Last week we held our first-ever Virtual Networking Lunch to bring marketing leaders together around the mass event cancellations and budget redistributions that are happening as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
And yet, even since last Thursday, the situation in the US has changed dramatically in effort to stop the spread of the highly contagious virus:
- Many schools and daycare centers closed for the foreseeable future
- Travel bans from Europe and a closed Canadian border.
- Gatherings of over 25 outlawed in several states.
- Restaurants and bars restricted to takeout and delivery only.
- Shelter-in-place orders implemented in the Bay Area.
Unprecedented doesn’t begin to describe it – and yet professional life marches on for marketing leaders (despite young children circling webcams, demanding snacks).
According to our Virtual Networking Lunch, Marketers are dealing with this “new normal” in several ways:
Employing Strategies to make Virtual Events Compelling:
It’s time to think long term, and that means “beyond the webinar.” Podcasts, augmented reality, and other multichannel or immersive experiences are on the radar of marketing leaders. Many organizations are transitioning annual customer events online and looking for ways to create special, unique virtual experiences.
Being Budget Smart:
With up-to and sometimes over 50% of a marketing budget tied up in trade show sponsorships, customer events, travel expenses and event attendance – the mass cancellations are leading to unanticipated budget surplus.
Common knowledge says to reallocate some of the surplus to high performing digital channels. Use data to determine what’s most effective for demand creation and triple the spend. Ramp up display, paid media and content syndication as supplementary.
But what else?
Marketing leaders are carving out dollars now for the inevitable cuts that are coming later. They see the writing on the wall, and are preparing to be good corporate citizens.
Others are anticipating mass rescheduling to occur in fall and summer, and want to have dollars committed for deferred sponsorships, travel, and attendance.
Minding The Budget Bottom Line:
Have an agile budget in a modeling tool that you can flex and constrict as needed. These are uncertain times, and you should be able to shift budget quickly and get an up-to-the-minute picture of your disbursement.
Additionally, make sure your demand creation modeling accurately reflects the impacts of budget surges for net new demand creation. Accurate conversion rates will give visibility into any viable pipeline that is coming through from any additional spend.
While the decision to cancel, postpone, or virtualize is in the hands of the event organizer – what about your sponsorship investment? Marketers need to have ways to offer virtual options for sponsorships when and if that becomes the decision. Marketers have noted that these decisions happen fast, and there isn’t a lot (if any!) runway to build virtual assets from scratch.
Create a virtual sponsorship package that you can offer to event organizers if an event is pivoted to online. Including branding recommendations, like email signatures and session “skinning,” sponsored Q&A sessions, virtual panel discussions and other ideas that can enhance the event and give your brand visibility. Assign a value to your sponsorship package to use as a starting point for negotiation.
We are in an era of precedent-setting, and virtual sponsorships are uncharted territory.
Supporting an Elongated Sales Cycle
Investments in tech and tools may slow during this time. Take a look at open opportunities and brainstorm ways to elongate the sales cycle. Extended trials, bundling, and free promotions with 1-2 year contracts are a few ways to keep the pipeline active.
Tweaking Call Scripts and Marketing Copy
Many marketing and sales development leaders have learned that the typical qualification script can come across as tone deaf and insensitive during this time. Many marketing and sales teams have collaborated on “softening” talk tracks, leading with empathy, and acknowledging the feelings of volatility and uncertainty that many prospects and customers are feeling. Additionally, calls-to-action have been re-tooled to shift away from “getting the meeting” and to focus on being helpful and supportive.
Let’s Continue the Conversation
We’re having our second Virtual Networking Event on Thursday, March 26 at 12:00 PM EST and the focus is going to be “Beyond the Webinar: creating immersive virtual experiences.” We have a special guest speaker from Qbit Technologies: the Virtual Reality Company to familiarize us with B2B event applications of AR, VR, and mixed reality technology, and we’ll open the floor for questions and discussion.
As always, no registration is necessary but for those who do register, we’ll make a $20 donation in your name to the WHO Covid-19 Solidarity response fund. Click this link for more information and for how to register…