Your Big Trade Show is Canceled for This Year. So What’s Next?

Fifteen years ago, trade shows were considered ‘old school’ and losing favor fast. The digital revolution would disrupt everything and huge in-person selling exhibitions would go the way of the Yellow Pages. Obviously, that didn’t happen and in fact trade shows and exhibitions have grown over the last decade into a $2.5 trillion industry. Then, along comes COVID and suddenly all bets are off for 2020 and 2021. Just as Zoom calls instantly replaced the in-person business meeting, how do you pivot quickly to rescue your 2020 business plan? Here are 5 areas to consider redirecting those trade show budget dollars before you lose them.

1. B2B Ecommerce Portals.

First things first. If you don’t already have an online ecommerce channel for customers and channel partners to order from you, the time is now. Your customers still want to buy from you, they just expect a seamless digital experience with supporting tools at their fingertips when and where they need it.

2. Lead Gen.

Trade shows are great for filling the top of the sales funnel with prospects. Prospects raise their hand by stopping by your booth and engaging with a salesperson. A scan of their badge and they’ve entered your CRM. Online lead gen campaigns can fill that function by finding qualified prospects using sophisticated targeting techniques that incorporate demographics, behaviors or interests, geo fencing and AI predictive modeling. Getting them to connect in this context requires content that’s relevant, engaging and helpful. Prior year’s event attendee lists are generally available for purchase which can help to supplement online campaigns. Customer journey mapping (with personas) can help inform the type of content that each type of prospect requires and when.

3. New Product Launches.

Most marketers plan their product launches around important industry trade shows to leverage the excitement and media attention surrounding these events. Without these industry events on the calendar, creating buzz around launches is still possible with integrated multi-media campaigns involving PR, attention-getting campaigns, and social strategies.

4. Thought Leadership.

Many marketers view their investment/presence at trade shows as table stakes confirming their status as an industry player. Not showing up with a booth and they’re conspicuous by their absence. This can easily be addressed online with an elevated thought leadership strategy involving regular pieces of content, development or sponsorship of online forums, webinars, exchanges or discussions, or participation in educational/developmental programs for the industry.

5. Invest In Great Content.

If you can’t connect with a conversation, connect with a great message and memorable content for your audience. Take your content a step further and develop a strategy to server specific pieces of content to specific audiences. Content created now could be used and re-used when the time is right. Be prepared with a library of assets to help tell your story.

While COVID put an abrupt end to the status quo, in many ways it has energized and accelerated the digital transformation that began 15 years ago. Don’t give up those trade show marketing dollars from your budget, redirect them to what’s next. And if you’re looking to pivot, we’re here to help. Get a hold of us at sales@bolinagency.com