Trade Show Canceled? Quick, Easy, Low Cost Ways to Pivot to Digital Marketing

Written by Kathy Kassera Mrozek

Along with the cancellation of major sporting events and games across the country due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many industrial manufacturers are experiencing trade show cancellations. Faced with this trade show vacuum, some marketing leaders are scrambling to fill the void.

The good news is you can pivot quickly and redirect your creativity, and dollars, into digital marketing strategies and tactics. Use these ideas to bridge the gap created by fewer or no trade shows.

Your company’s website is often the first place leaders begin when reexamining digital marketing strategy and brand awareness. If your website has been long-neglected, a full-scale redesign may be needed, but you needn’t slow down activities that will help you vastly improve your website in the short term on your own, or with a capable website and digital marketing partner.

Depending on your internal marketing team, chances are good you can make updates and changes yourself or engage an external partner to assist you. It’s in this spirit we’ve created this to-do article. If you currently don’t have an agency partner, we’re waiving project minimums and prioritizing a portion of our staff’s time to help our B2B clients get this critical work done. There’s a lot you can do to evolve your digital marketing presence without a huge budget and long lead times.

The Company Website

Your company’s marketing hub is the website; and without sales reps working trade shows and crisscrossing the country drumming up customers and prospects, your site is even more essential. Think of the website as the sales team’s “wingman.”

If your website has been neglected, begin with these two items to ensure your site has the baseline covered:

Fix the homepage: Does the initial view (the area above the fold) convey, in a few words exactly what you offer? Does it have a clear CTA (call to action)? Make sure you link to a product catalog or services overview page.

Refine the contact page: Make sure this vital page isn’t cluttered, and it functions properly. Center the form on the page and add any brief positioning/qualifying language at the top to help prospects self-qualify before completing it (this should be one or two sentences at most). If appropriate, provide contact information for sales reps, divisions, or distributors to the form’s right.

After you’ve refined and polished these two crucial elements, turn your attention to refining content to regain visibility due to your company’s absence at critical industry trade shows. It’s time to go to work on content.

Robust Content is Critical

After you’ve improved your homepage and contact page, make sure the website’s product information answers all the questions customers have when they’re vetting options from numerous companies. These are the same questions prospects are asking you at trade shows or conferences. Prospects must also feel confident your products or services can solve their problems.

Note that engineers count on seeing, touching and operating your products or services at a trade show. However, without a show or a sales call, video can be a good stand-in, but it’s more important to offer 3D product models to engineers on your website. Since engineers use 3D models to specify parts in what they’re designing, make sure visitors can easily find and download your models. If not, they’ll bypass your firm and move to a competitor.

And, as for those often-asked questions by your prospects — answer them online through blog articles, FAQs, product pages or resource pages where you can provide data sheets and white papers. Additionally, to discover other questions worth addressing, use Google’s Keyword Tool. You can also compare how much better you answer the questions compared to competitor websites.

Finally, review the writing on your website, and perform a content audit of the most heavily trafficked pages or most essential pages to your business. Organize the pages using a spreadsheet to note what needs to be written, modified, or in some cases, redirected and removed.

When writing, address your customers first using the language they use. Writing to rank well on Google is important, but second in priority to resonating with your ideal customers. Convert text-heavy paragraphs into bulleted lists, and scannable content with subheadings and short paragraphs. Content improvements can be quick and easy as long as your goal isn’t perfection. Apply the 80/20 rule: Get the information up in a clear, concise and professional manner. As your website evolves, you can refine the copy over time. After every review, find something you can improve.

Optimize SEO by Choosing Words Your Customers Use

To improve how your website ranks on Google and other search engines, use the words your customers and prospects use when searching for solutions to their problem. Chances are good your customers’ view, and the words they choose, differ significantly from how you describe your products.

For insights into the top-performing phrases within your industry and product or service areas, consult sources such as Google Trends and Google’s Keyword Tool, Moz, SEMrush and Spyfu. Each offers educational content and free tools in addition to more powerful, pro versions. Be careful, and use these tools with a critical eye, as the B2B specific terms relevant to your industry are often lower volume than what may be seen as trending in these tools. Consider hiring an SEO pro if you want to optimize your website content quickly. And it doesn’t have to be a large or expensive project.

If you have a competitor that performs well with search results — i.e., on the first page — look at the language that’s used in headings, page titles, URLs and meta descriptions. Learn from these and adapt the same phrases for your site.

Finally, if your website is designed using the WordPress CMS, install the Yoast Plugin. The plugin won’t do the SEO for you, but provides helpful insights into your meta descriptions, URLs and if your pages reflect your target keyword phrases.

Use Data Analytics to Improve Performance

Knowledge is power, and the more you know about how your existing website is performing, the more focused you can be in your efforts. Drilling down into detail in your analytics data costs nothing more than time, and allows you to continuously build on what’s working, and stop doing what’s not. You may discover areas where existing budget or time-intensive activities can be put to better use.

