Marketing Strategies for Winning Responsibly in the New World of Live Events

by | Jul 3, 2020

Your company goes to tradeshows and creates live events to achieve specific business goals. These can include generating brand awareness or reinforcing you’re position in the industry. Introducing new products and services. Collecting sales leads. Networking with customers and suppliers. Educating your salespeople and distribution network. Maybe scoping out the competition or generating press coverage.

Whatever your goals, in the new world of Covid-19 your company has temporarily lost tradeshows and live events as a way to achieve them. And when live events do come back later this year, or most likely next year, they’re going to look, feel and work very differently than they did – at least for the foreseeable future.

So, if you want to still meet those goals, you have a couple of options:

1. Figure out how to achieve them without live shows as a tool – for instance, virtual meetings or beefing up other components of your marketing mix (a great strategy for now)
2. Preparing now to adapt your show strategy to take the fullest advantage of the new world of live events once they do come back
3. Or a combination of the above

But in this post, we’re going to focus on Option Two – adapting your strategy to the new world of live event realities. Here’s how we see it.

First, in the new world it’s possible you’ll have fewer people in your booth at any one time. Why? You’ll be enforcing social distancing requirements. Shows may be limiting the number of attendees allowed on the floor at any one time. And some people will choose not to come. That may sound like bad news, but it could be an opportunity. The people who do come are there to do business, highly motivated and likely key decision makers.

So, ask yourself three questions:

  • How can you encourage these people to come to your booth instead of someone else’s?
  • If your space is less crowded and you have a potentially better class of visitor, how can you use that to offer a better experience and improve the quality of the interactions you have with them?
  • How do you make some of the customers and prospects who don’t show up part of the action?

So, here’s five ideas to get you started:

1. Boost Pre-Event Communications
Communicating with your customers and prospects before your event to whip up excitement, get them talking with each other and get them to come has always been an important event strategy. Ramp it up. Send personalized invitations. Use social media including each show’s invariable Twitter feed where people chat about the show, sometimes year round (here’s the one for CES). Tease what they’ll experience at your booth or event. Don’t forget to include upbeat communications regarding the show’s and your own safety policies so they’ll know what to expect and, most important, feel comfortable coming. And even if some don’t come, you’ll still have delivered valuable messages and shown momentum.

2. Consider Making It Invitation Only
If you are still concerned about the possibility of overcrowding – particularly by attendees who may not be important to you, consider making you event invitation only – and/or prescheduling visits to your space. Target your most important prospects, let them know that you are limiting attendance to only the most important people. This will make them feel special – and safer. And it will allow you to maximize the quality of staff and attendee interactions.

3. Rethink Your Space
You’re probably going to have to open up your booth or event space to promote social distancing. So, redesign your floor plan to make it safer while also allowing for better, more engaging interactions with your attendees. How can you do this? That depends on your goals and what you want to do at your event – but one idea for a show might be replacing enclosed conference rooms or meeting spaces with an open lounge area (with proper distancing) to encourage casual and safer interactions between staff and visitors. Many people will not want to go into an enclosed conference room anyway.

4. Make Non-Attendees Part of the Fun
Consider how to minimize the opportunity lost by the people who can’t or won’t come to your booth or event. Having an active social media presence before and during the event is one way. Another way to amplify it is by adding digital, online experiences that non-attendees can take part in. Are you running a live general session, holding seminars or doing live in-booth demos? Pre-announce them, stream them live (live gets way more attendees) and make them available afterwards on-demand.

Depending on your goals and messages there are also other techniques that can be employed. These include:

  • Scheduling and offering non-attendees a chance to participate in live one-on-one video calls with salespeople who can walk them through what’s happening on the show floor in a very personal format
  • Setting up Zoom-like roundtables where a group of people can participate in an open and expert moderated discussion
  • Offering a menu of live webinar choices – with different goals, presenters and formats – such as keynote addresses, expert panel discussions and Q&A sessions. You can even add post-webinar, live breakout sessions to allow smaller groups of attendees to chat about topics of interest.
  • And don’t forget that the swag that may now be a no-go at the show, can be offered as an incentive to non-attendees, then sent to them safely.

Whatever you’re goals, there’s a way to get non-attendees involved. And current technologies make almost any idea you think up possible. Let your team be creative.

5. Retool Your Event KPIs
With the possibility of less booth traffic, typical measures of success like increased traffic or leads generated may no longer be appropriate. So, rethink your KPIs based on a modified set of show goals that make sense for your business – for instance switching the focus from numbers to quality of interactions. Don’t forget to get internal alignment on these first so there’s no debate regarding your event’s success.

So, that’s our five ideas, but there are certainly more that you and your team can come up with. And keep in mind that no matter how these changing times play out, we’re here and ready to help you evolve with the changes – including helping you implement any of the recommendations above. For more ideas on how to adapt your booth and customer journey to this new world see our post on Safely Resuming Your Live Events Program.