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Tradeshow Marketing Alternatives

 By Steph Mazanowski

With the fate of trade shows still up in the air for 2021, many businesses are searching for alternate ways to generate leads and reach their target markets. So much planning goes into putting a trade show together, so it may be time to bite the bullet and look at alternative marketing solutions for (at least the first half of) 2021.


Let’s take a look at home shows as an example. The whole idea of a home show is for the various home service businesses to set up booths and interact with homeowners. This is an opportunity business owners count on every year to showcase their products and services, and an opportunity for homeowners to browse through various options to get ideas and learn more about what’s trending. This is also where the business to client relationship starts and trust begins to develop. In most cases, the businesses are notorious for having giveaways as a way to collect homeowner information in hopes of setting up consultations in the weeks following the event and plenty of swag to help the homeowners remember their brand long after they step away from the booth.


There is uncertainty of whether trade shows will even take place this spring, and even if they do, it is unknown how many people will feel comfortable enough to venture out. Still rolling with home shows as an example, you will want to identify your target audience and determine where they are and identify ways you might be able to reach them. Homeowners are….at home this year. Reaching homeowners in their mailbox and online are going to be your two best bets as people continue to work from home and spend less time out and about. You could look at a mailer, however, be cautious because according to JWM Business Services, the response rate on direct mailers is 0.5% to 2%. That means that you can expect around 1 or 2 responses per 100 mailers with a standard campaign. The days of ‘one and done’ campaigns have passed and we have moved into a marketing world that heavily relies on constant repetition and having your brand pop up in multiple places. An alternative to a direct mail campaign is to sponsor a local community magazine. There are a few options here locally that specifically target homeowners every month, and you can land a full year of branding repetition for about the same cost as one piece of direct mail. With the constant repetition each month, your chances of getting a response increase exponentially.


You will also want to figure out ways to get content in front of your target audience to help educate them on your industry as a whole as well as inform them on what’s trending. In addition to the targeted nature and constant repetition, the community magazines mentioned above, offer a great platform to tell your business story and give you a place to provide expert advice about your industry. Now is a great time to figure out creative ways to help your audience get to know you as well. People do business with people they know, like, and trust. Tell your business story, let them into your world a little bit. This will help you develop that trust that you are unable to achieve this year at your trade show booth.


You can also generate content by writing blogs, going live on social media, creating video footage of your business in action, providing expert tips, or just showing your team having fun. You might also consider including testimonial videos from current or past happy clients. All of this content helps solidify that you are knowledgeable and trustworthy and that you are the go-to business in your industry.


You will need to determine a way to generate leads so you can fill your calendar with consultations. Consumers are no doubt spending a lot more time online. Whether it be browsing social media, searching for things on Google, or watching videos, it is important to add a targeted, digital touchpoint to your marketing mix for 2021. Digital campaigns can very in complexity and price. The more complex, more frequent the changes, and more carefully the analytics are tracked, the more you will pay, however there are less expensive digital options available that are still very effective. You may consider a simple plug and play, targeted campaign which stays the same all month long, but still gives you plenty of repetition and impressions. This type of campaign pairs very well with other forms of marketing and amplifies your overall branding message.


Attaching your brand to the community and supporting various organizations is a great strategic marketing move. Sponsoring things around the community associates your brand with “good” and consumers in turn feel good about your business. If consumers feel like you care about the same things they do, they are more likely to choose your business above others in your industry. It is no secret that after the past year, there has been a HUGE increase in appreciation for our local, small businesses and community as a whole. Align yourself with a community initiative and you will receive “brownie points” from your consumers.


One last point worth mentioning, is to ensure your website and Facebook page are updated. Consumers are relying more heavily than ever on your website and social pages for information. Include high resolution, professional, and current photos. Be sure your hours and contact information are up-to-date. Consider including a section for educational content and create electronic versions of the brochures or handouts you normally would have handed out at the trade show. Trade show visitors love take-aways and browsing through them later. If they can look through your materials electronically, it will help them make informed buying decisions.


It’s time to be proactive and look for alternative solutions to the tradeshows this year. Hopefully by 2022, we will be able to gather again freely and get back to the face-to-face business to consumer gatherings that have grown to be a valuable means of business building. In the meantime, 2021 is the year to take your travel expenses, booth rental expenses, swag expenses, and roll those dollars into things that are targeted and reach your audience where they are, things that are repetitive and pair well together, things that provide a platform for educational content and tell your story, things that are associated with good and aligned with the community, and don’t forget to be sure your website and social media pages are ready for visitors.

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