A new year is upon us and with it our attention turns to setting KPI’s for the next 12 months which will see Britain leave the transition period with the EU, the next phases of the pandemic and a deepening recession. When faced with periods of economic downturns and uncertainty, the default strategy is to cut costs, scale back and ride out the storm. This approach however misses the opportunities that can arise but ignores the fact it is mildly difficult to predict when that storm shall past.
During the next 12 months, with the political, economic, and societal change it will bring, our customers will be looking to upskill within their role and educate ourselves on the world we live in to ride out the storm as best as they can. This is where the opportunity lies for brands to be positioned side-by-side with their customer, joining them on the journey rather than becoming a well-wisher.
This brings the world of events to the forefront. Whether it’s a virtual platform, or an in-person event once lockdown measures start to be lifted, events provide a platform for education, they give an environment for connection and they create shared experiences which can bond individuals and companies beyond transactional relationships.
The way marketers need to approach events therefore needs to evolve. We’re moving past the role of an event is to promote the company, but instead to deliver experiences which give the attendees the tools they need to be educated in an area of interest or to help gain understanding or clarity of thought in the craziness of the world around us.
The positioning of the live event will move away from a promotional push by a company and instead towards engagement with customers at a time where experiences are valued at their premium. But, critically, these events can create long term memories and attachments which bind the customer to the company creating the holy grail for any marketer, that of a long term relationship and thus a sustained and high level on their Return on Investment (ROI).
Since the pandemic began initially marketers lost a vital lead generation tool as live events were postponed. The transition to virtual events was complicated by a desire to replicate the live event like-for-like, but over time the business community have come to realise in-person and virtual are two separate channels which offer a different attendee experience and route to market for brands.
During a time of recession, it is natural to retreat back to defensive positions, to see it through, to consider that the game is to stay in the game. However whether we are talking the big success stories of Disney, AirBnB, Microsoft, IBM or General Electric that were born out of recession or we are talking about opportunities for businesses during these times to thrive, how we look at 2021 and the recession we are in, needs to be re-thought with purpose and strength.
Using the tools marketers have, there are opportunities for businesses to embed themselves with their customers and forge deeper, longer lasting relationships. With the widespread adoption of virtual events, and with a return to in-person events, we will continue to see the trend from brands using their events to create stories and form memories which indelibly bind together customers and companies both in the moment and for many years to come.
Nick is the Managing Director of Speakers Corner