Successful businesses do “what they have to do.” One thing they “have to do” is remain properly positioned in their clients’ mind.
It’s hard to talk, write or think about any business topic without filtering it through the temporarily ever-present “pandemic.” Collectively, we hear about and applaud those manufacturers who have been able to successfully pivot and direct part of their operations towards the output of PPE.
Equally laudable and maybe more profitable are those companies that don’t just pivot but expand into new markets by offering new products or services to new prospects..
Many owners and managers suffering from orders on hold, dried up pipelines, supply chain disruption, staffing upheaval and cash flow crises are necessarily inward focused with a game plan consisting of hopes for survival and anxiety over when “normal” will return?
The missing ingredient for too many manufacturers is looking outward as much or more so than the internal examinations. For every Six Sigma Gemba Walk or Visioning session there needs to be a marketer crafting, positioning and delivering the proper messaging. For every HR Staffing reduction there needs to be a Sales generated initiative.
Tradeshows have often been a leading and efficient source of marketing and lead generation for manufacturers. The medium allows for building on and re-enforcing relationships while making new ones.
Tradeshows enable your team to see dozens or hundreds of people important to you over a scant few days without the expense of barnstorming the country. You control the impression your prospects take away of you.
Sadly, face-to-face event marketing (i.e. tradeshows) is on a brief hiatus while Covid-19 threatens us. Although many postponed events and shows are already being re-scheduled for the Late summer and Fall, it will be a while until we can all fully enjoy the sales, leads, marketing, networking, staff training and press relations strength of tradeshows.
But, your needs as a business to remain in contact, properly perceived, able to introduce new products and remind audiences about your firm’s existing benefits remain. My company’s vantage point of working across so many industry sectors enables us to both witness, facilitate and participate with clients that are attempting to meet their ongoing communication needs without benefit of traditional tradeshow schedules.
Here are some of the methods and messages being implemented:
Smaller Events & Meetings – Although many large national or international tradeshows are already re-scheduled from postponements earlier in the year, there remains a question mark on attendance levels and participation. Conversely, smaller regional events; often aimed at audiences who don’t need to get on an airplane will likely enjoy a quicker return to normalcy. In addition to the geographic implication; some events are narrowing their focus appealing to a more specific audience. Fewer people means more room for Social Distancing and a greater concentration of decision makers.
Product Demos– Not everything can be sold on-line or via a PowerPoint! Companies that previously relied on tradeshows are taking their products on the road for regional road shows that enable them to expose new offerings to multiple prospects often at the prospects’ individual locations in a given city.
Similarly, companies are creating Private Events in small Hotel Shows. They control the number and timing for attendees and find efficiencies in multiple demos taking place closer to prospects while only moving the suite of products on display once per city.
Virtual Events – Virtual Events can be multi-faceted and complex or can be simple webinars; interactive meetings, live streaming of (either pre-recorded or actually live) product demos or sales presentations. ‘Zoom-style’ events are now familiar to most but are just the tip of the iceberg.
As opposed to delaying important client, prospect, vendor or staff interactions until the Covid-19 impact is in our rear-view mirrors,
Virtual gives us some ability to get face-to-face without exposure. Of course, the losses of shaking hands, giving hugs and getting eye-to-eye are detriments along with the all-too-often technical glitches.
Hosting Round Tables – Some business relationships can be strengthened by bringing together small groups of existing or potential clients for industry or community focused brainstorming. Keeping groups small respects Social Distancing while making the personal interaction more intimate.
Re-deploying Marketing Dollars – Whether Public or Privately Held, large or small, all companies have slight differences to their budgeting process. With the extensive cancellations of traditional tradeshows in early 2020, many companies that are facing loss of those budget dollars for the future (when they will need to again attend or exhibit at tradeshows) are protecting budget allocations by applying exhibiting dollars towards enhancing corporate interior environments for when clients (or other important publics) visit their facilities.
If Covid-19 has altered your production output and now there is something specific and timely related to the pandemic that is not part of your core offering, don’t hide from it! Be vocal about your shift whether its for charity or for profit; especially if it can really help a client.
Some of your clients may have some down time on their hands. Your company can strengthen some relationships by reaching out to prospects and clients in a “non-selling” manner by soliciting their input/opinions on your future product development. Casual front-end pre-production market research can save enormous amounts of money!
Finally, a reminder to pass along to your Sales teams. For many, now is not the ideal time for pure cold calling! Whether personally or indirectly, everyone has been touched either in their personal lives or professionally by Coronavirus. Empathy should be incorporated into your sales dialog. Moreover, empathy should be real and not a brief prelude to a veiled cold call.
About the Author: Steve Hoffman, CTSM, is the President and Owner of Skyline Exhibits & Design, Inc. He is Managing Director of Innovative Environments – Southeast and the author of “The Reality of BS (Big Sales, That Is) www.stevenhoffman.com