What sheltering-in-place has taught us about trade show strategies

The health and nutrition industries rely heavily on trade shows, conferences and other professional events to market their products. With this year’s cancellations, many companies have been forced to rethink their strategies and rely on stronger marketing fundamentals. To help our clients create engagement, we’re getting innovative. These new strategies will endure implications, well beyond this current pandemic.

Until last spring, I could go to an industry trade show as often as twice a month, and still not attend them all. The cancellations created chaos. The account executives who use the events to prospect and maintain customer relationships lost their platforms. Some companies scrambled. And others are still in inertia, even months later.    

For some companies, this was the first time they realized that trade shows are personal selling. Until this happened, their show planning consisted primarily of advertising, sponsoring booths and talks, and spending money on booth events. They’d been lulled into depending on their experience to guide their face-to-face conversations.  

With the face-to-face option gone, Media Relations Agency is advising our clients not to wait for things to return to normal. That may never happen. Instead, we’re helping our clients rethink their strategies, and to take new actions that will yield results. Some of our ideas may be applicable to your business.

How we’re helping companies compensate for trade show cancellations 

    • We are creating presentations for virtual trade shows. Suddenly you can’t tailor your conversation on the fly, as you might in person. So, as you create your presentations, you need to be clear on your market segments and understand the two or three things they want to hear from you. Define these using our SAM 6® process. Then write interesting content around those value points. 
    • Supporting our clients who are producing webinars. These events are focused on differentiating their companies from the competition and talking about issues from varying perspectives. These webinars are enabling clients to capture or maintain their leadership role in their category. 
    • We’re helping clients organize their prospect and client databases by industry categories and profiles. Sorting databases by market will enable you to connect with each group in more meaningful ways, with stronger calls to action. 
    • We’re coaching clients on consistent messaging. We’ve been working with clients on their sales presentations that will be delivered during virtual conferences and webinars. An essential part of our strategy is confirming that our promotional activities and message content are in alignment with what the sales people are saying when they talk with prospects.
    • We’re creating new ways for our clients to interact with their customers and prospects from a distance. This is where a solid marketing foundation yields fun and interesting results. Some of our client strategies have included: 
      • Mobilizing our networks of contract manufacturers and formulators. Who says you can’t sample if you don’t have a trade show booth? We are coordinating with them to do small runs of innovative prototypes for our clients, including baked goods and personal care formulations. Once mailed to prospects, these become great conversation starters when sales people call to follow up. 
      • Microtargeting to customer prospects. One of our clients created a highly innovative prototype, focused on taste/dose/science, that looked like a finished consumer product. Leveraging our experience designing boxes for social influencers and bloggers, Media Relations Agency created and mailed boxes containing prototypes and sales content, to a limited number of the client’s contacts. 
      • Harnessing the power of CRM when the boxes arrive. The client’s salespeople are automatically contacted to ensure they follow up with the recipients.  
    • Shooting video footage with experts around the country. Presenting these videos is a way for clients to earn three- to five-minute time blocks with their customers and prospects. 
    • Transitioning our network of key opinion leaders and influencers who do TV interviews to home studios. We’ve worked extensively with each of them on such elements as lighting and set design, to deliver production quality levels not too different than in-studio interviews. 

As a result of our efforts, our clients have become much more effective at connecting the promotional mix channels, and making better use of marketing fundamentals to improve their personal selling and relationship building. They have a better grasp of how to talk to each of their markets. They know who buys and why.  

The exciting thing is that when face-to-face events restart, our clients will be able to use all that they’ve learned to create much more purposeful trade show marketing strategies.  

We can help you make the transition away from a reliance on face-to-face marketing. Contact me using this form.

Written by Mike Danielson

Mike is a visionary and a trusted marketing mentor for many well-known companies within the health and natural products industries. He has an impressive mastery of marketing. He thrives on using his 30 years of experience and good instincts to manage campaigns that have measurable impacts on clients’ bottom lines. Focused and driven, Mike excels at client service and creative development. “I try to help everyone equally. Some will become clients and even long-term friends.” Many also benefit from his extensive connections within the health and nutrition industries. Clients who work with Mike typically comment about how much they learn from him. Mike comments, “I enjoy teaching people how to use solid marketing principles vs. a gut feel when selecting promotional channels. I’m willing to spend long hours helping navigate through all of the other actions that comprise a well-integrated marketing campaign.” Faced with any obstacle, Mike will fight for a win. He admits, “I get nervous if there aren’t barriers to accomplishing goals.” His cause for celebration is when his team’s hard work pays off in great earned media coverage, long-term client relationships and referrals.

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