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Trade Shows Are Cancelled, How Do I Generate Leads?

Trade Shows Are Cancelled, How Do I Generate Leads?

To call 2020 challenging would be quite an understatement. No one has gone unaffected by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially true for the sales teams that planned on attending trade shows to generate new leads and to drive deals toward closing. Since 2020 was a bungle for tradeshows, and while we all hope for a resurgence of in-person events in 2021, online-only shows are what we should expect at least through the first half of 2021.

This has put countless organizations that build their lead generation strategy around their trade shows in a difficult position. How do you go about replacing the leads generated if you aren’t able to attend?

Amid a sea of turmoil, there's some good news, however. You'll have to flex your creative muscles to do it, but you can still generate leads without an in-person trade show. It involves employing some tactics and best practices that may be different from what you're used to. That doesn't make them any less effective. 

Let's take a closer look at how you can generate leads without an in-person trade show in 2021. 



Why not host or sponsor a virtual trade show or webinar? Obviously, you'll need to adapt your event significantly to account for the change in venue that comes with moving it from a physical to a virtual space. But as more and more organizations turn to remote work as a long-term solution, video conferencing and webinars are becoming the new normal. There's never been a better time to tap into the large variety of remote conferencing technology available. Applications like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and others like them make it easier than ever to bring people together from all over the globe. 

You can't recreate the entire in-person trade show experience. But you can deliver stunning multimedia presentations given by passionate, compelling speakers. You can solicit feedback from your audience, finding out what they're interested in hearing about. You can lead value-laden discussions that position your organization as an authority in your field. You can deliver all of this to your potential leads in the comfort of their own homes. 

The type of virtual event you hold is limited only by your imagination. Whether it's a trade show, webinar, or some other type of virtual event, you can replicate the in-person experience for your audience in a way that builds a strong relationship. 



Another way to generate leads is to develop valuable informational products you can then give away for free. Giving away a free content offer may seem counterintuitive, but there's a method to its perceived madness. 

Have you heard of the concept of a lead magnet? It's the idea that you can offer value-laden products to your audience, at no cost, as a way to attract them to do business with you (acting as a magnet). To think of ideas for lead magnets, think about some common issues your potential customers face related to your industry. Then develop an easily accessible document (a fact sheet, infographic, e-Book, etc.) that answers a specific question. The lead magnet should then prompt your reader to take some sort of action. 

Informational products are a great way to let your potential customers know that you understand your industry. You know what you're talking about and can back your claims up with actionable information. In turn, they come to trust any future products they hear about from you. When the time comes to make the decision to do business with you, they'll be even more receptive. 


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During a time when remote work is the norm, it's never been more critical to establish a strong digital presence. You can do this first by reinvigorating your social media content.  

First, you can bolster the profiles you have set up on the platforms your potential customers are most likely to use (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) with content about your company and products. Additionally, you can comment on other happenings within your industry. You can create videos demonstrating your product features & benefits or service in action. You can post links to other people's articles and blog posts, comment on them, and provide insight on what it may mean for your industry as a whole. 

The goal should be to create posts your audience will want to engage with. Compelling content (written by you or someone else), polls, pictures and videos are all ways to get people interacting with your brand. That interaction can be the first step in lead generation. 

Your digital presence, of course, is about more than just social media.


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Think of your website as your digital business card. It tells other businesses what you do, who you are, and most importantly, how you can help them. The issue here is that people have to know you exist to find your website. But there are a few ways you can use your website to attract attention and get more leads. 

One way is through writing a blog. By writing blog posts focused on targeted keywords that your potential leads are using for internet searches, you can attract the right people to your site who are looking for the type of solution you offer. This practice is known as search engine optimization or SEO. 

You can also tailor other sections of your website using SEO to attract leads. For example, your "About" page should have not only your company's story but a clear definition of the problems you can solve and the benefits you can provide your end-users. By including the right keywords, you'll get attention from people most likely to buy from you. It helps you target potential future customers more effectively. 

There are other ways to optimize your website as well. You can ensure it downloads quickly to avoid visitors getting impatient with long load times. You can adopt a simple design for your site with plugins like a sign-up form for an email list that gives your leads content — and more ways for you to stay in touch with them. 

Yes, canceling your trade show this year was no doubt difficult and costly. But by thinking outside the box, you can lean into emerging strategies and invest in tactics that will continue to grow your business by attracting new leads.

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