A cancelled trade fair is of course not ideal as a salesperson, but it’s not the end of the world. No trade fair visits for an entire year? That’s a different story.
The pandemic forced many companies to work out a different strategy. How can you make new contacts without trade fairs? How can you present your product to a broad audience in a relatively uncomplicated way? How do you generate leads without the direct exchange you get from interested parties on site?
In this article, we will give you practical tips on how to generate high-quality B2B leads and discover new potential in a Corona-compliant manner – without having to attend trade fairs at all.
1. Make New and Keep Old Contacts via Social Media
Are you only familiar with LinkedIn and Xing (a German business platform) as social business networks? That’s a shame! There is enormous potential behind such platforms! Especially when direct conversations, vis-à-vis at a trade fair over a coffee, or similar scenarios cannot take place. Therefore, people look for personal contact on social media platforms.
That's why you can use social media to interact with your target audience in a targeted manner. As a company for example, you can encourage your employees, who would otherwise have gone to a specific trade fair, to reach out to customers and prospects via LinkedIn and Xing.
Furthermore, you can address already existing customers with a personal message. Example? There you go:
"Dear Mr. Mayer, it's a shame that we won't be able to meet at [trade fair name] next week. I would love to exchange ideas with you on the topic of XY. What do you think about a Zoom appointment on [day+time]?".
Be careful to invest some time in research in advance for new customers or prospects. Try to be as active as possible and provide them with relevant content on their topics using those platforms. Social selling is the current trend in sales: Go ahead and use it for your benefit! Be a problem solver; listen and place your offer accordingly.
Our tip: Use the canceled trade show can serve as a conversation starter.
2. Invest in New Tools and the Necessary Skills
No trade fair, no leads. The consequences of cancelled trade fairs leave many salespeople gasping for breath. Where are the leads supposed to come from?! And above all, how?! HELP!
An answer could be: Sales Intelligence! Sales Intelligence tools and other exciting software can help you generate leads with the touch of a button. LinkedIn and Xing are, as already mentioned, a good place to start generating leads via social selling.
These tools mostly use artificial intelligence to collect publicly available information about companies and their employees. Sales Intelligence software helps you identify relevant companies that have current needs that you can target. The results are clearly sorted and delivered straight to your hands – and if you want, also as an alert directly to your email inbox.
Our tip: You can also use your results in LinkedIn.
3. Participate in Digital Trade Fairs
Trade fair organizers are also suffering from the current situation. For this reason, many trade fairs are still held digitally. At such online events, you as a company can still make contacts and place your product or service.
Usually, digital trade fairs are divided into thematic areas, so that visitors basically understand what your product is and are interested in your topics. Contributing a presentation on an exciting topic, will lead to extra leads on your side – just as it would at a "real" trade fair. You can also reuse your presentation as a webinar or whitepaper afterwards. Doing so, will give you the opportunity to further attract interested buyers.
Our tip: Write a post about your Whitepaper on LinkedIn! Those interested can write you a DM – this way you can continue to attract new leads!
4. Create Relevant Content
Do you have that one podcast that you always listen to regularly? Or a sales blog that you always recommend to others? Then become active in these channels yourself and produce customized content for your target audience. According to statistics from Messe Frankfurt, 50% of visitors want to learn about new products, 49% want to be informed about trends and 43% want to make new contacts.
Trade fairs may be getting cancelled, however, this does not mean that companies and visitors have to do without the content usually provided at such events. Pick up on the needs mentioned above and cover the topics that would otherwise have come up at the trade fair.
Both your existing customers and potential new customers will be happy to receive tips, testimonials or interviews. Why? Well, because ideally, they offer interesting information and added value.
Encourage your employees to be more active on social media with exciting content they find interesting themselves. When a user comments, posts and likes regularly, it’s a good sign that this person might be interested in your product and your topics.
The focus should be on your company's expertise in the form of your employees. In this way, leads are generated automatically: Users will visit your website, subscribe to your newsletter or send private messages on LinkedIn. Content that has already been produced can also be reused by your colleagues or serve as inspiration for new content.
