Pivoting Live Event Strategies in the Wake of COVID-19

By Evelyn Hoover  |  August 27, 2020

Man social distancing

When the pandemic put a hold on in-person events, two MSPC clients took advantage of that pause to re-examine their marketing and content strategies for 2020 and beyond.

On a status call a few weeks ago, a client mentioned that his company has saved upward of $400,000 this year on live events that were cancelled or had gone virtual because of COVID-19. That’s obviously a double-edged sword: It’s great for his marketing budget, but his sales teams are taking a hit as they try to navigate getting quality face time with their clients.

In-person B2B events have been a major casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in 2020, many conferences and trade shows were canceled. Others took the virtual route. This disruption has sent many marketing departments searching for new ways to connect with clients.

Going from 15-plus face-to-face events per year to none has been just one of the huge marketing shifts that Minneapolis-based Evolving Solutions has made to deal with COVID-19.

The regional company’s robust and well-developed events strategy helps forge relationships with clients and prospects in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and North and South Dakota. Many Evolving Solutions’ hosted events were intimate gatherings, such as a hosted suite at a Minnesota Twins game.

“We’ve had to pivot and refocus our live events to digital ones that highlight our technical team’s capabilities,” says Beth Naffziger, director of marketing at Evolving Solutions. Each Thursday, the company hosts a one-hour webinar that’s geared toward teaching technical solutions that clients are interested in and treats attendees to lunch via a DoorDash gift card.

Maintaining a personal connection with a virtual event isn’t easy. Dallas-based Access Healthcare went through a little trial and error before settling on a method that serves the company and its prospective clients well.

Rather than exhibiting in a booth at a virtual trade show, the company has found events that feature 15-minute one-on-one meetings with carefully matched prospects. “This has gone really well and we’ve had meaningful conversations. Some have been taken offline as well,” says Jessica Cooley, chief marketing officer of Access Healthcare. The company provides revenue cycle management services to healthcare organizations throughout the U.S.

Marketing and Content Marketing Focus

Along with the conference pivot, both companies are also reallocating time and conference travel budgets to re-examine marketing priorities and their brands.

Evolving Solutions is working to strengthen its marketing foundation. “We want to come out of this a stronger brand,” Naffziger explains. To that end, the company is re-evaluating its marketing tools to determine which parts of the stack are currently working to reach clients and improving analytics in an effort to use tools more effectively.

Content marketing is another central focus for Evolving Solutions and its business partners, which include IBM, Red Hat, HPE, Nutanix and numerous other technology companies. “It’s even more important now to make sure that our digital content is a value add, relevant, it’s time sensitive, it’s important,” she says. “We’re engaging with our own brand and we’re working with our partners to provide that type of content that can be pushed out into different mediums.”

For Access Healthcare, the COVID-19 events pause gave the company time to reconsider its place in the revenue cycle management space, which has myriad competitors.

The company is undertaking a thorough review of its content marketing strategy to closely examine what website content is performing well and what should be changed. One goal is to amp up the blog cadence to keep the brand top of mind with clients and prospects. “We want to understand where we need to go with the content and the kind of topics and messaging to hit the right audiences,” adds Regan Mosher, director of marketing.

To showcase industry leadership, Cooley is also considering placing articles in industry trade journals.

Live Event Social Media Strategies

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to marketing. That’s more true now than it was before the pandemic.

Twitter and LinkedIn remain the social media focus for Evolving Solutions, which differentiates the two social streams between its technical and line-of-business audiences. By continuing to push out content on social channels daily, the company works to remain top of mind for clients and prospects.

Both Evolving Solutions and Access Healthcare are also pursuing paid social opportunities to augment their organic social reach on some content and provide additional lead gen opportunities.

Looking Ahead to Live Events in 2021

As brands look ahead to 2021, no one is certain what the live events landscape will look like. Will it be all virtual, all in-person or a hybrid model? Now is a good time to begin looking at events planning and think about ways to make content marketing a part of those events.

Read next: 11 Subject Matter Expert Content Creation Tips

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