4 ways to generate sales leads when events and expos are cancelled

Have you had success at events, conferences and expos in the past?

When you’ve got a stand, or doing a talk, or both, events, conferences and expos can be incredibly useful for generating sales leads.

For a $5,000 investment (on average, if you’re setting up a stand and at least a couple members of the team need to travel wherever it is and stay over), companies can come back with $50,000 or more worth of orders. Depending on your product or service, of course, and the average order value/what new customers are worth annually.

In most cases, in-person events are a worthwhile investment. According to a DemandGen report, 53% of respondents said events generate the highest conversion rates.

And then Covid-19 hit, and everything changed. In many countries and regions, in-person events would have been a nightmare. Any one of them could have turned into a super-spreader event that could have caused countless infections, and potentially deaths. So everything was cancelled, and even though vaccine rollouts have started, it’s likely that in many countries and sectors, events and expos might not start again until 2022.

What can businesses do until in-person events start again?

This article is particularly for those who’ve benefited from events, trade shows, and expos, and have felt the effect of not being able to attend.

Recode notes that “the direct economic loss” of events and expos being cancelled is at least $500 million, according to PredictHQ data.

To ensure the losses are minimal, here are 4 ways to pull in new customers now in-person events are cancelled. One of the advantages is, they should all cost less than what you’d normally invest in attending (having a stand) at an in-person event.

Providing the budget for an event, or expo, or multiple ones throughout the year is unaffected by the economy, you should find an even higher ROI if deployed the right way.

#1: Attend virtual events

This is a good way to test the water, attend a couple of virtual events. Sign-up and see what they’re like, see if you can use them to interact with potential sales leads online, and meet with them in virtual break-out rooms. Use this opportunity to collect data from potential sales leads and start conversations.

Attending virtual events is also a good way of testing the water. See whether those in your sector would be interested in webinars, or even an event run by your company.

#2: Run a series of webinars

Online webinars are a way of doing an event on a small-scale. Each one could be under an hour. A single talk, with time for questions afterwards, on a single topic. Pick one that your company knows really well. A was you can highlight how you add value, then design a webinar and content around that.

It’s going to require marketing, and software, so take a look at what we recommend below for a webinar. Do as much as you can, with anything between 4 to 8 weeks runtime before the webinar. Aim to get as many potential sales leads as you can; ideally 100 or more.

If you can run successfully, you might consider putting together a series of webinars and generating even more leads. Or hosting a virtual event. Either option is likely to be a similar amount of work, and if one webinar generates leads, then a series or a virtual event should be even more worthwhile.

#3: Host a virtual event

Now you’ve attended virtual events, and maybe run a webinar or two, you could host an online event. Before you start promoting it, there are a few things you need to take care of first:

  • Pick a topic, or series of topics your senior team can talk about;
  • Select software that will ensure a successful event (think about features: aim for one that replicates virtually everything you’d experience at an in-person event, such as breakout rooms, stands, etc.);
  • Next, plan the marketing strategy. You need to reach as many potential customers as possible, because everyone who attends should be a viable lead;
  • Aim to use a multi-channel approach, including leveraging your CRM, Newsletters, social channels, advertising, and even direct mail to clients and prospects.
  • Build up a database of sign-ups, those who are going to attend, of at least 100 to make it worthwhile;
  • Another way to increase the popularity, and therefore numbers attending would be to work with media in your sector to promote it. You could also work with other prominent thought leaders in your industry, and give them a speaking slot.
  • Once you’re confident it will be a success, announce the date and kick the marketing up a gear.
  • Make sure the software works before the actual day, and that people can have meetings in virtual break-out rooms, and most importantly, you’ve got ways of contacting every potential lead after the event.
  • If the software records the talks and any other content you want from the event, then even better. You can use this as marketing to generate future growth, long after the online event.

#4: Go analogue: Direct mail campaigns

Either alongside, or instead of digital events, you can use direct mail.

Go analogue in a digital world. Have flyers or brochures designed and post them out to a database of potential customers. If you generate a return from the first, then run several. Aim to leverage the benefits of doing something different, with a direct mail campaign.

In-person events being cancelled doesn’t mean you have to accept the revenue loss. Even if you didn’t have the chance, or time, to do anything to replace them last year, you can in 2021. Start with attending other events, and then either run your own (webinars, or hosting events) and market to your customers more creatively, using an increased digital ramp-up, or direct mail campaigns.

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