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Shows gone, marketing is ON...

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

Just when life seemed to be returning to normal, BANG and BANG again, two more in-person shows were cancelled with just a few weeks' notice. The Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association and the Society for Neuroscience annual conventions have both just pulled the plug on their November meetings. To be precise, both meetings have gone “virtual”.

To be frank, going virtual may seem very modern and practical but, as many of us who have tried to sell via virtual booths over the last two years have found out, they just aren’t effective. It’s unfortunate but true, and very sadly, they just don’t do the primary job of bringing new leads in volume.

With in-person shows, scientists would attend talks and poster sessions that interested them and, between those, they would kill time by wandering around the trade show to see what new toys were on offer from our varied companies. Now think of it from their perspective - if I am attending a show virtually from the comfort of my office or home, and I have down time between the presentations I’m interested in, then I can step away from my computer and find a myriad of useful things to do. I can catch up on my work on the same computer, or I may even decide to catch up on an episode of my favourite show at the time!

One virtual trade show we recently attended in Europe did give us a glimmer of hope that, eventually, clever organisers may be able to improve the effectiveness of virtual trade exhibitions. This was a small show called Neurex and it was a breath of fresh air compared to previous attempts at virtual exhibitions that we have attended or, more accurately, wasted our time on. However, progress on this front is painfully slow and we, as producers of scientific research instrumentation, need solutions…. NOW!

So what can and should we do? As I see it we have two options:

  1. Sit around crying about virtual shows and hoping for the return to normal trade shows as soon as possible while praying that it all happens before we go bust!

  2. Take back our destiny into our own hands and immediately commence a proactive sales and marketing strategy based on the twin pillars of:

a. Outreach lead generation, and

b. Digital marketing

I am going to make an assumption that you don’t like Option 1 (If you do, then there is no need to read further. You can safely enjoy a cocktail and some music while your Titanic of business inaction sails calmly towards the iceberg of business oblivion.) For everyone else, let me explain what the two pillars of option 2 mean.

Firstly - “Outreach Lead Generation”. This involves an ongoing activity or series of campaigns to identify lists of potential customers and then to make contact with them to discuss how our products can improve their research. The important word here is “discuss”. It has to be a dynamic real-time two way conversation, i.e. a phone call or, more accurately, a “warm call”. I use the term warm call because these people should be so well researched that our discussion with them should be way more comfortable than the typical “cold call”. It’s not easy and I could write a separate (and very long!) blog on this process and maybe I will. One day!

Secondly - “Digital Marketing”. Well, as the saying goes; “How long is a piece of string…..”. It is possible that it never ends and this can also be said for digital marketing. Where do you start and where do you stop? How will you measure success? What will it cost? Who will do it? These are all questions that have to be asked, debated and answered as you form a digital marketing implementation strategy. It is a slow hard slog and you will need to persevere to get real results. You will need to identify who your customers are, think about their buying process, set up inbound web site tracking so you can see where your enquiries are coming from, etc., etc., etc. I am not even going to tell you where to start in this blog but I am going to tell you that you need to start and that you need to start now. Everything you do on this front will be better than doing nothing, and eventually you will start to learn what works and what doesn’t in the process.

If you adopt the strategy of Outreach Lead Generation combined with Digital Marketing, then you will start to regain control of your sales destiny. You will probably go down a few dead-ends but you will also find what works and can build on it. You may even be surprised at the benefits from redirecting the budget you used to spend on shows (booth rental and furnishing, shipping, drayage, flights, accommodation, time away from the office, etc.).

Lastly, if you are worried about the cost of adopting these methodologies then think about this: What is the cost of not doing them?

Happy sales and marketing!

Rory Geoghegan

October 28th, 2021

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