Most websites have a Google Analytics profile set up to track and measure results. If you don’t, add it now. To study performance, look at trends and data for most visited pages, highest bounce rates and exit rates, and organic landing pages. Compare the data with where your revenue comes from, and brainstorm how you could change the content of high ranking pages to support your most important revenue streams better and boost the ranking of poor-ranking pages that represent a high value to your business.

Use a spreadsheet to track progress, documenting the steps you’ve taken along with outcomes. Learn what works and what doesn’t; and, use the data to justify budget increases in the coming months. Ensure there’s a channel to tie marketing leads to revenue and start measuring today. In the absence of a cohesive CRM and marketing automation system, organize a weekly meeting with sales (which you’re probably already doing, or should be) and go over lead quality and expected revenue — while tying it back to the source.

Email’s a Powerhouse

Long-forgotten, unsexy email marketing is still a powerhouse. Make sure you have a list of your current customers and prospects; segment the list, and see to it that they hear from you frequently with helpful and useful information. Once every two weeks is ideal but monthly or quarterly will suffice if you don’t yet have a steady stream of useful content to share, such as new product announcements, case studies or blog posts. Additionally, review our article on how to use email marketing with more tips and ideas. As we noted in “How to Share Essential COVID-19 Communications with B2B Customers,” you can get up and running quickly with online email marketing apps like MailChimp or HubSpot with minimal time and investment.

Videos and Webinars Can Drive Revenue

When producing a product video featuring your company’s latest product or service, we always recommend quality, but you don’t need a five-person crew today to create something with high production values. Yes, you can use an iPhone in a pinch, but mount it to a tripod and use an external microphone. Demonstrate the product like you would at a trade show and post the finished video to your website’s product page and your company’s Youtube channel if you have one. To maximize the number of people who want to view your video, keep it at two minutes or less. Additionally, check out this Vidyard video on producing demonstration videos that drive revenue. Both Vidyard and Loom make excellent screen recording tools that capture computer or smartphone screens.

Trade shows and conferences may be temporarily on hold, but that doesn’t mean you have to forgo virtual mass gatherings. Conduct your own trade shows or online events using one of the many tools, such as Zoom. For a beginner’s view of hosting your virtual events, check out this Vidyard video.

Chatbots and Live Chat Can Improve Website Engagement

More B2B websites have embraced live chat and chatbots in the last few years. Ideally, visitors prefer to find answers to the questions they’re looking in the website content first. However, if an engineer or technical buyer is on your site, you have a better chance of engaging them immediately through chat than a phone call. Chat functions are also ideal for websites that have a lot of traffic.

Two companies to consider in this space include Drift and HubSpot. Each offers unique benefits depending on your needs.

Experiment With PPC

If your website isn’t getting qualified traffic from organic search results, try experimenting with pay-per-click advertising, or PPC. Also called SEM (search engine marketing), we recommend you start with a small budget ($1,500–$2,000) as you learn how to use this digital tool. Because this terrain can be challenging (and potentially expensive) to navigate at first, consider hiring a PPC pro to get things set up correctly and provide some best practices from which you can then learn from and begin managing the account on your own.

Social Media Amplifies Your Key Messages

If your company isn’t already active with social media, don’t go overboard with it yet. At a minimum, make sure your company has a LinkedIn profile. Additionally, convince any technophobe sales reps that now is the time to set up profiles if they don’t yet have them. Provide high-quality photos and company-wide language that everyone can use in their individual profiles. Make sure your sales reps connect with everyone they already know and conduct business with, old colleagues and prospects.

Consider Account-Based Marketing

In recent years, more companies have adopted ABM or account-based marketing methods. You may know ABM as a business strategy that views individual prospects or marketing programs intended to influence and convert prospects into customers.

Marketing automation platforms such as HubSpot or Mailchimp, ABM-specific platforms, and even LinkedIn are ideal for launching and conducting ABM campaigns. As noted earlier, explore each to determine which is better for your needs.

Pivoting to Digital Marketing

Now, even if you hear “trade show canceled,” you’ll have several digital marketing options you can use to redirect your creativity and budgets. Before you do anything, however, start with your website. Make sure it’s in good shape, not an embarrassment or a reflection of your company from five years ago. Then get the right people from marketing and sales working together through targeted inbound marketing and account-based marketing projects. These could include email marketing, SEO, PPC, and some social media. Your reps are already good at using the phone and email; reinforce their efforts with tools like video, webinars, chat, social media outreach and ABM initiatives.

With Coronavirus news overwhelming just about everything, it’s natural for us to remain in a state of “analysis-paralysis” when considering our next marketing-related moves. As our way of helping marketing leaders within our community navigate through this unfamiliar ground, we are offering free digital marketing assessments. These no-obligation assessments, which start with just a short phone call, will help you prioritize what’s best for your business in the months ahead.customers as their own markets, largely because they represent significant levels of potential revenue. These “markets” are then targeted with highly-focused, omnichannel tactics.

Need help prioritizing your website and digital marketing improvements?

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