The Best Strategy for Right Now

April 29, 2020

Julie Parsons

Julie Parsons is the co-founder and managing director of District Marketing Group, specializing in full-service marketing for association events, education products and membership. Her career in trade show and association marketing spans more than 20 years, leading successful teams and initiatives for a variety of organizations.

Over the past six to eight weeks, we have seen clients face many changes and tough choices, often with limited resources and no blueprint from which to work. As we have provided counsel and recommended the necessary pivots for our clients’ event marketing campaigns, one thing has become clear: There’s no best practice or silver bullet to get us through this period. 

What we have learned with each decision, campaign change or strategy adjustment is that the decisions we make are the right ones for right now. There is no guiding document to get us to June, no “roadmap for success” for the next four events. Whatever works today is for today only. 

Though this may be a temporary shift in thinking, it might also be one of those silver linings everyone keeps talking about. When the strategy horizon is short, we marketers can try new things and learn from each moment while serving our clients in the best way possible.  

With that in mind, here are a few marketing and messaging tips that have helped us strategize for our clients in this unprecedented time:

Offer to help in any way.

Ask your customers what they need in the near term via personal phone calls, surveys or other methods. Bring client or project teams together in a virtual brainstorm session and find quick ways to help them take the next important step. We are all turning on a dime to refresh messaging, shift to virtual events, develop webinars and resources to help members. 

Look outside your usual scope.

There are also ways to help that have nothing to do with marketing. You can simply be there to listen and offer advice when it’s needed most. Is your customer in healthcare or the restaurant sector? They may need their associations to do outreach in ways that are typically outside the scope of an association. No kind of help is off the table. 

Show empathy and value in every response.

Whether it’s the individual phone calls or the copy you write for an email campaign, remind your customers that you understand their struggles and are available to them. For associations, this could be in the form of deferred membership dues, a free service or product or just a friendly voice on the phone who understands your industry. 

Make calls to action less demanding.

Whether you’re in a sales cycle or not, think carefully about what you compel your customers to do. Perhaps skip the ask and send a hopeful email to your customers about what you’re excited for when things return to normal. 

Reassess design choices.

Think carefully about the tone, photography and language you use on your website or in member emails. Will your customers be turned off by photos of large gatherings or wording that comes across as tone-deaf? Learn what imagery and terminology concerns are specific to your customers and their industries so you can address them directly. 

Be ready to pivot.

Try not to be married to anything you did today. Be flexible and available, as your customers might be fighting another type of battle. Think of “long-term” planning as looking ahead to the next 10 days to two weeks. 

Now is the time to try new things.

Give your team the space to try out new skills and pursue interests. We are all finding approaches that we may not have considered before that could be effective and useful for our members.


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Submitted by Philip McKay (not verified) on Thu, 05/14/2020 - 09:29

Thsi is a great article with some great advice. Thank you Julie and TSNN for sharing.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.