Business of events: marketing in a recession or time of crisis

By IMEX Group

4 mins

Event marketing and business planning for times of crisis

The global events industry has weathered many storms. Global recessions, public health crises, times of unrest and uncertainty... ours is an industry that is influenced by unprecedented happenings around the world. At times of crisis, businesses must lean on two essential elements: a solid business plan and a robust marketing and communication strategy.

Business planning to prepare companies for crisis

Hannes Schwarm, Managing Director, MR WOLF Consulting GmbH says it's critical to "be the ant, not the grasshopper". He refers to the fable of The Ant and the Grasshopper to show the importance of being prepared. While the grasshopper spends his summer singing, the ant spends the time working to store food for the winter. When winter comes, the ant lives comfortably while the grasshopper starves. Businesses can be more like the ant by doing three things:

1. Build a cash reserve

A cash reserve is essential to fall back on in hard times. This could be anything from three months to seven years’ worth of savings. A cash reserve may be accrued in addition to, or instead of, business insurance. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic many events and hospitality businesses were protected from closure or staff redundancies by their business insurance, but policies and premiums can be expensive. Make the time for adequate planning before a crisis hits, so your team can focus on operationalizing the plan rather than creating it. 

2. Invest in client relationships

Relationships need to be worked on and developed all the time, so that should a crisis happen, your network has your back if you need them. Your network could include your clients, partners and suppliers, but could also extend to your direct competitors. In the wake of a crisis, companies who were previously rivals may be able to navigate uncertain times by going into partnership.

Building a large, diverse network and maintaining effective relationships will help you have difficult conversations, forge new paths and find creative solutions to unexpected challenges. 

3. Grow your social media following

An active community is the lifeblood of effective digital marketing. If you're facing budget cuts or are unable to lean on face-to-face event marketing you can pivot to a ready-made distribution channel. A large, engaged online following will yield better reach and better results than starting from the ground up. 

Watch now: Marketing and communication in a collapsed market - with Hannes Schwarm 

Marketing in a collapsed market

In the video, Hannes lays out a three-point strategy for marketing in a collapsed market. Without a strategy, communication can break down quickly, which could further damage your business in a crisis.

Steps you can take after the crisis hits:

  1. Keep breathing and think clearly – This is a leadership moment. As a leader, you need to be clear on your thinking and take charge of the situation. Seek advice and be a beacon for your team in stressful situations.
  2. Provide information and orientation – After establishing a direction, use a ‘cascaded’ approach to communicate information to your stakeholders. Your employees are the top priority, then customers, key partners and finally investors and other stakeholders.
  3. Experiment, test and learn – What used to work doesn’t work anymore. Now is the time to experiment and try new ways of marketing to your audience (just don’t overload them with emails!)

Hannes ends his presentation with this quote from Seneca:

“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you”.

There is a light at the end of what feels like a very long tunnel, and simply getting through it is reason enough to be proud.

Join us at IMEX to continue the discussion on event marketing and event trends. IMEX brings together thousands of events industry professionals twice a year, in Frankfurt, Germany and Las Vegas, America. We offer a three-day trade show, the largest of its kind for the global meetings and events industry, plus 150+ professional education sessions, networking, events and activities. Attendance is free! Register now using the links below.

About the author

IMEX brings the global meetings and events community together to power profitable connections, foster innovation, spark inspiration, and propel purposeful progress at two world-leading trade shows, IMEX Frankfurt and IMEX America.

We use our influence to unite, advance and promote a thriving global industry focused on positive change.

IMEX Group