Our Events Were Canceled: Here are 10 Customer Engagement Strategies We’re Trying Instead.
By Brianna Valleskey on March 3, 2020
As a company whose mission is to create more human connections, events are a critical part of our customer engagement strategy.
Conferences, trade shows, and other field events enable us to get face time with our prospects, customers, and community at large. We, and many of our colleagues in similar industries, invest a large portion of our efforts and budget into these initiatives because they are so effective for building relationships.
So when our team heard that events like Adobe Summit, Rev2020, and Unleash 2020 had already been canceled, I reached out to our Senior Marketing Manager Sruthi Kumar, who runs our events team, to get her take on the news.
“As a field marketer, the safety of our team is my No. 1 priority,” she said. “We normally execute more than 50 events a year, and we want to run these campaigns that we’ve put so much time into already, but it’s never worth putting our team at risk.”
As any field marketer knows, events are not cheap. Thankfully, Sruthi said that the show organizers we work with really care about sponsors and attendees, so they’ve been working hard to reschedule events or pivot to virtual events. But what about the marketers and salespeople who were relying on these events to drive demand and close deals? How can we pivot away from some of our biggest investments of the year?
“Well, now it’s time to get creative: How can we re-allocate these funds to thoughtfully generate pipeline with experiences that can’t happen in person?” Sruthi added.
Luckily for us, she has some fresh strategies for customer engagement up her sleeve. Here are ten customer engagement strategies (straight from our event marketing team) that can still give you valuable time with your prospects and customers.
10 Customer Engagement Strategies to Try When Your Event is Canceled
Customer Engagement Strategy #1
Get Face-to-Face with Prospects via FaceTime, Zoom, or Vidyard
If you had meetings booked with prospects or customers at the event, reach out as soon as you hear about the news and let them know that you’d still like the chance to get some face time—even if that means it has to happen through a screen. Ask them if you can keep the time you’ve already scheduled on the calendar, but simply meet over the video platform of their choice: Zoom, GoToMeeting, or even something like FaceTime (no pun intended).
If you don’t hear back from your prospects, send them a video recording with your face on the screen (with a tool like Vidyard) the day before your meeting was supposed to be scheduled. In the video, say that you were “hoping to get some face time.” Accompany your message with a coffee eGift card to simulate the comradery of sharing the coffee together that you would have had at the event.
Customer Engagement Strategy #2
Host Virtual Lunch & Learns for Target Accounts and Buying Committees
Maybe you had meetings scheduled with high-profile prospects already in a sales cycle or multiple members of a buying committee. Reach out to let them know that the event has been canceled, but that you’d love to still show them a demo (or discuss the information you were planning to review in the meeting, such as an ROI discussion or technical review) over lunch.
If they agree, send lunch to their team on the day of your meeting via a food delivery service like Caviar, GrubHub, or Uber Eats. Pro tip: Schedule it to arrive 10-15 minutes before the meeting starts so they won’t have to worry about being late.
Customer Engagement Strategy #3
Guest Post on Event Website
You can still utilize the digital real estate surrounding the events you were planning to attend, as many people will likely still be googling them or poking around their websites. Take the content you were planning to present at the event, a long-form article you’ve written on your website, or an important thought leadership concept your team has been focusing on and recycle it into a piece of content the event host can use in their digital platforms.
That might mean you participate in an upcoming webinar they host, or you publish a piece on their blog, or you participate in an interview on their podcast. Make sure to pitch something relevant and useful to them; don’t assume they owe you digital real estate since their event was canceled.
Customer Engagement Strategy #4
Offer Swag Store Credit in Exchange for Taking a Demo
Let’s say you have top target accounts that you haven’t been able to meet with yet, but were planning to engage at the event. Reach out to them and say you’d still love to give them the trade show floor experience—meaning that if they take a demo with your team, you’ll give them credit to a swag store, where they can pick and choose what promotional items they want to be shipped straight to their office.
When they select an item, you can set up rules in your swag store so that informational materials (like case studies, technical one-pagers, printed eBooks, or other collateral) are automatically included in the package with the item(s) they selected. With a Sending Platform integration, swag store fulfillment is automated and tracked in your CRM.
Customer Engagement Strategy #5
Host a Live Virtual Event on LinkedIn or Facebook
Emulate the real-time feeling of an event on social media with live broadcasts on LinkedIn or Facebook (or wherever your audience spends their time). You can take the content of a session you were planning to host at the event and turn it into a live broadcast, where you talk through slides the same way you would have in an auditorium.
