Marketing Strategies When We Can’t Be Face-to-Face

Virtual Lunch - 9.1.20

Of course we all want to get back to meeting face to face – but until that happens, we can’t stop marketing.

So in the rebroadcast of this week’s Virtual Lunch interview with Ruth Stevens you’ll discover how to make the most of this time to:

  • Get to know the person behind your corporate client
  • Create your own virtual events and build community
  • Convert social media followers into leads in your database

Here are links to some of the items mentioned in the interview:

About Ruth Stevens:

Ruth Stevens
Ruth Stevens

Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention for business-to-business clients. She held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff-Davis, and IBM. She teaches graduate students at Columbia Business School, and is past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the DMA.

Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain’s BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She serves as a mentor to fledgling companies at the ERA business accelerator in New York City.

Her newest book is B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results. She is also the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, and Trade Show and Event Marketing, and co-author of the white paper series, “B-to-B Database Marketing.”

[00:00:00.360] - Marlys Arnold

You're listening to the Trade Show Insights podcast, Season 15, Episode 12. I'm your host and exhibit marketing strategist, Marlys Arnold, bringing you tools to improve your exhibit results. On today's episode, brought to you by the Exhibit Marketers Cafe, we have a rebroadcast of our Virtual Lunch with guest expert Ruth Stevens talking about marketing strategies when we can't be face to face.

[00:01:02.390] - Marlys Arnold

We are going to bring on our special guest for today. I am so excited because Ruth Stevens has been a friend of mine for many years. I think she'll have to correct me, but I think we might have met at TS2 many, many years ago, back when that was still holding. But Ruth has held senior marketing positions at Ziff Davis, Time Warner, IBM, among others. She teaches graduate students at NYU and Columbia Business School.

[00:01:33.530] - Marlys Arnold

She's the author of numerous business books, including this one that I actually have an autographed copy (Trade Show and Event Marketing). And she also was named by Crain's B2B magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in business marketing. So welcome, Ruth. We're so glad to have you on the Virtual Lunch today.

[00:01:56.780] - Ruth Stevens

Thank you so much, Marlys. I don't remember exactly when we met, but I sure appreciated the input that you gave me that really helped my book develop content. And I remember quoting you in the book here and there. So I sure appreciate your not only your friendship, but also your support and your professional help.

[00:02:19.940] - Marlys Arnold

Well, thank you. Well, and it was fun because I think we were both working on our books at the same time. Right. So because mine came out in 02 and yours came out in 05. And so I think we were kind of like I was wrapping up mine about the time you were starting yours.

[00:02:33.170] - Marlys Arnold

So anyway, it's just it's just great. That's what I love about this industry, is all the friendships and the connections and the people that I've met over the years.

[00:02:42.830] - Marlys Arnold

So anyway, well, one of the reasons I invited you on, besides being such a great friend, is that you actually recently wrote an article, which Alan is going to put that link up – although don't go read it right now. Wait until after the interview.

[00:03:01.160] - Marlys Arnold

But it was 10 things that you can do to market when we can't be face to face.

[00:03:08.390] - Marlys Arnold

And so that's where our theme for today came from. So let's talk about a couple of things that we want to have time, obviously, for all 10. But I love how you talked about getting to know the person behind the the client or behind the business that you work with. So let's start there and tell us a little bit more about that.

[00:03:28.970] - Ruth Stevens

Yes, thank you.

[00:03:30.260] - Ruth Stevens

That is such an important point now that our customers are all working from home or most of them, and so we can reach them through the business record that we already have their business email, their business phone number, although, wait a minute, they're not at their desks.

[00:03:47.420] - Ruth Stevens

Business phone number is probably not going to work, but it's possible today to connect to your business customer record with that individual's consumer counterpart record. And you won't get 100 percent match rate. In fact, you'll probably not even get 50 percent. But it's easier today to understand the personal side of your business buyers and prospects. So that's a technique that I recommend that some B2B marketers hadn't really thought of before.

[00:04:22.040] - Ruth Stevens

But this is the time to do it.

[00:04:26.090] - Marlys Arnold

Well tell us a little bit more about I know we can't go into depth, but how does that work? I mean, what's what's the process for for doing it?

[00:04:33.420] - Ruth Stevens

Thanks, yeah, you actually send your house file or your your customer records to a trusted data vendor who can then match the the name and address of your business customer to that person's personal information and sent the personal record back to you for a small fee.

[00:04:56.850] - Marlys Arnold

OK, so and then that and I know we have Marco is from Italy, so we've got that European element in there is this GDPR approved? So this would be US only?

[00:05:09.170] - Ruth Stevens

This would be probably US only. Right.

[00:05:12.140] - Marlys Arnold

OK, and it may not even count California since they have that new privacy law as well. I don't know how all that works. Rama, probably being from San Diego probably has a better idea of what's allowed out there.

[00:05:23.210] - Ruth Stevens

But another thing to keep in mind is you can also consider looking at the LinkedIn record of your business prospect, because many business people use their personal emails in their LinkedIn contact listing versus their company email. So that's another way to grab this information up.

