This article was originally published by Adweek.
By Tom O’Regan
Traditionally, industry events and conferences are considered an important opportunity for b-to-b marketers to network with potential prospects and help fill their pipelines. In fact, more than half of b-to-b marketers use in-person events and trade shows to drive lead generation.
Unfortunately, we’re living in a world in which face to face interactions at conferences are not feasible for the foreseeable future.
COVID-19 has a chokehold on business operations across the nation and is rattling industries to their core. But this is not a time for fear. This is a time for marketers to focus. It is no secret that business development is facing unexpected challenges, but it does not have to be when marketers employ the right approach.
Replace the handshake with a virtual interaction
At a time when lead generation feels as though it’s being challenged, take a one-to-one (or one-to-few) approach. This is otherwise known as an account-based marketing strategy. Focus on engaging with the accounts that have the greatest potential for pipeline and revenue, whether this be through tactics like content syndication or LinkedIn ad engagement.
During a time where there may be a surge in digital engagement, avoid static content and flat copy. Emphasize video conferencing and webinars to support interactive messaging tactics. Create an immersive experience for prospects upon first click. In-person may be a lost cause at the current moment, but engagement doesn’t have to be.COVID-19 is not something we planned for but is a great test of b-to-b marketers’ resilience and agility in a time of crisis.
Shift dollars to digital and remain agile
Speaking of digital content, with conference cancellations plaguing the industry, marketers need to create an alternative route to win back those lost touchpoints. This will likely require an uptick in digital strategy deployments. Marketers must remain agile and open to pivoting. Your carefully planned event strategy is experiencing upheaval? Don’t dwell on it—strategize with sales, and pivot.
B-to-b marketers prepared a ton of collateral for these events. Now is the time to re-evaluate and look to leverage the digital assets to generate real results. Rather than sitting at a booth trying to push their swag, marketers can use their high-quality marketing content to connect with prospects. Odds are you’ll see even more engagement this way.
Keep a firm pulse on audience engagement
Now is the time when effective measurement is pivotal, which brings about a necessary question for b-to-b marketers to ask themselves. As the industry continues on its fast track toward prioritizing virtual experiences, are conferences worth the spend? Do metrics show that they still hold the same relevance as an effective lead generation tactic?
Event cancellations may be happening, but strategic account-based marketing plays can provide the same effect with an even more targeted approach. And the fact of the matter is that many b-to-b event marketing KPIs—number of qualified sales leads, brand awareness, social press mentions, quality of leads, amount of sales pipeline generated—can be translated to digital.
This is an unsettling time on a business and personal level for all. Pivot in strategy when you see something is not resonating in the intended way. Know that now will be a critical time for measurement, optimization and adjustment. Allow metrics to be your foresight and the guiding force that will allow you to be a true, strategic arm to not only your sales team but your prospective clients as you help them see their way through this harrowing curveball.
COVID-19 is not something we planned for but is a great test of b-to-b marketers’ resilience and agility in a time of crisis. Together, we can all work to remain steadfast and keep business development plans on healthy tracks.