It’s no secret that trade shows are an invaluable tool for networking, branding, lead generation, product placement, and sales.
Every B2B manufacturer we work with is wondering: What should I do with my trade show budget this year if in-person events are canceled?
In a study completed in April of 2020, only 9% of respondents said they had no plans to reallocate their trade show and events budget. Another 42% had already begun reallocating their event budgets to other mediums.
There has never been a better time to reinvest or reallocate some of your events budget into digital solutions for your industrial manufacturing business. Why? Because businesses that can meet customers where they are - online - are going to have a clear advantage in the months and years ahead.
In this article, we explore the various ways your company can reinvest or reallocate some of your trade show and events budget into digital solutions for sales and marketing.
Here are 14 ways you can reinvest your trade show or events budget:
- Build a digital trade show booth experience
- Create an on-demand video demonstration
- Build an interactive recreation of your product
- Invest in SEO and a new content strategy
- Build demand generation through paid campaigns
- Create video testimonials
- Invest in long-term email nurture campaigns
- Refresh your current sales and marketing materials
- Create a highly-researched and user-friendly product overview page
- Run your first ABM campaign
- Create high-quality video brochure mailers
- Convert some of your trade show details into a webinar
- Build a resource hub & customer knowledge base
- Conversational marketing / bot marketing
1. Build a Digital Trade Show Booth Experience
When Kardex Remstar — a world leader in automated storage and retrieval — had to cancel their participation in the Modex 2020 event, a digital trade show booth was a no-brainer.
Using the 3D artist rendering of their booth, Kardex converted their physical presence at Modex into a digital one. Visitors to the digital experience could hover over various elements of their booth to see product demonstration videos, order branded gifts, speak directly with sales, and queue up related content downloads in just a few clicks.
What is the benefit to creating a digital trade show booth?
Trade shows are expensive. And one of the drawbacks is that they are a one-time event. People either come to your booth - or they don’t.
But converting your booth into a digital experience isn’t just a one-time investment. Depending on how you build your booth and what you’d like to showcase, your booth can be used as a follow up to every trade show or sales conversation for years to come. And, when shows inevitably open back up, you can use your digital booth as a marketing and sales tool to keep interested buyers engaged over time.
Here’s what Kardex’s digital booth looks like. The booth was successful enough to win them a Hermes Creative Award.
Your digital booth doesn’t have to be insanely expensive. It just has to be designed with your visitor in mind. But a truly interactive experience is a surefire way to make your business stand out from the crowd.
PRO TIP: Promote your digital booth on your social channels. Or, consider adding a link to employee email signatures to get even more traction over time.
2. Create an on-demand video demonstration
Now that trade shows and events are off the table for many companies, investing in a video overview is critical. You don’t need a huge video budget, a professional script, or extremely expensive equipment to film a highly-successful overview video.
Tips for Manufacturing Product Videos:
- Turn the Phone Sideways: If filming on an iPhone or other mobile device, make sure to turn the phone sideways (landscape) as this is the format accepted by most video providers (YouTube, HubSpot, etc.). Newer phones film in high resolution and are an affordable option for those not ready to invest in video equipment.
- Keep it Short: You’ve only got about 17 seconds to hook your viewer. Don’t spend too long introducing yourself or your company. Get right to the nitty-gritty. If they’re watching the video on your site, they already know who you are. Get right to the: Here’s how it works. Here’s how it helps.
- Add Captioning: If you plan to narrate your video, adding captioning is a great way to keep mobile-viewers engaged. Many times, people watch videos with the sound off. Adding captioning can help to keep viewers on your video.
- Include a CTA: Don’t let your viewers wonder what to do next. Queue up another video, such as an implementation overview, or prompt the viewer to go to a specific area of your site to learn more.
- Optimize for YouTube: YouTube is the second largest search engine. If you add your video to YouTube, make sure you include relevant information to learn more in the video description. And be sure to add a link to your product overview page.
