March 06, 2020 Matt Heinz
As conferences, trade shows and other in-person events to adjust to global health concerns, Matt Heinz, President and CEO of Heinz Marketing, shares a few thoughts on how the conference ecosystem can pause and rethink its go-to-market strategy. Originally published on heinzmarketing.com.
Is nature accelerating a trend that been a long time coming?
The usual rush of spring events in B2B sales and marketing has almost entirely been eliminated in just the past couple days, in an appropriate abundance of caution. Countless hours of work by organizers, presenters, sponsors and even attendees – gone.
Or are they? Many of these companies are now planning virtual summits, a series of webinars and other online formats to maintain a version of what had been intended in person.
What’s really been lost? Sunk costs all around for sure.
From a value perspective, the primary variable that has really been eliminated is the venue. If it weren’t for the fear of spreading this dangerous virus unnecessarily further, these shows would still go on – and would likely be deemed successes by all parties involved.
So that tells me there’s still clearly value there. How much of it is tied in the actual channel (i.e. attending general sessions and just watching the big screen anyway, having another booth to staff, sponsoring another after-hours party) vs what can be enumerated and replaced elsewhere?
Too often we get caught in a cycle of incremental thinking, making certain assumptions about what we have to do. Since we’re going to that trade show anyway, how do we make our booth more attractive? How do we make our chochkies more desirable? How do we stand out from everyone else sponsoring, presenting, shouting at the crowd? That’s incremental thinking.
Exponential thinking, for example, means eliminating trade shows entirely. It’s no surprise or secret that many marketers loathe the trade show circuit but have considered it a necessary evil. It’s historically been too scary of a thought to not show up, to not be there when “everybody else” will.
So now that those shows are literally gone, now that a virus has leveled the playing field, what will you do?
There’s still significant value and need here:
- Organizers still desire a platform to share their story, gather their customers and build greater market share, sales pipeline and more.
- Sponsors still desire a targeted channel to meet new prospective customers and fill their own sales pipelines
- Attendees will still seek an opportunity to learn, to network with their peers, to benefit from parallel thinking in other organizations
These needs exist independent of the channel, independent of the venue.
Most companies that have produced and/or sponsored events this spring will either wait things out on the sidelines or attempt to replace those in-person shows with webinars. And unfortunately, most of those efforts will fall flat, fail to generate value, or at minimum just look like what everyone else is doing.
This is not an opportunity to take advantage of a dangerous and scary situation, let me be clear.
This is an opportunity to rethink our go-to-market strategies, to practice some exponential thinking, to reinvent how we create, deliver and build on the value that’s very much needed, especially in the absence of traditional means.
- Could some of those trade show resources be better deployed in digital prospect experiences?
- Could you convert mass-scale event participation into local in-market events that may be smaller but have a bigger impact on target accounts?
- How about organizing your customers and industry community into local user groups to replicate part of the community-building at large events that has been lost?
- Perhaps these include live events eventually, but could start with an online community, Slack channel or other format – either organized by your company or orchestrated/supported with a local customer/evangelist leader
- Can you convert the usual badge scan “was she qualified” guessing into an investment in greater intelligence and intent data on behalf of the broader account and buying committee, not just who happened to stop by the booth?
- Get your team together (in a group video call if you’re working remotely) and explore/brainstorm something that just a couple weeks ago may have felt less reasonable.
Sometimes companies and leaders are bold enough to make exponential leaps in value and innovation.
Sometimes the market compels us to do it.