Your Conference Season Turned Into Quarantine Season…Now What?
For the foodservice industry, all spring conferences starting mid-March 2020 were either canceled or postponed. This has eliminated what is, in most cases, the only time during the year that a face-to-face meeting would have happened between foodservice manufacturers, dealers, and in some cases the operators too. The same innovative spirit we are using right now to navigate our changed personal and professional lives needs to be applied to developing thoughtful and creative solutions that can replace this missed networking opportunity.
No matter your industry, conference season is a worthwhile opportunity to do business in a different way than you do the rest of the year. The unique format fosters professional growth as participants have the chance to socialize and strengthen professional relationships, take advantage of new and exciting networking opportunities, and expand their industry knowledge in a more hands-on way. The growth and development opportunities that conferences provide have lasting effects that extend throughout the year.
These are our suggestions for some ways you or your business can replicate meaningful connections in the virtual world.
Create short, purposeful video content:
- People are no longer looking for highly produced video content—so don’t get overly complicated! Shooting a video on your smartphone is perfectly acceptable and welcomed.
- Keep in mind that shorter clips are easily shareable on social media. If a topic needs more time, you can always make several smaller videos.
- Educate customers about exciting new products, or simply remind them how you can help them succeed. Even if you are just touching base with a customer, adding it to a video can ensure a simple message leaves a lasting impression. Don’t forget to include the individuals or teams that would have been at a conference in the video. This inclusion can help further the connection that would have been made in person.
Take advantage of targeted email campaigns:
- Focus your communication efforts on groups of people that you would have spent time with at a conference.
- Need an email list? Just ask! Connect with conference organizers to find out if there is a member directory that you can then use as a basis for your email or phone call list.
- Send out an email campaign and invite customers to schedule time to “meet” online. There are many available platforms that make it easy to schedule appointments online.
- Don’t forget to plan your emails and calls around states’ reopening schedules to be most efficient with your time and energy.
Go “old school” and make personal phone calls to connect:
- Reach out to the companies or people that you were most looking forward to having time with, and see if they have any new information they would like to share with you.
- Be sure to research your sales history and touch base with past customers—you never know where there could be opportunity to connect.
- Video conferencing software, like Zoom, makes it easy to take those phone calls to the next level! You can even use this technology to host your own virtual conference or webinar.
- Before your call, do a little research on your customer by taking the time to look at their website, LinkedIn profile, or other social media accounts. This could give you a good conversation boost and some extra insight before connecting.
The most important thing to remember while we all are affected by this global crisis is to stay connected. You may need to get a little more creative in your outreach opportunities to make up for cancelled conferences, but the benefit stays the same.