PRO TIP: Should I gate my video? Many of the manufacturers wonder whether they should ‘gate’ their demonstration videos behind a contact form or leave them ‘free’ to access on the site. The decision to gate should be part of a larger strategy discussion. Ultimately, you need to weigh what is more important to you: Showcasing your product so you stand out ahead of your competitors and remain memorable right from the start — or generate contact information for new leads. It’s important to note that sometimes ungating is a better strategy for lead generation in the long run. Especially if your direct competitors have ungated information on their site. Remember that researchers engage with nine other information sources before agreeing to speak to sales. Gating your video may add an unnecessary sales barrier to a larger, more qualified buying audience.
3. Build an Interactive Recreation of Your Product
Interactive content is here to stay. And that’s because it works.
According to a study by SnapApp, 28% of buying decisions are influenced by Millennials. That means younger people are more likely to be completing digital research for new products. And 45% of Millennials prefer to engage with an interactive content experience as a top-3 content type.
Manufacturers are behind the curve when it comes to digital lead generation. But interactive content is the perfect solution to solve for researchers, buyers, and your sales team simultaneously.
Check out this digital recreation of GE’s Advanced Turboprop Engine. GE used Ceros - an interactive content platform to build this digital experience. But there are several options to streamline and simplify a digital product experience. All you need to start is a high-quality image.
4. Invest in SEO and a New Content Strategy
If your primary presence was in-person, it’s time to shift your focus to online efforts. And that starts with a foundational investment in SEO and content strategy. In fact, 41% of manufacturers said they have a documented content strategy.
What does a manufacturing content strategy include?
- A competitive analysis: What are your competitors doing well? What gaps could you fill online?
- Keyword research: Understanding what your audience is searching for is critical to your success online.
- Topic research: What do you want to be ‘known’ for online? What topics are you an expert in?
- A strategic editorial calendar: So you’re on track to create regular, highly-researched content that answers your buyer’s questions every week.
- Promotion: Whether that’s with industry magazines and partners, a strong social presence, or building your email base.
Here is a comprehensive guide to developing a content strategy for B2B Manufacturing - based on research.
If you think your blog content can’t be sexy (even if your product is, well, boring) think again. TriStar wrote a guide to plastic bearing failure that thousands of searchers look for every month. All it takes is a little research and a really great writer.
4. Build Demand Generation Through Paid Campaigns
Why not take your trade show investment - where you were paying for foot traffic - and start generating digital traffic instead? Paid search (PPC) and paid social campaigns work really well in the manufacturing space when they’re done right. Especially when it comes to capturing leads that are ready to buy.
Just make sure you do your research before working with a PPC or demand generation agency that doesn’t have much experience with manufacturing, specifically. Manufacturing buyers want a no-fluff, no-fuss search result for paid ads. So you’ll also need to make sure the content you’re paying to showcase is up to par as well. Here are some questions you can ask before hiring a PPC agency.
6. Create Video Testimonials
In a study we completed of 100 random B2B Manufacturing Websites, only 22% had video testimonials available on their website.
We can wave our arms and shout about the benefits of our product all day. But the true value comes from social proof and word of mouth. The trust-building and credibility that comes with having your customers speak about your product for you is worth the investment.
Want to see how your website stacks up against the competition? Email yourself a copy of the full study here.
Best of all, video testimonials don’t have to be filmed in-person. A high-quality zoom call and some creative editing can be just as effective as — and even seem more authentic than — a professional video.
Questions to ask during a manufacturing testimonial interview
- What is an overview of their business? Their role?
- What was their biggest pain point before your product?
- How has your product helped them in the following areas:
- Streamlining / Lean manufacturing initiatives
- Made their job easier
Best of all, snippets of these videos can be edited out and used throughout your website and social media initiatives.
7. Invest in Long-Term Email Nurture Campaigns
Is email dead? Certainly not. And that’s especially true for B2B manufacturing buyers who spend much more time in their email than they do on social media. You might consider:
- Rethinking Your Automated Email Nurtures: How much of your email content is truly helpful to your readers? How much of it is a blatant sales push? As a professional yourself, it’s easy to tell when you’re being sold to over email. Rethinking your email strategy to be truly helpful to your readers might be the key to increasing your engagement rates.
- Invest in a Really Helpful Newsletter: Newsletters are still an extremely effective long-term engagement strategy. In fact, the average open rate for email in the manufacturing space is 19.82%. That’s significantly higher than most visit-to-lead rates for inbound websites. Ask yourself: Is there an insightful, non-salesy, industry newsletter for your niche? If not, you can fill that gap with thoughtfully-curated content every quarter.
