It was an idea that I cribbed from David Newman of Do It Marketing: grab six great podcasts (or vlogs) from the recent past, and re-post them. But I took it a step further by picking some good snippets from each of them and doing a new vlog/podcast. Take a look:
We don’t know when tradeshows will return, or what “normal” tradeshow schedules will look like.
We don’t know how many attendees will plan on going because we don’t know how they feel about mixing with thousands of other attendees.
We don’t know how many fellow exhibitors will decide to spend the money to exhibit at the show because they don’t know how many people will actually show up. No doubt some will decide to go; others will hold off for another year.
It’s the uncertainty of it all that is probably the hardest. Not knowing. Like restaurants now knowing when they can finally have full capacity. Like sports leagues not knowing when they can invite a full contingent of fans. Like schools across the country having all students back, knowing that they’ll be safe.
Until then, we’re all stuck in the long slog.
A really freakin’ long slog.
S. L. O. G.
What to do in the meantime, especially if a lot of your job or monthly planning includes tradeshows, events and conference?
Find something else to focus on. Marketing is marketing, and in a recent post, I mentioned a number of ways to market. But what else can you do besides marketing?
I suppose you could try and come up with a viral video or promotion, but chances are the more you actually try to make something viral, the more forced it feels and the less likely it’ll happen.
Maybe you can write more blog posts, or read about what other businesses, both competitors and those that are in different industries, are doing. Learn from them, try new things.
Obviously, every person and every company are dealing with the long slog in a different way. But business still has to come in. Marketers still have to market. Salespeople still have to sell.
Let’s go back to learning. What can you learn that will help you in your current position?
Perhaps one of the first things is to gain some perspective and realize that everyone is in the same long slog. Next: realize that, yes, one day you will get back to normal, and so will everyone else.
Then, determine what you can do RIGHT NOW. What skills do you have that can be used, either inside or outside your company, that can be applied to the current situation. Is there any way you can help others find their way through the morass? Maybe, maybe not.
Mark Schaefer, in his short free ebook The Pandemic Business Strategy Playbook, writes, “the long-term relevance of the brand is more important than short-term sales.” He references several big brands that have put their marketing on hold or shifted to finding ways they can help not by doing ads, but by doing things: offering free food to volunteers and first responders, making donations to hospitals or homeless shelters. In other words, taking action.
In fact, taking action that benefits others, no matter how small or large, is probably one of the best things you can do.
For example, I think many of us have a tendency – I know I do – to walk past the dozens of homeless people I see on the streets in my city every day and try and pretend we don’t see them. They’re standing with hand-written cardboard signs at stoplights, or camped in groups under overpasses, or shuffling aimless down the street. It’s easy to keep walking and ignore them and not even think of them as humans. But when you do take a few moments and offer a few dollars and a smile, it counts. Certainly, to them, and hopefully to you.
The COVID-19 Pandemic will permanently change the world. We don’t know how all those changes will affect us, or what the changes will be. Finding a way to be open to helping people through the long slog is one of the most important things we can do to get through it. And we will get through.
Can’t believe I’ve had an account at LinkedIn since April, 2006. Really. And I still wonder if I’m getting the most out of it. I’ve had a few issues with LinkedIn over the years, and still wonder about some of what they do. In this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I ramble and rant a bit about my LinkedIn experience:
If you’re used to going to a handful of tradeshows each year, meeting potential buyers, distributors, partners and colleagues, now that shows are off the table for the time being, what other options do you have to get the word out about your products and services?
Sales can be made in many ways. Let’s make a list.
In-Person meetings. Obviously, the best, but if your products are sold regionally or nationally, this is the hardest. Travel is expensive and meeting one-on-one, going from office to office or city to city is also a poor use of time. Compare that to a typical tradeshow where you can stack meetings with people who are already on location.
Phone calls. Typical and easy but not that exciting. Some salespeople excel at talking on the phone, others not so much. But with the phone you can reach several people in a single day without leaving the office, whether your office is at work or home. Getting someone by the phone is often hit-or-miss, but it’s easy to leave a message or try again later.
Zoom or video calls. Now you’re raising the bar a bit. Zoom calls are more personal than phone calls, but you’ve got to go through a bit of a process to schedule and confirm to make the connection. Then it helps if you have good tech skills and know how to bring good audio and video (lighting, backgrounds, minimal off-camera noises, etc.) to the call. Some people are more receptive to Zoom calls than others.