[00:05:44.390] - Marlys Arnold

Well, that's true. And and probably that's what most people do because there's a lot of people move around a lot. It's probably easier that they just use their personal LinkedIn so it stays consistent. So that's a good point.

[00:05:54.800] - Marlys Arnold

So then once once we've got that connection point, we can reach out to people in the situation. You talked also in the article about creating your own virtual events, in addition to obviously tapping into whatever conferences are going virtual, how how do you go about doing your own virtual event?

[00:06:15.860] - Ruth Stevens

Well, there are a couple of ways to think about it. And I have been noticing a trend for 10, 20 years now of companies running proprietary events used to be called mostly client conferences. And now especially in the tech world, this is migrated into actually open event or they're becoming open event organizers.

[00:06:42.490] - Ruth Stevens

Some of the more famous ones are the Dreamforce event from Salesforce. And Marketo has an excellent marketing event every year, Serious Decisions and so forth. But on a smaller scale, even a client conference can be done virtually. And I, I argue that you get the same benefits.

[00:07:07.110] - Ruth Stevens

The cost is going to be lower because you're not, you know, renting rooms and you can still connect with customers and even prospects in the virtual space. So I think we shouldn't neglect that as part of our marketing mix.

[00:07:24.210] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and that's some of the virtual events that I have attended this summer have been ... this spring and summer have been put on by a B2B company as well. In fact, when I did the Virtual Event Trailblazers Summit, PersoniFest was one of the events that I featured and that was Personify's individual client in-house conference. So, yeah, so that definitely is something that can be done. And I think that it can be done very well because like you said, it's a very highly targeted audience and the audience is very much interested in, you know, participating and it's a lot easier, I think, than trying to market to just the general population.

[00:08:06.150] - Ruth Stevens

Exactly. So it's leveraging that customer relationship that you already have.

[00:08:11.100] - Ruth Stevens

But the other ideas that I'm seeing emerge in the pandemic that I really like is an invitation-only smaller group meeting that might be positioned as a peer event where you you limit it to maybe five, six, seven people so they can have a really deep discussion, like a Zoom breakout room in effect, and have it be about a theme.

[00:08:41.540] - Ruth Stevens

Presumably a theme that it relates to your business value proposition, but but is intended to help them address a burning pain point or current customer problem, and business people love interacting with their peers, sharing ideas. And if you can facilitate that by identifying peers that they either know or maybe even don't know, they're often willing to attend. And with only a handful of attendees, you can really have a rich and deep discussion moderated by you.

[00:09:22.650] - Ruth Stevens

And not salesy. But of course, you want to have a salesperson on hand or maybe in the room or maybe as the moderator and it costs next to nothing. It's pretty easy through digital media to to set up and I'm a big fan of this as both a current customer and prospecting tool.

[00:09:48.770] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and I love it because it is it's like a customer mastermind where there it's like a VIP invite, first of all. And so they get to come in. And for some that might actually be opportunity to meet some of these other clients might be incentive enough for them to want to get involved and then to feel like they've got, you know, that not one on one, but almost one on one attention. And they can actually address some burning issues, like you said.

[00:10:16.370] - Marlys Arnold

I think that's a great idea. And so for companies, especially right now, who maybe you're not doing as much. You know, since we're in this business, a lot of us are not as not as busy as we would like to be. So, you know, that's definitely something you would have the time to pull together and bring in some of these high level clients and prospects. So I think that's a real winner idea and kind of tagging on to that, you also talked about building a community. And I mean, that's ultimately what we've been doing for the last almost six months now with Virtual Lunch is building this community where we all get together every Tuesday. But tell us a little bit more about what you're seeing with that.

[00:10:58.880] - Ruth Stevens

Yeah, this is another B2B marketing trend. It's also popular in consumer marketing.

[00:11:04.730] - Ruth Stevens

And the concept here is that you you organize a place where people who are interested in a certain topic can gather and you either curate or just let let the conversation flow and you stay fairly discreet.

[00:11:26.330] - Ruth Stevens

A great example is how Adobe, now one of the great marketing tech companies around is the sponsor of

[00:11:36.890] - Ruth Stevens

I don't know how much they paid to get that URL, but they're managing a website where CMOs are presumably hanging out and sharing ideas. They populated it with useful information. On the consumer side, you can see Kraft with recipe sites and Sephora has beauty talk sites and so forth.

[00:11:58.520] - Ruth Stevens

But in B2B, one of the early pioneers in this space was Michael Brenner, who is a marketing VP at SAP, and he's actually written a really good book on how he did it and what he learned in setting up there.

[00:12:16.820] - Ruth Stevens

I think it was called marketing innovation or something like that as the URL, but it was designed to attract a lot of search traffic on basic marketing 101, questions that allowed him to attract early stage marketers who SAP was not serving yet and wanted to have in their funnel. So.

[00:12:41.630] - Marlys Arnold

Hmm. So so it sounds like then the examples that you're sharing are more they've actually built their own completely separate website as the not even necessarily community, much more like a magnet to draw start drawing people in. So what about have you been seeing as far as companies creating LinkedIn communities or groups and things to kind of build the community that way?

