Charlotte was recently interviewed by the editor of International Security Journal, discussing how B2B marketers can adapt their plans to retain awareness now that exhibitions and other face-to-face events have been postponed, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The original article featured on page 70 of the April issue. But we’ve also featured it below…

Many of us have exhibitions as key calendar events in our marketing schedule and, with the postponements of The Security Event and other shows, a lot of people are having to rethink their marketing plans for this year and beyond.

Taking your foot off the gas now could spell trouble for the future. So, it’s time to dig deep, be agile and find alternative ways to both retain awareness now and to build anticipation for when the shows return.

When you’re on stand, sales teams are able to quickly assess the buying stage that a stand visitor is at – are they new to the brand and need education, have they got any preconceptions that need addressing, are they a confident and repeat buyer, or are they just being nosey?

When you aren’t able to get face to face with prospects, you need provide ways for each of these different customer types to find what they’re looking for through content, in appropriate forms, that will spark their imagination and earn their trust.

Segment your audience

First up, take a hard look at your database. Separate them into:

  • Never bought – new potentials v never likely to convert
  • Bought once
  • Regular purchaser
  • Referrers – potential and existing

Each of these segments needs different handling – as your stand teams would have done. Their information, support and attention-grabbing needs are very different.

Activities for brand awareness

Thinking about prospects at the very beginning of their buying cycle, what questions do they need answering before they can even think about buying or specifying? You can answer some of these with very broad activities like:

  • Social media campaigns (paid and owned)
  • Media relations
  • Webinars
  • E-newsletters
  • Ad campaigns

Activities to engage potential purchasers

Once past the initial browsing stage, the questions become more focused. These might be more specific to product capability, or focused on supply chain requirements such as compliance. Content can be more personalised and targeted and include:

  • Sales videos
  • Eshot campaigns
  • LinkedIn targeting
  • Ebooks and gated content

Activities to gather supporters and referrers

A beneficial aspect of exhibitions is the networking. How can you use your marketing to replicate this function?

  • Referral programmes
  • Case studies
  • LinkedIn ‘power packs’

Reviewing the metrics at each stage is critical so as to feed the sales teams with leads that can be followed up on.

Competitive advantage

With more focus on non-person contact, you are going to need strong messaging and interesting creative to rise above the potential ‘noise’ that could result. If you’ve ever focused on customer research, now is the time to really dig into those results and see what your customers value about how you work and use that knowledge to bring new prospects in.

If you haven’t, now could also be a great time to put some focus on that. Research we’ve done for clients has never not delivered amazing insights and, in many cases, has opened up new channels but also created very specific opportunities for achieving competitive advantage.

Exhibition prep

When it is ‘show-time’ again, you need them to work really hard for you to show people what they can expect, so pre-show prep has got to be a key part of your plan. 3D renders and video-walk throughs can build some excitement about what’s to come. As can social campaigns and email marketing.

Capturing attendance data is always a major focus. But following up on those contacts often is overlooked. With the extra months in hand, focus can be placed on creating some content, with value to the recipient, like whitepapers and eshot campaigns to provide a legitimate reason to stay in touch with prospects and make sure sales opportunities aren’t lost.

If you’d like support with marketing strategy and implementation of campaigns targeted at specifiers, buyers and influencers, please get in touch.