- Cleaning Up Your Contact Database: to make sure your email sending score is meeting industry standards for manufacturing. Start by removing anyone who has unsubscribed from your content or has hard bounced.
Here are some other manufacturing email stats to make sure your email campaigns are on track.
Average Open Rate
Average Click Rate
8. Refresh Your Current Sales and Marketing Materials
It’s never the wrong time to review and refresh your existing sales materials. If you’re still relying heavily on PDFs, product specs, or outdated blog posts in your marketing and sales nurtures, it’s a great time to invest in a change. You might want to consider:
- A Fresh New Look: Elevate your brand by professionally redesigning your sales decks, product specs, email footers, and key site pages (product, service, about, contact us, etc.)
- A Fresh New Date: Blogging is a key traffic generator - no matter the industry. It could be time to rewrite your existing content to get more traction online. If your most successful blog post is from 2015, it may be out of date -- despite its performance online. Here’s a guide on how to refresh your existing content to significantly boost your traffic.
What is sales enablement?
According to HubSpot, Sales Enablement is the iterative process of providing your business's sales team with the resources they need to close more deals. These resources may include content, tools, knowledge, and information to effectively sell your product or service to customers.
In manufacturing, sales enablement can manifest itself in a variety of digital solutions for your sales team.
How can I enable my manufacturing sales team?
Sometimes, marketing makes the assumption that we know what sales wants. But before we dive into a digital recreation of our product, it’s important to align sales and marketing’s goals for the sales experience.
Start by asking what tools and resources the sales team wishes they have. If possible, interview some of your recently closed customers. What resources, videos, or experiences on the site would have been helpful for them during the buying process?
Research is a critical component of sales enablement.
9. Create a Highly-Researched and User-Friendly Product Overview Page
You probably already have a product page on your site. When was the last time that was updated? If your primary engagement with new leads is online, you need to make sure your product page is as sophisticated and streamlined as your product is.
What should I include on my manufacturing product page?
- Research: Use tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz to be sure your product page is highly optimized for search and buying intent.
- More Research: See what your current page ranks for already. Then, build on existing momentum with new content.
- Benefit Speak - Not Sales Speak: It’s natural for you to want to talk about yourself on a product page. But it’s important to keep the content conversational and focused primarily on the visitor. We always recommend interviewing recent customers on what was important to them in their buying research. This can give you critical insights into what to include on your product page. In general, you’ll want to cover such topics as:
- How the product works
- How it makes your buyer’s job easier
- How it saves your buyer money, time, effort, etc.
- How it solves their primary pain points
- How it helps them move beyond their own competition
- How it solves for their buyers
- How it’s helped people just like them (social proof)
- An interactive product experience
- An overview video
- A PDF overview with specs
PRO TIP: Get More Leads From Your Product Page. Depending on how saturated your market is, your site could be the 15th one a researcher has visited. That can lead to a lot of fatigue for your buyer. One idea that’s worked really well for quick, top-funnel lead-generation is an offer that goes something like: “Send this information to yourself to read later.”
The form is in-line (directly on the product page) and would only ask for email address.
Then, automate an email follow-up that sends relevant information about your product directly to the visitor. This allows them to peruse your content again on their own time. And now that you have their email address, you can nurture them through marketing and sales.
10. Run Your First ABM Campaign
ABM, or Account-Based Marketing, is gaining significant traction in the manufacturing space. Chances are, you know the target accounts you would love to sell to. Shifting your marketing and sales strategy to an ABM model is a fantastic investment to drive new business this year.
This is especially true if your sales pipeline is traditionally unreliable, unstable, or not performing as well as it should be. Here are some of the benefits of running an ABM campaign, according to HubSpot:
What are the benefits of ABM?
- Keep marketing and sales aligned
- Maximize your business’s relevance among high-value accounts
- Deliver consistent customer experiences
- Measure your return on investment
- Streamline the sales cycle
- Expand business through account relationships
Tying your ABM campaign to your Paid campaign can make sure your business stays top-of-mind wherever your target buyers are online.
New ABM sales tools make it easy for you to connect your target account leads, contacts, and tasks all in one place.
