Before the pandemic, trade shows were the second-largest and fastest-growing source of B2B revenue in the U.S., according to PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook report.
While trades hows have not gone away in 2020, they look a little different. Virtual events have emerged as a substitute for some of the most popular trade shows, like the massive Consumer Electronics Show typically held in Las Vegas. According to a study done by Bizzibo in 2019, CMOs set aside 21% of their annual marketing budget for live events. To put that budget to good use in 2020, marketing teams need to develop a sound digital marketing strategy to knock it out of the park at these new virtual trade shows.
In the past, you could be the booth with the best branded swag or promo items, or maybe you were the one with the fanciest aesthetics, or maybe you had a famous celebrity to greet those passing by. Today and in the foreseeable future, the way you think about trade shows will have to change. That competitive advantage you had previously is most likely gone, and everyone, large and small, is given the same booth and same resources.
So how are you going to stand out? The answer is digital marketing.
How will people find my booth?
You’re lucky if the conference provides an incentive for attendees to visit your booth. If they don’t, without a solid digital marketing strategy, you are betting on an attendee selecting your name from a list of hundreds of other companies. The odds are slim, and with every other booth looking identical, the chances of converting are even smaller. So how are you going to drive that coveted traffic? A digital marketing golden feature called matched audiences.
The geniuses at Facebook, LinkedIn and Google came up with this feature that allows you to upload a CSV file and their system will match the profiles it has to the information you provided. Say goodbye to marketing waste. This will allow you to really hone in on your conference audience and focus your marketing spend on those that matter.
How do I stand out?
To stand out you need to think of how you are going to replicate your in-person success. Sometimes it is looking for an alternative and other times it is testing something so out there that you wouldn’t have tried it before. Below are some of the tools and tactics Kit Check, D.C.-based curator of technology solutions for medication monitoring in pharmacies, leveraged for one of its virtual conference:
If you don’t know what Cameo is then you need to look it up. Gone are the days of six-figure celebrity endorsements. This app has A through D listers and everything in between. A newer function is that you can buy a promotional cameo (30-second video). We hire Ice T, Meredith from “The Office,” Hodor from “Game of Thrones” and the Todd from “Scrubs” to hype up our booth and products. The upper-tier celebrities will cost around $1,000 to $3,000 on average, but you can find people like Carole Baskin from Netflix’s “Tiger King” for $600. It’s not for every brand, but engagement was four times higher than our traditional social media posts.
Imagine virtual meetings set up like a Sims game. This app is still in beta mode and is free to use until it is released to the market. They have prebuilt meeting rooms, panel setups and much more. Your guests will get to create an avatar, attend your presentation and network without leaving the app. Zoom meetings can be repetitive and lackluster. Give Teooh a try to add a fun gamification to your next event.
3. Interactive games and microsites
You have noticed the trade show booth isn’t giving you the functionality you need. Your money might be better invested in creating a microsite or customer experience center. You can leverage your booth to send trade show attendees to a microsite you built from scratch that is completely customizable. You no longer have to worry about locking in your content ahead of time. With this approach, you are in control. Wondering where to start? Check out D.C.-area agencies like FifthTribe or WebMechanix or leverage another local D.C. startup, Clutch, to find the agency that is right for you.
4. QR codes
Thanks to COVID, QR codes have made a huge comeback in terms of relevance. Almost everyone knows how to use them since we now use them to look at menus, order drinks and call over our host. This is a chance to put your promotional items to work. Everyone loves the free items they receive at conferences and every marketer always debates on what items to get. Use that to your advantage. Send potential customers a bottle of wine with a custom label and QR Code to check out your latest products or customize a gift card with the code on the front. People still love gifts, but it is up to you to optimize your ROI on whatever you send.
5. Show some love
Trade shows are a great time to show some love to your current customers. Referrals often produce a higher quality lead and a higher quantity of leads which are often cheaper to acquire. According to Social Media Today, a majority of marketers rank leads from referrals as the second source of quality leads. So how do you celebrate your customers? Set aside a portion of your trade show budget to produce high-quality appreciation events. Some events we have used at Kit Check to some success is a virtual mixology class where we sent them branded mixers or a private cooking class from Cuiline where they cooked alongside other customers and all the ingredients were deliver to their door. I can’t forget to mention that our instructor for the cooking class was Zooming in from his kitchen in Buenos Aires! Whatever you choose make it fun, hassle free and promotion free.
Going 100% virtual can be daunting at first. When thinking about your marketing strategy, you don’t want to do what everyone else is doing, you want to be the company that everyone else wonders why they didn’t think of that first. As always in the digital marketing world, data is king. So make sure you collect, measure and analyze results so the next show you are that much better.