For almost all life science and healthcare companies, trade shows and conferences play a vital role in sales, networking, business development, and more. However, in a matter of weeks, all of that has been thrown into question. Some major events, like CPhI Japan, have been officially postponed; others are outright canceled. Even the Olympics is looking shaky. Put simply: The spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, now makes large gatherings of professionals look like a giant Petri dish.
What does that mean for your marketing efforts – and in turn, the health of your business? Do you have a trade show contingency plan? Or, are you in the *shoulder shrug emoji* camp? Wherever you land, below are our top recommendations for pivoting your marketing in a new, fruitful direction during this uncertain period.
Make it personal.
Trade shows bring life science and healthcare communities together. You can speak directly to potential customers and partners, which establishes a more genuine relationship. That’s why it’s so important to keep that personal touch as part of your outreach.
- Webinars. These check many of the same boxes as trade shows and conferences. They allow you to connect directly to your audience, showcase thought-leadership, and put a face and a voice to your brand. If you have a strong community, promote the event yourself, bringing in team members that would have been walking the floor or manning your trade show booth. If you’re looking to reach a broader audience, consider hosting the webinar through a third-party publisher. The latter often comes with a promotional package that may include banner advertising and email pushes that reach far beyond your existing database.
- Social media engagement. Upping your organic engagement through social media platforms is another good stand-in. It’s a direct line of communication to inform interested people about your updated event plans and, just as importantly, to hear what they have to say. This can quickly lead to a conversation that may have occurred at the actual trade show, making it another opportunity to nurture a relationship. Paid social media will also allow you to broaden your reach and connect with a large audience like you would at a show. That said, paid campaigns shouldn’t come at the expense of organic engagement. As with face-to-face contact, you have to pay it forward and demonstrate an interest in your peers and customers before launching into your pitch.
- Video. Outside of webinar content, don’t be afraid to leverage video content to post on your website or social channels. These don’t have to be professional video shoots; they can be snippets shot on your phone or laptop that share nuggets of information with a personal touch. By following some basic best practices, you can create quality content that your audience will want to engage with.
Keep the trade show presence alive.
The physical event may not occur as planned, but you can still leverage the conference community to bring attention to your intended messages and discussions. In our virtual world, it’s possible to connect with your relevant audience from anywhere, even at home or work.
- Programmatic advertising. Instead of quietly following an individual around the exhibit hall, lurking behind booths, consider stalking them online! If they have shown an interest through Google searches or web visits that overlap with the canceled conference, you can continue to serve them relevant ads via contextual programmatic advertising, building the relationship and brand awareness with consistent impressions. This gets at one of the key benefits of trade shows: attendees self-select based on their interest in that field. Google has that same information and targeting capabilities, you just need to set it up.
- A dedicated content hub. Create a landing page on your website that you can use to drive people to. Curate content around what you would have been presenting or interested in at the show. Post social and video content to it. Most importantly, have a clear call-to-action for the user to get in touch. That may be a form for them to fill out or a newsletter subscription. You can even use gated content as the “trade show giveaway.” Everyone loves swag, right? (Disclaimer: Content doesn’t come close to fresh popcorn or stress balls, but these are extraordinary times.)
- Hashtag away. In your social posts, make sure to include mentions of the trade show hashtag. You’ll become a part of larger threads and discussions, and it will also allow your organization to learn from other companies’ posts. If you have a strong Twitter presence, consider hosting a “Tweet-up” to unite virtual “attendees” of the event. Create a hashtag and spread the word for people to share their news and perspectives on what would have been the opening day of the conference.
Don’t shy away from the obvious.
Everyone knows why trade shows and gatherings are being altered. A healthcare crisis is never fun to talk about, but it doesn’t have to be ignored either. Many life science and healthcare companies have products or services that are directly or indirectly related to the prevention, treatment, or containment of the virus. Whether you’re a vital reagents company, a research instrument manufacturer or you’re leading the charge with a vaccine, your work is something to be proud of! If you fall into this category, address it head-on but be delicate with how you deliver the message. As Corona itself has learned, you need to be very careful with the terminology used to market around this outbreak. You don’t want to be seen as being glib or taking advantage of the situation – shoot for positive, yet respectful.
These are just a few of the many ways that your trade show experience can transfer to other marketing channels. CG Life is always available to provide more insight or discussion around curating your trade show contingency plan. If there is a tradeshow question we can help answer for you, fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch very soon.