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What to Do Now to Prepare for Recovery

Industry professionals have really shown their strengths over the last couple of months, with shifting gears to accommodate client needs, tweaking business models, and adjusting to new routines under quarantine. Many of us are finally getting the hang of jumping over the obstacles that we’ve been presented with, and there’s been no shortage of work to do to maintain sustainability.

So, now that we’ve endured the initial shock, there’s a question at the top of mind for the industry: what’s next, and how should we prepare? While there’s still some time yet for events to return, the recovery process has already started, and we should be looking ahead at which steps are going to help us come out on the other side.

Event pros Lisa Anhaiser, Christie Osborne, Kinsey Roberts, and Aleya Harris shared their tips for recovery on a recent NACE webinar – “Success Afterward: What to Do Now to Prepare for Recovery.”

Goal setting, measures, and metrics

Not only is it rather difficult to push the reset button on your goals mid-way through the year, but it’s oftentimes unheard of. The brunt of this pandemic hit us at a time when most had finished their business forecasting and set their goals for the year, so it’s understandably a strange feeling to suddenly redirect our efforts. That said, how should we approach goal-setting (again), when the future still looks uncertain?

“I know that we’re in a very stressful time,” says Lisa Anhaiser of LBL Events. “I know that a lot of us aren’t at work. We’re working from home with no meetings, no events. We’re completely shut down. But you have to turn all of those into positives, and the positive in this case is that we have time to plan. We need to stop focusing on what’s going on currently and how bad it is, and start focusing on the future. Because we are going to come back, and the things that we need to do just that are to re-evaluate and re-assess.

And one of the biggest things is starting with our personal goals, because you have to start with your personal goals to know what you want to do in business. And I know not everybody is a business owner – you might work for a hotel, a venue, or a catering company. But all of us need to do this. We all need to look at our personal goals. Now’s the time that we can sit down with our family, have a family goal meeting. We are going to have to be flexible. A lot of us had set goals. We don’t want to deviate from our goals, but we are going to have to. And it’s going to change a lot.

So, by being flexible in how we deal with reaching our goals, [this means] coming up with new ways to reach our goals to get more brides in the door and to have more [remote] consultations when people are afraid to meet.”

Measures & Metrics

 

Marketing with recovery in mind

Simply put, your marketing efforts should never stop, even if your events have stopped for the time being. This is what is going to continue to put you on the map, and how you handle communication with clients and partners alike is going to be a key player. You want to be the event pro that ultimately stepped up with an emergency plan in mind and never skipped a beat.

According to Christie Osborne of Mountainside Media: “There are 4 basic stages of crisis communication, and so there’s a natural arc to crises. If we’re good, we prepare for the crisis first – which nobody did for this, and that’s perfectly fine. But then we respond, right? So as soon as everybody had their stay-in-place orders and events were being cancelled, everybody was working with clients and moving things around and trying to be flexible and figuring out the next steps.

Now we’re moving into that phase where we start to reassure potential clients in the future that things are going to recover. Oftentimes, humans do this really naturally, and then we move into recovery. Now in this particular phase, in the reassuring phase – you can actually start setting yourself up for recovery quite well. There’s a couple of things that you can start to talk about, other than COVID.

Always in crisis communication, you want to take the context that you’re seeing as it comes in. There are some ways in which you can always respond with empathy and always respond with transparency. But really, you want to look around in your location within your state and see what’s going on. If there are still stay-in-place orders, you just want to be careful about visually violating some of those norms.

Right now for states that are impacted greatly or still have stay-in-place orders – I don’t show group photos for my clients, I show photos of couples. I show photos of a bride and mom or whatever that looks like. I show a lot of details, ceremony setups without people. And I can talk about past events, but I’m not showing group gatherings because that violates some social norms, right? So you are definitely in the place where you can start talking about your events in the past and looking toward 2021 and things like that – just be aware of social norms. It is 100% okay for you to stop talking about COVID.

The formula is – serve first, then sell. And look, that’s always been the formula, crisis or not. So I have a client that’s doing live tours of their venue. Very scrappy, very just spur of the moment. They promote it during the week, and then she literally puts a phone in front of her face, turns the camera around, and tours them around the venue. In the most grassroots way – gives them an hour of her time, answers all these questions for them – and then at the end, invites them to inquire about booking for 2021. And this is the client that got 10 bookings in the past month.”

