How to Turn Canceled B2B Events Into Sales Opportunities

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July 14th, 2020.
How to Turn Canceled B2B Events Into Sales Opportunities

For B2B brands, connecting on a personal level is crucial to turn prospects into clients. It’s why so many companies hold and attend conferences and other major events. For a skillful B2B salesperson, speaking directly to a roomful of people is a goldmine for lead generation.

However, things don’t always go according to plan. There are many reasons you might have to cancel your upcoming B2B events. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancellation of many large gatherings – including business conferences. Global pandemic aside, everything from a burst pipe to a venue mix-up might force you to postpone or cancel your event.

If you have to cancel an event, try not to panic or feel it’s the end of the world. Be adaptable and think outside the box, and you can still capture crucial sales opportunities. Read on to learn how you can make the best of any and every canceled event.

Five Ways to Capture Sales Opportunities from Canceled Events

If the present pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that brands must think creatively to survive. In uncertain circumstances, it’s agile firms that think on their feet which survive.

According to McKinsey, organizations have stepped up in critical areas during the COVID-19 crisis

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When you have to cancel a B2B event, merely writing it off as a missed opportunity isn’t an option. Instead, you should explore one of the following ways to turn the cancellation into sales opportunities.

1. Go virtual.

In the past few months, businesses and individuals alike have leveraged the power of technology. For some, that means learning they truly can work from home. For other, they discovered how to maintain productivity with far fewer workers.

If you’ve had to cancel a B2B event, tech could provide you with an avenue to recover, too.

Lots of firms are finding that virtual conferences and events are entirely possible. More than that, they even hold some advantages over their in-person alternatives, including:

  • Lower setup and operational costs.
  • Geographical location and travel expenses don’t have to limit the guest list.
  • Greater flexibility to change schedules or arrangements at short notice.

If you are going to arrange a virtual conference, you must still offer value to virtual attendees. It’s comparatively easy to record some talks and lectures and play them out to your prospects, however, that’s not a good facsimile of an in-person conference.

Much of the value of a B2B event comes from the range of learning and networking opportunities it presents. Firms and their reps attend these events to meet other professionals and have useful discussions. Seminars and casual evening activities are often as beneficial as keynote speeches.

INBOUND presentation

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You need to find a way to replicate such activities for your virtual events. The best virtual conferences are immersive online experiences. You must offer far more than a selection of links to recorded speeches.

Think about introducing things like Q&A sessions. These can either directly follow or otherwise support the principal lectures. You might also wish to arrange digital breakout sessions. With today’s virtual collaboration tools, smaller groups can discuss issues and brainstorm like they’re in the same room, even if they’re continents apart.

If you can get your speakers involved in these smaller sessions, attendees are sure to get a lot of value out of them. However you do it, you need your virtual event to engage and inspire attendees. That’s what will make them more likely to convert into clients once the conference is over.

2. Repurpose your event content.

This is a tip for those of you who may have to cancel an event at short notice. Conferences, seminars, and other activities need a lot of content and accompanying materials to be successful. This can include:

  • PowerPoint presentations to accompany keynote speeches
  • Graphs, charts, and visual aids to reinforce audible content
  • Promotional or explanatory videos
  • Handouts and brochures

If you got as far as producing some of these materials, they don’t have to go to waste. Instead, try to repurpose this content to benefit your lead generation by other methods. Good quality content can get put to a variety of uses.

For instance, take the charts or graphs you might have used in a talk at your event. Why not flex your firm’s graphic design muscles and turn them into an infographic? This kind of visual material is excellent for conveying complex information to an audience in an easy-to-understand way.

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There are a variety of ways to use infographics. You might make one the centerpiece of an email marketing campaign, or you could build a landing page to showcase your infographic. By repurposing an infographic this way, you can share your expert insights and boost your conversions in one fell swoop.

You could use your event content in a more straightforward fashion, too. Try packaging presentations as an eBook or PDF and sending it to your would-have-been event attendees. You’ll still be providing value to the prospects in question, and you're keeping your brand name at the front of their minds.

