One of the great drivers for sales and industry dynamics is trade shows – we’ve all attended them, and it’s usually the same thing: thousands of people jostling for meetings, product demonstrations, one-on-one product viewings, handshakes and deals, and of course the inevitable social aspects during and after each day’s events.
But Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the trade show industry – across the world, the biggest shows were either cancelled or indefinitely postponed, and although some shows are re-surfacing in Asia, it may be some time before the rest of the world follows suit.
There will be a whole raft of new procedures, regulations and protocols at these shows, from one-way traffic flows, one-in/one-out policies and strict health screenings prior to entry, to social distancing, limited numbers per stand, masks and hand-sanitising throughout the show environment.
And companies may also feel reluctant to force staff to exhibit and/or attend trade shows, all of which means that the industry will only return to some of form of normal over the next year or possibly even longer.
So what can companies be doing in the meantime to try and cover some of the bases usually covered through trade show exhibitions? Well, although digital technologies will never fully replace the experience of a face-to-face, real-world meeting, there are a number of things you can do to keep your business and products top of mind.
Firstly, how strong is your website in terms of selling your business, services and products? Your website is your 24/7 showcase; your ‘always-on’ sales team – how well does your website fulfil this role? When was the last time you reviewed your SEO, your user experience, the images and content on site, and the site design?
Secondly, how are your products and/or services showcased? Have you made maximum use of videos, 3D images, Augmented Reality and even Virtual Reality to bring your products ‘to life’? What differentiates your digital experience from your competitor’s, when viewed through the eyes of your potential customer?
Added to this, how often are you doing live broadcasts using technologies such as Facebook Live, YouTube Live and similar video-conferencing systems? How are you taking your business to your customers in real-time in the digital space?
Thirdly, how are you communicating during the Covid-19 crisis? What is your digital marketing plan, and how are you letting your customers know that you’re operational, still driving innovation and sales, and keen to earn their business? What channels are you using, and what sort of content are you producing to excite and inspire your customer base?
Connecting the dots above are as close as you’ll be able to come to replicating a trade show environment in the digital space – by using technology and innovating, you can connect your staff to customers for one-on-one, group and multi-group discussions, demonstrations, Q&As and more.
It may take some thought and planning, and a review and update to some or all of your digital platforms and strategies, but the effort will be thoroughly worthwhile – remember, even once the crisis has passed your digital presence remains at the forefront of your sales and marketing strategy. The stronger and more innovative, the better!