When Life Gives You Lemons…

Employing creative brand marketing
strategies amid trade show cancellations.

As uncertainty mounts and political sensitivity increases, the brand playing field–as it pertains to major trade show cancellations–has changed dramatically. And, as anyone working in a show-dependent industry knows, that is no understatement. So, as author Elbert Hubbard said, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

The first thing smart marketing teams should do is switch gears and create alternative outlets–away from trade show marketing–to keep the product pipeline churning while keeping the health of others squarely in mind.

The good news

Generally speaking, approximately 30-40% of typical marketing budgets are allocated for trade show participation, travel and expenses, displays, and collateral. As the current situation blows this formula off the table, marketing teams now have the good fortune of quite ample budgets to redistribute…but need to do so quickly. We live in a ‘use it or lose it’ world, after all.

Consider your options

Two areas where smart marketers should be turning are Content Marketing and VIP/Luxury Brand Experiences.

Content marketing uses digital channels where brands can develop an on-going relationship with customers through non-promotional content that is of value to them. Over the past 10 + years, content marketing has evolved from little more than blog posts and editorial strategies, to a much more holistic tool that includes email, social media, SEO, and even paid distribution to reach a particular target customer.

Since content marketing is not overtly promotional, it allows brands to become storytellers–providing useful insight and information–particularly during times of crisis. Sound customers and prospects are drawn to content that inspires, educates, informs, and even entertains. And these are tactics that will help you create and sustain on-going relationships with your audience…even after the crisis is over.

A VIP/Luxury Brand Experience is another tactic that can, simultaneously, build prospect rapport, AND move product. With the cancellation of numerous trade shows, many of them are rebooting as ‘digital’ conferences and shows—which is an option, but lacks some distinct benefits that drive trade show attendance while still leaving a large gap for the customer to actually purchase the product. Let’s face it; a virtual experience should already be available on the product’s web site anyway.

Trade shows are primarily used to generate leads, inspire demand and prime manufacturing pipelines. Some would argue the quality of leads generated at trade shows vary, regardless if this is the case or not, leads should always be well qualified. So take that one step further… What if you create a brand experience to which only the most qualified prospects are in attendance? We did this very thing for one of our consumer durables clients who needed a means to replace the sales opportunities historically provided by trade shows. Our Brand Experience Programs not only create a means to replace these important sales opportunities, but offer an invaluable customer-bonding scenario as well. So whereas some trade shows have converted themselves to digital, these small population events take the opposite approach—by becoming highly engaging and interpersonal. Happily, these events can accomplish their brand’s goals at a fraction of the cost of a trade show–even when multiple executions are done…by region, product segment, or other factor.

Better in the long run

In challenging, fast changing times continually communicating your brand’s identity and values becomes even more important. Even if your industry is currently experiencing a sales spike, you need to keep this in the front of their minds. Maintain your marketing course, never forgetting that you will be better off when more normal market conditions return, not to mention a stronger overall brand.

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