[00:13:06.110] - Ruth Stevens

Great question. I don't know about you, Marlys, and I would hate any of my friends at LinkedIn to hear me say this, but I think LinkedIn has failed in the group environment. The groups somehow have turned into boring, just boring places, regrettably.

[00:13:26.870] - Marlys Arnold

Well, a lot of them are pretty inactive.

[00:13:30.720] - Ruth Stevens

Yeah, you're making my case for me. I think early on they were sort of hijacked by sellers and so buyers, you know, took off. I advise people when they're setting up their LinkedIn profiles to join groups as a tool for presenting your interests on your profile page. But don't bother really interacting in them and change your settings so that you don't receive email from them.

[00:13:59.970] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and within the industry, I know there's a couple of groups that are semi active, but a lot of a lot of the trade show industry groups that I'm in, I never see any posts or it'll be like somebody will post – and I know I've done this, too – It's like if you're in four different industry groups, you post something and you post to all four and then it comes through and you keep seeing it over and over. But but honestly, I mean, I actually I'm in a lot, not necessarily B2B, but more like marketing groups or podcaster groups or things like that on Facebook. Or specific software that I use.

[00:14:34.070] - Ruth Stevens

They're much more active.

[00:14:35.080] - Marlys Arnold

They're much more active. Yeah. It's like, you know, even though Facebook is not the B2B platform, you know, when it comes to things like that, the interactions, Facebook seems to have it all over LinkedIn. And I'm like you. I haven't really figured out where they failed. But unless we're just all in too many different things as it is and LinkedIn was the first to go.

[00:15:01.740] - Marlys Arnold

Well, if anybody has questions for Ruth, please go ahead and put those in the comments and we will have her answer for you. But go ahead and share with us, Ruth, how people can get ahold of you and maybe what you're working on next, other than I know you're getting ready to start teaching another class this fall. But what else are you working on? What's your interest right now?

[00:15:24.690] - Ruth Stevens

Thank you. I can be reached at And my email, of course, is Ruth(at)

[00:15:33.090] - Ruth Stevens

But I would also welcome people to link in with me. I found having just trashed LinkedIn groups, I find LinkedIn as a business tool incredibly valuable. Yes, it's been a huge resource for me as just an ordinary business person because it allows me to find people that I would never have been able to even know they existed before. So I sure appreciate that.

[00:16:01.230] - Ruth Stevens

In terms of my business, I'm actually I think you and I were talking about this earlier, Marlys. I'm swamped during COVID.

[00:16:11.040] - Ruth Stevens

I don't have time to binge watch the way I might have hoped.

[00:16:16.560] - Ruth Stevens

And part of it is getting ready for my my marketing class to MBAs at Stern starting – oh my goodness – day after tomorrow.

[00:16:28.910] - Ruth Stevens

But also I have a lot of client work and I continue to write a monthly blog article at Biznology that I really enjoy. There's nothing like a deadline, right, Marlys, to get you to crank out that copy. So I appreciate that they they give me a due date every month and I have to comply.

[00:16:49.890] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and this is the link again to the article that we we've been basing all of this on. But yes, you do have lots of other articles on Biznology, I know I've I've read a lot of your different posts up there. So, Alan, you want to go ahead. I think we've also got the Ruth Stevens link we can put up as well. So I'm not seeing any other questions from the audience. But as you all know now, you can get a hold of her. And as far as doing the LinkedIn, I will share a quick tip. As far as LinkedIn, which a friend of mine shared with me is make a QR code for your LinkedIn profile that sends people straight there.

[00:17:26.700] - Marlys Arnold

And then actually I put that up now on my slides for my presentations. And so, you know, so that way everybody's got their phones. So when they're, you know, when they're ...

[00:17:38.190] - Ruth Stevens

What a great idea.

[00:17:39.240] - Marlys Arnold

So they just do the scan scan and that takes them straight to the profile. And so, like, I had like thirty to forty people during the session I was teaching that immediately went over and and connected with me on LinkedIn. So really there's a there's a quick and easy tip for the day.

[00:17:57.680] - Ruth Stevens

I love it.

[00:18:01.110] - Marlys Arnold

Well Ruth, thank you so much. I really, really appreciate your time, especially when you're getting ready to head back to class in a couple of days. I know that presents a whole new layer of challenges this year, but you always have such great things to share. And I know people can gain so much from reading the articles that you post and follow you online. So thank you so much.

[00:18:23.280] - Ruth Stevens

I really enjoyed it, Marlys. Thank you for including me.

[00:18:32.420] - Marlys Arnold

You can find all the links mentioned during this interview in this episode's show notes at And if you'd like to join us for an upcoming weekly Virtual Lunch, you'll find information on that at

[00:19:00.270] - Marlys Arnold

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[00:19:21.290] - Marlys Arnold

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[00:19:43.130] - Marlys Arnold

Well, that's it for this episode of Trade Show Insights. Be sure to check out our show notes and archives, at You can also connect with me using the social media links or contact page on the site. I'm Marlys Arnold. Thanks for listening. And be sure to join us next time for more tools to improve your exhibit results.


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