By Sadie Groom, Managing Director at Bubble Agency
Since the Coronavirus pandemic began earlier in the year, sizable chunks of marketing budgets have either already been cut or are sitting in limbo after the postponement or cancellation of trade shows. With the breaking news of CES 2021 going completely virtual for the first time in its history, and in light of the ‘virtual trade show’ becoming the new normal, there has been a colossal shift in focus to the virtual world where marketing and sales need to launch new initiatives to achieve effective results. But are companies maximising all the opportunities available?
Securing new leads and networking (with existing clients/prospects to get those vital introductions to new leads) are two key aims of the game at trade shows. Despite the loss of the physical elements of these events, there should not be a need for concern when it comes to connecting virtually. Practically overnight, a company’s online and digital presence has become its biggest asset. There are lots of ways to regain and maintain momentum in light of key calendar fixtures now taking place virtually. These are a lot less complicated than you may think.
- Reflect on the purpose of trade shows for your business – consider why you attend. Is it for customer interactions, securing business and deals, data capture, or for all of these reasons? Have you been able to go through your data to work out who and how you interact with your stakeholders and what is most effective for them? After this, you need to build an effective and creative plan (don’t just do what everyone else is doing) to garner results. Adaptability is key here and it’s vital to know which tactics to deploy to ensure campaigns are measurable, especially at this current time.
- Start your planning early – engage with trade show organisers that are turning events digital as soon as the news of their virtual offerings are announced, or even before. Getting in there early and working with them one-to-one shows your appetite for engagement. The event organisers are also having to do a lot of research into how the new world will work, so use them and their knowledge/time for that.
- Implement a strong strategy to navigate the realms of the virtual trade show – Think about why customers and prospects want to do business with you? Go further than face value – they need to fully buy into your brand and the reason you stand apart from the competition. Remember, there are a lot of companies vying for attention without the physical element of a trade show, so it’s vital to build a strong, concise and compelling message to engage with your target audience. Adaptability is also key to meet the needs of your different customers and prospects – this will not be a ‘one size fits all’ remedy. It also means that as circumstances develop across the world, you can change things quickly.
- Your social media presence is more important than ever – social media should never be an afterthought or a tag on. Interaction with followers in the lead up to the show and engaging with new followers is key to the success of any event, be it virtual or ‘for real’. Markets such as China use other social platforms, so be sure to dedicate time to localising your comms with dedicated community management.
- Direct mail campaign – remember you have to connect three times with a person on email for them to take notice, so create a multi-touch campaign for your targeted lists. This could be a targeted invite for an online meeting, event, or something like a promo product, plus the pieces we describe below. This will keep you at the front of their mind around the virtual activities happening in place of the physical show.
- Inbound or content marketing – in any format this serves as a cornerstone of any campaign and needs to be produced prior to your campaigns starting. This could be an eBook, whitepaper, tips or tricks, how to guides, and offers expertise that some of your competitors may not be. You then need to use one of the many digital audience tools to guide your marketing campaigns, and most importantly, target people with what you know they want to see.
- Build on your digital marketing strategy – is one of the biggest pieces of the marketing puzzle in 2020. PPC, SEO and lead generation are vital to boosting outreach, particularly around a show when you can use it to target key demographics who you know you would have crossed paths with on your booth.
- Opt for video marketing – the Coronavirus pandemic has increased the vital need to incorporate video to educate your prospects and to demo or showcase your product or service offering in new and engaging ways. Invest in formats that can be used across your website and can generate views, clicks and likes on social media.
- Create a landing page or microsite on the website for key messaging and promotions – your website is your shop window. With there being such a huge saturation of online offerings in a time where face to face interaction is lacking, be sure to highlight key messages and news. Also look at creating an area where this is available to access easily and clearly.
- Virtual offering for prospects and customers – although there is now some apathy towards webinars, if your content and speakers are useful, knowledgeable and succinct, they will still have a place. In addition, you can host a series of online meetings for discussions around your main show news, as well as more informal gatherings, such as a quiz or catching up with key contacts over a drink on a virtual call – the statistics are saying a maximum of 10 people online to make it most effective.
- Virtual roundtables – reach out to the industry (even your competitors) to lead the charge on reigniting and owning the discussions around trends that usually take place at a show. Invite them to roundtable conversations hosted on your platforms and promote widely through your social media. Also consider partnering with an industry publication or trade association for wider reach and promotion.
- Engaging with customers in other ways – utilise the data that is already available to you from previous email campaigns to distribute news via an e-newsletter. Give away as much content as you can on your website and continue to promote via social media and email.
- Stay connected with the press to benefit your customers – create an open dialogue with your key press contacts, including those who have covered your news in the past. Send them your news under embargo prior to the show as an exclusive or offer for them to speak to a member of the team in advance of the show for insights into your announcements. These kinds of opportunities will help lay the foundations of a successful virtual engagement.
- Journalists and press want stories to replace the news usually published at shows – press and influencers are vital to the effective distribution of your messaging. Engage early to discuss key themes, and if possible, pre-organise what announcements you can offer them to secure articles in advance of the show.
- Be featured in the show dailies – with trade shows taking a certain virtual presence for the foreseeable, be sure to check that the show daily is still planning issues in a digital form. Check for revised deadlines and work directly with these important titles to help disseminate your key messages to the industry.
- Press days – if and when social distancing measures are reduced further, there could be potential opportunities for small gatherings across the days of the show for key press. If possible, you may also be able to invite other stakeholders to these events depending on government guidelines.
- Work with industry bodies to help secure additional promotion – industry associations are a seal of approval that many prospects consider when making a decision on whether to engage in a conversation. Be sure to familiarise yourself with the affiliations within your respected industry, and most importantly with the benefits these associations offer.
- Industry awards – are a great seal of approval for any business. Be sure to be aware of all awards relevant to your products, projects and even your staff that are happening around a virtual trade show.
- Follow-ups and continuing the conversation – don’t go quiet after the virtual show or event and be sure to set time aside for follow up conversations. There must be a clear pipeline for follow up on leads and conversations that were had during the virtual show time and continued comms is vital to the success of these offerings.
- Engage with industry experts, such as a specialist marketing and PR agency like Bubble, for dedicated support – with events being cancelled, industry specialists (such as us!) know that traditional marketing activities are going to have to change. Source help in the most effective way for your business and budget to help make it a smoother process.
If you are interested in learning more about how to maximise your own results and about how Bubble Agency can assist in transforming your business with our knowledge and network, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org