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Trade shows have long been considered the gold standard in B2B marketing.  It’s hard to replace the face to face interaction you get at a trade show.  Your trade show exhibit communicates your brand story and offers insight into your brand from a distance.  The products or services you display inside your booth space pique interest.  Live demonstrations allow people to discover for themselves why they need your business.  It’s hard to achieve that outside of a face to face interaction at a trade show.

However, we’re living through uncertain times.  The global coronavirus crisis has left people sheltered in place across the globe, reopening societies and economies on a staggered basis.  There’s no clear indication when you’ll be at your next trade show.  Does that mean you should give up on marketing your business?  No.  You’ll need to keep selling, manufacturing, or performing your services to survive this pandemic.  We’ve compiled some great ideas so your team doesn’t lose its marketing momentum outside of a trade show.  Try the following strategies before you get back on the trade show floor:

Host a Virtual Lunch and Learn Before Your Next Trade Show

Lunch and learns used to be very popular with businesses.  It was all the rage years ago to collect your prospects in a room, cater some lunch, and dive into a deeper discussion.  As the digital era made that passé, it became popular to host these internally in order to educate sales, marketing, and production about newly developed products.  Eventually this too fell by the wayside.

lunch and learn alternatives to trade show

As they say, what’s old becomes new again.  Absent the ability to meet your prospects, customers, and leads at a trade show, try resurrecting the old concept of a lunch and learn.  After all, at a trade show, your goal would be to educate these people on your business’ new product offerings, service capabilities, and more.  Instead, you can practice social distancing and host a virtual lunch and learn series.  You can offer a variety of different topics that are at the forefront of the industry’s mind to establish relevance.  We’ve all got nothing but time inside.  Capitalize on their availability and lack of commitments outside the office.

trade show marketing

The key to success is how you market this series and what topics you can cover that aren’t the same boring topics they’ve heard a hundred times before.  For example, an HR consultancy firm might want to cover edgier topics such as marijuana use and the workplace, OSHA compliance during the coronavirus, and more.  These kinds of topics are more likely to get people’s attention.  Soon, you’ll be able to demonstrate the value you would normally at a trade show.

Send Care Packages to Your Clients and Prospects

Many of us are working from home and miss the thoughtful kinds of interactions that we used to engage in on a daily basis.  At a trade show, your clients and prospects might have been treated to a special dinner or attended a happy hour inside your trade show booth.  These kinds of thoughtful interactions are what endear you to your clients and makes it harder for them to leave for a competitor.  Absent the ability to wine and dine them at a trade show, consider sending a thoughtful care package.

trade show swag

Imagine sitting at home and receiving a delivery from someone you do business with regularly.  It’s unexpected.  What could be inside?  Instead of just sending prototypes, literature, or something business related, send something considerate.  They’ll see your goods and services at the next trade show.  Now is a great time to show them your empathy.  Consider making up custom care packages such as healthcare kits, soothing essentials, or even some fun adult activities/ hobbies to pass the spare time.  Include an empathetic card and your business card.  That kind of goodwill will go a long way and make your business top of mind when spending freezes end and your next trade show occurs. You may even get some traction on social media from people who were touched by your actions.

Get Social

There’s no better time to engage in social media.  Across the globe, people who are sheltered inside are increasingly turning to social media for entertainment.  This is the perfect time to show off products you would have shown at your trade show.  It’s also a great time to offer content regarding use of your products. You might have offered specialty foods at a trade show like NRA in a café setting.  However, without the trade show, you can recreate this feeling with your social media content.  Be sure to use the hashtags that are most relevant and current trends as they apply to your industry.

social media trade show exhibit

In months, we may all be at a trade show laughing about the ways in which we passed our time indoors.  Until then, don’t take your foot off the gas when it comes to marketing.  Try these strategies to keep in contact with your intended audience outside of a trade show.  When you’re ready, your exhibit house partner will be there for you to help you amplify your marketing on the trade show floor.

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