How to Reallocate Trade Show and Event Budgets

Tradeshow Budgets

Through the 80s, 90s and the 00s, trade shows and other live events were a bastion of marketing budgets across the fruited plains. In fact, trade shows often accounted for 50% or more of a company’s entire marketing budget. 

Even today, trade shows and live events remain an essential expenditure within select industries. They provide an important opportunity for businesses to showcase their latest innovations. In some cases, especially with large capital goods, a trade show, convention, or in-person event may be a customer’s only opportunity to touch, feel, and interact with a product before making a purchasing decision.

Of course, in 2020, there will be no trade shows. At least not in a traditional sense. The COVID-19 pandemic has made sure of that. Which has left many companies wondering what they can do to fill the marketing void that’s been created? 

At Olive & Company, we have a few thoughts. 

Going Dark May Put You in The Red

A company’s first reaction might be to bankroll the money and save it for the next year’s marketing budget. It’s a fair consideration. 

It’s time to think big, change your methods, create new tools, and potentially, discover a far more effective method for marketing products. 

A trade show or in-person event budget is a large line item. There’s the floor space that needs to be rented, then the cost of designing and building the booth, shipping the booth, the union labor to construct and deconstruct the booth, the airfare to fly the staff in, as well as the hotel rooms, hospitality suites, rental car fees, expense accounts, and wow, it adds up fast. 

Well, don’t be tempted to save money and cut the marketing budget. Continue to spend your marketing dollars as forecasted. This includes the trade show or live event allocation. Just find a new way to invest it, and ideally, find a better way to use it moving forward. 

Why spend? Historically, organizations that reduce their marketing efforts during economic slowdowns suffer more than those who stay steady or increase their marketing efforts. 

You still need to convey your story and make your product accessible to customers who previously relied on a trade show. It’s time to think big, change your methods, create new tools, and potentially, discover a far more effective method for marketing products. 

Take Your Show Online

A strong option to consider is putting your trade show, lunch-and-learn gatherings, job fairs, corporate sales meetings, training seminars, product launches, or other in-person events online. In fact, if you’ve already built a trade show booth, you can likely use it as a video set. 

For products that demand a long story, visual support, and a near-hands-on experience, a live streaming event is a great solution.

Host a live streaming event for your customers online. Showcase your products, show how new features work, use simulations and walkthroughs, do it all. You should also allow customers to interact, ask questions, and have you run through specific functions as they watch. When it’s all over, you can upload the video to your site so other customers who couldn’t watch in real-time can see the recorded version. 

For products that demand a long story, visual support, and a near-hands-on experience, a live streaming event is a great solution. Sound difficult? It’s not. Olive & Company can help you with many aspects of creating a streaming event. We’d also recommend contacting Heroic Productions. They have tips to communicate during COVID-19, to assure your message is seen, heard, and remembered with creative solutions for live streaming, virtual events, video, audio, and lighting. 

Make Your Bullhorn Bigger

Not every product needs to be demonstrated on a grand scale or have a live question and answer session. Some products can be perfectly detailed through a properly developed web page. 

Make sure your key product pages are content-rich, offering all the support, information, and data points a customer could need.

  • Add videos.
  • Improve photography.
  • Rethink how best to tell the story.
  • Evaluate the user experience.
  • Update the content strategy.
  • Ensure keyword and search engine strategy are maximized.

Right now, merely having a product page isn’t enough to compensate for a missed trade show or live event opportunity. Each page must serve a greater role as you work to replace, or potentially, replicate a trade show or live event experience that some customers depend on. It needs to be an expertly developed experience that attracts the right audience, creates deeper interest, and ultimately, triggers a conversion—be it an online sale, download, or making contact via phone, email, or text. 

Reach Your Audience as They Search 

Not attending a trade show or hosting an in-person live event will likely impact the way you market. It will also alter the way your customers make purchasing decisions. 

Customers will not be sitting on their purchasing budgets. Especially if those budgets are connected to federal, state, or other municipal funding bills that must be spent.  

Items, goods, and services need to be bought, upgraded, improved, and optimized. So how will your customer base shop and learn when there are no trade shows or live events to attend? By searching online.

Google and similar search engines will become an even bigger point of entry for your customers, sales prospects, and new hires. Simple, basic language searches for products will likely boom as buyers seek out options. You can capitalize on this but you need to move quickly. 

A digital strategy must be developed and activated that gets your message out to the right audience at the right time. Your strategy can, and likely should, encompass:

  • Responsive digital ads
  • Relevant social media content
  • Geo-targeting efforts
  • Focussed retargeting campaigns
  • Blog development
  • Gated content management

Each of these aspects brings a new layer of opportunity and a stronger chance of moving a prospect from awareness to considerations to advocacy.

When You Can’t Meet With Customers, Meet With Us 

It’s time for you to master the art of distance marketing. This is the ability to connect, engage, inform, and convert with minimal in-person contact. It’s possible to do. In fact, it’s something we do for organizations whether there’s a pandemic or not. However, if you’re new to the idea, it’s a lot to understand, coordinate, and implement without guidance.

Here’s our promise: you won’t have to go it alone. 

Let’s talk. Connect with Olive & Company. Even if we don’t end up working together, we will steer you in the right direction. What’s good for us is always doing what’s best for organizations that reach out to us. Especially now. We want to help every business survive and, ideally, thrive. 

If you’d like to learn more about reallocating trade show or live event marketing budgets using sage analysis, strategy, and creative work, we can help. We’ll fill in the blanks, answer your questions, and improve your understanding. Let’s connect and get your marketing moving forward.

Dave Hruby

Dave Hruby

Dave Hruby is brand strategist, writer, thinker, maker, and doer that challenges the status quo, shares wisdom freely, and happily asks tough questions to arrive at better than expected outcomes.