Our tip: Have you thought about starting a Podcast? Now is the time to do it!
5. Organize Webinars
If you would have otherwise presented your product to a bunch of interested people at the trade fair, why not try the same thing in a webinar? Think about exciting topics and get experts on board. This can be a colleague, a business partner, an external expert or even a customer (think about the keyword customer loyalty).
Think like your target audience and imagine what they would like to see at the trade fair. Offer highly relevant content to your target audience and leads will be the result. If you then add a highlight such as a digital coffee or wine tasting, prospects will be even more interested and your lead generation will run automatically.
Furthermore, advertise your webinars on a wide variety of channels – such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or by e-mail.
6. Start Mailing Campaigns
The best start for a mailing campaign is highly valuable content! Identify the hot topics of your target audience, as well as the topics of the cancelled trade show, and write about it on your company blog! Include everything that’s important in written form or even in your corporate podcast. Additionally, you can start a webinar series as mentioned in the previous point, to which you now invite both existing and prospective customers by mail.
Above all, focus on the value of your content! By visiting a trade fair, many companies hope to expand their specialist knowledge. If you offer appropriate discounts for your products or a free trial version of your service, your target audience will probably be more receptive and gladly accept the offer.
For your existing customers, you could point out other offers. Example: If your customer recommends your product, he or she will get a discount on the next purchase! Think about how your target audience can best benefit.
7. Increase Your Outreach with Ad Campaigns
In addition to your content – which you should absolutely distribute via various channels by the way – you should also place advertisements. In doing so, you will generate additional attention and outreach.
How good is targeted, high-quality content if no one attends your webinar or reads your article? See campaigns and ads as a partner to your content. Rely on the combination of both for an optimal lead generation process. After all, you're also promoting yourself and your services at the trade fair – you should do the same online.
Use Case for You: Use the keyword search "trade fair XYZ" in Echobot TARGET to look for companies that were exhibitors at the trade fair in previous years.
The assumption that the exhibitors from previous years would have come this year as well is obvious. In addition, you can limit the period of the search to the last two years, meaning you only receive current companies and employees on the screen.
Your results can be uploaded to LinkedIn or Facebook as a custom audience, for example. The platform then generates a target audience for your ads, so that only those highly interested in your product receive the ad.
8. Old School: Call or Send a Letter
Back to the roots, but still powerful: Give your customers or prospects a call! Pick up the good old phone and call contacts you would otherwise have met at the trade fair.
As a conversation starter, you can exchange news about the trade fair or ask for tips on lead generation in times of Corona. Perhaps the person on the phone even has potential prospects for your product! Who knows! Calling is personal, honest and authentic – and still the preferred channel for many German-speaking clients and companies.
Likewise, you could mail your existing customers a little "Trade Fair Package" with giveaways that would have otherwise been available at your trade fair booth. Your customer will remember you for being extra attentive.
Another option: Cold calling! Use the canceled trade fair as a conversation starter for cold calling. Find out – ideally with Sales Intelligence software – which companies would have been at the trade fair and simply call them. A conversation starter could look like this:
"Hello Ms. Hansen! I would have liked to talk to you at the XYZ trade fair, but unfortunately it never happened. Are you interested in talking about XY?"
It’s plain and simple, but also very authentic and gives you direct feedback! As frightening as cold calling might be, it does not get more direct and personal than this.
Switching from trade fairs to "distanced" online fairs and lead generation is a big change for many companies. But with the right attitude, motivation and clever leadgen strategies, you will master this change, too.
Use times like these as an opportunity to learn and grow. Try things you did not try before and invest in new tools and channels. Now you have the time to realize a lot of things you could not tackle before. Going in a new direction, will make you more successful in terms of lead generation and new customer acquisition – you will benefit in the long term.
Hopefully, we were able to give you some practical tips for the hard times without trade fairs. We would be happy to discuss this with you in a personal meeting – via (video) call, of course!