Ideas For Replacing Conferences (and Other Offline Marketing) With Online Marketing

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There’s been a huge shift in how you can market and sell. Offline activities are gone overnight. There are no more conferences to table at, sponsor, or attend. There are no more networking events. No more client appreciation dinners.

But business hasn’t stopped, and it won’t. Companies that can cope with the sudden shift from offline to online will thrive, while those that struggle to make the shift or make it too slowly are in trouble.

What follows is a list of ideas for how to shift specific offline budgets and activities online. Offline activities are listed in the left-hand column, with their online, digital equivalents in the right-hand column. More detail for each major category is provided on the next page.

Replacing Conferences 

Sponsorship or Tabling at a Conference

Sponsoring a conference, or event buying a table at one, can yield huge results because of the focus and amount of people there. Podcasts and online summits are arranged the same way: they attract a specific audience for a specific reason in a single place. Conferences, online summits, and podcasts are usually focused on a specific problem (i.e. “tax updates”), function (i.e. “sales enablement”), company (i.e. “Salesforce Dreamforce”), or industry focus (i.e. manufacturing).

Potential replacements: 

  • Podcast sponsorship
  • Summit sponsorship
  • Podcast creation, appearances, or other content partnerships
  • Create your own large content asset (like a summit)
  • Run your own webinars or pre-recorded videos
  • Create long-form educational assets like courses or ebooks (or this document!)

Speaking Engagements

One of the fastest ways to build trust is by speaking on stage at a conference, whether it’s a keynote, breakout session, or even a small workshop.

Potential replacements:

  • Podcast appearances by SMEs (subject matter experts)
  • Create and host your own podcast, even in a limited-run series
  • Run weekly or monthly webinars and Q+A sessions using Crowdcast or Zoom
  • Run LinkedIn live videos if you have a following there
  • Appear on summits hosted and run by others
  • Create partnership webinars with companies that have audiences

Running Your Own Conference

If you already run your own conference, it’s a lot of work to set up and the benefits are enormous. Without the possibility of gathering your audience and market in person in the near future, the next best option for you is to develop your own online summit (or quickly pivot your in-person conference to an online summit like Outreach did).

Potential replacement:

Develop an online summit using an out-of-the-box tool like Hey Summit and:

  • Have speakers record their talks
  • Publish the audio as a podcast
  • Ask speakers to help promote the summit by posting on social media (LinkedIn, Twitter) and emailing their lists
  • Partner with companies that complement your audience and can help pay for execution, marketing, and assist with promotion
  • Promote your summit and use your marketing and sales teams to follow properly with the most interested registrants and leads

Replacing Smaller In-Person Gatherings 

Small Workshops 

Small workshops are a great way to give targeted help to clients and prospects. They typically offer more interaction and more application to each attendee’s specific use case and situation.

Potential replacement: 

Host your own workshop to a limited number of guests that you hand-select, and use a live whiteboarding tool like Miro to increase interaction and participation. Having a plan for participation is critical in an online setting, so make sure you have several different layers that ensure more engagement than a lecture-style webinar (because no one needs more of those). And trust me: use video. It’ll be a 10x more engaging experience.

Small Gatherings (like Networking Events and Meetups)

Small gatherings like networking events and meetups are a great way to meet people in your industry, and deepen existing relationships with clients, prospects, partners, peers, and more.

Potential replacement:

Host your own networking events using Zoom’s breakout rooms feature. This allows you to do a speed-networking-style approach to bring people together, introduce them, and also allow them to have an “out” by leaving the breakout room. Periodically mix up the break out rooms, say every 5 or 10 minutes, so people have a chance to interact with each other.

You may also consider contacting a Meetup organizer in your area and offer to help them move their offline event online. This allows you to bring the group back together, and be the facilitator of the group’s ongoing interaction.

Client Appreciation Events and Dinners

Client appreciation events can be important for strengthening relationships with your best clients. You can’t duplicate a client dinner online, but you can still show appreciation.

Potential replacements: 

  • Run a remote appreciation event with exclusive, client-only content and send them something you would’ve bought in person like lunch, wine, or similar
  • Run client networking events where you introduce clients to each other who can trade notes with each other about how they’re succeeding

Offline Advertising

Advertising in Public Spaces

If you’ve done offline advertising like billboards or direct mail, you have a new challenge. Billboards and public space advertising suddenly have reduced utility. And direct mail is problematic since people are working from home.

Potential replacements:

  • Increased digital display advertising and retargeting
  • Increased content and brand marketing, promoted through your existing channels as well as paid traffic
  • Cold and warm email outreach
  • LinkedIn outreach and/or LinkedIn ad targeting based on industry, title

Radio and TV Advertising

Radio and TV advertising remain relatively unaffected by the stay home order. Radio listenership is up in the last few weeks, and TV (especially streaming) consumption is substantially up as well.

Conclusion

If you’ve relied on in-person marketing and selling – no matter what it is – you can replace at least some of it with online marketing. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but even remote selling can be done with great effect online.

Take some time to jot down what offline marketing was accomplishing for you and your company, then look for online equivalents.

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