Trade Show Cancelled! Now What?

If your company relies on trade shows as a source of sales leads, you’ll want to continue reading this.

Within the past few weeks, nearly every trade show from now through June has been cancelled. As a result, trade show promoters, trade organizations and even some marketing companies are scrambling to offer alternative “virtual” trade shows to provide at least some of the leads that might have been available at the live events. These organizations are full of ideas about what it will take to produce these shows, and eager to put big money budgets in front of sponsors and virtual exhibitors to pull it off.

However, I’m not sure I’m in favor of trying to digitally replicate a trade show.

If it sounds like I’m criticizing a potential source of income for our agency, it’s because I probably am. Why would I do that? Because a virtual trade show is unlikely to produce the results you are looking for.

Ask yourself this: What does a trade show provide your company that you cannot reasonably accomplish on your own? Most people respond to this question by saying things like “person-to-person interaction” or “the ability to show products.” However, this is rarely the case. Most companies have websites that display every product in detail. And online meeting technology is showing promise as a viable substitute for in-person meetings.

What’s missing from any virtual trade show is the flow of potential buyers.

Disagree? Try calling a trade show promoter and asking them for a list of registered attendees complete with name, company, address, phone number and email addresses. You won’t get it. These promoters protect their lists because they know that if you have this information, their value to you diminishes. Besides, imagine how the email inboxes of attendees would look after 1000 exhibitors obtained their email addresses!

Here is the challenge question: How can companies find lead-generation alternatives to compensate for the cancelled trade shows? There is no silver bullet. The good news is that fundamental communications strategies still apply. Furthermore, while your competitors are racing around trying to create a virtual trade show booth, you’ll be investing in inbound and outbound tactics intended to grow market share and build a flow of real prospects to your business.