F For decades, tradeshows have been a go-to staple for agrimarketers around the world. Even in recent years, where the costs of participating in and standing out at tradeshows have made it increasingly difficult to generate positive ROI, agrimarketers have still treated these events as annual “must-haves”. That said, given the restrictions COVID has placed on attending in-person events, agrimarketers have started to question the value of virtual tradeshow alternatives. Many have decided to abandon these shows altogether in favor of immediate cost savings resulting in the cancellation of a large number of these annual events, mainly due to an overall lack of exhibitors willing to participate.
As a strong proponent of constant optimization and the idea of not doing something year-after-year simply because it’s always been part of the plan, I can’t help but feel that most agrimarketers are being short-sighted by foregoing tradeshows this year as a means of saving budget. Furthermore, when looking at the current state of the virtual tradeshows being offered up to agrimarketers (and their customers), it becomes clear there are some significant strategic opportunities even traditional, in-person tradeshows can’t offer. For all these reasons I offer the following three ways you can make virtual tradeshows one of your greatest returning agrimarketing investments this year-and beyond:
1. Zig When Others Zag
Every agrimarketer knows differentiation is key to standing out and getting noticed. It is also something that’s proved more and more difficult to achieve at traditional, in-person tradeshows where going bigger and louder had its limits (especially to budgets). That said, virtual tradeshows offer almost the exact opposite opportunity. As these events aren’t attracting much participation and those participating are generally investing the bare-minimum in their presence, those willing to go above and beyond have the opportunity to stand-out significantly based on even modest investments.
It should be noted, however, that if current virtual tradeshow experiences have proven anything, it’s that the virtual event itself (i.e. the online experience, the sponsorship opportunities, the web pages/links provided to exhibitors) will do little in and of themselves to drive attention to your company and brands. Thankfully, because it’s all digital, it is still very easy to conduct your own promotions outside of what the event provides as a means of driving an unfair share of the shows digital traffic to your specific experience.
Pro Tip: Did you know that many virtual tradeshow organizers will provide you with the names and possibly even the contact information for farmers and companies registered to attend? Getting these lists are a great way to reach out and engage your audience pre-event as a means of gaining their attention before the distractions of the show even start.
2. Build a Right-Sized Experience
While it is difficult to fault the organizations tasked with converting their longstanding in-person events into similarly valuable virtual ones seemingly overnight, the truth of the matter is the majority of the virtual tradeshow solutions these organizations provide to agrimarketers aren’t optimal for meaningful customer and prospect engagement. What we have seen to date is a Goldilocks-like paradox where the solutions provided allow for either too little (i.e. a basic webpage where you can list some company, product and contact information) or too much (i.e. a link to your main website) content. And in both cases, these solutions offer little means of interacting with the audience outside of delivering information to them (a one-way communication that does little to develop meaningful dialogue).
Instead, we suggest developing your own, right-sized solution that allows you to tailor the contents and interactions to yours and the audience’s needs. For example, instead of linking to a listing of all your products/services on your website, highlight only those most pertinent to the event/audience. Instead of providing product/service information in loads of copy or videos, provide a Zoom chat where the user can “Ask an Expert” their specific questions live and on their own time. And, instead of forcing audience members to “dial-in” for presentations at specific times based on your and the event’s schedule, offer them as catalogued links they can view whenever and wherever they’d like (even after the event itself is over).
Pro Tip: Did you that you can easily sync your key company representative’s calendars to your virtual tradeshow booth, allowing visitors to “call them live” or “schedule a meeting” as they see fit. Not only does this provide the user with a more seamless experience (knowing that their contact will be available when it says they are) but also allows you to make high-value representatives available that you normally wouldn’t want to have “waiting by the phone or in the booth”.
3. Create an Asset, Not an Expense
I have always been a huge advocate of balance-sheet marketing and the building of assets that can be used again-and-again, over time to reliably deliver results with little additional/ongoing investment. As such, while many agrimarketers may be shying away from building a virtual tradeshow solution for fear it will become obsolete once we return to a pre-COVID-like reality, I encourage you to build something that can continue to provide significant value whether that reality comes or not.
At the end of the day, marketers in many industries outside of agriculture have proven their ability to create interactive solutions that allow them to reach, attract, engage, nurture, qualify and even convert/close customers and prospects 100% digitally. And this is the opportunity at hand with virtual tradeshows. Just imagine having a solution that you could use show after show, year after year, virtually or as part of an in-person event that allows you to meaningfully connect with, engage, educate, qualify and convert customers and leads without all of the typical tradeshow expenses. While it may sound too good to be true, we’ve already taken many of the steps to ensure it isn’t.
Pro Tip: Did you that you can integrate your existing CRM, sales enablement and marketing automation resources into your virtual tradeshow experience, allowing you to do amazing things like alerting sales reps when key customers have consumed specific contents, automatically delivering follow-up information to leads who have expressed interest in specific products, and auto-generating lead-quality scores to visitors based on the amount, type and frequency of contents consumed?
If you’d like to discuss ways that you can leverage the strategic opportunities virtual tradeshows provide or would like to take a tour of the virtual tradeshow booth solution we have already developed, book a meeting with us for a demo.