Hundreds of trade fairs are cancelled worldwide, months of preparation by marketing departments are in vain. But the coronavirus shows one thing above all: that marketing organisations must become more independent of black outs from channels over which they have no influence.
The Logimat: cancelled. The Hanover Fair: postponed. The Smart Automation in Vienna: cancelled. Three million square metres of exhibition space are empty in Europe in March and April due to cancelled events - a good part of it at classic B2B trade fairs. Perhaps your company is also affected by the turmoil surrounding the corona virus, perhaps months of preparations for your trade fair appearance are now in vain and your elaborate marketing plans for this year have to be rewritten.
But the chaos surrounding COVID 19 is also a good opportunity to fundamentally question your own marketing strategies: if the virus had not broken out, if no trade fair had been cancelled, you would probably have had to deal with strategies of incremental improvement: for years, maybe decades, your company has been exhibiting at the same B2B trade fairs over and over again, and every year you strive to refine your appearance, to generate and follow up your trade fair leads even more efficiently, to make your trade fair stand even more exciting, and maybe even to limit your trade fair budget even more strictly in the process. Perhaps you are only at the fair because your competitors are too.
There is no question that trade fairs are important, especially in the B2B sector. However, the cancellation of the trade fairs relevant to you can also be a good opportunity for you as a marketing manager not to deal with incremental optimisations of familiar marketing channels such as trade fairs, but to build up an infrastructure that - of necessity - manages without these tools and is a litmus test for your B2B marketing.
One thing is clear: even if the trade fairs have disappeared, the interest in your product innovations or your company development certainly has not. Because if all the now cancelled fairs had taken place, press releases would have been produced again afterwards, as they are every year, about new visitor records and extremely satisfied exhibitors. So all that has disappeared is a platform with stable interest on the part of the public, your customers - and bundling and capturing this interest in other channels can be a great opportunity and challenge for your B2B marketing to create communication value.
Independence from other channels
If you reinvest the resources you have spent on incremental improvements to your trade fair presence into strategies that make your B2B marketing more independent of the mega trade fairs - even if the corona virus will have long since dissipated - this can lead to an insightful audit of your marketing assets.
- Can you use the experience gained from mega trade fairs to organise smaller in-house events that are also better tailored to the needs of your target groups depending on their progress in the customer journey? Is it possible to target better with several smaller events instead of one mega-event?
- Can you build digital communities, for example by creating user groups on social platforms such as Xing or by using tools such as Slack, in order to maintain the customer dialogue, which is a central concern at trade fairs, in the longer term?
- Can you play out presentations that might be part of your trade fair presence as a webinar?
The aim of all these measures should not only be to compensate for the loss of the trade fair as a marketing tool, but also to increase the independence of your B2B marketing and your campaign capability from trade fairs and similar channels in the long term. In short: it is ultimately about strengthening owned media.
The channel blackout that marketing organisations are now experiencing due to the appearance of the corona virus should be a lesson to us all. Namely, that investments in a structural self-sufficiency of one's own marketing are highly timely, even without viral events.