Digital Marketing: New Norm Shifts Trade Show Spend
COVID-19’s impact on trade shows, meetings, hospitality, travel and the overall economy has been inconceivable. Businesses and associations have long relied on in-person meetings for real-time feedback and interaction, yet suddenly the meeting space has been turned upside down.
Trade shows have been touted for allowing businesses to step outside of traditional marketing to connect directly with their target audience. Conventionally, they have been an in-person vehicle to drive sales, raise brand awareness, provide product education and showcase new offerings. For associations, in-person meetings and annual gatherings have provided educational, face-to-face networking opportunities and a forum to exchange ideas.
In 2019, the global business to business trade show market was valued at $34.4 billion with many companies spending up to 80% of their annual marketing budget on trade shows. In the absence of in-person trade shows and events, marketers are beginning to rely on digital marketing to connect with customers, increase brand awareness and obtain sales leads.
COVID-19 has significantly disrupted the traditional exhibition and meeting landscape. Now, organizations are faced with a completely new challenge of bringing customers, clients and members closer from afar. Events and meetings have been redesigned as virtual gatherings, reconfigured as hybrid, postponed or even cancelled.
How do you stay in front of your customers from afar?
Companies are adopting alternative ways to exhibit with one of the most common ways being virtual events, solutions that were not mainstream until recently. In addition to meeting virtually, sales and engagement goals are being accomplished with digital marketing. It is likely that the meeting space will continue to look very different well into the third and fourth quarters of 2021, which means reallocating your trade show budget into other areas like digital marketing will be critical to keeping your audience engaged.
Digital marketing is one of the most cost-effective strategies businesses and associations can deploy to stay in front of customers during these unprecedented times. Why should people travel and stretch budgets when they can connect digitally? Following the pandemic, your customers and members will continue to be reluctant to travel and attend in-person gatherings for quite some time.
Even then, the landscape will be forever changed.
With less time spent traveling to events or even to the office, marketers and business owners have more time and possibly even more budget to put toward new digital strategies. If your organization previously put little focus on digital marketing because like a lot of other businesses, you had built viable networks offline, now is the time to revisit your digital marketing strategy.
Digital Marketing Explained
Digital marketing is an overarching term that encompasses all types of online marketing. It consists of video marketing, email marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC), display advertising and mobile marketing, among others.
Since digital marketing happens in real time, you’re able to continually evaluate the strategy, content and campaigns. By doing this, you can recognize what’s working and what isn’t. Then quickly make changes, to get you on the right track.
Top 5 Digital Marketing Benefits
Surviving the sudden loss of the event space, a vehicle that so many businesses and associations have relied on, means pivoting to market digitally. If your company is lacking a digital presence, you will need to move into social media marketing, SEO, digital advertising and email marketing to stay in front of the trade show crowd.
These are just some of the many cost-effective benefits of employing digital marketing as a replacement for in-person trade shows and events:
#1 Brand awareness
Marketing digitally will be the key to resilience as many businesses and associations mitigate against the loss of face-to-face meetings. Trade shows have been a vehicle for developing brand awareness; however, they are not the best choice. The same objectives can easily and affordably be achieved with digital marketing, which delivers a constant, 24/7 online presence. Ultimately, brand awareness helps generate leads.
#2 Lead Generation
Website lead generation, the method of attracting potential customers, nurturing them throughout the buying process and converting them to a customer, is crucial to successful digital marketing campaigns. The shift from in-person events to virtual gatherings has left many companies struggling to fill the lead gap; however, the good news is digital marketing allows you to activate your brand in a digital setting. By pivoting your website lead generation strategies, you can leverage your digital channels and keep your audience engaged. Reshape your marketing strategies to create demand. Leverage digital channels, create lead generation forms that convert, provide gated content and host virtual events.
The effectiveness of in-person meetings, such as trade shows and expos is largely unknown. Digital marketing, however, is known for delivering an excellent return on investment (ROI). Although you are not face-to-face, you can still showcase new products and measure the effectiveness of your efforts. For the time, money and travel spent on trade show participation, the value may be limited for the business that is done compared to the dollars spent. It is often difficult to measure the effectiveness of an event such as, a trade show in comparison to digital marketing, which provides instant and highly measurable results. Analytics tools provide concrete numbers showing how your campaigns perform and who is converting compared to the campaign cost.
#4 Year-round engagement
Trade shows put you face-to-face with hundreds and sometimes thousands of qualified attendees, many of whom have decision-making power. What happens when the show floor or meeting space is suddenly gone? Think: digital marketing. Digital marketing provides a global reach with a straight line of communication between you and your customers, so you can interact with them in real time.
#5 Highly targetable
Digital marketing is highly targetable and offers personalization capabilities. A successful rebound from COVID-19 will mean using data-driven targeting to deliver relevant content to create powerful connections with your audience. Find them with data, use hyper-targeting to get their attention and put the information they are seeking at their fingertips.
Digital Solutions Case Studies
Amid the pandemic, several of CMA’s clients have pivoted to virtual or hybrid events to allow members and clients to continue to meet. CMA is now delivering a series of digital solutions, ranging from virtual conferences to virtual town halls, virtual training and digital marketing to create a memorable experience amid a “new normal” in business.
CMA is preparing a slew of virtual annual conferences for this fall. Cutting-edge features will include a virtual trade show where exhibitors will have a virtual, branded booth and live “meetings” with booth visitors. The event also will showcase virtual roundtables, where attendees will gather in “rooms” to discuss topics of common interest. Like an in-person conference, one-on-one appointments will be available, and attendees will be able to ask questions during the keynote presentation, individual breakout sessions and panel discussions. These offerings are designed to support CMA’s clients’ over-arching digital marketing strategies.
Virtual Panel Discussions Provides Critical Communications
Earlier this year, the American Pediatric Surgical Nurses Association (APSNA) needed to quickly share critical COVID-19 developments with its membership during a nationwide state of emergency. As a result, CMA identified the Facebook Live feature, which is essentially a live social media video, as the ideal way to reach their largest audience on a national scope and promoted the event on APSNA’s social media channels.
APSNA’s one-day virtual event helped deepen engagement with members by providing a forum for them to connect in a genuine way—sharing regional updates about the pandemic and getting answers to questions in real-time. The experience reached 4,000 members, generated 229 social media post clicks, 87 reactions and 20 live comments as the association built deeper engagement with its membership.
Virtual Training Expands Global Reach In Financial Services
When the novel coronavirus grounded air travel earlier this year, Pimley & Pimley, which provides corporate credit training for the banking sector in more than 40 countries, asked CMA to transform its industry-best, in-person instructional seminars into remote experiences, so that staff could virtually train a prominent client literally halfway across the world in Singapore.
CMA implemented its fully managed remote training and distance learning solution, which utilizes industry standard conferencing services.
Even after being a client of Pimley & Pimley for several years, the Singaporean multinational banking corporation said the three-week, remote seminar sessions were the best training services they have experienced.
This feedback encouraged Pimley & Pimley to ask CMA to prepare more remote learning materials for another bank in the ensuing weeks, especially after the Singaporean bank reported increases in attendance, which went from 30-something attendees during the first week to nearly 60 during the third week, as well as thumbs-up reviews in written evaluations from attendees.
As business leaders continue to pivot to address new COVID-19-driven realities that have led to the almost-total disappearance of channels related to in-person events, digital marketing should not be considered an “emergency substitution.” Instead it should be the preferred marketing vehicle for providing long-term, cost-effective value.
If you aren’t sure how to incorporate digital marketing into your existing strategy, contact us today to get the conversation started. We are experts in the ever-changing field of digital marketing.