COVID-19 has forced marketers to re-evaluate all of their 2020 plans—especially when it comes to events marketing. With businesses no longer able to host in-person events, many are wondering where they can reinvest their events’ budgets in order to sustain demand and continue marketing their brand.
To find out the best course of action, Knotch recently hosted a webinar on marketing response planning for COVID-19. During the webinar, we surveyed over 400 attendees representing a wide variety of brands and industries on what they would be doing with their events budgets throughout Q2. Our data shows that 43% said they would be reallocating all of their events budget or some of their events budget to digital channels. Another 43% said they would be cutting their events budget entirely, or cutting it partially.
14% of respondents said they had no plans to change how they were allocating their events budget.
For most brands that have marketing spend to reinvest, digital channels are proving to be their best alternative. That’s because digital channels are one of the only places left where brands can reach their customers directly (another channel seeing an influx is TV advertisement). And with COVID-19 pushing more people online than ever before, there are plenty of customers to be reached.
If your brand is looking to reinvest in digital channels, you’re probably thinking through which digital strategies are best for you. Here are a few ways we recommend reinvesting your events budget in digital channels.
Content marketing is a marketing strategy in which a brand creates educational and engaging content designed to foster trust and brand affinity for their target audience. Content marketing takes many forms: blog posts, data reports, whitepapers, ebooks, infographics, videos, and customer testimonials are all considered content marketing.
In fact, what you’re reading right now can be classified as content marketing.
There are multiple reasons brands should turn to content marketing during a crisis. For starters, content marketing helps you retain mindshare among your target audience during a time when their attention is being pulled in many different directions. By retaining mindshare, you can be sure your customers return to you when the crisis subsides.
Secondly, as our data indicates, some brands are reducing their marketing spend. This means the amount of noise on the internet is reduced, giving your brand a better opportunity to stand out.
However, you must be careful about the type of content you’re creating during a crisis. Our research has found that brands should be focused on creating content that provides their readers with value, rather than content that is overtly transactional.
To do so, try creating content that appeals to emotion and can provide your audience with reassurance during this uncertain time.
“In times of increased uncertainty and floods of negative news cycles, brands ought to re-evaluate their approach to storytelling, and become less transactional,” says Liya Sharif, VP of marketing at Qualcomm. “The relevance of content and hopefulness for the future are two critical elements that we at Qualcomm are infusing into our content today.”
“We need to share stories of positivity right now,” adds Cristina Jones, SVP of customer marketing, brand partnerships, and C-suite engagement at Salesforce. “How people are getting through this. How to prioritize what's important. How to be more empathetic."
Our data shows that brands leaning into COVID content across owned & paid channels are seeing the fastest increase in positive sentiment toward their brand (20% increase in just two weeks) as well as 50% higher engagement across this content.
A webinar is a live event that happens virtually through digital channels—and they're proving to be a valuable tool for marketers during COVID-19. This makes sense, considering webinars are the next closest thing to face-to-face interaction.
At Knotch, we’ve been running weekly webinars on different topics related to marketing and COVID-19 for several weeks. This has allowed us to interact with our audience directly while providing helpful information.
The return on investment has been significant, and in just a few weeks, we’ve been able to reach thousands of people within our audience. Moreover, the sentiment that we collected at the end of each webinar has been overwhelmingly positive, which shows that there’s strong demand for this topic, and format, right now.
“If your company does something much better than everyone else, now’s the time to teach the world about it with a webinar,” says Brett Friedman, a director at marketing tech startup Marpipe. “The key is to get people talking about it before the big day. Share your link on all your social profiles, in communities, and with your friends.”
Like content marketing, email marketing is a great way to stay top-of-mind with your customers and provide them with helpful information. But once again, you have to be careful about the type of content you include in your email.
Chances are you’ve received an email over the past month from a brand explaining what they’re doing in response to COVID-19. This is a good place to start. If you operate a brick-and-mortar business, you may want to remind your customers that your stores are closed for now, but they may be able to get what they need from you online.
An email from coffee company Blue Bottle to its customers (Source: Blue Bottle)
Other good reasons to email your customers include providing useful information (such as how to stay safe), explaining how your business has been impacted or changed in some way that will affect your customers (like airlines), or if you’re taking action to help with the relief efforts, such as donating money or supplies.
Avoid sending an email if you don’t have any information to provide that is of value to your customers (i.e. nothing has changed with your business). As with all marketing emails, make sure it’s concise and easy to skim.
“Email again has been another mainstay for our marketing team but the tone has shifted and so has our performance,” says Samantha Russell, chief marketing and business development officer at digital marketing agency Twenty Over Ten. “For example, our monthly newsletter that went out pre-pandemic received 221 clicks and 1,678 opens whereas our newsletter this month that only included a roundup of COVID-19 marketing resources received 1,877 opens and 311 clicks.”
Getting the Most Out of Your Reallocated Events Budget
Marketers are going to have to learn to live without events for the foreseeable future. But that doesn’t mean your brand has to suffer. By reinvesting in digital channels like content marketing, webinars, and email marketing, you can deepen your relationship with your customers and drive brand loyalty, which will ultimately get your customers to your events in the future.
For more ideas on how to optimize your crisis content & communications, visit our COVID-19 resource center.