3. Engage with prospects online in personal, meaningful ways.

The beauty of B2B events is they let you connect face-to-face with leads in high volume. At a conference, you can engage on a meaningful level with many people. Even with the help of cutting-edge technology, it’s difficult to replicate that online.

While in-person events aren’t viable, it’s time to think of new ways to connect with prospects. When engaging online, a more personal touch is required. Rather than reaching out to as many people as possible for lead generation, it pays to be more selective and targeted when connecting online.

Lean on your sales engagement platform (SEP) to identify those prospects who are most useful to reach out to. These might be people who have performed a particular action that suggests they’re closest to making a purchase.

When you reach out to those leads, it’s critical to connect in a meaningful way. Taking an individual approach lets you have a unique and useful conversation with every prospect. Before making a call, starting a video chat, or sending an email, take the time to understand the recipient. Why are they? Where are they at in the decision-making process? What do they need? How can you help them?

If the lead would have been at your canceled event, don’t avoid the topic. Instead, discussing its cancelation could be your route to a more personal conversation. For example, if a conference gets canceled due to COVID-19, you might chat about the other impacts the pandemic has had on your lead’s business.

4. Reinvest time and money in other lead generation activities.

B2B events deliver a high ROI when done well, but they are expensive at the outset. If you’re not able to hold such events for the foreseeable future, you have an opportunity to reinvest both the finances and the effort you would have used for an event into other lead generation channels.

With in-person events off the table, consider teaming up with your marketing organization to reimagine what lead generation can look like for your company. Ask any SaaS marketing agency and they’ll tell you there are many viable lead gen options to consider. They include channels such as:

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
  • Social media outreach, and social selling
  • Email campaigns

There are plenty of options to explore when it comes to PPC lead generation campaigns. In addition to the classic Google Ads, you can also turn to social networks, B2B directories, and more. With more budget to spare, you may make more of an impact in the highly competitive Google Ads sphere. With more time, you may find a lucrative directory or platform that your rivals have missed.

B2B lead generation tactics

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Social media outreach is excellent in combination with other lead gen activities. For example, if you’re running a virtual conference you want to leverage the power of social media. Hashtags and PPC social ads are an effective way to get the word out about the event. Work with your marketing team to build a campaign targeting those leads who had signed up to come to any upcoming virtual events.

B2B firms occasionally overlook email as a channel. With the increased emphasis on social media today, that’s understandable, however I encourage you to not fall into that trap.

Some 40% of B2B marketers say email newsletters are most critical to their content marketing success, and with intention and alignment this can lead to big wins for sales as well.. Take the time to get campaigns right, and they still deliver.

5. Make online meetings work for you.

Having to cancel B2B events is a symptom of a wider shift in working patterns. Though the remote work trend has accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was already gaining momentum.If you’re going to keep maximizing sales, you must make online meetings work in your favor.

Nurturing leads and making sales remotely is vastly different from doing so face-to-face. Even if you utilize video conferencing to add a visual element, a remote meeting isn’t the same as an in-person one. For one thing, you can’t ensure you have a participant’s undivided attention in a remote environment.

During a video call a prospect’s emails, Slack messages, and other interruptions are only a click away. You must work harder to genuinely engage your leads. Without conferences or other events to arrange, it’s an excellent time to brush up on online meeting etiquette.

Here are a few ways to have more effective online meetings:

  • Use collaborative tools and screen share to make meetings more engaging.
  • Give prospects plenty of opportunities to speak and truly listen to what they say. During your meeting, periodically pause and allow time for them to voice questions and concerns.
  • Arrange a series of shorter meetings instead of one long meeting to handle all details. Don’t attempt to keep a lead’s attention for an hour or more at a time.
  • Always schedule meetings for times that are most convenient for your prospects.

The business world is unpredictable at the best of times and right now, things have gone to an entirely new level. In such uncertain circumstances, it’s vital not to let a setback snowball into a catastrophe. If you’ve had to cancel a B2B event, some flexibility, innovation, and hard work can help turn things around.

Find new ways to use the content you and your team prepared for the event. Stay personally and meaningfully engaged with prospects in as many ways as possible. Think outside the box to find new channels for lead gen. By implementing these tactics, more sales opportunities will be right around the corner.