Trade show planning post-pandemic?

A go-to guide for when(ever) events come back.

June 8, 2020 / Marjoram

It’s been a rough few months for the exhibition business. Not only the organizations and exhibit companies involved in trade shows, but also the component technology companies that rely on trade shows to create visibility for their brands, products, or technologies. Whenever they come back (and I believe it will be sooner rather than later), trade shows will again present an excellent opportunity to bring visibility to your company, grow your business, and build customer engagement. The reality is that the events themselves may be changed forever, and marketers will have to plan accordingly. Below are some tips to help you stand out from the crowd at your next trade show (whether there’s a crowd or not):

Tradshow planning post-pandemic
  1. Set the goals.
    The first thing to do when planning for the next event is to clarify the goals. These need to be fluid and set realistic expectations based on what the event will look like. Is it online? Is it scaled back? Are there specific attendance rules in place? Whatever the event decides to do next, set your goals and expectations accordingly. Once you have established specific objectives, clearly expressed and easily quantified, it’s time to plan.
  2. Plan to succeed.
    Carefully plan for the show and try to look at it from every new angle. A multi-pronged, flexible approach will work best—for example, your strategy for driving visitors to your booth may have to incorporate new contactless methods, such as online meetings. You may have to rely on technology more now than in the past, including video conferencing, email campaigns, and online product demos. Creating buzz ahead of time and working to attract customers to these new elements must be part of your overarching strategy.
  3. Be impactful.
    In the past, your booth would be well-designed, visually inviting, and staffed by approachable, knowledgeable people who enjoy conversing directly with customers. This scenario may not be the case going forward, so you should consider contactless presentations and other technology that can drive engagement from an appropriate distance. (For example, traffic-driving booth refreshments will have to be reconsidered, especially for the short term.) Once you’ve got those aspects covered, create a visually interesting prospect-to-customer journey that prominently highlights what your ingredient brand makes possible–not just a list of what you make.
  4. Have something to say.
    Take any opportunity you can to speak at the trade show—even if it’s online and not in person—but don’t give a sales presentation. Instead, help to improve your industry by offering valuable content that will draw and hold a listener’s attention. The best way to engage people is to have something meaningful to share with them. Be the expert and they’ll start to see you that way.
  5. Build a (better) different mouse trap.
    In the past, one of the most effective methods of building relationships at a trade show was to engage customers through various forms of pre- and post-show communications (email, social media, direct marketing), along with offering in-booth promotions that generated automatic follow-up. These strategies will probably need to be adjusted. Think about how you’ve been utilizing technology off the show floor—can you use that to construct an online experience that creates engagement, interest, and follow up? Technology can’t replace the sales conversation, but it can make it easier.
  6. Bring it home!
    The goal of the trade show, of course, is to generate interest in your component technologies and create new customers. No matter the show’s form, by making the visitor experience memorable and then following up using the contact information you’ve gathered, you’ll maximize your opportunity to sustain the interest generated by your presence there. Don’t delay in making post-show contact with your new friends. The days immediately following a show are crucial for “top-of-mind” engagement, so be sure to personalize your follow up (no generic email blasts) to avoid losing the goodwill you’ve built.
    Trade shows may change going forward, but they can still be an opportunity to build engagement and expand your customer base, regardless of format. Create a flexible strategy for establishing meaningful engagement and you’ll be able to make the most of these events – regardless of their format.

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