ALL businesses have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, the impacts have been minor. But for others, there is major interruption of normal business practices driving the need for dramatic shifts in event plans and innovative financial strategizing.
How Can Businesses Persist Through The Pandemic?
If you haven’t been impacted in a major way by the current state of affairs, you probably know someone else who has.
My good friend and referral partner Savannah Becerril is the founder of Go Savvy – an experiential event planning company known for its savvy organization of creative and memorable events for businesses in the Houston area. As you can imagine, she orchestrated several swift shifts in event plans in the past couple weeks due to coronavirus.
We’re all doing our part to flatten the curve. COVID-19 is a serious public health threat. It’s essential to respect federal, state, and local mandates by putting a pause on public gatherings (at least for the next 1-2 months). But for many, in-person events are the cornerstone of their businesses.
So how can businesses host safe and successful events in the midst of social-distancing?
Postponing is one option. Thankfully, Go Savvy works with a network of supportive vendors, sponsors, and speakers, so they were able to successfully postpone all the events that could be postponed.
But what about the majority of businesses who don’t have the same level of support? Many have taken on financial losses and/or are experiencing setbacks in their company goals.
This past week, Savannah and I put our heads together to talk about ways we could help companies persist through this pandemic.
If your business or a business you know is looking to generate positivity and persistence, then there is no better time to start experiential branding. This creative marketing approach can help businesses make a positive post-pandemic comeback.
What is Experiential Branding?
Experiential branding (a.k.a. engagement marketing) is a relatively new marketing term. Typically, when we think about company events, we imagine things like networking events or trade shows – events where sometimes the only thing enticing members to attend is the alcohol, evening networking mixers, or parties.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is experiential branding – it provides meaningful brand-centered experiences for attendees. While it sounds like event marketing, the experience doesn’t always have to be at an event. There are ways to create experiences without gathering in-person!
Now is the perfect time to spark your creative energy and make an experiential branding plan.
Capitalize on Your Down-Time
American business leaders constantly race to meet deadlines. Now that we’ve been forced to slow down, we are quickly becoming professional couch potatoes. Put down the remote. Take a break from Netflix and Disney+ to take advantage of that time instead. Don’t let the opportunity of time pass by!
Here’s how you can start capitalizing on your downtime to recover your business.
3 Steps to Recover From Coronavirus-Impacted Events
There is a light at the end of this coronavirus tunnel. In these uncertain times, you can still take certain measures to recover from COVID-19’s impact on your business.
1. Piece Together Your Path Forward
First, determine whether your events should be postponed, canceled, or moved online. Here’s how to decide on the best path forward.
When To Cancel
Although Go Savvy prefers to postpone events, they understand it isn’t always a wise or cost-effective decision.
Was your event seasonal-themed?
If so, it might not make sense to postpone the event into a different season. A Spring Fashion Showcase wouldn’t have the same allure for attendees in August when they’re already anticipating Fall looks. It’s better to cut your losses.
When To Postpone
When your event isn’t centered around a time-sensitive theme but gathering in-person is still essential, postponing is in everyone’s best interest.
Speakers, sponsors, staff, vendors, and attendees who were excited for your event will be thankful they can still attend later. Your event could fare the same or even better a couple months down the road when public gatherings resume.
When To Go Virtual
If your event was going to happen in-person, but the theme of the event wasn’t tied to a specific time or place, going virtual is a very lucrative option.
You’ll be able to bypass any uncertainties in rescheduling with venues and expand your audience to a larger geographic area – world wide if you choose!
At any other point in history, being together while being apart would be an anomaly. But modern technology has made it possible. We have an array of free and fun online platforms at our disposal. Put them to use!
2. Communicate Event Changes Effectively
After you’ve decided on your event changes, you’ll need to create a plan to communicate them effectively.
The way you communicate with your community will make all the difference in your recovery success. For tips on this, check out last month’s blog post on communicating through coronavirus. In order of importance, communicate with your planner, vendors, and then finally the attendees.
Reach Out To Venue & Vendors
Review your venue and vendor contracts. Make sure there are options available during emergency and global situations like COVID-19. If not, take this as an opportunity to work with your venue and vendors to renegotiate terms that can work well for all parties.
Have A Sensitive & Strategic Refund Policy
If you cancel your event, make sure to offer a refund to all parties involved. Even if you decide on postponing, you should offer this option too. Offering a refund provides more transparency and trust for your brand – building brand equity.
However, in the case of rescheduled events, the key is to offer a refund but not to streamline it. This will make it clear that you’re still excited and positive about hosting the future event while still being sensitive to attendees and vendors’ financial circumstances. Most people who truly support your event will bypass requesting a refund and wait for your event’s new date.
Keep Attendees In The Loop
In the case of canceled events, keep your community in the loop about what factored into your decision. They’ll be grateful that your business is committed to taking public safety seriously. Spin the situation as positively as possible by directing them to other events that you have on queue in the future.
For rescheduled events, you’ll want to keep your current audience and grow it before the new date. Keep the excitement and anticipation alive! Social media and web presence are key here. That’s why now is a crucial time to invest in your business marketing.
Traffic & Conversion Summit postponed their annual summit for entrepreneurs and digital marketers to later in the year. BUT they also put together a virtual summit (which you can still access on their Facebook page) for everyone to view. They already had the content from years past; they just had to package it to build even more hype for the postponed event.
3. Improve Event Experience
Seeing the good in this very grim situation isn’t easy. But here’s a silver lining: this situation presents an opportunity to improve your event experiences.
Think back to when you first started planning your event. Was there something you initially expected to include that didn’t make the cut? Did you discover something exciting to add to the event, but it was too late? Well, now is your opportunity!
And one of the most optimal ways to improve your business events during these uncertain times is through experiential branding.
Why Companies Need to Invest in Experiential Branding in 2020 and Beyond
Experiential branding will undoubtedly be a useful tool to help businesses persist through the pandemic and recover after the smoke has cleared. Here’s what it will empower you to do…
Grow Client Relationships Through Digital Interactions
What many businesses don’t know is that they can grow their client relationships without a physical gathering.
You can do this through digital interactions – and not just virtual events. Think hashtags, brand-themed social media camera filters, or virtually-driven community challenges. These are all ways to create digital experiences around company products, services, and values that will get your clients involved.
A creative digital interaction that provides your clients with a meaningful experience will grow their affinity toward your brand and make them more likely to spread the word to others.
Encourage Emotional Engagement With Your Brand
What kind of emotion do you want people to associate with your brand? If you haven’t considered this question, you’re missing out on a vital way to engage with your audience.
The right experiential branding experience can encourage your audience to feel happy, motivated, relieved, empowered, or inspired.
The more emotionally engaged your clients are, the more memorable your brand will be. If the emotional experience is impactful, you’re on your way to fostering brand loyalty.
Gain Media Momentum
Experiential branding can often take the form of public art installations or stunts – either in the real world or online. If your business is looking for a way to generate buzz, this is a great way to get people talking!
The more creative your experiential branding event is, the more buzz you’ll generate. With the right experiential event planner, businesses can maximize this approach to keep anticipation high for rescheduled events or to introduce new products and services in the future.
Meet Savannah Becerril of Go Savvy
Meet Savannah Becerril, founder of Go Savvy. She is a dear friend of mine, a graduate of the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship (the same program I graduated from), a client, and a referral partner. We do a lot together, and there is no one I would rather trust with my event planning and experiential branding than her. Please check out her site at gosavvy.biz and follow her on social media.