Whether you’re running an ABM campaign or simply want to stay in front of your current sales pipeline, a high-quality video mailer is an exceptional way to stand out from the crowd. Your audience may not watch your on-demand product video on the site. But what if they could hold that video right in their hands? That’s exactly what a high-quality video mailer can provide.
11. Create High-Quality Video Brochure Mailers
Here are some sites to check out for your first video brochure or mailer:
How can I track the success of my video brochure mailer?
Create a unique (but easy-to-type) URL to add to your mailer, such as yourwebsite.com/video. This will allow you to track unique views to the page.
What’s the goal of a video mailer for manufacturing?
Yes, you want to close more customers. But the ultimate goal of the mailer is to educate your potential buyer and help you stand out as a trusted resource. The unique site page you create as part of your mailer can include:
- Stats, results, and figures
- Product specs and pricing
- Customer stories and testimonials
- Other related videos about your product
- A contact us form (don’t ask for too much information on the form. If they made it to your site page, you already know a lot of their data about them. Including their address. Keep it simple to generate more leads.
- Your social channels
- Social proof (who else do you work with)
We highly recommend you ask your sales reps what basic questions they answer over and over again and include them as a FAQ module on this page. People are much more likely to engage in a sales conversation if you allow them to self educate. Providing them with the information they need to get to the next phase before they talk to a sales rep reduces friction and can make the sales process easier for everyone.
PRO TIP: A professional designer can merge your print materials with your digital brand to ensure a streamlined and professional experience for your mailers. Some of the sites listed above allow you to work from templates. But it may be worth it to invest in a professional design so your mailer stands out.
12. Convert Some of Your Trade Show Details Into a Webinar
Live and on-demand webinars are still a fantastic tool to generate more leads, especially in the manufacturing space. Ask yourself:
- Do you typically complete an on-site visit to showcase your product? What does that entail?
- Are there elements of your product that you usually showcase in person at your tradeshow?
- Are there benefits to your product that aren’t prevalent on your site?
- Does your product solve a specific problem?
- Are there sales questions you answer over and over again?
These are all fantastic ideas for a webinar. Best of all - your webinars don’t have to be lengthy to be successful.
13. Build Resource Hub & Customer Knowledge Base
Is there a single, helpful place on your site where leads and customers can go to get all of their questions answered? If not, you may want to invest in a Resource Hub or Customer Knowledge Base.
A thoughtfully designed resource hub is an incredible sales and marketing tool for manufacturers. Not only is a resource hub great to share on social, but you can include links in your sales emails, nurtures, and ABM campaigns. Best of all, reporting tools like HubSpot allow you to track who is viewing your content - and when - for a more insightful sales process.
Customer knowledge base
Marketing may also be able to help the Service team by creating a Customer Knowledge Base for the site. This can include basics like how your product works, common questions, warranty and service information, troubleshooting, and how to get more help. Modern knowledge bases allow your customers to search for answers to their most common questions, lessening the burden on your customer service team.
Additionally, showcasing your knowledge base during the sales process can demonstrate to prospects that you care about creating an exceptional customer experience.
14. Conversational Marketing / Bot Marketing
Conversational marketing and bot marketing are here to stay. In a study completed by Drift, only 14% of those surveyed said they would rather fill out a form than use a chat feature.
Delayed responses add friction to the buyer experience, which in turn causes buyers to leave your website and move on to the next solution. People want answers to their questions — now. And chat makes that really easy to do. You can add live chat to your site for your sales reps to answer questions on-demand. Or you can build AI bots to answer common questions on your:
- Product pages
- Site pages
- Resource hub
- And more
And chat is a great feature to add for your service team for customers who would rather not call a service hotline.
The Future of Manufacturing Events Marketing
The future of events and trade show marketing is uncertain. But that doesn’t mean your marketing efforts need to halt completely. There are tangible and affordable steps you can take to reinvest your events budget into digital experiences that will perform for you as ‘evergreen’ content for years to come.
Need help brainstorming a new digital solution for your B2B manufacturing business? Drop me a line. I’d love to hear what you’re working on.
Meanwhile, see how your website compares to other B2B manufacturers with this study of 100 manufacturing websites: