The coronavirus pandemic has cancelled conferences all over the world, leaving marketing teams scrambling for replacements to help meet their goals. Some companies are attempting all-in-one virtual replacements as a sales salvation, but in reality there is no single substitute for real-world events.
Our new piece in Marketing Land highlights what companies can do to fill the void left by in-person events. In this two-part blog series, we’re going to take a closer look into what teams can do right now that will help them get through this crisis, but also reinforce their long term strategy to be more successful in the future. First, let’s start with resetting objectives and putting your audience’s needs first.
A hard reset on objectives
It may not seem like it, but the cancellation of conferences worldwide gives you an opportunity to reassess your strategy. Instead of looking for an online version of a conference, stop and ask yourself these questions:
- Which audiences were you hoping to connect with? What are those people doing instead? How are recent events impacting immediate concerns?
- Is it all about sales and lead gen? Or were you looking for networking, brand building or product launch opportunities?
- Were you attending out of habit, or with a clear, measurable purpose? If you can’t quantify the value of attending, finding a replacement will be extra tough, and perhaps unnecessary.
Once you answer these questions you’ll likely realize you can achieve similar results with a different strategy, ideally one which leverages activity you already have in place. This is the time to double down on integration, and make every aspect of your existing marcomms program work better, together. Here are some examples:
- Run a LinkedIn lead generation campaign with target audiences built from idealized attendee lists. It will almost certainly cost less than the budget you reserved on building a booth or even holding your own conference.
- Connect with industry influencers and use live-streamed product demos to build awareness. Amplify with paid social and invite reporters to pose questions for an earned media hit.
- Double down on your thought leadership and turn conference keynotes into long-form executive posts. Turn high value technical talks into gated white papers to boost consideration, while also driving leads.
- Best of all, combine all of the above for a truly integrated campaign. When everything works together, everything works better.
It’s not just about relying more heavily on what you’ve always done. Keep in mind that you’re not alone looking for alternatives. Now more than ever you need quality, targeted content with clear purpose to break through the noise of online marketing.
Think audience-first and channel-native
How do you get the most compelling content possible? By being relevant first, and self promotional second. Your priority should be to understand your audience, clarify your point of view and align it with their needs. Do research on who your audience is and what they want and where they will see it:
- Use social media listening tools to not only follow conversations, but become involved in industry discussions.
- Conduct a content audit to discover the gaps between what you are producing and what your audience responds to.
- Build personas. Understanding your audience’s demographic, psychographic and firmographic make-up is the key to finding relevance.
Say something that will get you noticed and do it where your audience already is: embrace social, podcasts, video, and put executives forward just as you would at a conference.
Amplify your content with paid social to increase awareness and engagement. Be sure to optimize content by channel. Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin and, if you’re adventurous, TikTok, all require unique material to make the biggest impact. Presenting a native appearance on each platform is the difference between social pros and novices.
There is no need to panic when a major conference is canceled. You have the tools at your disposal to streamline and integrate your marketing plans in ways that will help you prevail long term and make you smarter and more productive in the future.
Finally, it’s important to revert to measurable and quantifiable value. Ask the difficult questions and be bold in creating the right content to reach your targeted audience. A hard look at your objectives can go a long way. Read more about what we suggest you do in this new reality in Marketing Land.