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Filling the Trade Show Gap: Networking in the Age of COVID-19

Author: Jessie Robertson

As more trade shows and conventions cancel their events, manufacturing marketers, sales representatives and executives are left scratching their heads. Globally attended expos like IMTS and FABTECH represent a massive investment for many companies, and are a vital part of their marketing strategies. With this absence, businesses are forced to answer a difficult question: How will we network now?

In the most recent MakingChips episode, hosts Jim, Jason and Nick discuss the impact of a year without trade shows. Faced with this challenging situation, how can manufacturers continue their marketing and networking efforts? Let’s consider a few alternative strategies


Strategy #1: Ramp up your digital marketing efforts

As companies transition from in-person representation to digital, consider how your business is perceived online. Reviewing and improving your website, social media, and other digital presence may be vital to improving your marketing function. As Nick mentions in the latest podcast, it can also help connect you with qualified talent.

Does your website feature a smattering of broken links or missing pages? Has your company posted anything on social media in the last two weeks? Maybe it’s also time to revamp any dated product images. Find where you can improve your digital presence to watch those high-quality inbound leads come in.


Strategy #2: Jump-start your marketing plan with thought leadership

A great way to build relationships and showcase your expertise is by creating and disseminating thought leadership. A 2019 study found that engineers’ preferred content types include short- and long-form articles, but a large percentage consume videos, white papers, ebooks, and infographics. More than 40% of senior leaders polled would request a proposal from a vendor based on a great piece of content, even more striking.

Consider what thought leadership your company can develop and amplify to reach potential buyers. Creating product videos or 3D animations can be beneficial for clients unable to visit your business in-person. Similarly, writing informative blog posts can drive traction to your site and encourage readers to email or call with questions.


Strategy #3: Hold socially distanced events

Traditionally the realm of associations, companies are now taking it upon themselves to plan and run events. Taking the lead on socially distanced events or factory tours can encourage beneficial networking and offer an in-person way to connect with potential clients. This also allows for a more intimate environment where manufacturers can discuss product customization and utilization.

Consider even hosting a party for any new expansions or business developments. Offering a socially distanced networking space can be a great way to build relationships.


Strategy #4: Partner with a marketing agency

Without any prior experience, creating or revitalizing a digital marketing strategy can be an arduous task. While some companies are leaning on their in-house marketers to improve website traffic or refresh their social media accounts, it’s becoming more common for manufacturers to outsource to digital marketing agencies. This can allow companies to enhance their branding and market presence without overworking a small internal marketing department.


No doubt, all of these alternative options may seem a little nerve-wracking to implement from scratch. Some companies spend months preparing a trade show booth, and suddenly investing that time into digital strategies or event planning can seem like a foreign idea. However, devoting time and finances into a thoughtful and brand-focused digital approach can help modernize your business and cement it as an expert in the industry. The increase of high-quality inbound leads doesn’t hurt either.

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