E-mail. Sending an e-mail is easy. They’re also easy to ignore. But a personal e-mail at least shows that you spent some time crafting a personal message.
Social Media. Pushing out messages to people by the hundreds or thousands is easy; engaging with people one-on-one who respond takes time and effort. But it can pay off by getting people to help you toot your horn.
Advertising. We could spend a few hundred thousand words on the usefulness of radio, TV, print, search advertising and more. Books have been written! In the right place with the right message, though, it can be an effective way to reach people who are ready to buy your products or services.
Without tradeshows, you still have to keep sales coming in and products still being introduced to your market. Tradeshows are often the best place to do that, and offer the lowest cost-per-sales-meeting, but without shows, finding the sweet spot to keep sales going may take a little creativity.
There are hundreds of thousands of event, tradeshow, and conference-related jobs that have gone by the wayside, at least temporarily, while the pandemic sidelines all of those shows. But of all of those jobs, it would seem that if any type of job could find a way forward, it would be the creative types. The writers, speakers, performers. After all, even though they’d love to have an in-person audience, it’s not that hard to translate what they do to a screen. Whether it’s a Zoom show, a webinar, or a pre-recorded bit, performers and entertainers, such as the Infotainers supplied by Anders Boulanger’s Engagify company are doing their best to stay busy. I spoke with Anders for this week’s interview:
It’s easy enough to get caught in the checklist approach to tradeshow exhibit design. This week’s quick video goes over some thoughts on how to avoid that, but still make sure the exhibit has all that it needs:
In March and April of this year, when tradeshow organizers realized the gravity of the pandemic and how it would be affecting upcoming shows, many of them “postponed” the shows. I say “postponed” in quotes because many believed that whatever issues the COVID-19 pandemic caused; things would be back to normal in a few months.
For example, I happened to be on an airplane waiting to take off from Portland on the morning of March 2, when the email came in: Natural Products Expo West was off, postponed TFN. In the next few weeks, an effort was made to reschedule the show for early summer. Then the pandemic got worse. The show was canceled for good.
The organizers tried to focus on Natural Products Expo East in September. Nope, that fell by the wayside as well. As did CES, NAB, and many other shows. Some shows went virtual, others hoped for the best for a live show sometime next year.
In random conversations and email exchanges, and in seeing some survey results, the tradeshow and event industry has a wide range of opinions on when things might get back to “normal,” yes, in quotes, because we don’t know what normal will look like again, or when. Some companies are working remotely, hoping to get back to the office by the beginning of 2021. Others are putting it off until the third or fourth quarter of 2021.
In early September, Exhibitor Magazine revealed some data based on surveys of tradeshow world suppliers and exhibitors. For example, 2/3 of those surveyed said it was unlikely, probably wouldn’t, or definitely wouldn’t return to shows rescheduled for 2020.
Company travel restrictions will still be in place at most companies into 2021. Lots of data there, and I’ll give you one more interesting tidbit: the later in the year the question was asked, the further companies pushed their plans back. In early September, most companies were looking at the second or third quarter of 2021 before they thought they’d be back on the tradeshow floor. View the full presentation here; it’s worth a look.
I mentioned on my podcast this week that the live music and entertainment industry is also severely impacted. Musicians, tech workers, roadies, support staff and more have been mostly idled. Think of entertainers on cruise ships, or in Cirque du Soleil (which has filed for bankruptcy), along with concert tours, jazz festivals, country fairs, art fairs, and more.
I believe we all know how bad it is and have a feeling it’ll continue for much longer than we ever thought it would, when the pandemic first came around.
Over the past few months, I have been thinking that once we get back to, let’s say 75 or 85% or “normal,” companies would start busting loose with big budgets and there would be lots of new projects and work for exhibit companies and related logistical support companies.
Now I’m not so sure. My gut feeling is that because this is going to keep going until deep into 2021, companies will be very hesitant to spend money and will be more than willing to just do modest changes on their current exhibit properties instead of investing in something new. I have nothing to base that on and hope I’m wrong.
And finally, when it comes to Virtual shows or tradeshow exhibits, my sense is that it has to really make sense for the company for them to invest in something like that: they need it only if they can use it a dozen or more times in the next year or so, and they strongly believe it will get them more good leads at a better cost-per-lead than traditional exhibiting. The jury is still out on that.