Now that we’ve transitioned from freak-out stage to somewhat of a new routine – at least in many of our day-to-day functions – it’s important that we continue to stay in touch with our audience.
And no, I’m not talking about the endless stream of crisis communications that we’re all getting sick of seeing in our inboxes on a daily basis!
It’s okay to address the problems you know they’re facing, but instead of feeding off the fear, offer up solutions and support.
Now is not the time to stop marketing! (Even if you’re the organizer of a show that’s been cancelled.) It’s been shown during past times of crisis that certain companies emerge stronger in the eyes of their audience, while others either alienate people or simply fade away from view.
According to one study conducted after the Recession of 2008-09, companies that either maintained or increased marketing during the downturn grew by 275 percent over the next five years, while those who cut back grew by only 19 percent.
Focus on building trust and strengthening your relationship. Your goal should be to stay visible, without becoming a pest. (You know the companies I’m talking about … they send you three or four e-mails a day, yet don’t really say much in any of them!)
So how should you be communicating?
- Connect one-on-one whenever possible. Think about how much that surprise “I’m checking in because you were on my mind” phone call has meant to you over these past few weeks. You can share that same warm fuzzy feeling with your contacts.
- Support your community by giving back in whatever way you can. This has been demonstrated over and over in the trade show industry during recent weeks: exhibit designers and printers who began producing PPE or temporary structures to serve the medical community, convention centers that were turned into temporary hospitals, hotels who were donating food to local food banks, and more.
- Be consistent. Stay active on social media channels, as well as sending e-mails once or twice a week. Post often enough to stay on their radar, but don’t overload them with too much information.
- Provide relevant educational content. Answer the questions you know they’re asking. That’s been my goal in creating the weekly Virtual Lunch in the Exhibit Marketers Café. We’ve had some great discussions on all kinds of topics for the trade show community. And that’s also why I’m hosting the Virtual Event Trailblazers Summit in a few weeks. (Details coming soon!) It’s my goal to be a resource for you during this time when our industry is struggling to navigate through the storm.
- Demonstrate that you’re a leader and adapting to the changing environment. Create virtual tours of your facility or showroom. Turn your cancelled exhibit into a virtual event with live-streamed product demonstrations or a Q&A session.
- Connect on a personal level. Think about how TV anchors and even late-night talk show hosts have changed the way they connect with their audience. Jimmy Fallon even incorporates his wife and kids into the Tonight Show, revealing how he’s “just like us.” Now of course, there’s a fine line here – you don’t need to get too personal, just share enough to make you relatable. Tell personal example stories when they’re appropriate.
- Show empathy and transparency. Be positive and authentic. Car companies have been doing a good job of this, talking about how they’re providing contactless service or flexible payment terms. Their message is “We’re taking care of you.” Which leads us to …
- Ask how you can help. Find out how you can serve them. What resources or tools do they really need right now? Help them fill in the blanks. What might they not even realize they need? Can you connect them to the right things, even if it’s not something you can provide?
Now is the time to refocus your marketing. Show up in a way that connects you to your audience, and they’ll repay you with loyalty over the long term.
If you missed Part 1 of this series on how to prepare for a trade show comeback, be sure to check that out here. And coming up in Part 3, we’ll cover how to incorporate virtual elements into your future trade shows and events.