The pandemic has impacted our lifestyles and the way we do business. One of the areas where it has had a significant impact is on conferences, trade shows, and live events.
People attend business events to learn, meet new people, and nurture relationships. Businesses use them to build awareness, educate attendees, generate leads, and establish thought leadership.
When it was not possible to have face-to-face events, some were canceled and some went virtual.
How well do virtual events work?
Are virtual events the way of the future?
To add to my research and observations, I asked a group of experts – individuals that frequently attend or host events -- to provide their perspectives and experiences with the virtual format.
Overall, there are many positive aspects of virtual events:
1) The potential audience is expanded
The ability to reach a wider audience was a positive aspect I heard most frequently – virtual events are not restrained by geography – opening up a wider world for both presenters and attendees.
Speakers could present from their home offices (or anywhere where there is a strong internet connection) and attendees faced lower barriers to participation. Online events typically cost less to produce and attend (some even waived the ticket price), and there are no travel costs, which is good for start-ups, small companies, or any organization with a tight budget.
2) More Efficient
Because you have the convenience of participating from home or office, virtual events are less disruptive of regular work schedules as even local events require travel time. And for events with more than one speaker, it is easy to "zoom" in and out, viewing just the most relevant sessions to attend.
3) Networking is different but better in some ways
Networking was still possible via breakout rooms or chat functions. For many events, it is easy to see who is attending and to message another attendee that you want to meet. For some, this is easier than walking across a room and striking up a conversation.
Virtual events can also have an equalizing effect – people who are smaller in stature or who have softer voices sometimes struggle to be heard, especially at an event or meeting with many people or ambient noise. Since there is no sound in a chatbox, and you can position yourself the way you want in front of the camera, everyone is equal. And for some people it is easier to ask questions in a chatbox than in front of a group, helping to increase interaction between audience and presenters and enrich the learning experience.
What is Missing from Virtual Events?
1) Social interactions
Not surprisingly, those who mentioned they were extroverts missed the casual exchanges, happy hours, and lunch/dinners after the event.
2) Spontaneous interactions and humor
It’s hard to have those chance encounters in the hallway at a virtual event as well as there is less opportunity for spontaneous ideas to hatch when having a casual conversation during meeting breaks. Additionally, spontaneous humor and comments that add to meetings and lightens presentations may not be picked up (or the participants are on mute).
Are virtual events more or less rewarding?
Most of the respondents thought that the virtual events were either as rewarding or more rewarding as face-to-face events.
How do you think the current situation will impact the future?
For forward-thinking organizations, it already has – for example, PMMI, who produces Pack Expo and Healthcare Packaging Expo, is incorporating virtual technology to accommodate individuals who will not travel to their November 2020 show. And if conditions are not safe, they have plans to convert to a fully virtual format.
The people I asked agreed with this:
To sum it up:
For both now and in the foreseeable future, virtual platforms offer many positive aspects for hosting your business events, showcasing your strengths and connecting with your target audience.
And it appears from all of the positive feedback that even when it is safe again to hold in-person events, they most likely will take a hybrid form that uses virtual technology to enhance and customize the attendee’s experience.
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Face to face meetings and networking are a major part of many businesses' marketing strategy. With the outbreak of Covid-19, with meetings and events cancelled, it is a good time to step back and reexamine our short and longer-term marketing/communication initiatives.
So what adjustments can be made?
1) Your online presence is more important now than ever
Start by checking your Website and email list:
Is your website up to date? It might be a good time to refresh your content, paying attention to your key messages and keywords.
2) Think Beyond Digital
With people staying home and social distancing – they may be more open to talking by phone and/or reading their mail.
3) Bring people together using technology
Is a meeting needed to brainstorm or exchange ideas? There are several tools you can use:
To sum it up -- don’t just hang in there – grab this as a unique opportunity.
The businesses that look at this as a challenge -- to freshen their marketing approach and even capture new business -- can and will prosper.
If you have any questions or would like to talk about your communication strategy, contact us.
Thanks for reading!
Are you feeling like you need to step up your marketing efforts?
If that’s the case, here are some ideas to consider. Some may be new, but you may also be reminded of ideas that you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had time to implement.
For quick reference, we’ve organized the ideas by category. Take a look and see if any of these would help build your business!
Market Planning and Research
1. Update or create a marketing plan for your business. To make sure you get optimal results, your business should have a marketing plan that aligns timing, tactics and implementation with market opportunities.
2. Ask your customers how you’re doing -- revisit or begin customer satisfaction research.
3. Revisit your Value proposition – does it still ring true?
4. Refine your target audience and niche.
5. Explore the advantages of offering a new product or service in combination with your current business. Example - conduct focus groups and get input from your target market.
