It goes without saying that the coronavirus pandemic has changed our world overnight — people and businesses are in a state of uncertainty as social distancing is becoming a temporary normal. For brands and their marketing teams, social distancing also brings disruption to lead and account acquisition strategies, both of which depend on live events. With growing cancellations and postponements of live events, companies must now redistribute their event budgets. On average, brands were investing 30-40% of their overall marketing budget in events, as 74% of consumers report that engaging in an event marketing experience makes them more likely to purchase a product or service.

Despite the uncertainty and changes in industry live events, many companies see this as an opportunity rather than a challenge. Enterprises like Google, Facebook, IBM, and Adobe aren’t letting the pandemic take down their event strategy. Instead, they’re turning to digital events and experiential marketing to nurture, inform, and engage their customers all while respecting public health and safety measures. But an all-digital event approach may be daunting for some. For example, depending on your company’s level of resources, the number of steps involved in getting a webinar organized, published, and consumed can run the gamut from 15 to 50 or more. But, have no fear — we’ve outlined a three-step method to help you quickly and effectively create a virtual event strategy.

Step 1: Know who your customers are.

The cardinal rule of marketing is to know thy customer. And event marketing, whether live or virtual, is certainly no exception to the rule. In order to launch a successful virtual event, you’ve got to revisit the basics — your customer personas. Ask questions and ask them now:

  1. How current are our personas? Have they changed? Do their priorities still look the same?
  2. Were the personas accurate pre-pandemic? What about post-pandemic — do these roles still exist?

Any obvious shifts in your personas can be resolved using our  “persona lite” process to quickly get your personas back on track.

Step 2: Don’t just sell to your customers, entertain them too. 

Burn-out is real and can happen during COVID-19. The consumption and analysis of information remains constant — people are staying informed about city and state updates while juggling work-related projects and priorities and the family’s school schedules. It’s no wonder people are running out of steam and being more decisive about what content they consume. Both Instagram and Facebook saw a 6.7–13.8% decline in post engagement by U.S. users.

Consider being selective on the amount and type of information you’re publishing. Be mindful and provide content that’s informative, light-hearted, and mixes in positive entertainment. For example, Forrester’s SiriusDecisions is giving its customers an outlet for a mental break during its upcoming 2020 Summit conference: Maroon5 will be headlining with a live virtual concert. Now, we know everyone doesn’t have event budgets like Forrester, but we can also be creative and offer something that’s fun, like a live-stream raffle, game, Q&A, or makeshift concert if you’ve got a talented employee or two (we know we’ve got some talented musicians on the UDG team).

Step 3: Beef up your content game.

With live events and entertainment paused for the foreseeable future, digital content demand is ramping up, but not just any digital content will do. Customers want to know if you can solve their problems and how fast you can do it. In an ever-growing digitally noisey world, brands will need to start investing in and building a content and storytelling strategy that isn’t full of fluff and that’s considerate of their customers’ time and priorities.

You don’t have to break the bank to produce digital events and the content needed to make them successful (e.g. Maroon5’s digital concert). Instead of starting from scratch, you can refresh existing, relevant content. Take inventory of your existing content — whitepapers, videos, blogs, podcasts, etc. — and determine which assets can be repurposed and re-curated to serve today’s customer needs. Doing a content inventory will also highlight whether you have any content gaps and reveal opportunities to create additional content that complements any existing messaging.

Before overhauling your marketing strategies, be sure to take your team through these three steps. Even if your customers and prospects can’t attend live events, they’re still searching for brands and content that can entertain, inspire, educate, and inform them. The digital world offers quick-thinking businesses a chance to nurture their audiences with valuable, engaging content, and working with a quick-thinking partner like Unreal Digital Group can help you achieve this.

Contact us if you have any questions or would like to learn more about how to shift quickly from live to virtual events. And, be sure to follow us on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook so you don’t miss out on additional strategies and insights.