How to Engage Customers Without Trade Shows

From working with B2B organizations, our team has seen firsthand the impact a trade show can have on a business of any size. According to a survey on Statista, 92% of marketers were either hopeful or optimistic about the effectiveness of trade shows as a marketing medium. Now, with 2021 right around the corner (along with a current spike in COVID-19 cases), trade shows look unlikely in the spring. In order to fill this gap, businesses need to rethink their plans and consider a different approach in the new year. 

Why Do You Attend Trade Shows?

Before creating a new plan to replace trade shows, you need to ask why you attended trade shows. Some businesses would use trade shows as a way to train or educate their teams, while others would use it for competitive research. However, for most businesses, there are two key reasons that they would attend:

Generate new business

For most business leaders, trade shows were a clear way to position your brand or product in front of consumers. Salespeople are given their time to shine by directly engaging with potential customers, growing their network of referral sources and partners. 

Connect with customers

However, many business leaders saw the other benefit of trade shows: staying top-of-mind with your current clients and customers. By reconnecting with your existing customers, you have a direct line to people who already know you and are more inclined to either purchase from you again, or to refer you to other people. 

For those looking to see how you can stay in contact with your current customers, here are a few essential tactics. Looking to reach new customers? Read our blog here for best practices, tips, and tricks!

What Do I Need to Stay Top-of-Mind with Customers?

In order to best reach your customers, you’re going to need some key information about them. While a lot of this information can be found from your general contact list, like emails and phone numbers, other information may be more niche and will involve more targeted information from relationships that salespeople may have with customers. 

  • What’s their email address? One of the most important parts for any digital communications. While social media can generate leads and sales, email is still much more effective – especially when you have created an effective email list.
  • Have they changed jobs during this? During 2020, a lot of people have been forced to change jobs and adjust career paths. Knowing this information will help you target the right people with the right messages.
  • Where can you send mail to them? Most people aren’t back working from the office yet- and many companies don’t plan on giving up remote work any time soon. Direct mail – and even packages – can help your company stand out amongst competitors.

While this may seem like a lot of information to get, it will pay off – especially when you’re able to generate sales through a hybrid traditional and digital engagement strategy.

Creating Your Engagement Strategy

When developing your new engagement strategy, there are two considerations for your plan that shift it away from being a standard trade show marketing plan: it should be multi-month and multi-touchpoint.


When you attend a trade show, you normally share that you’re attending a few days in advance, you share some live footage on social, and then send some followup emails. However, for this type of engagement strategy, you can plan for a longer period of time. For example:  

  • Social media campaigns may not have live trade show footage (or the classic booth photo), but now you can share more varied, relevant content over a longer period of time.
  • Email series do not need to last just over the time of the conference – you can plan for multi-week email drip campaigns that target individuals based on their actions.


Aside from having a longer time to engage contacts, you also now have more ways to engage with them. While in-person interactions are often more of a comfort zone for salespeople, these engagement strategies can incorporate a “surround-sound” approach where you reach your targets through a mix of several different channels, including virtual events, social media, email marketing, direct mail, digital advertising, and more. 

Ideas of Ways to Engage Customers

Even with trade shows gone, there are still ways to position yourself right in front of clients. 

  • Webinars. Even when everyone is working remotely, you can still directly engage through webinars. These webinars can be structured in any number of ways, including as a standard presentation, a roundtable discussion that allows everyone to share insights, or a hands-on workshop that guides your customers!
  • Share That Tradeshow Swag. You bought all of that trade show swag already, so why not use it? Send it directly to your customers to give them a pleasant surprise and a reminder that your company is still thinking about them. 
  • Virtual Happy Hour or Coffee. Just because we have to be six feet apart doesn’t mean we can’t get drinks! Between electronic gift cards and services like GoPuff and Gesture, you can easily plan a small Happy Hour, coffee chat, or even lunch to get some valuable face time with your customers!

Get Help Building Your Engagement Strategy

Interested in starting to plan your engagement strategy, but not sure where to start? Schedule a call with our marketing strategists to build a plan!

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