By Malcolm Auld, founder, The Content Brewery

COVID-19 is causing panic among event organisers, resulting in many events being postponed or cancelled all-together. But as the adage goes: “out of adversity comes opportunity”.

The first rule of marketing in a difficult economy is “don’t stop marketing”. All the research drawn from sales data over the last 40 years reveals the brands that continue to promote themselves during a recession or economic downturn always come out of the slump faster and in better condition than those brands that stop or significantly reduce their marketing activity.

So make a decision quickly about your marketing budget for the rest of this calendar year and if you have to reduce costs, don’t slash it to the bone. After all, as the famous marketing and business doyen, Peter Drucker, said: “There are only two things in a business that make money – innovation and marketing – everything else is a cost.”

Let’s look at what you can do with your marketing in the coming months…

Talk with your clients

For the sake of this article, let’s call all customers and prospects “clients” just to make it easier.

Your best clients are your current clients, so start with this statement in mind: “One thing you know about your client is worth more than anything you know about your product or service”. Your clients will also be feeling the pinch. Pick up the phone and arrange to meet with them. Discover their pain points and consider how you can help resolve them. It could be as simple as introducing your client to a colleague who can help them if you’re unable to do so.

If you’re the only business partner or supplier who takes the time to listen and understand them, it will do wonders for your relationship. Even better if you can help them.

One of the advantages of the modern world is that all organisations now have databases of their clients. Even if it’s only an email list, the majority of organisations have the ability to quickly communicate with their clients.

Email allows you to do a number of things: you can deliver advice, news, information or links to a video, run a survey or poll, make an offer, send links to content on your website and more.

Remember the sales rule – “the more you tell, the more you sell” – so consider emailing more frequently than you do now.

But don’t just email a newsletter, use direct mail to send a whitepaper, branded merchandise or an invitation to an event.

Run events

Create your own intimate event. It could be a breakfast, lunch, half-day workshop or after-dinner drinks. Make sure it has relevant value – an in-demand speaker, industry expert (not a fake influencer), politician, respected media commentator, or a presentation on some research you’ve conducted or insights you know about the industry.

Alternately, you could interview a panel of your clients for their thoughts and insights. Discuss their thoughts on business survival in tough times. And don’t forget to record the event on video and then use it on social media to promote your brand and authority in the market.

You could start a regular interview series and publish it as a video, a podcast and also transcribe the content in a blog. Offer the content to the trade press for publication in its magazine or in its online assets or newsletter. If you get published, post the article on your social channels.

Leverage deals

Many of the industry suppliers are offering very good deals – particularly venues, airlines, hotels and staging/technology suppliers. What can you create and package for your clients? How can you leverage your industry partner’s offers to improve your relationship with your clients?

Take advantage of technology

If you’re running local events but the international speakers can’t fly in because of COVID-19, use dedicated high-definition broadband links. That doesn’t mean video conferencing software. It can now be cheaper to deliver an international keynote address via dedicated links than to pay the expenses of flying and accommodating the speaker for the event.

Test, test and test again

If you’re using advertising to generate new business leads, test, test and test again. Why predict the future when you can plan it based on results? Your marketing budget needs to stretch, so track results and continue to improve based on the data, not on opinions.

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