COVID Canceled Your Trade Show? Here Are Five Alternatives

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  • 8/20/2020

    The impact of COVID-19 has led to strange times for marketers. We’re seeing new paradigm shifts every day, and at thunder::tech, we are working hard to help you navigate its impact on your business. This content is one of many resources we are creating for marketing and management in the midst of the coronavirus.
    As things continue to change, we’re helping by providing marketing advice, fresh perspectives and strategic planning for companies during and after the pandemic. Read on for more resources for marketers with businesses affected by COVID-19.
    If you had a trade show or event canceled in 2020, you aren’t alone. Trade show exhibition and participation is a business-critical component of most marketing and sales organizations, but the pandemic has severely hampered these types of gatherings all across the nation. 
    Strategic planning for 2020 took place mostly in 2019, so there was no way to foresee the events of this year outside of a crystal ball. Many marketers had trade shows virtually disappear in Q2 of this year. If you’re one of them, how have you reallocated those trade show budgets to other marketing efforts? Have you poured extra dollars into keeping audience connections alive in the last few months? 
    Many of our clients have noted that the disruption of the trade show industry, lack of client entertainment and the loss of face-to-face communication have been significant hurdles to overcome this year. But these troubles haven’t stopped many marketers from pushing  outside their comfort zones and getting creative with their trade show expenditures.
    If you have extra trade show budgets and time at your disposal, here are five things you can do to make the most of your resources.

    Participate in or host a virtual trade show experience

    Many trade show organizers have gone virtual to keep their booth concept alive without investing in paletts full of industrial sized bottles of hand sanitizer. Based on event logistics, you can create a virtual booth with virtual product exhibits shown through video. One of our clients, PSS, successfully created a virtual experience complete with live Zoom access for sales people to connect after a canceled trade show. This creative approach allowed their team to make connections, although digital, during this time and kept sales top of mind in front of potential customers. 
    Even if you aren’t attending a trade show, you can always host a webinar designed to gather email addresses and share crucial information and company updates. Anything to get your sales people in front of the audience they would miss without a virtual gathering.

    Build up your e-newsletter and direct mail lists

    With more screen time for weary marketers, now is a great time to update digital and traditional mailing lists. Your customers are looking for even more communication as they can’t physically interact with your staff, so email and direct mail are a great way to give updates. Our recommendation for email lists is to start with an opt-in campaign and stay the course to slowly build the list and avoid being marked as spam. For traditional mailing lists, look to your accounting software for business addresses and don’t forget to reach out to your customers to ask for their home mailing address if they are remote. Who doesn’t like getting a little snail mail these days?

    Try digital advertising for lead generation

    Trade shows are used for prospecting, so it’s important you don’t miss out on that valuable list of leads that comes out of every trade show. Instead, run an online lead generation campaign using digital advertising to grow your audience. Research your audience and get an idea of where they’re living online these days. Then, invest in anything as simple as a LinkedIn ad campaign, or get strategic and create an entire new video for YouTube pre roll. You can also dip your toes in the waters of programmatic advertising or another new type of advertising you haven’t tried before. 

    Invest in a gifting campaign for surprise and delight

    In year’s past, you may have used a client entertainment budget used for trade shows, dinners and events. Although it’s not being used as it was in prior years, those dollars can still go toward letting your customers know you are thinking of them. We have used gifting as a way to reach out and let clients know that we care for their well being during this time. It could be a greeting card, a gift card or a delivery of food that shows you value your partnership professionally and personally. 

    Work on video production

    If you can’t be there with your clients, the next best thing can be to create multimedia experiences that you share with your customers. These experiences can include anything from your latest COVID-19 business updates to a new product launch or simply showing the personal side of your employees as they continue their professional lives while working from home.
    Video can be shot with anything from a phone all the way up to the latest and greatest 8K camera, but our advice is to be human. What we mean is don’t try to up the production value just because you think you have to. The greatest video focuses on the core of the message and translates to engaging content that earns close attention.  
    Some of these examples involve more work than others, but all of these efforts can accomplish the same goals as a trade show: generating leads and building and strengthening relationships with customers.
    There will be plenty of time for business as usual in a post-COVID world, so now might just be the perfect time for you to experiment. Whatever you decide to do in place of your regular trade shows, be sure you don’t let the opportunity to connect virtually go to waste!
    About the author::J.P. Krainz is a Account Services Group Manager at thunder::tech. When not making client’s dreams come true, he enjoys rocking the drums and raising children to be future Congress men and women. 
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