Another option is to host your own “virtual panel” discussion between a few of your team members about the topic of the conference or event you were planning to attend. You can even allow audience members to chime in with comments and reactions, or host a live Q&A session at the end where you respond to people’s comments! (Note: It can be tricky to present and monitor comments at the same time, so you’ll likely want to dedicate a separate person and computer for that. )
Customer Engagement Strategy #6
Use Your Show Floor Swag as a Demand Generation Campaign with SDRs
The swag you ordered for events doesn’t have to go to waste! Take all the items you were going to give away on the show floor and send them to your top prospects as part of a demand generation campaign. Bundle together a few pieces of swag with printed collateral and a handwritten note from an SDR with a message about how you were hoping to give this to them on the show floor.
If you execute this with a Sending Platform, each SDR will get alerts once the individual sends are delivered to prospects. They can follow up with a timely email or LinkedIn asking if the prospect received the items. This creates the perfect opportunity to start a conversation with the prospect, see if they’re a good fit, and book a meeting.
Customer Engagement Strategy #7
Land on Your Prospect’s Desk
Without an event, you can still create a powerful offline experience for your audience. Start by segmenting the audience you were hoping to engage into three tiers based on priority: top, middle, and bottom.
For your top priority audience members, take the time to send each one something personalized. Are they passionate about a certain top within their industry? Send them a book about it. Are they originally from a different region than they currently live in? Send them something from their hometown. Do they post about their love for LaCroix? Send them a 12-pack of their favorite flavor. Send your middle tier a branded bag of coffee with branded mugs and a message that you still want to energize their day even if you can’t meet them at the event. For your bottom tier, send a handwritten note about how you’d still love to get some (virtual) face time—see customer engagement strategy #1 on this list—even though the event has been canceled.
With each send, be sure to connect what you’re sending with why you’re sending it and what value you have to offer. Simply sending something will not guarantee a meeting; you need to be strategic and thoughtful just like any other form of outreach. Follow up each send with a quick email asking if they received it and whether they’d like to connect.
Customer Engagement Strategy #8
Team Up With Other Sponsors and Host a Virtual Event
Other companies in your industry are likely affected by this, too. See if you can connect with others that were planning to sponsor the event and if there’s any interest in hosting a virtual event together. You can mirror numerous elements of a live production with digital experience: sessions can be hosted over a webinar platform; the exhibitor floor can become a dedicated section of your event landing page, where each sponsor can have their own dedicated section or page; lunch, coffee, and other refreshments can be imitated with eGift cards; and giveaways can be facilitated via a swag store.
Customer Engagement Strategy #9
Increase Investments in Targeted Digital Channels Like Ads
With the money you don’t end up spending on events, you can double down on digital channels and/or invest in some truly engaging digital experiences. Create an integrated experience when reaching out to the prospects you were hoping to engage at the event by adding more layers of targeted ads and social media—either retargeting people who visited your event landing page or people you know have attended the event in the past. Include messaging that, “[Event] isn’t happening, but we’d still love to meet!”
Also, consider putting budget into a piece of interactive content. Consider creating interactive top-of-funnel content, case studies, or sales demos using something like Tiled or Pitch, where prospects can peruse through information at their own pace whenever they have time. Alternatively, you could create something like an ROI calculator or a self-serve learning center. The possibilities are limitless here, and generally evergreen, so you have the opportunity to generate an ongoing return.
Customer Engagement Strategy #10
Turn Session Into On-Demand Webinar Series
Did you already have an amazing session (or ten?) baked out with slides, talking points, and speakers? The content is still valuable, so use all of that to record the sessions via webcast! Package up that content into a single “virtual” panel with multiple speakers, or create an on-demand series that people can access at any time after filling out a landing page. Coffee or lunch eGifts can come in handy here, as well, to imitate the live session experience. With a Sending Platform, you can easily trigger these after some registers.
Bonus Customer Engagement Strategy
Send a Video Mailer with Your Show Floor Pitch
For accounts that you think would be a good fit, but haven’t engaged with you yet, send them a video mailer of the product pitch you would have given them on the show floor! You could even create a set that looks like a trade show booth and film a sales rep that typically works the show floor. Be sure to include in your messaging that you were hoping to share this information with them at the event and that you didn’t want them to miss out on that experience! Pair this with a small swag item (like a branded tumbler, candle, or socks) that they can take home.
To all our fellow marketers, salespeople, and go-to-market teams at large, we’re with you. We hope these customer engagement strategies can boost your current programs and enable you to still achieve your goals. Wishing you the best from team Sendoso.
Want to learn even more engagement strategies? Join our webinar Everyone is Working from Home – Now What? by clicking on the link below.