics company Forest Cabin. The brand shuttered its in-person retail stores in China and pivoted to engaging with customers via live stream. While they initially saw a huge 90 percent drop in sales, once consumers caught on, their sales exploded, increasing 45 percent year on year.
Pulling off the Pivot
What’s the secret to a quick switch-up in your marketing budget? First, make sure that your sales and marketing teams are fully aligned. They’re going to need to work closely to ensure that these new marketing tactics keep the sales pipeline healthy.
Second, as with your direct communications with consumers, it’s important to keep things honest. There are a lot of questionable content sites and price-gouging retailers out there in the world, hoping to capitalize on others’ panic. If your brand can position itself as a refreshing, honest alternative to those creeps, you can build long-lasting trust.
And finally, remember to A/B test! In all the chaos, it might be tempting to just slap a campaign together and let it run itself, but you still want to measure results. Some brands might learn that their online campaign is just as effective as the big event they usually host! And that’s a lesson you can take forward for years to come.
About the Sterling Woods Group, LLC
The Sterling Woods Group’s mission is to help clients make sense of their data to predictably grow sales. We apply data science to help you optimize your sales funnel, improve your marketing ROI, launch new products successfully, and enter new markets profitably.
We use a hypothesis-driven, data-supported methodology to discover insights that no one else is paying attention to. Then, we help you assemble the right sales strategies, marketing plans, technologies, and resources to seize this opportunity.
About the Author
Rob Ristagno, founder and CEO of the Sterling Woods Group, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. Starting his career at McKinsey, his focus has always been on embracing digital technology and data science to spur strategic growth.
Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Digiday.
He holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.
Rob lives outside Boston, MA with his wife, Kate; daughter, Leni; and black lab, Royce.