As a company whose mission is to create more human connections, field marketing is a critical part of our customer engagement strategy.
But in 2020 and 2021, the need to pivot from in-person events to virtual ones became a necessity.
With 2022 ahead of us, we now have more opportunities. Some events can be in-person, some can be virtual, and some—can be hybrid experiences.
We’re not sure what the answer is for you. But your unique organization can get some fresh ideas on the 10 best customer engagement strategies we learned (that still helped our customers win) from the years we had to pivot.
10 Virtual Customer Engagement Ideas to Try
Customer Engagement Strategy #1: Still Get Face-to-Face
Get Face-to-Face with Prospects via FaceTime, Zoom, or Vidyard
If you had in-person meetings booked with prospects or customers at an event that gets canceled, reach out as soon as you hear about the news. Let them know that you’d still like the chance to get some face time—even if that means 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
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. Whether your event gets canceled or their travel plans get derailed, reach out! Let them know you’d love to still show them a demo (or discuss the information you were planning to review in the meeting, such as a return-on-investment [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: Create a Guest Post on the Event Website
Guest Post on Event Website
If an industry tradeshow gets canceled, you can still utilize the digital real estate surrounding the event, as many people will likely still be Googling it or poking around its website. 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 Company Swag Store Credit
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, and it makes sense to offer them a virtual experience. 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 your virtual swag store. Rock your demo, create meaningful connections, and thank them for their time with tradeshow swag. Let them pick and choose the promotional items they want, and have them shipped straight to their office or home.
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
Host a Live Virtual Event on LinkedIn or Facebook
Emulate the real-time feeling of an event through social media. Use live broadcasts on LinkedIn or Facebook (or wherever your audience spends their time). Turn content from previously in-person events, and adapt them into relevant live broadcast material. One example is to talk through a slide deck virtually 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. 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: Repurpose Your Tradeshow Swag
Use Your Show Floor Swag as a Demand Generation Campaign with SDRs
Repurpose the swag you order for in-person events! 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 door-opener gifts are delivered to prospects. They can follow up with a timely email or LinkedIn message 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: Use Personalized Gifting
Land on Your Prospect’s Desk with Personalized Gifting
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. And congrats–this is the start of an account-based marketing campaign (ABM).
For your top priority audience members, take the time to send each one something personalized. Are they passionate about a certain topic 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 gift, or ABM 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: Co-Host a Virtual Event
Team Up With Other Sponsors and Host a Virtual Event
Other companies in your industry might want to host virtual events here and there. Connect with other companies who were planning on sponsoring events, and see if there’s any interest in hosting a virtual event together. You can mirror numerous elements of a live production through a well-executed digital experience. Examples include:
- 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
- Giveaways can be facilitated via a swag store
Customer Engagement Strategy #9: Increase Investments in Digital Channels
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 prospects you were hoping to engage with at in-person events by adding more layers of targeted ads and social media.
Try retargeting people who visited your event landing page or people you know have attended the event in the past. Include messaging that, “While [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: Create an On-Demand Webinar Series
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, master class 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 event registrations.
Customer Engagement Strategy #11: Send a Video Mailer
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.
Looking for more? Check out our 14 great customer engagement strategies for other marketing channels. Curious how a Sending Platform can help your in-person and virtual customer engagement plans this year? Request a demo today and we can deep-dive into your unique goals!