Julie Parsons is the co-founder and managing director of District Marketing Group, specializing in full-service marketing for association events, education products and membership. Her career in trade show and association marketing spans more than 20 years, leading successful teams and initiatives for a variety of organizations.
The Best Strategy for Right Now
Over the past six to eight weeks, we have seen clients face many changes and tough choices, often with limited resources and no blueprint from which to work. As we have provided counsel and recommended the necessary pivots for our clients’ event marketing campaigns, one thing has become clear: There’s no best practice or silver bullet to get us through this period.
What we have learned with each decision, campaign change or strategy adjustment is that the decisions we make are the right ones for right now. There is no guiding document to get us to June, no “roadmap for success” for the next four events. Whatever works today is for today only.
Though this may be a temporary shift in thinking, it might also be one of those silver linings everyone keeps talking about. When the strategy horizon is short, we marketers can try new things and learn from each moment while serving our clients in the best way possible.
With that in mind, here are a few marketing and messaging tips that have helped us strategize for our clients in this unprecedented time:
Offer to help in any way.
Ask your customers what they need in the near term via personal phone calls, surveys or other methods. Bring client or project teams together in a virtual brainstorm session and find quick ways to help them take the next important step. We are all turning on a dime to refresh messaging, shift to virtual events, develop webinars and resources to help members.
Look outside your usual scope.
There are also ways to help that have nothing to do with marketing. You can simply be there to listen and offer advice when it’s needed most. Is your customer in healthcare or the restaurant sector? They may need their associations to do outreach in ways that are typically outside the scope of an association. No kind of help is off the table.
Show empathy and value in every response.
Whether it’s the individual phone calls or the copy you write for an email campaign, remind your customers that you understand their struggles and are available to them. For associations, this could be in the form of deferred membership dues, a free service or product or just a friendly voice on the phone who understands your industry.
Make calls to action less demanding.
Whether you’re in a sales cycle or not, think carefully about what you compel your customers to do. Perhaps skip the ask and send a hopeful email to your customers about what you’re excited for when things return to normal.
Reassess design choices.
Think carefully about the tone, photography and language you use on your website or in member emails. Will your customers be turned off by photos of large gatherings or wording that comes across as tone-deaf? Learn what imagery and terminology concerns are specific to your customers and their industries so you can address them directly.
Be ready to pivot.
Try not to be married to anything you did today. Be flexible and available, as your customers might be fighting another type of battle. Think of “long-term” planning as looking ahead to the next 10 days to two weeks.
Now is the time to try new things.
Give your team the space to try out new skills and pursue interests. We are all finding approaches that we may not have considered before that could be effective and useful for our members.