Bulk Material Handling in 2021: How to Cope with Continued Trade Show Cancellations

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Rescheduled and then canceled outright — such was the fate of many trade show events in 2020 thanks to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether in finance or our world of material handling, the entire concept of counting on brand exposure to be prioritized through trade shows, in general, has clearly been tested. 

Now, with international travel restrictions still in place (as well as rising case numbers in key locations), these cancellations continue into 2021. It is what it is, even as new “forms” of these shows emerge. Some events even aimed to be “hybrid” solutions (a combination of a live show and virtual show) before being outright re-shaped as strictly virtual. With PACK expo canceling its physical show floor for the first time in its more than 60-year history, we at AZO even put together virtual video offerings to keep our hardhats in the ring. Whether manufacturing products or the machines that help make products, we’ve all had to adapt.

So what has been the most successful adaptation of “the new normal?” Which experiments have flourished and resulted in engaging customers and prospects to products and services? Much of that has yet to be seen, but we would like to offer the following blog post to explore these questions and primarily offer some insight into how manufacturers can keep adjusting to the “new normal” going forward.

You can’t wait for these cancellations to ‘blow over’

Like many manufacturers of various products we here at AZO know that trade shows are and have always been an important part of business. There are several benefits we’ve all grown accustomed to. These can include:

  • Name recognition
  • Technology identity
  • Brand awareness
  • Informing customer and prospects about what it is your company actually does
  • Informing customers and prospects about what it is you can do for them
  • Exhibiting what your company sees as well-engineered and quality-crafted equipment
  • Meeting and greeting people with the personal touch (existing customers-prospects-suppliers)
  • Viewing what the competition has to offer

General manager of AZO Inc. Chuck Kerwin admits he thought that COVID was simply a delay to this status quo and “the normal routine.” Perhaps trade shows would take one year off, but certainly not continue to be rescheduled in 2021. 

“Now that we are in 2021 and shows continue to be canceled or moved, I am not so sure AZOI can afford to wait to renew our normal new lead generation routine at trade shows,” Kerwin said. “We always need new leads, and we need them all the time. We can no longer afford to just wait it out.”

The time to act is now: both new and old customers are crucial 

The simple truth is that to cover a business’ bases, manufacturers must find ways to make it easier and easier for their prospects to discover their services online. Digital advertising and marketing alliances are more important than ever. Offering meaningful information once prospects do find you is the second half of that battle. For example, Marcus Sheridan found great success as a fiberglass pool seller with these methods long before the pandemic (during an economic recession) and still utilizes them today

AZO Vital Sales Engineer Bill Nesti says that, in addition, building and keeping old relationships can be critical to success in these times. Introducing extra price or service incentives may be necessary in addition.

“Experience and records indicate the lion’s share of our business comes from repeat-business customers as well as referrals,” Nesti said. “In my mind, we need to hit the existing customer base aggressively. Not only with touches but with incentives to stay in our camp. It costs far less to go the extra mile to keep existing customers than it does to find new ones.” 

So beyond recognizing the importance of new and old customers alike, what actions can you take to ensure you are taking care of both?

Here’s what is recommended:

  • Connecting with new people regularly on LinkedIn
  • Requesting and actively soliciting referrals via social media networking
  • Conducting live video meetings and presentations
  • Reaching out to existing customers by phone and email (yes it actually works)
  • Encouraging Marketing & IT departments to find ways to draw the masses to your website by means of keyword searches and optimizing web browser effectiveness

It’s a new world, but all signs point to strategy being key. Taking a focused look at how to attract prospects to your services is critical, and we’re all learning the most effective ways to accomplish that while tradeshows continue to shift to non-physical planes. 

What we at AZO do know for certain is how to start delivering new and greater results through ingredient automation and pneumatic conveying systems. We welcome any questions or concerns you might have, and our sales engineers are dedicated to solving your process challenges. We also have free, downloadable material on a variety of topics (including how “Super Plants” are shifting the landscape of ingredient automation). We have more than seven decades of experience in the ingredient automation world and have added tons of other topics also covered at length on our blog.

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