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Like most of the world, COVID-19 has brought the conference and trade show industry to a staggering halt. All major conferences have either been postponed, moved online, or canceled altogether. The pandemic doesn’t bode well for companies that rely heavily on these paid events to generate new business.
“As a small company, to try to generate that new business would be virtually impossible without a trade show,” said Sally Cox, President of food exporter Excel Trade.
So what can be done? How do companies produce new leads when your primary resource has been shuttered?
A crisis, even one as pervasive as Coronavirus, still presents new opportunities. It forces business owners to think outside the box and be innovative—to get back in the trenches and become deep practitioners in digital marketing and advertising.   

3 Ways to Shift your Conference Budget into the Digital Space

It’s understandable that companies are hesitant, especially during this time, to make moves in unfamiliar territory. However, there are several ways companies can utilize their conference budget into new digital opportunities. 
1.) Digital Advertising
If you weren’t utilizing digital advertising before the Coronavirus, now is the time to get started. This approach can be used in several different channels, from Google search and display ads to paid social media, to effectively generate leads. Additionally, it can be used to promote product launches or services planned as part of the event. Another benefit of digital advertising is the ability to precisely target your audience — including buyers who may have been on your conference list.

  • Google Search: This is intent-based. What does that mean? It means users are actively searching your services with the purpose of purchasing. Being front and center in these search results is beyond important.
  • Google Display: Build brand awareness with Google Display. This channel is especially useful with remarketing, as you can follow users who previously visited your site. 
  • YouTube: People love YouTube, and your target audience is no different. However, running a YouTube ad campaign is much different from running a PPC. 
  • Facebook: As one of the most populated social media platforms, advertising is essential to expand your brand awareness and reach the target audience that matters most.
  • LinkedIn: Leveraging LinkedIn ads for your brand is a no-brainer. This platform allows users to connect with the world’s largest audience of active, influential professionals.

2.) Leverage Social Media
While stuck at home, it’s no surprise people are spending more time online. One of the primary destinations has been social media. According to the Economic Times, time spent on social media has increased 42% since the week ended March 27th, compared to average usage in Pre-Covid19 time (January 13th – February 2nd).
The most important thing to know about leveraging social media is content. You absolutely need fresh, new content all the time. Whether in the form of blogs or videos, this is what users want to browse. This content should be created and used to start engagement with users and your customers. People are looking for absolute transparency during these times, but that doesn’t mean they’re not also looking for positive, inspiring content.
Be warned, now is not the time to blast out poorly-considered social media posts. Now is the time to connect with your customers and show them who you are as a brand. People will be looking to see how your business is reacting to the current business environment.
3.) Host Online Events
There are tons of video conferencing sites at your disposal, including virtual conference platforms, that can be utilized for your benefit. Some of these online events could be in the form of:

  • Webinars – Now is a great time to organize a webinar to share the key messages you were planning to convey at the trade show. 
  • Host a Twitter Chat – Engage with your audience on a more personal level. Twitter chats are an amazing way to get a better understanding of your fans, customers, and leads while also allowing you to grow your Twitter reach.
  • Podcast – Even though a podcast is a one-sided medium, it helps in building effective relationships with your listeners. People listen to podcasts because they have something in common with the speaker and the brand the speaker is representing.

It’s very likely conference marketing will never be the same after COVID-19; however, now is the most important time to be visible digitally. Now is not the time to sit on your hands and wait for the dust to settle. In fact, now is the time for innovation, for action.

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