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My Trade Show Was Canceled. Now What?

Use budget dollars to reach your show goals
By Maureen Corbett, June 11, 2020 // Marketing

[About a 4 MIN read]

As marketers, industry trade shows are our Big Game. They are a once- or twice-a-year opportunity to interact with prospects, industry experts, competitors, colleagues, and new industry technology. Large amounts of time, money, and resources go into preparing for trade shows, so when a large event is canceled, it can feel like a missed opportunity to meet big targets.

Review Your Goals

When a trade show is canceled, the first thing your team should do is pause and consider your trade show goals. Maybe it was to generate new leads, launch a product, position your company as an industry leader, or supplement networking with education about your category or competition. Once your goals have been identified, you can then move forward and determine other solutions for accomplishing your mission by reallocating those trade show budget dollars.

A canceled trade show is never ideal, but there are other ways you can achieve your marketing objectives in an impactful way. You might even find you didn’t need the trade show in the first place. Read on for a few ideas to replace trade show events that will continue to drive your business forward.

Host a Live Virtual Event

Just because you won’t have a live audience doesn’t mean you can’t put on a show. If your goal was to showcase your latest technology or announce a new product, think about ways you can still make this happen online. Broadcast a demonstration of your product and invite interested parties to watch live through a series of eblasts, social promotions, and digital advertising tactics to generate awareness. There are also opportunities to impress with eye-catching displays, banners, lighting, and music to make the event footage highly impactful.

Launch a Webinar or Podcast Series

Trade shows provide opportunities for companies to position themselves as thought leaders and share expertise through educational modules. There are ways to do this virtually, and webinars are a great way to share information with your customers. Webinars offer clear methods to organize your industry knowledge, and whether you offer a free or monetized series, you can collect data on those who attend. Alternatively, podcasts have the ability to reach a very specific audience in a relatively easy way. You can promote your webinar or podcast through emails and on your website. Sending follow-up communications to attendees and listeners should include additional brand resources that further position you as a leader.

Invest in Video

Nothing can replace in-person communication, but video is a powerful tool to help tell a story in an increasingly virtual world. Video offers the opportunity for your tailored message to be shared among your leads and with multiple viewings get your message ingrained in the minds of customers. Think about the story your company is trying to tell and brainstorm ways this can be incorporated into video. Depending on the length and message, you can share this story with your customers on different platforms such as social, digital, broadcast, or even on your own website.

Unique Sales Presentations

When you can’t be there in person, sales presentations add the personal touch. Slide shows can be presented via shared screen in video chat or downloaded for private viewing. Adding simple video and custom voice-overs can personalize the download experience with added wow factor.

Collaborate with Like-Minded Brands

If networking was your goal, think about opportunities for you to partner with other businesses and cross-promote your products. Are there suppliers, manufacturers, or retailers that will help make a marketing initiative more authentic and far-reaching? It’s very likely that other companies in your category are experiencing the same dilemma and are eager to try something new. Reach out, align your goals, and combine budgets for maximum impact and reach.

Explore Unique Direct Mail Opportunities

Direct mail not only cuts through the constant inbox clutter but is a high-impact way to remind your key targets that you’re still around. Think beyond just simple trinkets that are easily forgotten, and instead explore opportunities to personalize the customer experience. This should be about quality not quantity and can be focused toward your top customers. Delivering something valuable that can be used or seen every day will help keep your business top-of-mind as a solution driver.

NOTE: With the new work-from-home culture, make sure your database is up to date so your mail makes a timely impact.

Launch a Sweepstakes Campaign

If you had a big trade show budget that you don’t want to lose, now is the perfect time for a grand marketing initiative that hasn’t been prioritized in the past. Think about a big-ticket item related to your category that customers really want and make a splash by offering an opportunity for them to win it. Build a landing page announcing the sweepstakes, and utilize media to drive customers to enter and win. You can also use this as an opportunity to collect data on your audience for future marketing initiatives.


The (trade) show can still go on. Contact Pathfinders Advertising today to start a conversation about how you can shift your trade show plans to new marketing initiatives with significant reach.

Author

Maureen Corbett
Maureen Corbett

Over the years, Maureen Corbett has used her keen organizational and interpersonal skills to develop integral links between agency and client. She has helped drive the agency's creative and administrative staff to produce influential campaigns for Whirlpool, Maytag, PNC Bank, Hills Bros. Coffee, Bactine, FDS, eMoney, MillerCoors, Rivers Casino, Turtle Wax, and YMCA.

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