Industry Update
Opinion Article 4 March 2020

Events Canceled Due to Coronavirus? Here’s How to Replace Lost Business

By Daniel E. Craig, Founder, Reknown

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E. Craig

This week, the travel industry is reeling after the cancellation of ITB Berlin and various other events due to COVID-19.

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Whether this is just a blip on the radar or the start of a prolonged downturn, we don't have the luxury of waiting to find out. We need to regroup and re-strategize now.

For tech vendors and travel suppliers, tradeshows provide a rare opportunity to meet in person with hundreds of clients, prospects and industry partners, launch products, hold demos, give presentations and build relationships. After a successful event, attendees come home with a long list of leads, renewals and upsell opportunities.

So how will you replace this business? You could throw more money at paid media, but who wants to spend more money than necessary right now?

One proven, economical alternative is content marketing. By producing and distributing materials designed to engage and inform clients and prospects on important topics related to your business, you can drive awareness, website traffic and sales leads.

1. Host a Webinar

Your presentation that got canceled? Why not turn it into a webinar? Webinars are a great way to bring together large numbers of people without having to worry about travel, germs or competitors circling around.

A good webinar can attract hundreds of registrants, much more than a typical event presentation and at a much lower cost. And because people must sign up to attend, you can generate lots of hot, juicy leads for the sales department.

Here's my formula for successful webinars:

  • Pick a timely, relevant topic with broad appeal within your target markets.
  • Explain what the topic means, why it's important, and how to take advantage of opportunities and overcome challenges.
  • Include tips, examples, data, visuals and best practices. Keep it interactive with guest speakers, polls, discussion and a Q&A.
  • Feature knowledgeable presenters who are articulate and well-prepared.
  • Include a brief overview of your company and how your product ties in with the theme, but otherwise avoid promotional content.

To learn more, check out So You Want to Host a Webinar.

2. Write an Article

Now that you're not stuck hosting boozy client dinners, why not write an article on a topic you're passionate about? Many hospitality sites will publish editorial articles and opinion pieces for free, as long as they're well-written and non-promotional.

When choosing a topic, bear in mind that people are in survival mode right now. Fear and anxiety are running high. In addition to the usual priorities of driving revenue, saving costs and keeping guests happy, hoteliers and travel operators are looking for ways to reassure guests they're safe, prevent cancellations and convince people to travel.

Keep in mind that: 1) Writing is hard, and 2) To be a thought leader you need thoughts. If you're spinning your wheels, hire a professional who can articulate your ideas, shape them into a compelling story, and make you sound even smarter than you are.

3. Create Blog & Website Content

Good blog content drives website traffic and engages visitors, although it's not as efficient as gated content at generating leads because access is open. Blogs also provide a valuable platform for content that doesn't quite suit other marketing channels.

In addition to the usual news, client stories, interviews and updates, share tips on how to use your products to mitigate the impact of coronavirus. Provide a forum for answering client questions, sharing information and advice, and finding creative solutions to challenges. If you don't have a blog, beef up your website.

4. Publish a Guide

Like webinars, guides are an excellent way to drive qualified leads. If the material is gated, which I recommend, people have to register to access it. Choose a topic that generates a lot of questions from clients and prospects, and then shape the answers into a guide or tip sheet, following the same formula as for webinars above.

Like all materials, guides should be high-quality, informative and professional. Avoid hype and clickbait; promise what you will deliver, and then deliver what you promise. The author should have in-depth knowledge of your product and the hospitality industry; otherwise the material won't ring true. If you don't have the talent in house, hire a professional.

5. Write Case Studies

With occupancy down, your clients may be more open to collaborating on case studies. Case studies are an essential marketing tool because they bring your product to life at a critical time in the sales cycle when prospects are seriously considering a purchase.

Remember, it's not about your product, it's about your client. It's a story about how your client uses your product and the impressive results they achieved. Prospects use these stories to envision how your product would help them solve their problems and achieve their objectives.

6. Shoot a Video

With fewer events to plan, maybe now is the time to produce that video you've been putting off. If coronavirus has a lasting impact, the use of video content, video conferencing and live streaming will skyrocket. The recent launch of FunnelTV, a video platform for connecting hospitality and tech companies, comes at a perfect time.

Bear in mind that it's much easier to get video wrong than right. It needs to be storyboarded, scripted, cast, rehearsed and produced professionally. That said, don't overspend. Corporate videos, even good ones, rarely generate a lot of views, and their lifespan tends to be relatively short due to changes to clients, products, logos, etc.

7. Fire Up Those Social Media Channels

Human beings are inherently social. If we're deprived of public events, we'll spend more time on social media. If you've let your social media efforts lapse, it's time to reengage.

LinkedIn is by far the best platform for business networking and info-sharing, and Techtalk.travel and HotelTechReport provide valuable learning resources and networking opportunities. Take advantage of your extra time to learn, share and connect.

A few last words: Rather than produce one-offs, choose a few big topics and develop a series of materials around them. When I produce a webinar, I repurpose the content into a guide, case study, article and blog posts. It's a great way to optimize the material and maximize its reach.

During this time of uncertainty when many people are avoiding events, a well-executed content strategy will help your company stay visible and relevant. Who knows, if your content is really good, you might even be invited to speak at conferences when they become a thing again. Bon courage.

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Daniel E. Craig

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