With most tradeshows and other in-person events canceled or postponed due to COVID-19, industrial marketers are facing unprecedented challenges.

According to a recent survey by IEEE GlobalSpec, 35 percent of industrial marketers will not attend a tradeshow until a vaccine is available and another 24 percent say they will not be ready to attend a tradeshow for more than six months. Sixty-one percent said tradeshows they planned to attend or exhibit at have been canceled.

Translation: Tradeshows are by and large off the table for 2020.

The challenge for industrial marketers is how to fill the gap left by canceled or postponed tradeshows.

First, a little perspective. As the digital era continues to advance, tradeshows have been on a steady decline. Although still an effective and much-utilized strategy in the industrial marketing portfolio, tradeshows are not as important as they used to be. Still, marketers must do what they can to replace the high-touch, high-visibility benefits of tradeshows. Here are some ideas:

Invest more in content marketing

Marketers are now predicting that content marketing, followed by webinars and organic website traffic, will be their most successful 2020 marketing channels.

Engineers report the most valuable type of content are datasheets, case studies, product demo videos, and white papers, according to survey “2020 Smart Marketing for Engineers,” conducted by TREW Marketing and IEEE GlobalSpec.

When it comes to accessing content, engineers find value in various information sources, including supplier/vendor websites, industry directory websites, online trade publications, emails, e-newsletters, and more.

Now is the time to make sure your content is accurate, up-to-date, and educational. This is an opportunity to present your company’s expertise and build trust with customers through your content. Distribute your content across as many channels as you can in order to reach the most engineers.

Hone your webinar skills

As you can imagine, many companies will be hosting more webinars as a way to connect with their target audiences. To capture and maintain attention, you’ll need webinars that stand above the others:

  • Keep webinars laser-focused on specific topics and your marketing goals. Consider a series of short webinars (20 minutes or so) that build on each other but also can individually stand alone.
  • Produce one or two foundational or showcase webinars that feature an industry expert, journalist, customer, or analyst who can tell a powerful story.
  • Engage your audience through interactive webinar features such as live polls, chat, and Q&A sessions.
  • Test all technical aspects of your webinar platform to make sure there are no glitches on game day.
  • Record and archive all webinars or other streaming events for on-demand viewing from your website. With a simple registration form (name, company, email), on-demand webinars can continue to provide engagement opportunities.

Refresh your home page

Because your customers and prospects cannot visit you at a tradeshow right now, you will likely be seeing more traffic to your website.

It’s a good time to update your homepage to make sure you’re offering an easy path for engineers to find the information they are looking for. This audience is not so concerned with the bells and whistles that a website has to offer. Instead, the large majority is looking for in-depth technical information and technical specifications. Can they navigate easily to this content from your home page?

Focus on Search Engine Optimization

Seventy-three percent of respondents to “2020 Smart Marketing for Engineers” survey are willing to view three or more pages of search results before selecting one or starting a search over, up from 54 percent the previous year.

You don’t have to launch a huge SEO effort, but you should pick your most important and relevant web pages and optimize them for specific keywords, keep the content fresh, update internal and external links, and fill out all meta tags.

Continue using email

Engineers still look to their inboxes for important content. Two-thirds of engineers subscribe to at least three newsletters, with 18 percent subscribing to six or more. Email is still a highly valuable and relevant communication channel, but you need to work to get the attention of engineers. Create subject lines that capture attention, and newsletter content that clearly provides value to your audience.

Work with your media partners

Your media partners should be up-to-date on changes occurring in the media landscape. They know what’s working and what isn’t during these challenging times. Ask them for help with your media plan for the second half of the year. They may be able to offer effective ideas and opportunities that you hadn’t considered or known about.

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