For most manufacturing and agri-businesses, trade shows and conferences are a vital part in sales, networking, business development and professional development. Although things are starting to open up in various parts of Canada and the US, there is still some question about the future of large scale trade show events. Many have been cancelled for the year, some are being postponed or moved online while others are still completely up in the air.
What does this mean for your marketing efforts? There are some cost savings by not attending these events be it for travel, registration and general marketing but your company will most likely also miss out on the opportunities that are usually created from participating. If you haven't put a plan in place, it's not too late to start. Here are some ways that you can replace those sales and networking events that are acceptable in light of coronavirus health and safety measures.
One of the main reasons why people attend industry trade shows is to connect with colleagues; usually ones they only see at that specific show. Keeping in touch with colleagues and networks can be done even though the event isn't happening.
- Pick up the phone - Make a call to your business contacts. Ask them how things are doing and if there is anything you or your company can do to help. If there is a group of you who normally get together at a trade show or conference for beverages; arrange a group video chat to check in.
- Send an email - In the same spirit of picking up the phone, reach out to your regular trade show colleagues through an email. It's less personal but it maintains visibility and can be a little more efficient. Just be sure to personalize the email by adding a few sentences about them, their company, your past relationship or the fact that you're missing seeing them at the show.
- Host a webinar - At the onset of the pandemic, there seemed to be an abundance of information, free webinars and events that felt like information overload. Now that things are starting to settle in to a 'new normal' it may be worth while to consider hosting a webinar. They check many of the same boxes for people as do conferences and trade shows as they allow you to connect directly with your audience, showcase some thought leadership and elevate your brand awareness. Consider promoting the webinar through a show organizer or show partner; there will likley be some promotional costs to doing so but the extended reach may be worth it.
- Social Media - Keep partners, customers and followers informed about your business activities during the pandemic by posting regularly on your social media channels. This can be effective through your business accounts but also encourage team members to share the content to gain visibility and tap in to their networks where appropriate. While people are working from home, they are looking for opportunities to live vicariously through others and see what their colleagues are up to. Remember though that it's a two-way street; don't just push out content expecting others to like and share it. Engage with others on the platforms by leaving comments and connecting.
- Video - Video is increasingly becoming one of the best ways to connect with audiences and you don't need a pricey suite of tools to produce decent quality videos. Consider embedding a personal video message in your outreach emails so people can see your smiling face and sincerity. Record some snippits of your work on the shop floor and push it out on your social media channels. You'd be surprised at how effective it can be at catching the attention of your audience.
There's no mistake that trade shows and conferences is a great way to stand out in your industry and be visible. Entire booths are designed to be taller, louder, bigger to attrace attention. Just because you don't have the show floor to get attention, you can still be quite visible to your customers.
- Advertising - If you are still able to invest some of your marketing budget that you're now not spending at the show, consider investing in advertising instead. This can be a traditional campaign in a trade magazine or instead work on digital ads (such as Google, Bing and LinkedIn) that are programmatic and targetted.
- Content Creation and Content Curation - It's really easy to create a hub on your existing website to create a hub of industry related information. Write your own content that is relevant to your customers and share other related industry news to help people stay informed and up to date on trends related to industry. Take it to the next level and encourage people to sign up for real time updates so they can get the news delivered to their inbox. Not only does this help you maintain visibility but it creates a database of email addresses that you can later push out additional marketing information to and engage in the sales process.
- Attend Online Conferences - The costs to attend virtual trade shows and conferences are significantly less than what you would pay to attend an in-person event. Take advantage of this and consider sponsoring an event or spread out your resources and attend shows and conferences virtually that you wouldn't normally have budget to attend. This will help you determine if the in-person version may be worth the investment in future years and will expand your networks into new circles.
- Think out of the Box - COVID-19 has effected industries and global economies in ways we never would have imagined. Now is the time to experiment with new ways to reach out and connect to help your business reach new heights.
Start Planning for Next Year
Call us optimistic but there are a number of industry shows that are starting to roll out dates and information for a 2021 event. Our experience tells us that when an industry partner decides to attend (either as a delegate, presenter or with a booth), they typically wait until the last minute to start making the arrangements. It's human nature! But you have a unique opportunity now to begin your plans for next year; so why not? Not sure what events are happening when - check out our list of upcoming trade shows for Canadian manufacturers.