When COVID-19 hit and social distancing restrictions were set, many events were faced with only three options: cancel, postpone or go virtual. Going virtual is exactly what Midwest Growth Partners (MGP) decided to do for its Food and Ag Executive Dialogue — an exclusive, invitation-only event for top-tier food and agriculture industry influencers, executives and partners. This meant that the event marketing plans already underway needed to adapt, and fast.
Pivoting from an in-person event to an entirely virtual format, PM adapted its already in-progress event marketing plans for the Food and Ag Executive Dialogue. The new approach was to build continued interest while promising attendees a memorable virtual event.
Before the pandemic, PM’s original event marketing plans were designed and executed to appeal to past attendees who had an understanding of the event and its value, in addition to piquing the interest of new attendees. By creating a separate email campaign for each of the audience segments, we were able to ensure we were delivering the most relevant content. Our segmented direct marketing approach helped connect with each audience in the most relevant way, including email for each audience and an event landing page designed to speak to all audiences. The PM team also delivered a branding refresh for the 2020 event.
When COVID-19 became a concern, we proactively adapted our marketing plans and messaging while the fate of the event was yet to be determined. Once it was decided to switch to a virtual lunch-and-learn format, the exclusive invite-only event was opened up to everyone. PM consulted with MGP on ways to still deliver a memorable event as well as modify and expand their event outreach efforts using social media and PR tactics. We also proposed sending attendees “goodie bags” in advance to make the event a standout compared to the swelling wave of other virtual meeting invites.
Even with an uncertain outlook, the results beat expectations. Barb Philips, Event Coordinator for MGP stated, “We were very pleased with the attendance numbers, especially the diversity of locations represented.” Email engagement exceeded industry benchmarks, and with 375 registrants and 236 live participants from 33 states and 6 countries, the 2020 virtual Food & Ag Executive Dialogue saw a 135% increase in attendance from 2019.