As all too many business owners are aware, social distancing requirements and other safety precautions needed to protect the public from COVID-19 have led to trade show cancelations throughout the world. For many B2B companies, trade show season is a vital source for quality lead generation and customer acquisition. So, what can these organizations do to bounce back? 

Here is how your business can leverage its product lineup, promotional assets, and sales expertise to bring the trade show experience online and capture new leads in the age of COVID.

Getting in Front of New Buyers

When selecting trade shows, you probably pursue events that are highly relevant to your customer base. And most likely, you try selecting booths with good visibility on the showroom floor, right? 

The same approach should be taken when utilizing your web presence to attract new leads online. Only, in this case, selecting a relevant trade show is equal to identifying where your target audience goes online to find the information they need when making purchasing decisions. And choosing an optimal booth location is like selecting the most valuable keywords for which you want your website to rank in search results. 

Combine PPC and SEO Efforts to Increase Web Traffic

Once you know where your customer base is going online to discover new products or services for their business needs, it’s time to get your brand in front of them. This strategy can take on a multitude of forms, but in nearly every case, your organization will need to utilize either paid search marketing (PPC) campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, or a combination of both. 

For example, if your plastic manufacturing company is trying to attract pharmaceutical brands for its new line of child-resistant bottle closures, you probably want your website’s product pages ranking well in search results for terms like the following:

  • child-resistant pharma bottles
  • child-resistant packaging for pharmaceuticals
  • child safe pharmaceutical packaging
  • pharmaceutical bottle manufacturers 
  • pharmaceutical bottle supplier

PPC allows you to bid on those keywords (and related variations) to receive top real estate in search results when users enter these terms into Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. You are then responsible for paying the bid amount anytime a user clicks on your text ad or shopping ad.

An example of Google Shopping Ads and Text Ads

It’s also crucial for your website content to rank well organically for target keywords and phrases. This is accomplished by strategically optimizing the content on your product and category pages so that search engines associate these pages with the target queries for which you’d like to rank well. Again, ranking for the right keywords is similar to choosing the right booth location at a trade show. You could have the absolute best pharmaceutical packaging solution on the market, but if no one can find you (i.e. you don’t rank well for relevant search queries), you’re going to have trouble generating leads.

You may also want to consider submitting new product announcements, press releases, and guest articles to relevant trade publications that are popular among your customer base. This SEO tactic is a form of online PR, which increases your brand reach and helps improve your website’s visibility in organic search results. Before submitting your content to a trade publication, make sure that your copy is properly optimized for your organization’s top keywords, and include a link back to your website within the guest article bio.

Making Your Pitch Online

Essentially, you should be utilizing the key product or service pages on your website to bring the trade show experience directly to a user’s computer screen or mobile device. If there are print materials that have proven to be effective in your face-to-face discussions at trade shows, make sure that information is easily accessible on the appropriate pages of your company’s website. Are there specific questions your sales team often receives from leads interested in particular product lines? Those FAQs should be included on relevant product pages. 

Again, think of your key product or service pages as the digital medium for your trade show pitch. Sending traffic to a poorly designed product page with minimal information is like speaking with a booth visitor and giving them a scattered pitch with no real substance. It doesn’t work.

Provide a Multimedia Experience

When updating your website’s key pages, keep in mind that you are not limited to text only — though your written copy is vital for both ranking and conversion purposes. You can present your product information and unique selling points in a variety of ways well-suited for the online experience. 

For example, video content is becoming more important for brands every day. Consider including demo videos on your product pages to allow web users an up-close look at your products in action. 

Provide high-quality product images from multiple angles that showcase each item’s unique characteristics. 

Did you already design a print pamphlet for your brand’s new product line? Great! Make sure the pamphlet’s key details are included in your page copy and allow users to download a PDF version of the material from relevant portions of your website. 

Securing a Lead’s Contact Information

When you are engaging with a visitor at your trade show booth, the goal is to get their contact information so you can continue assisting the lead through their purchasing journey. The same goes for website visitors. 

Once your website content is in front of the right audience, you must secure their contact information. It’s best to provide a simple, clear call-to-action for interested users to submit their essential contact details. 

A tactic often used to collect contact information in the B2B world is to offer a high-value content piece in exchange for a lead’s name and email address. Some examples of valuable content assets include product spec sheets, industry white papers, and educational videos. Depending on what your company sells, you may even want to offer a free trial or sample product to qualified prospects.

An example of gated content, or requiring contact information in exchange for valuable content

The Follow-Up

One thing that hasn’t changed as a result of COVID canceling your trade shows is the follow up process. After you’ve secured a lead’s contact information, it’s time to reach out, begin building a rapport, and assist them through the conversion funnel.

If your B2B company has been impacted by the lack of trade shows in 2020, and you’d like help deploying some of the SEO or PPC tactics discussed in this article, get in touch with WTM! Our digital marketing specialists would be happy to answer your questions.