Many events are doing short-turnaround strategy shifts from live events to virtual experiences, and it’s a challenge we aren’t used to tackling—particularly in a hurry and with budgets and a dozen other implications to consider.
But with a few modifications and critical thinking, the same marketing tactics we use for live events can be successful for the virtual space. Here is what we’re learning as we work with clients who are making the shift:
Assess your budget and prioritize flexible tactics. We are all working within reduced budgets, so stick with channels that provide the most flexibility to pivot and respond to changes in the global environment and registration trends. Also, remember that many people are still working from home and, hopefully just for the short term, direct mail and publications are most likely delivering to empty offices.
Set goals for registration and revenue to drive success. While we can’t rely on previous registration trends, establishing goals will help guide strategy, expectations and budget priority. Is this event a critical revenue replacement opportunity? What is your pricing strategy? Are there post-event revenue opportunities for on-demand content? Consider how the format change might impact the bottom line. It might not be realistic to expect a new event structure to perform the same as your live event would, but setting goals allows you to establish new guidelines that you can apply to future virtual events.
Take care of your current customers. Continue to treat current registrants and loyalists as VIPs and make sure they understand their options for future participation. Open registration to them first to get an idea of how things will unfold. This is particularly important as you connect member value with the benefits of event attendance.
Consider timing of message/offer in a new way. You still need deadlines and other pacing markers to help spike registration, but with a few added considerations. First, think through when prospects will realistically decide on participating. Someone who typically secures a hotel and an affordable airfare six months out from your event will most likely wait until closer to the event to decide to travel. If you have a hybrid event, launch both virtual and in-person events together. Real-time data and registration, survey feedback and current global status will help guide your next steps.
Look at audience motivations through a new lens. What used to drive someone to register for an in-person event may deter them now. Understand your attendees’ concerns and build in tactics that address them in an informative and genuine way. Do you have an audience segment that previously had barriers to attending an in-person event? This is a great chance to market a virtual event or component to them. Still having a live event or component? Regional promotion will be more important than ever to encourage drive-in attendance. Your target audience makeup might look different than it did for previous shows.
Don’t abandon successful pre-pandemic strategies and tactics. Apply successful tactics to this new model and see what works. Though your attendees may have different reasons for joining your virtual event, those tried-and-true tactics for your show may still speak to those audiences. If you’re consistent with your value proposition and brand voice, your customers will come along.
The Fixation team, like the rest of the event industry, is learning a lot in real time. Let us know if we can help you with your virtual or hybrid event marketing and communications.