SPI is Cancelled. Now What?

Due to the damage caused by Hurricane Ida, the in-person 2021 North America Smart Energy Week (aka Solar Power International or SPI) gathering has sadly been cancelled. While necessary for public safety reasons, this is still disappointing news to everyone involved; especially after last year’s cancellation. Many of us were looking forward to meeting fellow solar professionals in-person again. 

There’s another reason solar companies are disappointed. Many rely on SPI to spark brand awareness and engage leads. In fact, many companies budget specifically for this vast networking opportunity. In the wake of cancellation, it’s a challenge to find equally effective uses for that marketing budget. 

However, opportunities still abound for solar companies to drive leads, sales, and revenue. Instead of leaving SPI marketing budgets untouched, here are six alternative strategic marketing strategies that will help organizations achieve similar business outcomes even without SPI 2021.

Create Opportunities Through Direct Email & LinkedIn Outreach

You don’t have to give up business-driving meetings just because you can’t bump into or meet prospects in-person at SPI. For years — and especially in the past online-heavy year — we’ve helped clients build effective email and LinkedIn outreach strategies that yield lucrative customers, partnerships and investments.

Like media outreach, the key is to build a list of relevant leads and then research them before sending out that email or LinkedIn invite. LinkedIn results in particular rely on genuine personal connections — something that many of us are craving even more as in-person events get cancelled. For tips on how to achieve results on LinkedIn, we recommend reading our post on generating and nurturing leads through strong “LinkedInships.

The Return of Direct Mail

On the other side of the advertising coin, sending something “real” helps your business stand out in an increasingly online world. In fact, direct mail is making a comeback; it engages our senses in a way pixels just can’t. 

Three-dimensional, tangible gifts make an even bigger statement — and they aren’t just for B2C any more. Check out thnks.com and postal.io to see B2B gifts and swag whose creativity will make you that much more memorable to your prospects. These websites make it easy to send a nice bottle of wine or a box of goodies to a prospect at a relatively low price point — and the gesture goes a long way. At a lower price point, you can experiment with services like Handwrytten that make it easy to send personalized handwritten cards to your customers and prospects. 

Micro Target Your Audience Using Paid Digital Advertising 

When done right, a digital advertising campaign doesn’t just place you in front of broad swathes of your target audience. It draws them in to engage with you further. 

While you may not be able to get in-person traffic on the floor of SPI, digital advertising can generate impressions and drive website traffic to elevate your brand. In particular, LinkedIn Advertising can be a powerful channel to target niche solar professionals. For best results, we recommend combining content marketing with digital advertising to provide valuable content, such as blogs, one-pagers, and eBooks, to increase engagement and showcase your thought leadership

Here at Antenna Group, we provide all of the above, paired with a deep-rooted understanding of how each aspect of digital advertising integrates with the rest to support your business goals and objectives. 

Sharpen Your CRM To Make These Efforts More Potent

CRMs (Customer Response Management systems) help your employees save valuable time and increase their bandwidth for marketing and sales activities that can’t be automated. They help keep customers happy, warm up leads, provide analytics and data to assess campaigns’ effectiveness, and more. 

Since your business development depends more on online leads than it did with in-person conferences, now is a good time to make sure you’re getting your contacts organized and segmented in your CRM. This will help you incorporate more personalization and automation in your outreach efforts.

If you aren’t utilizing a CRM and not sure where to start, as a Hubspot agency we can help you implement a CRM strategy that will help drive new and improve existing business for your organization.

Hold Your Own Virtual Event 

You don’t have to wait for SPI 2022 to connect with your clean energy friends and colleagues. Many companies have successfully transitioned the essential elements online: webinars, roundtables, fireside chats, product demos, virtual exhibitions, even fully-immersive 3D virtual reality experiences. You can attract partners, customers, prospects, and investors by hosting your own virtual experience through your own channels, or through a sponsorship opportunity with a third party media partner. You can also tag-team these virtual opportunities with some partners and customers to reach a wider audience.

Reporters Are Still Hungry for Great Stories 

Although reporters won’t be on the ground at SPI, those originally scheduled to attend are still looking for newsworthy solar developments — and you can still use SPI information to identify and engage with them

If you were going to attend as an exhibitor, this is easy: you most likely have access to the official media list from SPI organizers. Even if you weren’t sponsoring, you can find interested outlets by searching for relevant coverage from past SPI events or by searching the #SPICon hashtags on social media channels. The solar mediaverse that would be attending SPI is probably less than 100 total contacts.

But a promising list of reporters is only the beginning. Many other companies are pitching these same reporters, and journalists are specifically asking for more tailored, relevant pitches. That’s why our Antenna Group team not only builds media lists, but also maintains close relationships with relevant journalists and researches each one’s beat, tone, and interests. This helps us differentiate our clients’ pitches so that they stand out from the noise, resulting in top-tier media and trade magazine placements. 

Think Outside the (SPI) Box

Honestly, we can’t wait for in-person trade shows to start up again. 

But while we all eagerly await the opportunity to safely attend, you don’t need to wait to make new connections and drive sales. By investing in existing technologies (and perhaps some good old-fashioned snail mail), your 2021 sales and business development goals remain in reach. 

Antenna Group excels at developing PR and marketing strategies from the ground up to final execution. Contact us today for a complimentary assessment of how we can help you drive sales and marketing results during these turbulent times — and beyond.


Update: In the original version of this post we referenced that one of the reasons that SPI was cancelled was due to the rising delta variant cases, however, SPI is being cancelled solely due to the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

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