How to Get Creative as Coronavirus Impacts Your Trade Shows, Conferences, and Customer Engagement

by Meld Marketing
Has your trade show or upcoming conference been canceled? In this blog we discuss some alternative ways you can still creatively engage with your customers.

This blog was originally written on March 10, 2020.

We are all aware of the impact the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) is having around the world on travel and tourism. This week we saw that ripple effect stretch across the nation to major customer events for all industries.

SXSW (South by Southwest) canceled its Austin event. St. Patrick’s Day parades in Boston and Dublin are canceled. Movie premieres and release dates are postponed. Sports and performance venues are canceling events. The New York Times shared a recent article with a list of events that have been proactively canceled.

For companies on the cusp of hosting or sending teams to conferences, conventions, trade shows, and even customer events, this new reality is forcing people to rethink their marketing and sales strategies.  

Is this a challenging time for companies? Absolutely. But don’t think of a canceled conference as a closed door. Look for that “open window” that will make you stand out among your competitors. Consider the alternative ways you can still engage. 

Where do you start?

Let’s take trade shows as an example. Companies and sales representatives were counting on this face-to-face time with customers. Skipping a trade show can directly impact sales, staff bonuses, and visibility for a business. But it isn’t the only way you can engage with customers. While some of your competitors may just say “oh well” and move on to the next show, this is an opportunity for you to stand out by doing something different.

Here are four ideas (from easy to more difficult) for companies who were planning to attend a trade show or conference that is no longer occurring. 

1. Send an Email to Offer Your SWAG.

Email your attendee or lead list and acknowledge that you won’t be attending the conference. Discuss what you had planned to share (content wise) at the event. Offer the “stuff we all get” through an online form they can complete, and then ship the SWAG to them with supporting materials. Follow-up with each SWAG request and use it as a lead-in to discuss your product/service or their potential needs. 

2. Offer to Meet Remotely.

Send an email to the attendees (or your customers you expected to attend). Share your disappointment that you won’t be able to meet with them live. Provide a link to schedule a time with you virtually instead of meeting at the conference. I highly recommend using a live web meeting platform and turning your camera on. Even if the other person does not have a camera, you can still show your face and engage with them personally. 

3. Build a Virtual Trade Show Booth.

Let’s say you planned to have staff on-site to hand out materials and branded SWAG. You still can but within a virtual environment. Create a web page that mirrors your trade show booth design.  Allow clickable links for downloads and live chat with your sales reps.  Link to a custom landing page that allows them to select and request their SWAG (and ship to them). Send an email to attendees (or your contacts) to encourage them to visit your virtual trade show booth during specific hours. Follow up with leads you meet through the chat feature or who requested SWAG. 

4. Conduct the Entire Conference Virtually

Look at platforms like Communique’s virtual tradeshow software platform or Hexafair. These technology platforms allow for remote participation in keynote presentations, plenary sessions/workshops, and virtual exhibits. Your speakers can stay where they are and present. Your sales reps can still staff the virtual exhibit booth. Your registered conference attendees (and perhaps additional attendees now that it is remote) can learn and network. Not the conference organizer? Perhaps you sponsor the technology costs to allow the conference to continue virtually. This way, you don’t assume the extra time commitment (leave that to the organizers) but you can be a hero for helping them execute their conference. Not to mention the additional brand recognition that you may gain as the remote technology sponsor.

Need some help ideating or troubleshooting? No matter the size of your company, if you are concerned with the impact of this public health issue on your sales, let’s talk. There are many new strategies you can use to reach your customers, and Meld can help.

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