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March 13, 2020
How B2B Marketers Can Overcome Canceled Trade Shows

If you’re like most B2B marketers, coronavirus-related concerns have canceled a major trade show and/or networking events you relied on for building awareness and collecting leads. Instead of fretting about the gaping hole in your annual marketing plan, think differently.

Here are a few things you can do in the coming days and weeks to get the attention of potential customers:


Conduct a virtual tour of your booth and its offerings in real time. Send an email to attendees (if you have access to the list) and invite them to “Come to the show...anyway!” Have a spokesperson give “attendees” an immersive experience, including a temperature check in the city where the conference was supposed to be held, and other creative touches that would make them feel like they’re really there.

You can:

  • Make a few videos that tell the story you had hoped to in the booth, focusing on how your product solves your customers’ challenges.
  • Include calls to action during the presentation for “attendees” to enter for a premium booth giveaway – such as a high-end virtual reality headset and game.
  • Create a show-specific dedicated landing page and invite visitors to “stop by and see us.” Offer a value-add piece of content via your social platforms and link back to that page to track requests via a short form – just like you would have tracked visitors to your booth. Staff the page with a live chat option – active during the hours that the show was supposed to be open. Encourage visitors to ask questions, explore the info on the page, request a virtual demo and more! You could keep the live chat going after the “show” as well.


If a show is canceled, there’s a chance the organizers might offer alternative sponsorship opportunities, such as an email to attendees. You can also do this yourself if you can get a list of prospective attendees or, at least, the names of all the companies registered.

  • If you have a company list: A list of companies can be used on the LinkedIn platform, as well as through your DSP. Just set up a campaign, specifying company name as a parameter, and add the list of companies that you acquire. Then, layer in some additional demographic and/or third-party data targeting filters like role, job title and seniority level to make sure you’re getting to the right people within that list of companies.
  • If you have an attendee list: It’s not easy to get an attendee list because of privacy concerns. If you request the contact list to be hashed (a method of cryptography used to transform contact information into a jumble of numbers and letters so that they are unrecognizable to a person), it could potentially solve for any privacy concerns. The hashed list can then be uploaded into a social media platform and your DSP in order to create a matched list display ad campaign to target individuals who had planned to attend the show with banners, videos and even LinkedIn Inmail.
  • Try geofencing and geoframing: Create a campaign made up of attendees of a previous show through a couple of programmatic campaign targeting tactics called geofencing and geoframing. Geofencing is a way to target ads to the mobile device of someone in a very small geographic area, like a convention center where a trade show is taking place. Geoframing is a similar tactic, except you target a list of mobile devices that were previously at a specific location during a specific time, like a convention center on a date that a previous trade show was held. This tactic is successful because people who previously attended a trade show are likely to remain in the same industry, even if they happen to change companies.


You had planned to grab the attention of show-goers with your stunning booth. Apply that same mindset to your digital creative, getting people to pay attention to your content, website and products. Or get even more on-point by creating an infographic you can send to trade show registrants that takes them through the key points of what they would have learned should the show have happened.


Trade publication editors are feeling the effects of cancellations as well. They often plan one or more issues around what they learn at major shows. So if you had planned to launch a new product at a show, make sure they hear about it anyway. Tell journalists about how the new product solves stubborn industry problems and ties into an industry trend. Maybe even offer to do a bylined story or case study.


It’s not enough to pop a few blog posts on your website every year. With the time and (possibly) money you save from not going to the trade show, encourage your team to strategize value-add content that really speaks to your current/prospective customers’ needs. A steady flow of stories relevant to your audiences can boost your social media engagement and drive your integrated strategy.

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