COVID Recovery Checklist

Managing your business reputation

The first real test of your business’s reputation during COVID was the initial response. We’ve all seen countless statements from the beginning until now, including operation updates and best practices. How your clients and fellow vendors view your reactions will continue beyond that, and everyone will remember the processes and statements you put out into the world.

Kinsey Roberts of She Creates Business gives her advice on how to best manage this. “First things first – if you have not already – absolutely create a Google Alert for your business’s name, and anyone within your business who might be the face of your business. Why do I want you to do that? Because you are having some very sensitive and emotional conversations right now with your clients – with your vendor partners – and I hope that you are on your a-game as always, but you may not be. And you want to be able to react quickly and politely to all information about your business.

The next thing that you can be doing right now is proactive communication with all of your 2020 clients. Do not wait for them to come to you, that is a mistake. Some of the push-back I get from my clients right now is, ‘Ooh, but we don’t have any information about the Fall. I don’t want to scare my clients.’ But they’re already nervous.

For those of you who have already put processes in place for clients who have already postponed, now is the time to reach out to everybody in 2020 and say, ‘Listen, this is what’s happening. There is no reason to be alarmed, we are not telling you to make any moves today. But we want you to know that we are thinking about you, and we’re trying to think 10 steps ahead and here’s what you can expect. Here’s the policy that we have for postponing, rescheduling, cancelling, etc. – and we’re just here to talk to you.’

Finally, everyone should actually reach out to your 2021 couples as well. I’m not trying to assign behavior to people, but you can see how that is just an easy hop, skip and a jump. If you’re not replying to people quickly, if you’re not worried about your business’s reputation as it relates to your marketing – you’re planting little seeds of doubt and people can think, maybe they’re not in business? Maybe they’re really struggling? Maybe COVID-19’s really hurting them? And I don’t know about you, but we want future bookings. We want to start to retain those deposits to keep our cash flow.

Everything you do matters, it always matters, but especially in times of crisis. It’s not just your online reputation. More than ever, what you are doing offline will actually impact your reputation.”

 

Future-proofing your business with email marketing

One of the worst things you can do right now for your business is putting your email blasts on the back-burner. The thought may be that focusing on clients is top priority, and while it certainly is, building email lists and being strategic with email marketing is part of doing so. Again, the marketing should never slow down, and Aleya Harris of Flourish Marketing shows us that we can actually use this to future-proof our business.

“Now is the perfect time to market, because of the way that marketing works. We would all love that, as soon as I tell you about my business, you buy right there on the spot. But unfortunately, that is not usually how people go through a buyer’s journey or a buyer’s process – especially for some of the larger ticket items that we’re selling. All of your people are at the top [of the marketing funnel]. Your goal is to turn them into the dollar signs at the bottom, and it takes some time. You need to attract them, nurture the relationship in the middle of your funnel with a blog, a podcast, social media – and then sell to them when it’s right. The service happens at the top of your marketing funnel. You give away free content in exchange for an email address.

And then you move through by continuing to give, give, give. When do you stop giving? Never. You give when you feel like you should be charging for it. And then, once you’re in that place of service – and they know why you’re different, they know your story – then you can sell to them.

The first thing that I want to do is clarify – when I say ‘email list,’ I’m not talking about your Gmail contact list. We’re talking about using an email service provider – I recommend one that’s called ConvertKit. There’s another called Flodesk, or some of the more legacy ones like Mailchimp or ConstantContact. Then using that to house your ideal customers’ email address. To start off with getting that email address, you need to give. You need to be of service. And you need to give something that is relevant for people right now.

So if you were to give away and promote on an ad, ‘The Ultimate Postponement Checklist,’ and give away that checklist for free in exchange for an email address, you would see your email list start to grow. Now that email lead generator’s important for a couple of reasons – one, you’re being of service. Two, you’re giving, giving, giving. And three – the title and the content of that lead generator is specifically meant for your ideal customer.

You’re using that to pre-vet your audience, so that your email list isn’t just random strangers – it’s warm, ideal customers – because you’re taking them the next step of moving them through to the dollar signs. And if you have people at the very top of your email list and you’ve attracted the right people, you’re going to see higher conversion rates.”

Email List Building Roadmap Implementation Guide

Putting these practices in motion now will earn you a much better position for recovery, from where you are now until we can get back to business with events.

 

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

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Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

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