Cancelled Events? Customers Working From Home? Here are 11 Plays To Keep Customers Engaged

Alex Olley
Alex Olley
Co-Founder, Head of Revenue and Marketing
March 13, 2020

So many companies in the B2B space rely on events to generate leads and opportunities to fill the sales pipeline and and keep customers and partners engaged. There's no better way of building rapport with someone other than meeting them in person and building a relationship.

As soon as offices close and events are cancelled or postponed due to a pandemic it can feel slightly unsettling knowing that it's going to be difficult to generate leads, drive pipeline forward and ultimately close deals.  In a time when we are all in hiding it's nice to be thought of and reminded of the fact that others care about us.

Despite most events being re-scheduled, marketers are trying new ways to continue momentum and ensure the dip in activity is mitigated. Here are 11 ways to overcome event cancellations and continue to build relationships when customers are working from home.

1. Leverage Video And Make It Fun!

Last time I checked, Zoom's share price went through the roof! Working remotely is proving a challenge for companies that prefer to do business in person. Meeting online is the safest and easiest medium. Use video conferencing tools like Zoom and Webex to conduct online meetings. Make it engaging and fun to create an enjoyable experience.

One challenge will be getting people to turn up. As an additional string to your bow you can send coffee eGift cards to create a more rewarding experience and incentivise attendees to actually show up. If they don't redeem the eGift within a given timeframe then the amount sent can go back into your balance so there's no breakage.

Bear in mind your customers might have kids, flatmates and other distractions while you're speaking to them online. Here are some great ways to leverage eGift cards and add a personal touch for those who aren't in the office.

2. Turn Event Swag Into A Demand Gen Machine

Not everyone is working from home. If you've had events cancelled, you‘ve probably got a ton of swag gathering dust. Don't let it go to waste. After all, if you've chosen the right swag you can turn this into a demand generation machine. Create custom boxes with multiple items of swag and goodies with a personalised note included.

Best practice is to send individual packages from SDRs with a handwritten note. Given so many are working from home, start by calling the head office to see if your prospect is in the office or not. If they are then send them an eGift card via email saying you'd like to send them something and just need their address. You can get them to fill out a form which is linked to your CRM so you can trigger the send directly from there.

3. Run Your Own Online Event

I was meant to be at 3 events in San Francisco this week. All of them have decided to run online sessions instead. What I received was a generic email asking me to spend most of my day watching keynotes. Let's face it, we'd all rather be re-configuring our CRM or watching Netflix at home instead of being dragged through endless lectures.

Keep the session shorter and find ways to keep viewers engaged. Use gamification tools like Kahoot to make sessions fun. Winners can be awarded prizes like experiences or vouchers to shop online (apparently that's what we do most when "working from home"). It might also be an idea to reward viewers during intervals by sending them virtual lunches such as Uber Eats. Make viewers aware before the online event starts that if they stay for the entire session then they will be rewarded for their time.

4. Convert Keynotes  Into Content

Assuming you had great keynote speakers talking at the event that has been cancelled, you can turn their sessions into White Papers for attendees to read. This can form part of your content strategy for the year. Your speakers hold a wealth of knowledge that your audience craves, so use this wisely.

Leverage their wisdom and create valuable content so you can continue to provide the thought leadership your attendees were looking for from your event. You could even print this content and send it in the swag bundles at Play #2 above.

5. Turn FOMO into JOMO

Most of us have that one conference each year we love attending. Fear Of Missing Out on events can be unbearable. Turn that FOMO into JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out).  They might have missed out on the main event but a bit of surprise and delight can go a long way.

For everyone that registered but didn't attend you can still send them recording of the live event and a coffee to enjoy once they've watched it. At the end of the event ask attendees for their address so you can send them a special survival package full of joy. Let them know when it arrives using postal tracking so they rush to get it.

If they are working from home you can ask them to fill out a form with the relevant postal address. Once the form is filled this can trigger the send automatically and even include a personalised note using the relevant fields in the form.

6. Reschedule Event Meetings Booked By Gifting Lunch

Before an event we often scramble to book in meetings via the event app. Don't let those meetings go to waste. Show your prospect you still mean business. Arrange a time to speak online but send them lunch in advance.

Treats like Uber Eats and Dominos can work a dream as the recipient can have it sent to their home if they aren’t in the office. They can redeem it and order lunch straight to their door rather than brave heading outside. Online meetings are way more engaging when participants on the other side of the screen are refreshed thanks to you. It's also a great reason for them to turn up.

7. Engage With Your Existing Customers

Don't forget about your existing customers. Working from home and not being able to attend meetings or events in person might be affecting how they operate daily. Show them you're thinking of them and do something to make their day a bit better.

Make your Customer Success team available to them to help them get the most out of your product or services. To keep them really engaged create fun survival kits, buy them lunch, treat them to something sweet or just send them a note to show you're thinking of them.  

8. Leverage Direct Communication Channels

SMS, WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn InMail and other direct communication channels might be your saving grace in these difficult times. It's easy to leverage direct channels to message prospects and customers provided you have sourced the data from a compliant source.

Be courteous and conscious that you are using a means that isn't quite what they are used to. It might be worth sending a quick handwritten note with your contact details giving them the option of getting in touch with you directly. Alternatively you might want to give them a heads up you will be in touch directly. Sometimes a QR code on the note with a link to your calendar to book in a time goes down well.

9.  Co-Host Webinars With Other Sponsors and Run Online Workshops

Webinars are the ultimate way to generate leads when events are no longer happening. Tools like ON24 help marketers create engaging online experiences. Be conscious of the fact that a lot of companies are employing this method now that events are not going ahead. You need to create a point of differentiation and show that your content will deliver immeasurable value. Once that's done you need to make sure your audience attends and participates.

Give webinar participants a reason to stay for the full session. In your pre-webinar marketing communications you can make it clear that anyone who stays for the Q&A session will be treated to something special. Whether that's special pricing, a workshop with one of your evangelists or VIP tickets to your next event when it does happen. We all know the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It might be an idea to send branded chocolate bars with Golden Tickets inside to keep for when event season kicks off again.

10. Give Your SDRs A Fighting Chance

Booking meetings is tricky when your prospects aren't in the office and you can't meet them in person at events. It's going to be a tough time for SDRs as the goalposts have now moved. You have to equip your SDR team with some new tactics.

Vidyard video emails, LinkedIn Voice Notes, Email GIFs, "Real" Social Selling (not just clicking the 'Like' button) and WhatsApp/SMS are going to be essential channels. Train your SDRs to convey their personality and use more direct communications. It's important for your SDRs to have a point of differentiation and a means to create a personal relationship. Enable them with a means to become memorable. If their prospect is into sport but they don't have Cable TV and they are working from home, your SDR is the one they want to speak to if they are the reason your prospect got to watch the game thanks to the coupon they sent them via email.

11. Get Ready For People To Return To Work

Once things return to normal, everyone is going to flood back into their offices. When they do get back, send them a welcome back box to help them and their team get back up and running. It's your chance to be top of mind and can make them look good in their time if what you sent was shareable and delicious.

Ready To Play?

It's important to stress that ultimately our employees' and customers' health is the priority. While business needs to continue as usual, we still need a human way of creating connections when we have to go into hiding. If you need to put some of these plays into motion then get in touch here and we will send you something so you can experience it yourself.

Alternatively, email hello@reachdesk.com and one of our team will get in touch.

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