The Impact of COVID-19 on the B2B Event Industry and How to Navigate It

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken over the world. With social distancing having become the need of the hour, almost all events have been canceled, postponed, or are being conducted online. If you operate in the B2B space like us, I am sure you’re also looking forward to the end of this outbreak so we can return to our normal lives and focus on growing our business. We wanted to share our perspective on the current lock-down situation and give some of our thoughts on what you can do at a time like this.

Remain Optimistic

Right now the only thing one knows with certainty is that the virus is still spreading and one cannot really yet say how many more days or months the world will continue to be in this standstill mode. That said, when one country imposed a lockdown, many others followed soon after. How different countries deal with lockdowns will depend on a lot of factors prevalent in those countries. In the meantime, innovation is what is keeping businesses running. So, if you are in the B2B space and you are unable to host or participate in events, there are ways that you can come up with to keep the business running. First and foremost, stay positive yourself because only then will the mind feel spirited enough to be able to think of new ways to reach out to the customers.

Look Beyond Events to Connect with Customers

If you operate in a space where you significantly depend on events to generate your leads, then all the cancellations will have hit you adversely. However, this does not mean that you need to shut shop. There are other ways to reach out to prospective customers. A study conducted by EE GlobalSpec found that 28% of marketers operating the B2B space have begun to reinvest their trade show budget into digital avenues in their marketing outreach initiatives. Some of the methods being used are:

Blogging

Now is the time to spend more on blogging where you can publish content that spread optimism among customers. Also, research has shown that traffic is increasing on financial and news-oriented websites. So, if you’re in these verticals, these are the kinds of features that you should be writing now.

Twitter

Amongst all the social media sites, Twitter is the one that is performing the best in terms of audience engagement. So, during this time, you should use trending hashtags to reach out to people to create a base of loyal followers. This group will help you with conversions when you are back in business after all restrictions have been lifted.

Emails

Stop sending emails that focus on sales campaigns but rather focus on concern towards the customer. For example, tell them of ways to prevent the virus from spreading and what you are doing to contribute to those who have been affected.

Tweak Your Creative Content Accordingly

Just finding new ways to reach out to customers is not enough. You must also review your existing creative content because it might contain videos and images that might not be relevant today. For example, if you have advertisements that show crowds at trade shows, handshakes, high fives, and others, these can trigger negativity amongst the audience and so you need to bring these down and introduce new ones keeping in mind the current perspective.

Images of people hugging at gatherings is usually a good marketing idea, but in current times where social distancing is critical, it might not go down well

Conforming to the needs of the current times, businesses should show their social responsibility by promoting safety and well-being of the community

Prioritize Listening to Customers

In these days of COVID-19, the need of the customer is evolving each day and so it is very important to listen to what the customer really wants. For this you can monitor what people are talking about on social media channels like Facebook and LInkedin. You should also have a team who speak to your existing stakeholders to know what the emerging trends and wants are.

Modify Your Webstore

A lot of businesses use B2B events as a key platform for branding and events are often their main lead-gen source. With people in a lockdown mode, if you are in a B2B industry where you operate through multi stores in different geographies, it is likely that most of these stores won’t be seeing a huge footfall anymore. Hence, now is the time to focus on webstores.

Launch a Webstore

If you have already been operating a webstore, you should spruce it up so as to make the customer experience a more streamlined one. If, however, you don’t have a website, then now is the time when you should launch one.

Returns

During this pandemic, you will find that demands are fluctuating and changing. Hence, there is a possibility that what customers buy or place an order for, they might want to return or exchange. Hence, your website should be such that these returns can be made easily and quickly. Your return policies should also be so devised that they don’t penalise the customers in case they want to return the products.

Accuracy of Data

Design your webstore such that only relevant information is displayed. Also keep all your data up to date in real-time. For example, if you are ‘out of stock’ for a particular product or have discontinued a service, then you should update that so that your customers don’t feel harassed.

Support Your Customer

When times are uncertain and customers are anxious, you should do that extra bit to keep them pacified.

    • Customers living in geographies that have been hit the worst should be given additional benefits like prioritising delivery of stock to them
    • Treat your loyal customers specially rather than focussing on growing your customer base now. So, if you are running low on a certain product, deliver it to your loyal customer base.
    • Extend the dates by when invoices need to be paid if you find that some customers are finding it difficult to make the payment by the due date.
    • Implement services like additional discounts, free delivery, and others so as to make the customer experience a better one.
Don’t Hard Sell Your Product

If you are a B2B that is selling a product or services that are not regarded by buyers as being essential at a time like this, then you are bound to see a dip in your sales. Yet, you should not try to hard-sell your product as else you will be considered to be insensitive. This can turn off prospective buyers who are already dealing with many hard decisions of what to purchase and what not to. Instead, now is the time when you should be more compassionate and offer easier and cheaper deals. You must also get into a consultative mode where you help customers to make the right decision. While this might not bring in the revenues for you immediately, it will help you to build new relationships that will be more loyal to you. This will benefit you once things return to normal.

Use Dashboards to Monitor Performance

Yes, you are in the B2B space and your sales are dipping. However, if you are a global brand with a presence in many countries, it is likely that your sales are not dipping equally everywhere. Also, if you offer more than one product or service, it could also be that not all services are dipping equally. So as to keep track of all these changes and fluctuations you must use a dashboard. When you monitor your performance using a dashboard, you will know where and with products you can currently focus on so as to stay afloat in the business.

Final Thoughts

In this challenging time of changing needs, while you might not be hosting or attending events, you will still be able to engage with your customers. All you need to do is to change your strategy a little and show empathy towards your customers.

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