Trade Shows Canceled? 5 Strategies to Keep Your Sales Pipeline Active

March 31, 2020
Tiffany Schultz
Tiffany Schultz
sales pipeline

Trade shows are an important part of generating leads and filling the sales pipeline for many. In fact, a survey conducted by IDG reported that conferences and trade shows are listed as second, behind companies websites, on effective B2B lead generation tactics. But when crisis strikes (i.e. COVID-19), many have found that attending trade shows is no longer a viable option. At a time when we’re all being asked to social-distance, the last place anyone wants to be is in an exhibit hall, surrounded by a ton of people. 

So, what do you do now? How can you pivot that budget to something else meaningful? More importantly, what strategies can you implement to help fill the sales pipeline? These are all valid concerns. Things don’t have to come to a halt just because conferences have been canceled or postponed. There are still ways to get “out there”. 

Here are 5 B2B marketing strategies to keep your sales pipeline active: 

sales pipeline

Host a Virtual Event

With more and more people working from home and utilizing video conferencing tools like Google Hangouts or Zoom, now is a great time to embrace video. Maybe you’re used to having a weekly in-person coffee or networking event, move it online. Or, see if you can get a list of the conference attendees and invite them to an event you’re hosting. You could team up with other types of vendors and see if they’d be interested in joining. Try to bring value to the businesses you’re trying to attract. They’ll be more inclined to attend. Almost like hosting your own mini-trade show.

Try Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Account-Based Marketing or ABM is one of those hot topics right now and rightfully so. 84% of businesses who used ABM, reported that the strategy offered a higher RO1 than other marketing campaigns. ABM is the strategy that directs marketing resources to target and engage a specific set of accounts or companies. Rather than casting a wide net in an attempt to generate leads and fill your sales pipeline, you’re identifying key prospects and you tailor your message accordingly. Think about it like being at a conference. If there was a specific company or person you were hoping to connect with or have visit your booth, you might seek them out. It would be very targeted and you would customize your message just for them. That’s the idea behind ABM. 

Related Reading: Marketing in a Time of Crisis Inbound and Automation Strategies

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Conduct a Webinar 

This is another great example of a way you can still get your brand and brains out in front of people. Typically this would be a free event to sign up for, but key phrase there is “sign up.” Make sure you have people register for your webinar so you collect their contact information and can follow up with them after. Your webinar topic should be informative and a value-add to the people attending. What it shouldn’t be is an hour of you self-promoting and making it a sales pitch but calling it a webinar. Beyond lead generation, there are other benefits of hosting a webinar. Like, 1) positioning yourself as a thought leader or expert in your field, 2) deliver value and keep your audience engaged, and 3) broaden your reach by communicating with hundreds of people at once. Now that’s something you wouldn’t be able to do at a trade show. 

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Create or Expand Your Digital Marketing Strategy

If you’re already marketing online (as you should be), great! If you’re not, now might be the time. We recommend taking a look at your strategies. With your trade show budget freed up, there might be some opportunity to:

  • Start a paid media plan or look at increasing your ad spends. Think Google, LinkedIn or Facebook. 
  • Look at putting some dollars towards paid social, “boosting” or “promoting” your existing posts.  
  • If it isn’t already, optimize your website and content to ensure you’re set up for success to be a lead machine. 
  • Invest in that CRM you’ve had your eye on or perhaps another piece of marketing technology to help you work harder and smarter to generate leads. 
  • Devote more time and resources to creating valuable content for your site.

There are lots of possibilities here to either up your digital game or to start it. Not sure where to start? Check out the Digital Kickstart Checklist on how to pivot your business to digital quickly.  

Guest Posting and Speaking 

Since time and energy aren’t going into prepping for and promoting attendance at a show, maybe those resources could be spent working to do outreach and promote or create some really great content. That way you’re getting your name out there and building authority on topics you have an expertise in. Another way to build that authority and get some “face-to-face” time with people is to be a guest speaker on a podcast or webinar. I know it’s not the same as speaking at a conference or networking in person, but it’ll allow you to keep your distance while still actively trying to fill your sales pipeline. 

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Please don’t let lack of trade shows make you feel like you have to make a trade-off on achieving your goals. These are just a few strategies and tactics to consider with your newfound time and additional budget. But there are plenty of opportunities out there.