This morning, our team woke to the same news that marketing teams across the globe are facing this week – the cancellation of a major conference that was a key part of our H1 strategy. 

In fact, few marketing and sales teams didn’t enter this week without some news of an event cancellation or a postponed client meeting. In addition to the global trade shows where tech vendors are losing valuable face-time with clients and prospects, many are also calling off their internal SKOs, roadshows, and canceling employee travel.

This year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was the first to cancel, but it certainly won’t be the last. A recent article by Vox News estimated that the economic loss from just a few of the major tech industry events has surpassed $500 million. See a full list of conferences impacted below. 

While the world grapples with the impact on individuals, families, and the macroeconomy – enterprise sales and marketing teams are facing a new reality at work. The truth is there will likely be a long-lasting effect on revenue and pipeline estimates as the country pivots away from in-person events this month. 

As B2B marketers and sales leaders, we’re now all considering the same challenges:

  • How to build a sales pipeline after a significant drop in conference lead gen?
  • How will I still hit my MQL goals for the quarter and year?
  • How can my sellers get the same rush of energy and alignment from an SKO? How can I provide them with new selling strategies, product updates, and share best practices in an engaging way?
  • How can I roll with the punches and execute creative, yet socially mindful campaigns to keep prospects’ momentum going?
  • How can I provide buyers with content in lieu of conference keynotes?

Here are a few tactics to help you combat these issues by engaging your buyers, invigorating your sales team, and getting your marketing team’s creative juices flowing.

#1 Host a virtual conference or event

For any conference, SKO, or external facing event you were due to host, incorporate live streams of video content for your attendees. Have your speakers present through a webcam, and have audience members turn their webcam on during the Q&A section so you foster some semblance of connectedness.

#2 Host an #AMA to train sellers at scale

To combat the inability of training all of your sellers at scale during an SKO, a client of ours recently executed a Slack #AMA (Ask Me Anything) channel with an entire sales function and four Emissary advisors and industry experts. This is a fun, interactive way to train sellers and provide them with the path they need to go after accounts confidently, knowing they’re equipped with the right message and the right plan of action.

#3 Build pipeline through calls with insiders 

When you can’t attend events in person, Emissary executives are a simple and remote way to build account momentum and pipeline. Reinvigorate your team with Emissary’s industry and account insiders who can provide account intelligence, propensity to buy, and offer introductions. These 1:1 account planning sessions shed light on the current challenges your buyers are facing, areas of opportunity, entry points, and what messaging and pitch will resonate best. 

If you’re not familiar, Emissary advisors are C-level and VP-level executives who are exiting the F1000 companies you are targeting. To learn more about what advisors we have for your target accounts, contact us here.


Emissary cta

#4 Pivot to hyper-local or regional events

For maintaining internal momentum amongst sales teams, coordinate gatherings with sellers in local regions who may not come together as often. An added bonus could be to invite local IT leaders and industry experts to join the conversation and provide best practices on selling strategies that help to break through the noise with their target buyers.

#5 Send an Event-In-A-Box 

Was there a top prospect at a target account your sales team was itching to meet in the exhibit hall? If an intended conference will now be taking place remotely, attendees may still have some visibility to your brand, but you won’t get that face-to-face time you were planning.

To stand out from other virtual exhibitors, send a fun “event-in-a-box” direct mail to accompany them for the virtual event. Consider sending standard swag, a water bottle, or snacks to keep their virtual momentum going.  Be sure to also include something that packs a punch and portrays how your solution will help them to solve the current challenges they’re learning about during the conference. A personal and thoughtful tone may make engagement more welcoming and successful.

Conferences impacted by COVID-19 (updated 3/4/2020)

  • IBM, AT&T, and Verizon dropped out of the RSA Conference in San Francisco. RSA confirmed that a total of 13 exhibitors and 1.2% of those registered have canceled their attendance. The conference went underway as planned.
  • Facebook, Sony, and Epic dropped out of the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco which was to take place in March. After losing major players, the conference decided to postpone indefinitely.
  • Conferences including Google Cloud Next Conference, Google I/O, and Facebook’s F8, and Outreach’s Unleash have canceled the in-person component and are looking into options for hosting events virtually.
  • Microsoft Corp’s Build and Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference have made no official cancellation announcements and will continue to watch the virus closely.

The Bottom Line

The circumstances leading to conference and event cancelation have shifted the selling landscape we’re accustomed to. We still have numbers to hit and pipeline to build. This leaves us with reconfiguring new ways to drive traffic while being mindful of what our fellow colleagues, clients, and industry members are experiencing.

We hope this roundup of alternatives helps you to implement an effective sales and marketing pipeline strategy. Anything out of the box you’re doing that we missed on our list? Let us know – we’d love to hear and see how our network of advisors can help.