Check over your Marketing Materials
6. Take a close look at your business cards -- do they still represent the right image and convey key information about your business?
7. Think about printed materials – does your business need to create or update a brochure / sales sheet to leave behind with customers?
8. Evaluate if you need to update your website.
9. Check your online directory listings and get listed in desirable directories.
Person to Person Networking
10. Update your (and your company’s) voice mail message – keep it current, change it when you have new events or specials.
11. Enhance your email signature.
12. Revisit your elevator pitch. Does it still fit? Can you make it better?
13. Introduce yourself to other local business owners – you can do this in person or using Alignable.com. Explore creating a promotion with other local businesses.
14. Find a creative promotional product that fits your business and brand -- give them to prospective customers and referral sources.
15. Launch a targeted direct mail campaign. Think through your offer and call to action. You can create and test multiple approaches and measure their impact.
16. If you’ve used direct mail before, add tear cards, inserts or attention getting envelops to increase the impact of your mailing.
17. Contact past customers; send them an incentive to refer you or revisit your business.
18. If your business appeals to a wide target market, explore radio, billboard or even local TV advertising.
19. Use your car as a billboard – add a magnet, sticker or car wrap. If you have employees, see if they would be willing to add your magnet to their cars.
20. Use a sidewalk sign for specials or to attract walk in traffic.
21. Run a Google AdWords (Google Ads) campaign
22. Create a Groupon to attract new customers or get them to try a new product or service.
Social Media Marketing
23. Experiment with social media for your business – or evaluate the results of your current efforts.
24. Advertise on social media to attract new followers.
25. If your business sells to other businesses, try advertising on LinkedIn.
26. Evaluate starting a business blog.
27. If you already have a blog, try using video – add a video blog, and short video posts for your social media accounts.
28. List your business on Google My Business.
29. Add photos and videos to your Google My Business profile.
30. Create a post for your Google My Business profile.
31. Add an email opt-in on your website or blog.
32. Create an offer that encourages people to add their email address to your list.
33. Send periodic email campaigns to your list.
34. Measure the effectiveness of your email campaigns.
Less Usual Marketing
35. Create a business mascot to help promote your brand. This can be fun!
36. Take a stance on a hot industry or community topic, one that you have in-depth knowledge of or that aligns with your brand values.
We hope you found this post of value. Did you find some ideas to try?
Please be aware that not all ideas will fit your business --
and the success of many of them depends on having the right messaging and timing.
For help with planning or message development, contact us.
If you're a new business owner, or one that's thinking they'd like to reconnect with other business owners, where do you start?
You can ask friends or research online to get started. Spend some time searching on Meetup.com and try one of the groups you find.
Then someone in one group might suggest another one and that leads to others until you find groups that are a comfortable fit with your personality and objectives.
Or you could click here.
Since finding groups takes time -- which is a scarce resource for business owners -- I'm sharing a listing of some of the groups I've discovered. It's by no means exhaustive, but might save you some searching and give you places to visit.
So if you're up for meeting people who could be vital resources, referral sources, or even prospects -- or you just could use a smile from a friendly face -- check the listing, grab your business card and go!
And let me know if you use the list -- any comments or additions are welcome!
All the best,
Networking can be a grind.
Have you have ever seen the hit TV show The Grinder?
It's a comedy that features an impossibly dramatic individual that finds the good in every situation and never ever gives up -- because he's “The Grinder”.
You might be wondering -- what does The Grinder have to do with networking? …… Well, as we examined in our last post, “Why am I here?”, efficiently meeting people at networking events is only the beginning. How how you follow up with folks is a key link in the chain of connecting with potential prospects, clients, reciprocal colleagues or mentors who can help you achieve your ultimate goals. But it takes effort and you might need that Grinder attitude!
It helps to develop a system.
After attending several events, have you even found yourself unloading those business cards you stuffed in your pockets, backpack, wallet or purse, then realizing you have accumulated quite a stack? When you reach down to throw them into the file (shoebox) you keep in your bottom drawer, you suddenly stop and think … weren’t there some good contacts from each of the past couple networking events that could very well be HOT prospects….?
How best to tackle this? And easy way is to sort them into piles:
Priority A - These are the ones that represent the people who may be potential customers, clients or employers that showed a real interest in you or your services or may have mentioned having an immediate need to fill.
Priority B - These cards represent the people who may be potential customers, clients or employers that you spoke with but who did not mention an immediate need. However, in listening closely to them, you saw potential and would like to explore their situations because you may be able to help them in the future.
