What to Do When Events and Trade Shows Aren’t an Option

Kevin Mullins

By all accounts, it seems that COVID-19 and social distancing are here to stay — at least for the foreseeable future.

That doesn’t bode too well for many businesses, especially those that used to rely heavily on their sales teams flying to live events and trade shows or manning branded company booths as part of their outbound marketing strategy.

According to Statista, as of April 2020, 87% of U.S. event professionals and their suppliers cancelled planned events because of the pandemic. Another 66% had to postpone them. 

Statista Trade Shows
Courtesy of Statista

That’s the bad news. Especially, if your company relies on traditional outbound strategies and in-person events to get your products and services in front of customers.

The good news is you can do something about it.

Thankfully, we also live in a digital age. We have access to websites and landing pages, chatbots and instant messaging apps, smart online scheduling apps, and video meetings.

Smart and savvy teams have everything you need to pivot marketing efforts from outbound to inbound and move (most) marketing online. 

Here are a few tips and tricks on how to turn lemons into lemonade and create new client outreach and networking opportunities — with maximum effectiveness and minimal health risks. 

Get Active on Social Media

Social media is one of the easiest ways to connect to current and potential customers and grow your brand awareness. 

Use this time to step up your presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and beyond. Consider branching out into new social media channels (TikTok, anyone?) and focus on sharing high-quality content that brings value to your followers. 

social media

Host Live Events Online

You don’t have to cancel your events. Just have your event team move them online. Think virtual trade shows, webinars, conferences, and live streams.

One added benefit of online events is that you can invite stellar keynote speakers and market leaders that are normally unavailable for offline speaking engagements. If you do your virtual promotions right, you can draw sizeable crowds of virtual attendees without spending a dime on venue rentals. 

Upload Pre-Record Videos

Don’t have the budget or infrastructure to host online events in real time? You can still get in the business video game. 

YouTube, Vimeo, and other free video platforms are great options to host pre-recorded video materials such as demos, talks, lectures, tutorials, and interviews. 

Create Informative Content

Case studies, datasheets, eBooks, and cheat sheets are all hallmarks of inbound marketing. These marketing materials can position your brand as an authoritative, trusted guide, while giving your target audience useful promotional materials with educational value. 

Revamp Your Website and Online Presence

With so many events paused and sales teams grounded, you might as well update and optimize your website design and overall web presence for converting new customers online.

With the money you save, you could even redirect some of your physical events and travel budget to other digital marketing staples like SEO, inbound marketing, and improving customer service. 


Research and Learn New Skills

Nothing lasts forever. Eventually, scientists will come up with a cure and COVID-19 will be a thing of the past. 

Until then, though, use this time to analyze your brand and market positioning and target customers. Preparing for an uncertain future now (including future pandemics, economic downturns, or lockdowns), will give you the skills you need to race ahead of the competition.

Final Thoughts 

Forming real human connections with your customers and business partners is an integral part of any successful sales and marketing strategy — whether outbound or inbound. Offline social interactions like events and trade shows play an important role in that.

However, just because corona virus has paused the “business events world”, doesn’t mean your marketing has to pause with it. Online communication and virtual events are great ways to continue your marketing efforts and drive business value — even if we factor out COVID-19.

Well-thought-out digital networking events and online trade shows can keep your brand top-of-mind and leave a lasting impression with your target audience. And the best part? You don’t have to worry about renting exhibition halls, scanning badges, and wearing stuffy business attire! (Just don’t forget to change out of your pajamas for your 9AM business video call.)

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