Digital Marketing: Your Trade Show Alternative

As trade show cancellations pile up, pressure mounts to boost marketing efforts and attract prospective buyers. Although you may participate in virtual events, you still need a way to talk directly to leads.

Fortunately, digital marketing tactics can connect you to potential customers and amplify your message across many platforms. Learn how to get the most out of your budget by transitioning to digital marketing.

Illustration of a man and woman looking at digital information

Why digital marketing?

Few activities can replace face-to-face conversations. However, for many companies, the pandemic and subsequent business closures confirmed the need to improve online communications.

When faced with event cancellations and shutdowns, marketers said they planned to boost social media content creation by 66%, blog content by 57%, and video production by 50%, according to a Sirkin Research and NewsCred survey. By going all-in on digital marketing, companies maintained relationships and built trust with customers during difficult times.

But, the rewards of digital marketing don’t end when trade shows come back. Instead, the work you put in today will continue to pay off over many years, making it a cost-effective way to generate high-quality leads.

Better audience targeting

Not everyone who attends a trade show is a potential buyer. Although the same goes for website visitors, your online strategy makes it easier for your target market to find you. Moreover, you have more tools to qualify leads in the digital world than you do at a convention.

After spending a few days on the road, your sales crew has a lengthy process of following up on leads, many of which will turn out to be duds. With digital marketing, you can add fields to forms or use ads to target decision-makers and qualify leads before they ever hit your sales floor.

And, you can do all of this using a clear digital strategy designed to deliver personalized messages tailored to your buyer and their engagement journey.

Cost-effective techniques

From travel expenses to exhibit design fees, attending a trade show is expensive. With over $25.3 billion spent yearly on trade show displays, the average company allocates just over one-third of its budget to events and exhibitions.

While conventions are a great place to network, following up takes time and isn’t always fruitful. With digital marketing, you can communicate with prospects without travel costs and see a consistent return on your investment.

For example, previous studies show that email marketing ROI “can be as high as 4400%,” and “88% of marketers are satisfied with the ROI of their video marketing efforts on social media.” Plus, you simply have more options for different sized budgets.

By combining a robust marketing strategy with automation tools, you can choose when, where, and how to reach your audience to get the most out of every dollar.

Measurable results and attribution

It’s hard to tell how many people you reach at trade shows. Sure, you know the total number of attendees, but you can’t track every person who walks by your booth. However, digital media lets you see how many prospects stop by, what they click on, and where they go after leaving your site.

By setting key performance indicators (KPIs) and continually analyzing content performance, you learn more about your audience and how they interact with your brand. Having access to real-time and historical data helps you focus your tactics on high-impact actions that deliver the most leads.

Ongoing delivery

Unlike trade shows, your digital marketing efforts generate leads throughout the year, giving you many opportunities to boost brand awareness and share your story. Plus, your content doesn’t sleep, so your audience can find what they’re looking for at any time.

Along with ongoing campaigns, you can repurpose and reuse the content in fun new ways to keep your leads interested and returning for more.

Digital marketing strategies to implement

Shift your trade show budget to digital marketing and start driving leads to your landing pages, website, and social channels. Instead of waiting for trade shows to resume, use these digital marketing strategies to achieve your goals now.

After all, your prospects already shop and work online, so it’s a matter of finding them, grabbing their attention, and delivering value from afar.

Identify your audience

So, where do trade show attendees hang out when they’re not visiting a big event? Answer that question, and you can start catering to your audience. To refine your efforts, you can:

  • Review the demographics of past show attendees
  • Analyze web traffic of competitors
  • Look at social media analytics and Google analytics
  • Read reviews of similar products or services
  • Send surveys to existing customers
  • Use social listening tools to find trends

Once you’ve identified your target audience’s behaviors, you can set those factors as triggers to deliver ad content via various mediums.

Update your website content and design

Between remote work, closed storefronts, and virtual-everything, your website is now the star of the show. Like your tradeshow booth, every detail is essential. Your site should be informative, visually appealing, and consistent.

But it’s not only about a clean and functional design. Your website content must provide all the necessary information people need to make a decision.

For instance, at a trade show, you may allow prospects to interact with your software. You can deliver similar experiences on your website using interactive web elements, like product recommendation quizzes or video demos. Don’t forget to add a call to action (CTA), so each visitor knows what to do next.

Provide educational content

Trade shows are effective because business professionals can interact with your brand and products while also bringing back brochures and sales sheets to decision-makers. It’s vital that your digital marketing does the same.

Turn your brochures, sales sheets, and tech specs into user-friendly online assets for use across all digital platforms. Generate interest by offering different formats like image sliders, downloadable PDFs, and eye-catching infographics.

Make sure to include content that spans the customer journey and gives people everything they need to feel nurtured and ready to take the next step.

Use search engine optimization (SEO) tactics

Search engine optimization is an excellent way to maintain a web presence, keep your content relevant, and get more from digital marketing. You want to be the company that answers your prospect’s most pressing problems. And with SEO, you can be.

By focusing on specific keywords, you can create educational, informational, and brand-relevant content with your customers in mind. Of course, when you share high-quality content, algorithms boost your website on the search engine results page, making it easier for people to find your brand.

Follow up via video advertisements

The use of video streaming services, from Netflix to Hulu, hit new highs in 2020, making it an excellent place to remind prospects of your brand. Keep your products and services top of mind by creating programmatic ads for streaming services like OTT or CTV.

Delivering short yet compelling video ads on the platforms your target market uses for fun may not result in an immediate click to your website. But, the combination of video advertisements, targeted social content, and a stellar site will encourage them to take more than a second look.

Develop email marketing campaigns

Email remains a top way to reach potential customers. However, what your ideal client wants to receive varies by industry and by segment. Use your market research and triggers to segment your email audience.

Next, create campaigns specific to certain demographics and buying stages. You can automate your emails and add behavioral triggers to ensure that every message contains content relevant to the recipient. After all, no one wants to get an email recommending a product they just purchased.

Lastly, your email lists are yours to nurture. You can send exclusive offers, share updates, or simply say hi. The days of hard sales through email are over. Instead, finesse and delight recipients while leaving a CTA to encourage them to learn more.

Amplify your brand through social media marketing

Although gaining traction on social media is tough, you’ll see an increase in website traffic once you hit your stride. Top brands use a combination of organic and paid techniques to stay top of mind.

With a regular posting schedule of informative and interactive content, you can boost post shares and get fans emotionally invested via conversations on your posts. Paid advertisements and targeted ad campaigns allow you to extend your reach to a highly targeted audience.

Ramp up video production

Video content continues to be a top way people engage with brands, learn about products, and even attend events, with 87% of consumers saying they want to see more videos from brands.

There are many ways to roll out video campaigns and repurpose video assets for different platforms. Top formats used by marketers include:

  • Explainer videos
  • Presentation videos
  • Testimonial videos
  • Sales videos
  • Video ads

You can even use video content to simulate face-to-face interactions. For instance, live videos on Facebook or Instagram allow you to speak directly to your audience and answer their questions in real-time. Live and on-demand webinars also deliver exhibition-worthy experiences, with presentations focused on informing an audience while moving them towards the goal line.

Transition from trade shows to digital marketing

Turn a negative into a win for your business by embarking on a digital journey. Big Sea can help you transition your trade show budget to a robust digital marketing strategy. Shift your budgets from travel, booth rental, displays, and travel expenses to 100% targeted outreach by contacting the Big Sea team.