Priority C - These are the people who maybe mutually beneficial referral resources. They seem like quality providers that have supplementary competencies to you and service similar clients, businesses or contacts.
Priority D - This is our final group that have a common interest and seem fun, compatible, and would be interesting to get to know.
Use whatever system that fits your goals, but the key is to prioritize. You probably won't have time to follow up with everyone, so having a system will help make sure you follow up with key contacts.
Now you’re on a roll – next do a bit of quick research. Checking websites and LinkedIn profiles is a good practice. You may find you even have connections in common.
If the research checks out, then schedule follow ups.
If you use the system above, it might look like this:
Priority A - send an email in 1-3 days and/or Linkedin invite referencing the event where you met and expressing your interest in arranging a short getting acquainted meeting. If you get no response, schedule a follow-up email or phone call to them a week or so later.
Priority B - Send an email or Linkedin invite 2-5 days after your networking event asking to meet for coffee and discussion, or joining you at another event that you may be attending. If you get no response, schedule to send them a follow up email or letter outlining your services, products, resume, website link and/or how you may be of assistance to them.
Priority C - Same as B but emphasize what your target market is and how your relationship could be as reciprocal referral sources.
Priority D - When you have time, or are taking a break, keep a running list of these individuals to send a Linkedin message, group invite or email to meet for coffee / lunch when possible. If you dicussed a common interest, it helps to mention it.
Now you have your follow-up actions scheduled into your daily calendar and are ready to “Grind”! You may be pleasantly surprised at the positive response rate you get.
But remember, you’re in it for the long term. Some contacts may immediately turn into referrals or customers, but for many it will take time to build relationships. If you periodically send emails with informative content to your As and Bs, you’ll keep them aware of your value and motivation. In addition, once a quarter, send a note to the Cs and Ds on your list.
Keep "Grinding" and you’ll build momentum!
Thanks for reading. We hope you’ve found this helpful.
If you have insights and additions on what’s worked for you – please add them – they are valued and appreciated.
All the best,
Don't overlook this small but powerful tool
Like me, you probably realize that social media, LinkedIn and letter campaigns can’t do it all for your business or career. Networking is a necessary evil for your success.
Perhaps you’ve practiced your elevator speech, smiling and extending that ever firm hand shake over and over and over. You’re sure that the on-line networking Webinar has armed you with everything you need to whorl into that crowded room and command attention. You got it all down and you’re feeling confident!
And yet, after handing out mounds business cards and “connecting” so well with professionals from all types of businesses -- the phone still hasn’t sang the happy song you programmed in for the ring tone.
Could it be your cards were lost?? Or worse yet, ignored or forgotten??
Well, believe it or not in this world of tablets and smart phones, the legendary BUSINESS CARD still plays a key role in connecting with our prospective and current customers/clients.
Five characteristics of a productive and effective business card:
Eliminate words and images that either confuse or detract. Quickly glance at a number of cards to see what catches your eye and what you remember. Your card should not have any distractors that can dominate your prospects mind except those that are key to the communication. The size, color and font of the words you want remembered are critical.
Think carefully about the words you add, One card I recently acquired carried the tag line: "energetic bikini wearer" -- for a middle-aged female career coach. Now when my husband was glancing through my stack of cards, he busted out laughing and said he wasn’t sure what kind of careers she coached. An hour later for fun I asked him if he remembered that “card” -- all he could recall was an image of a “bikini wearer” sunning on the beach! Now this is could be a statement on my husband’s mindset (and he wasn't the target market for her) ... but it also demonstrates how images and words can either add or detract from your overall message and brand.
A good rule of thumb is: When you think about adding something to your card, ask "Is this critical"? Will the people I want to do business with understand it? For example, if you are in a business where it's important for people to recognize you, then a picture is appropriate.
Test! One last thought, given the potential positive and negative impacts a business card can have, it is well worth your time to print a couple of drafts and test them out on friends, colleagues and even potential clients. Have some of your test cases study them before offering their impressions and suggestions. Then have some folks quickly glance at your card and ask them what they saw first, what they remembered, and their overall impression.
Details, effort, and feedback are always key in any successful adventure and even a little thing like your business card can help along the way! Compare your cards to the items on the list before you order a new supply.
If you have additional Business Card “Golden Rules” you've learned along the way, please add them!
For more tips,check out our post on following up....
Thanks for reading and sharing!
Not sure if your business card is working for you? Contact us for a free business card evaluation.
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Marketing Tips is dedicated to providing busy professionals and local businesses with information on marketing trends, strategy and tactics in a way that is both accurate and easy to read.