COVID-19 has hit communities in every corner of the world.
For those of us fortunate enough to have our health, we still must grapple with a new reality.
Many of you are reading this from home if your office hasn’t slowly started returning to work.
Here’s a bit of good news. 72% of B2B marketing professionals expect their budgets to either increase, stay the same, or only slightly drop (less than 20%).
Yes, things are changing. However, most B2B brands aren’t facing an existential crisis like many consumer companies that rely on foot traffic.
Of course, B2Bs aren’t entirely out of the woods.
Aside from the uncertain markets, most business leadership – 84% – say in-person B2B events are a critical part of their visibility and success.
Gartner’s research shows 68% of CMOs have canceled their in-person events in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While many major events are simply postponing, the truth is that we don’t know when or how things will go back to “normal.” Even if communities avoid a second wave of COVID-19 diagnoses, will people still feel comfortable getting on a plane six months from now?
B2B marketers should instead prepare for a life without major in-person events, at least for the time being.
Major Events Canceled? How to Organize Local B2B Events in the COVID-19 Era
Communities around the United States are slowly starting to reopen their economies.
Of course, it’s not happening all at once and we can’t expect everything to suddenly return to pre-COVID-19 times.
While attendees might not be comfortable jumping on a plane, people are still itching to get out of their homes (while keeping a safe distance, of course). B2B events could take three routes for the time being:
Organizing Local Community-Centric B2B Events
Renting a massive venue is probably out of the question for now. However, small conferences where attendees can practice social distancing could be a smart idea.
Keep the event to 50 or less and rent a larger room than you normally would. To stick with social distancing protocol, only sell tickets to people within your metro area.
Focus on networking and building skills within your own community. Are there any potential business connections in your area you’ve neglected to build while focusing on the wider world?
Think of strategies attendees could take the event material home and continue online, such as:
- Live tweeting the event with branded hashtags
- Podcasting about the event topic and attendees
- Making YouTube videos about the event’s content
Sponsoring Relief Effort Events
Why sit on the sidelines and wait for the pandemic to blow over?
Look for local organizations to partner with in your area and offer relief effort. Now is the time for everyone to step up and be a part of the good.
Depending on your resources, your brand could even host a relief effort yourself. Even as the pandemic passes, people are still going to need help:
- Running no-contact delivery services to the elderly or immunocompromised patients
- Delivering groceries and necessities to low-income households
- Sponsoring individual families for rent relief
- Highlighting and supporting workers on the front lines
All the problems we face as a society weren’t born out of the pandemic and they’ll still exist once it subsides.
Gathering Locally, Broadcasting Nationally
Here’s another option. You can still host small, local, in-person events as mentioned in the first entry here.
However, organize a handful of small events around the region or country, depending on your brand and resources. The events could take place at the same time and each group could stream its speakers live on a set schedule.
So while the events would technically all be held separately, they’d still all be part of one larger event. Everyone gets to practice social distancing but the larger event still goes on.
3 Tips for Rising Above the Water in a Sea of Online B2B Events
As economies gradually reopen across the world, online B2B events and virtual meetings will no doubt remain the dominant force. It was hard enough already for marketers to stand out when they weren’t competing with every other company in existence.
1. Look for Ways to Involve Attendees
With everyone stuck indoors, people have switched to creator mode.
Find some ways you can ask each attendee to create content for the event, including:
- Writing something to share
- Creating a photo compilation
- Making a unique backdrop
- Sharing stories or case studies
2. Personalize Outreach and Promotion
Traditionally, B2B events focus on drawing as many attendees as possible.
Instead, zero-in on your niche. Treat your event like you would a landing page or call-to-action. Stick with a single, highly targeted topic. If you start to digress, think about hosting a second online event.
Do some research. Look at your social feed and social listening tools to see what your audience is talking about. What problems are they facing during COVID-19? What are their concerns from here on out?
Stick with specific market segments and make sure your online event marketing materials reflect that niche.
3. Create a Special App
Developing a special app just for the event can help set you apart. Plus, it will give attendees a way to get involved if they don’t want to stick around for the whole event.
Pack your app with useful resources and tools. Make sure to highlight the benefits of the app people can enjoy if they attend your online event.
Market Your B2B Events with Personalized Landing Pages
Artificial intelligence can help you personalize your event landing pages for every visitor. Whether you’ve collected someone’s contact information or have no idea who they are, AI can provide them with a unique experience.
For account-based marketing, an AI engine can take the hassle out of distributing relevant content to every visitor. AI will automatically detect a visitor’s company and stage of the buying cycle so the content it recommends is always on-point.
Learn more about how personalization can optimize your account-based marketing strategy.