The Big Show Was Cancelled – What’s Next?
SXSW is canceled. ISC West is postponed until the swelter of July in Las Vegas. We feel bad for the CEDIA and AVIXA system integration companies that depend on our scheduled trade events to get information about new product and service offerings. CEDIA and AVIXA manufacturers depend on shows like InfoComm and CEDIA EXPO to give integrators that information. With all the recent event cancellations and rescheduling, it’s time to think about a Plan B – using other marketing tools to get the good word out.
If you are exhibiting, make sure you have exhibit insurance. Yes, it’s a real thing and you can get it from your commercial insurance broker. Even if you don’t have insurance, you may be able to recoup some of your expenses under the Force Majeure clause in many contracts. You may not fare as well with sponsorships for the event yet with some creative discussions, you may be able to work something out with the show organizers to get access to the attendee list. For instance, having the show organizers email registered attendees on your behalf will still allow you to get your message out. The show organizers may also offer a virtual event that will provide opportunities to get your message to your audiences.
Hand in hand with the event cancellation, many more people are now under a mandate from their employer to work from home. Use that show messaging to create digital ads to capture the attention of that intended audience who is now spending more time online as they work remotely. Run digital ads that specifically reference the canceled event. You can come pretty close to creating your own attendee list using tools like RollWorks that allow you to get names, titles and email addresses for specific companies. Those digital ads should lead to a custom landing page with content and experiences specific to the show. Take your booth to them virtually.
Repurpose your display if possible. If you have specific sales targets, perhaps take the printed fabric from your booth and turn it into a gift bag with the show swag and include a specific call to action about the new product you are debuting. Lumpy mailers always get opened first and are typically well-received. Direct mail with personalization will also give you that physical presence – a high-quality printed ebook would work well. Physical items are something tangible and that can be emotional, memorable and persuasive and pair well with your multi-channel experience for your virtual show attendee.
Along with the digital and physical outreach, use marketing automation and a triggered drip campaign to drive those prospects to a meeting or demo.
Consider creating a community for the attendees. For many folks, networking is the key benefit of attending a trade show. You can create this community using tools like a dedicated Slack channel or a social media hashtag. Participating in community forums are also useful to help guide prospects to the content they may be seeking.
A virtual event with complementary companies or even your competitors is another way to recreate the show experience. By combining lists and including lists from previous events, you’ll be able to reach a broader audience. Hire an industry expert to create a keynote speaker session. Use webinars to highlight educational opportunities or create an online panel discussion. Your prospects will appreciate these experiences to receive high-quality information that is typically only available at the physical show.
With a little creativity, you can repurpose most of that work you invested in the canceled show and turn it into real leads. I still hope to see you at InfoComm and CEDIA EXPO this year!