What to do in order to make #virtualtradeshows a PR success

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

Nozi Hamidi, a former client of EASTWEST PR, is working in corporate America as the Head of Marketing of a big industrial company looking to build a brand in China. Touching on the topics of trust and trust in the media, numerous polls regardless of political affiliations have found that Americans do not trust the media, and this lack of trust spans more on political views than it does business views, because sometimes it spills over into whether someone believes what’s happening with the US economy or not.

The media and international trade

Media relations is a fundamental part of a strategy to engage with the audience in America, and nowadays, many business owners are shying away from politicizing their businesses, but there are some US companies that have taken a stance and said something about pressing issues like Black Lives Matter or anti-police brutality. However, a company’s customers and employees will look for action, not words, and companies have been highly criticized for making these grandiose statements yet doing nothing about the situation. From an editorial standpoint, businesses continue to promote editorial in their niche or industry, because that in itself, their technology, their process, their products, and what value it brings to their customers, especially in B2B, is generally not political.

Many companies haven’t tapped into the potential to gain customers’ attention using social media, and so the message seems to be that it’s kind of business as usual for businesses in America or even British companies trying to get into America, especially with Brexit on the horizon, and this goes back to trust or the lack of it that Americans have in the media. At the same time, Americans are very motivated right now to bring the economy back. In March, when COVID hit and everyone went into lockdown, tons of people lost their jobs, and then slowly, they bounced back. In August, 1.4 million jobs were brought back in the US, and it brought the unemployment rate down from over 10% to a little over 8%, which is a huge move in one month. This shows that Americans are very motivated to get their jobs back, get the economy rolling, and make money again. Even without any unemployment relief or assistance from the government because of COVID, there’s this phenomena where interest rates are so low. There is a good portion of the US economy refinancing their homes which could mean as much as an extra $500 a month purely from refinancing, so the consumer is going to be in better shape because of that. Businesses are making products again and creating new jobs, and these two things together are really good for the economy in spite of the possible uncertainty because of the elections.

Regarding international trade, Nozi says now is a good time to try to do business in the US, because there are many entrepreneurs looking to provide value to entire segments, and there are entire manufacturing segments who had their supply chain largely anchored on China. There’s also quite a bit happening in the government with trying to shift things back to being either being made in the USA or being less reliant on China. So, if another foreign manufacturer can come into play for a US company and offer an alternative to China, this is definitely a good time to be looking at that. To actually bring a business to America, this is where the power of one’s network comes into play. Finding partners and getting media coverage would greatly help, and one would need either a sponsor, a distributor, or some connections into the US market. Printed publications may no longer be a thing, but many of them still have a great online following. Trade shows sponsored by those publications are now virtual, and so this is a brand new field for everybody, not only for the organisers but the participants as well.

How to get customers on a virtual trade show

Photo from Launch Marketing

Trade shows are invaluable for identifying new customers, further solidifying relationships with existing customers, and launching new products. A lot of deals and orders take place at trade shows, and this should still go on, but virtually. For that to happen, the content needs to be compelling and so does the pitch. Customers should be able to identify easily the value your products or services could bring to them. With virtual trade shows, the focus has really shifted towards content and value more than entertainment and relationship building in physical trade shows. People have limited time to be at a virtual trade show, because they might need to jump to another Zoom call or so on, and so it’s really important that the messages are synced, that the materials are clear, and that there’s a reason for a customer to check out the business. It used to be that the size of a trade show booth gave an impression as to the quality and scale of a company, but now, everyone has got the same real estate to play with.

Companies with great content will undoubtedly stand out, and this could be through the use of interactive tools that customers can play around with, or demonstration tools like videos to show how a product is used, or calculators to show customers that it may cost more than the competitors, but it’s worth the investment because it’s going to actually save money in the long run. The content should catch the customer’s attention and show that the business can respond quickly, produce quickly, and save the customer money. Especially in this economy where everybody’s trying to get back on the growth path, customers are still very interested, at least in B2B, in saving money and in how they can produce more by using less, and being able to visually show that through videos, calculators, demos, are the kinds of things that will catch customers’ eyes.

Although trade shows have now gone virtual and everything is pretty much carried by the marketing pitch, every company will still need that heavy hitter on the sales team who is really good at closing deals, even online. Though there might not be as much ordering items during a virtual show because the time is limited to only a couple of hours a day versus for days before, there could be more follow-ups after the show and comparisons between the different exhibitors. This is why the skills of the salespeople are still needed, but they have to be comfortable working in a virtual setting and working with virtual demonstration tools and showcasing the value of their products and services.

Social drivers, sustainability, and the 2020 US elections

Photo from Forbes

Most Americans believe in social drivers such as Black Lives Matter or social responsibility. It’s presented in the media in various formats, but generally, everyone believes in equality. There has been a growing interest in sustainability, but most manufacturers usually only embrace sustainability if it doesn’t cost them more. There’s also a belief that B2C companies tend to be more open to sustainability than B2B, but the overall theme is to just get the economy going and get back to business. There are different theories on whether the 2020 US elections will change the economy. Despite that, there’s already improvement in that more jobs are being created, and the stock market is picking back up albeit with some correction here and there. There always is some kind of pause in the stock market somewhere around the election time, but the theme is that most Americans just want their lives to go back to normal and have an economy that is thriving and makes everybody prosperous. That’s fundamentally what most Americans believe in, making their country a great place to live and work in and leaving a place that’s better for their children. However, it also sounds as though the media in America have suffered an irreparable harm to its own reputation. 

Mainstream media has a cloud over itself, and social media has added to that, but that is different from working with business media, such as publications that are industry-specific. Many Americans would say they believe everything in the mainstream media, and especially with so many people working from home and attending virtual events, this provides businesses with opportunities to build their own community and their own loyal following directly, more so for industrial B2B businesses who had not built their brand on social media yet or invested in virtual tools. Nozi meaningfully shared about the impact of technology, elections, and the coronavirus on virtual trade shows, the opportunity that exists in America for business owners who are looking to tap into a foreign market, and the value of virtual trade shows during these COVID times. Hopefully, this inspires someone to consider moving into the American market or improve their trade show strategy. To find out more about Nozi and what she does, you can find her on LinkedIn

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo from G2 Learning Hub

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