Cancellations call for trade show contingency plans (It’s urgent)

Cancellations call for trade show contingency plans (It’s urgent)

With a main lead-generating source canceled or postponed, trade show contingency plans take on increased importance.

The Supply Chain USA 2020 summit in Chicago is a flagship event. Considered a must-attend gathering for strategic decision-making, it draws 1,000 supply chain and logistics leaders for three “unmissable days.”

For executives like Tom Schmitt, chairman and CEO of Forward Air Corp., it is the type of event that generates so many “relevant conversations” that he says it is like getting the value of nine business trips for the price of one.

This year, though, those who planned to head to Supply Chain USA, June 16-18, will need to start working on their trade show contingency plans. The fallout of the coronavirus pandemic has forced EFT, the organizer, to postpone and a new date has yet to be determined.

And — as you have likely experienced yourself — the summit attendees are hardly alone. Within weeks of the Covid-19 outbreak, 1 million people saw their corporate event plans scuttled. MODEX in Atlanta, Ga., in early March, turned out to be one of the last hurrahs for supply chain professionals — half of the pre-registered attendants were no-shows — before cancellations and postponements turned the supply chain conference circuit on its head.

Now, supply chain pros wonder, “What’s next?”

Covid-19 forces domino of cancellations, postponements

A look at this list gives you an idea of the impact: (Check event websites for the latest info)

2020 IWLA Convention + ExpoSan DiegoMarch Potentially Aug. 2-4
SCOPE Supply Chain SummitChicagoAprilNov. 8-10
Retail Supply Chain Summit 2020New York CityAprilNew date TBD
Ecommerce Operations SummitOrlandoAprilSept. 10-11 in Nashville
Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference 2020OrlandoMay New date TBD
WERC 2020: 43rd Annual Conference for Logistics ProfessionalsProvidence, RIMayCanceled
2020 TMSA Logistics and Marketing Sales ConferenceNashvilleJuneOct. 20-23 in Chicago
Home Delivery World PhiladelphiaJuneOct. 29-30
Supply Chain USA 2020ChicagoJuneNew date TBD
HPCLC Spring 2020 ConferencePhiladelphiaSpringCanceled

Trade show contingency plans need to fill big lead generation gap

For supply chain and logistics companies, the cancellations and uncertainty surrounding the postponed shows are no small matters. Trade shows are one of the largest lead generators for B2B demand generation.

Technology and service providers spend an average of 11% of the marketing programs budget on third-party tradeshows, according to the Gartner 2019 Tech Marketing Benchmarks Survey. And the investment seems to be paying off, as 18% of the same companies rank events as the best-performing calls-to-action of marketing-qualified leads, second only to content assets.

Another survey, by MarketingCharts, found software and technology companies cite events as the most effective demand-generation tactic for attracting top-of-the-funnel qualified leads.

In other words, the need to develop trade show contingency plans is quite urgent.

Trend watch: What some companies are doing

So, what actions have some of your peers taken to date to make up for the loss of face-to-face networking?

Some trends are emerging, including:

E-learning: To ensure business continuity while adhering to stay-at-home policies, DC Velocity notes e-learning has taken on increased significance. The establishment of interactive online courses allows companies to conduct specialist training sessions on complex topics that attendees can complete at their own pace. (E-learning is usually a time-consuming and fairly costly endeavor but can serve its purpose when the audience already has an invested interest in the company. For quick engagement, we recommend webinars.)

Dropped subscription fees: On-premise platforms that run on business servers are not conducive to remote work — and vendors of cloud-based supply chain software have seized the market opening. For the sake of lead generation, a range of companies have dropped subscription fees, offering free access to products like transportation management, route optimization, last-mile visibility, and remote robotic operations. One example: InMotion Global, Inc., has made its cloud-based platform, AscendTMS, available at no cost to any company needing help for 30 days.

Quick actions matter

The fact more people are spending more time than usual on their computers provide an opening for companies that can leverage trade show contingency plans. Gartner, for one, advises teams must be prepared to quickly pivot marketing strategy and build campaigns to address this shift.

Immediately after a cancellation or postponement, actions may include:

  • Replace all scheduled event meetings with online meetings within 24 hours.
  • Create a webinar series that homes in on the key messages you had planned to convey.
  • Develop a series of video posts for the company blog that leverage the materials you prepared for speaking sessions and in-booth presentations.
  • Promote all content on social media (Video content generates better engagement).
  • Combine paid advertising and account-based marketing to target potential buyers.
  • Inquire whether there are any opportunities to use the digital channels of the show host for promotions.

Stay relevant — at a distance

Although it may feel like unchartered territory, you really can have relevant conversations online. Base your opening statement on a trade show contingency plan.


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