South Africa's events industry has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 and the lockdown restrictions which followed, with thousands of people unable to return to work under the current lockdown.
While gatherings were prohibited completely in the beginning stages of lockdown, the industry is still under immense financial pressure with no real way forward. This has led to the formation of the '#LightSARed' campaign, which was created by members of the industry as a means of highlighting their issues.
The campaign saw national landmarks, including table mountain, lit up with red spotlights. But other than raising awareness, what more can this industry do to have a fighting chance at survival?
Here are five key marketing survival steps to get your event business through the COVID-19 turmoil:
1. Understand the here and now
By complying with the current lockdown restrictions of smaller events restricted to 50 people or less, you can promote smaller celebrations, intimate weddings, private events as well as smaller promotional activities and festivals.
These can be celebrated more often but with fewer people, meaning a much more manageable crowd that's likely to be more involved and engaged. By embracing the here and now, you're still able to be operational and make an income but essentially have a smaller crowd. This can often mean a slightly higher price point per person.
Consider smaller picnics in the park, intimate weddings, more frequent music festivals hosted in a smaller setting and limit the handouts of promotional pamphlets, branded gear and other tangible items.
Rather spend the marketing budget on promoting the event online and enhancing the experience for the attendees so that it's memorable and fun.
2. Prepare for a different kind of future
After World War 2 was over, soldiers returned back home and the dust began to settle and life slowly began to resemble some form of normalcy. However, while the war might have been over, its devastation had caused long-term side effects that would change human culture forever.
It's only natural to expect long term effects after a global, traumatic experience such as this. And if we've learnt anything from history, it's that it repeats itself. There certainly are takeaways and lessons we can learn from the effects of something as devastating as COVID-19.
All businesses (small, medium and large) have been affected in some way or another and are desperately struggling to stay alive. The events and venue-hire industry in South Africa is no different and possibly even one of the hardest hit by the impact of the strict but necessary quarantine and social distancing measures in place.
Yes, this chaos will definitely end; however, the effects will forever change us and our behaviour. We'll need to brace and prepare ourselves for a different kind of future.
This could mean smaller, more intimate events, decreased overall events and marketing budgets, an increase in smaller home-based events and gatherings, as well as an increase in online meetings and communication vs in-person.
You can adapt your business to these potential long-term changes in order to survive. This can happen through targeting smaller groups of people with your marketing more often.
For example, you can look towards smaller wedding and celebration parties, smaller but more frequent live events and festivals, catering, party setup, event planning and supplies delivered to home-based functions with meetings, as well as correspondence done online.
3. Segment your audience
Split your audience into smaller groups such as live event-goers, party and celebrations-at-home hosts and small wedding wanters. Once you've split your audiences into smaller niche groups, you can target them through precise packages and extremely effective digital marketing execution.
Understand that you'll now need more frequent, smaller events to keep you afloat rather than a few big ones, so scale your business to be able to offer and manage this type of offering well
Promote your posts across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and even Gmail and Google Display marketing where you have a wealth of audience types and traits to pick from. This will ensure that specific ads are targeted at specific people, rather than spray and pray methods that speak to the masses but don't draw anyone in.
4. Up your digital game
Ensure your website is up to date and features the smaller, more intimate packages you offer. Make sure your social media pages are updated frequently and showcase your new events.
Don't forget to send out a newsletter to remind people about the various events happening, how they can book their tickets and more info about the smaller offers you know have.
Invest your time and marketing spend into digital marketing services and SEO; this will help keep your business afloat now and help your business be the front runner and leader in the long run while all of your competitors play catchup.
5. Tighten the purse strings
We know this time has left devastating effects on your business and you're cutting costs as low as possible to try to keep things afloat. This is smart, but marketing is the one place you can't
cut costs because you need customers to keep the revenue streaming in.
However, you can be strategic about this. You can consider cutting back on all printed and most offline marketing and shift your focus to digital marketing. Invest in paid social media with specific ads targeted to niche groups of people, Gmail and newsletter marketing and hire a professional marketer or marketing agency.
This will save you so much money from attempting to DIY and wasting valuable money and time.
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