Virtual meetings, virtual concerts, virtual conferences, and now, virtual trade shows with virtual exhibit booths. CES, the world’s biggest consumer electronics show, is going all digital for its 2021 show. It’s a sure bet that many other trade shows are doing the same. According to a survey conducted by Exhibitor Magazine, 97% of exhibit managers have had trade shows cancelled. In a post-COVID world, most exhibit managers believe there will be lower trade show attendance and fewer events.
Trade shows have traditionally been an important way for companies to connect with customers. According to Henry DeVries at Forbes, “when marketing tactics [were ranked] during a ten-year lead generation study […] networking at trade shows finished in the top five. The best marketing tactics are educational in nature, and a trade show let’s you educate prospects face to face.”
But when that face to face opportunity goes away, what’s a marketer to do? Reach out with content marketing.
Content marketing (noun):
The planned serial creation of timely, useful, and entertaining information and experiences, contextually relevant to your brand or a desirable attribute, shared to cultivate a relationship with a target group and create an audience more receptive to your brand.
You’ve heard the expression “Content is King.” At Cramer, we say content is currency. You want your audience’s attention. Your audience wants information and entertainment. You have to provide something worthy of the exchange.
Content Marketing is a pull strategy that lives alongside product and relationship marketing. It influences customers to seek you out when they need relevant, educational, helpful, or entertaining information. When content is genuinely focused on helping its audience, purchase, loyalty, and advocacy will follow.
Let’s look at how a content marketing campaign can amplify the impact of your virtual exhibit, achieving the same goals as a face-to-face trade show experience:
Is there anything more valuable than education? Any time you have the chance to position your company as a resource that helps a customer advance his/her goals, that is a big win. Developing content aligned to market challenges is a great way to put your product information in a context customers can relate to. This is different than product-focused content. It puts the customer’s world in the forefront, and then presents how your product fits in. The financial site mint.com does a great job making sense of personal finances, bringing readers down a path that logically leads to their products.
The best part about trade shows is the personal interaction. That’s the biggest loss for every type of face-to-face meeting or event. But it is still possible to be personal by tailoring content to a customer’s interests. Building in opportunities to solicit preferences will help you dial into what is most relevant. A great tool is LinkedIn polls. You can even use the results as a piece of content.
Swapping in-person for online means finding other ways to be engaging. And the #1 screen engagement tool is video. Video is a critical part of any content marketing campaign, especially one designed to replace a live experience. Video literally lets you put a face back in front of your customers. It’s a versatile medium that is not only captivating, but cost effective. For example, one video can be atomized into shorter clips for email or social media use.
Trade shows have always been an important marketing tool. Going virtual effectively means taking extra steps to engage with your audience in a way that takes full advantage of what the digital exhibit has to offer. Even without the face-to-face engagement of a trade show, you can still educate, interact with, and engage customers in a way that’s meaningful, memorable, and effective.