Social Distancing: How to Still Connect with Customers
While everyone is grappling with the unknown and unexpected, small-to-medium-size businesses concerned not only with the health of themselves and their families, but also the health off their businesses.
The tech industry alone has lost over $1 billion due to cancellations and shutdowns in this worldwide time of crises.
While these short-term losses are very present to all of us right now, the long-term effects are weighing heavily on many small-to-medium-size businesses wondering if they’ll be able to make it through these next few weeks (or possibly months).
Luckily, we are living in a virtual era where we can maintain business continuity between in-person and virtual events from one-on-one meetings to thousands of attendees.
Why We Hold Events
Before we move into discussing how to maintain business continuity by leveraging virtual events, let’s first look at why we hold events in the first place to see if we can identify the core reasons we hold events and how we can still garner this value from virtual events.
One of the main reasons businesses hold events is to educate. Whether it’s an in-store event to educate customers about your product, or an industry conference to educate industry professionals on the latest trends and best-practices, education is one of the biggest draws for a business-related event.
Question: Can we continue to educate customers and industry professionals through virtual (virtual + hybrid) events?
Online classes and courses have been a growing phenomenon for the past decade or more. With advancements in livestreaming technologies, online education is more interactive, engaging, and exciting than ever.
To get the most out of an educational, virtual event, think about the best parts about being live at this type of event or conference.
If you typically hold product demos that include touching and trying the product you won’t be able to recreate this experience exactly, but you could offer to ship a product sample to a specified number of attendees, or run a contest for attendees to win product.
If you were planning an educational conference-style event, there are plenty of ways virtual attendees can participate in talks with virtual Q&As and live discussions.
Think about how you can leverage technology to provide a similar, interactive experience and get the most out of engagement at your virtual events.
A huge benefit of conferences and other events is the networking opportunities. Meeting collaborators, customers, and vendors in your niche in-person can create strong relationships you can leverage in the future.
Question: Can we build strong relationships through online interactions that will hold the same weight as meeting in-person?
Answer: You can get pretty close.
While virtual meetings may not ever exactly replicate the trust built at an in-person meeting, there are plenty of creative ways to fast-track trust and relatability online. Go beyond the classic Q&A and chat threads by thinking about how your attendees like to connect in-person and how you can facilitate those connections online.
Here are just a few ideas:
- Give your attendees a template to create a virtual business card that they can share with people they’re interested in connecting with. You could even prompt everyone to drop their virtual cards in a designated hub to create an attendee directory.
- Curate virtual meetups for people with similar roles, interests, or who are in similar regions to encourage stronger relationships amongst your attendees.
- Allow your attendees to showcase their products and services with a virtual expo / vendor hall so they feel involved and seen at your event.
- Ask your attendees to submit advice on a topic related to your event and put together a written article or video compilation that displays the top responses.
There are many other ways you can facilitate relationship building among your virtual event attendees and potential customers. You’ll want to take some time to identify how your customers/attendees like to connect and brainstorm creative ways to recreate that experience virtually.
Connect with Customers
I’ve already discussed this one a bit, but it goes without saying that a major benefit of in-person events is that it gives companies the chance to connect with their customers on a deeper level. There are a number of ways to deepen customer relationships virtually while we practice social distancing.
Question: Can you really create the same kind of relationships with customers virtually that you can in-person?
Answer: Depends on how dedicated you are.
Your ability to connect with customers virtually and on a persona level will vary depending on the size and type of your business.
If you’re a solopreneur or small business and you’re willing to get scrappy you can hop on the phone with customers individually to chat about how you can best serve them. If you do this, though, be ready to take action on the feedback you get to prove that you are listening to your customers.
If you’re a small-to-medium-size business think about how you can go above and beyond for your customers at scale. Is there a physical product you could ship to all your event attendees that isn’t just some useless swag that’s going to be collecting dust on their desk until they toss it? Think about how you can be helpful and provide value to your customers. Show them that you’re listening, you care about them, and that you genuinely appreciate their business.
Maintaining Business Continuity via Virtual Events
While physical businesses, meetings, and events are unable to operate as usual, virtual events will be critical to maintaining business continuity whether physical gatherings are allowed or not! By maintaining communications and events digitally, your customers will continue to feel connected to your brand and be even more excited to work with you in-person again as soon as the social distancing mandates are lifted.
Now’s the time to get creative! Take some time to brainstorm and think strategically about how you can make your virtual events stand out and ensure that customers and attendees have an incredible, virtual experience at your events.
Hire an Expert
New to virtual events or want help implementing some of these ideas (and more) into your virtual events? Social27 has been enabling organizations across all industries and sizes to host their own engaging virtual events since 2010.
The Social27 Virtual Events platform brings the best of content streaming, networking with rich profiles, virtual sponsor pavilions, lead generation, gamification with points and badges, AI chatbot support and deep analytics powered by machine learning.