How to Stay Connected With the Marketing Community Amid Conference Cancellations
Amid necessary conference cancellations this spring, marketing leaders are searching for alternatives. For many, these conferences were a venue to grow networks and make valuable connections with people in the marketing community.
But all is not lost.
Now is the time to leverage the channels we already have to find creative ways to connect with new partners and strengthen existing relationships. This is not the time to sell. Be kind, not promotional – or risk losing business and respect.
Here’s how to handle unplanned cancellations of events and to instead successfully connect to your community digitally during these uncertain, remote times.
Personalize Your Outreach to Check in on Clients and Contacts
Be a good neighbor and take the time to reach out to the members of your professional community first. Don’t let a period of minimal face-to-face contact erode your network – you have a chance to solidify the relationships you already have.
By reaching out outside of regular communications, you can show your connection that you value your partnership beyond business and hope to maintain it for years to come. Reach out to them with a promotion, on the other hand, and you’ll leave a bad taste in their mouth.
Be compassionate in your message. For example, you might say something like, “Hi there, just wanted to check in and say thank you for all you’re doing. We know how crazy things are. We value you.”
There are several ways to communicate this message to remote contacts, so long as there’s a personal touch. Consider sending the following:
- A postcard. Take the time to write your note by hand, if you’re able.
- A gift. If it’s appropriate, send a gift that expresses your gratitude and solidarity with your contact. The messaging here might be something along the lines of, “Enjoy this treat on us as a way to take care of yourself. Now is as good a time as ever to say how grateful we are to work with you.”
- An email or e-card. Digital communication might be easiest if you don’t have your contacts’ home addresses or don’t feel comfortable sending something to a personal address. Be sure to compose messages that are personal to each recipient, rather than a generic mass email.
Go From Conference Cancellations to Virtual Events
Another great alternative for marketers facing conference cancellations is to come up with ideas for virtual events. We need community more than ever during this time, and the digital tools at our disposal are well-suited to help people gather and share ideas. Virtual meetings may help build brand awareness, but their main purpose is to facilitate conversations between real people in real time.
One option is to hold an online version of the conference you were planning. Virtual conferences have already grown more popular in recent years, and an added benefit is that they open up attendance to an even broader audience. They’re also far cheaper than an in-person event, and many have the option of providing the content on-demand, which can benefit those who can't be available for the full event due to scheduling.
A virtual conference maintains the same boosts to your brand as an in-person event: You’ll make your brand more credible by associating with industry experts, and you’ll build your network.
Hubspot has a helpful guide to planning and executing a virtual conference. Here are a few of the takeaways:
- Get the right tools for speaker presentations. Video conferencing apps such as Zoom and BlueJeans work well for smaller events. YouTube Live is a good option for an event with a high number of attendees. And there are numerous platforms you can explore with a variety of virtual event platforms to further discuss your needs.
- Create web assets for your event such as landing pages, a conference agenda, and individual session pages. This will provide attendees with a smooth online experience to navigate.
- Record your presentations and make them shareable with your community after the event.
A smaller-scale alternative to hosting a full online conference is to invite connections in your community to have an informal online meet-up. That way, you can touch base and listen to new perspectives while demonstrating your brand’s role as a helping hand.
Update Your Social Strategies to Start Conversations
In addition to individual outreach and event organizing, another way for marketers to build their communities through remote communications is to open online dialogues. Find answers to the questions you’re asking during this difficult time from your own community and provide answers for others along the way.
For example, take to LinkedIn to pose a question to your network. You might ask, “What is your team doing to plan ahead?” or “How are you staying connected?”
Your discussion can bring in voices from outside your own network, too, which allows you to make new connections in the process. You can start these conversations on any social platform where you or your brand has a solid following.
Reach Out and Look Toward a Future of Digital Connection
Now is the time for the marketing community to come together by leveraging channels in new ways. Be creative in shaping new conversations and don’t be afraid to start dialogues. In marketing, as in all fields, we need leaders to help forge the virtual path forward with empathy as we adjust to our new normal, dealing with everything from conference cancellations and beyond. A respectful approach and sincere outreach will serve you far better in the long run.
Leeatt Rothschild has over 15 years of experience at the intersection of business, sustainability, and brand purpose. In 2016 she founded Packed with Purpose, a corporate gifting company that embeds social impact into the everyday act of gift-giving, from empowering underserved women with job skills to supporting sustainability efforts. You can find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter @PackedwPurpose