By: Catalina Uriarte
The exhibition halls of conferences echo cheery exchanges:
“How are you?”
“It’s so good to see you again!”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you — so-and-so has told me so much about you!”
In the evening, venues around the convention center are abundant with corporate happy hours and socials. On weekends at home, you may expect to go for a round of golf or attend a sporting event with a few clients and prospects. Though they may have started as clients and prospects, you’ve begun to refer to many of these familiar faces as friends and eagerly look forward to socializing with them at events, conventions, and in-office visits. Those were the days, right?
Before the pandemic, it was exciting to plan and host interactions with clients. Today, however, B2B companies are all asking the same question: How on earth should I interact with my clients and prospects during COVID-19?! The perfect answer is unclear. Client circumstances, proximity, and safety must be taken into account and will vary from business to business. Here is what State National Companies is keeping top of mind when it comes to mid-pandemic event planning.
For Group, Client, and Prospect Events
Why don’t we just host all of our events online through video chat platforms like Webex, Zoom, and Skype? In enters Zoom fatigue. I would not be surprised if this phase became Merriam-Webster’s 2020 word of the year. Virtual events can provide value, but high-quality and relatively low quantity is important to avoid further burning out your already Webex-weary clients. When you host a virtual event make it worthwhile for your attendees who may have already been sitting in the same chair in their home office for eight hours before attending your virtual event.
Some noteworthy ideas to increase event value include:
- Deliver Grubhub or Uber Eats to your clients when visiting virtually during lunch and dinner hours
- Send a gift straight to their door
- Hold a raffle at the end of your event
- Bring in virtual entertainment by hiring a celebrity or comedian to “zoom in” to your event
- Bring an event activity to your client virtually by hiring a chef or bartender to teach your clients a new recipe over video chat (this is also a great way to support local restaurants)
- Provide exclusive industry insights and white papers for attendees
For One-on-One Client Interactions
State National Senior Client Executive Dawn Johnson provides excellent insight and inspiration for maintaining client interactions from a distance. She says that while logistics are difficult, there is definitely an appetite among her clients for B2B interactions. While she has not been able to visit most clients in the office, she puts effort into to finding creative ways to reach out. Wine and custom chocolates are some of her favorite go-to gifts, and recently she was able to meet up with a client for a socially distanced park picnic. Although not all of her fabulous ideas have come to fruition, Dawn is utilizing her network and vast knowledge of Seattle’s restaurants to incorporate safe, socially distanced experiences.
Other forms of one-on-one client interactions include written letters and a good old-fashioned phone call.
Above All Provide Value — and Recognize Times Are Tough!
A recurring conversation I hear among our sales and service teams is to be patient and recognize that, just like leaders in businesses of all kinds, credit union, bank, and finance company leaders have a lot to navigate right now. They’ve had to not only change how they interact with you as a business partner, they’re dealing with learning how to successfully operate in a radically changed environment when it comes to their customers, employees, business processes, technology, and many other factors. It might be a while before some of them have the bandwidth to socialize, online or otherwise. To offer our support to leaders who are in this position, State National is working closely with industry experts, our client partners, Filene Research Institute, and our parent company Markel to produce high-quality content, including surveys, webinars, and white papers, to help them navigate these “unprecedented times.” We hope the insights we are able to provide are of help as they adjust to a changed world and build a whole new way of doing business.
Catalina Uriarte is a part of State National’s marketing department. With her tagline “Creative innovation designed to inspire action,” Catalina describes herself as a curious creative who looks forward to taking on new challenges. She earned her B.A. in Public Relations from the University of North Texas and she plays an essential role in planning and executing State National’s corporate client events.