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Industry relationships are now a daily priority for growing organizations.

CEOs are bullish on 2021 potential. Recent research of 250 CEOs revealed that nearly 75% of executives expect revenues to increase, and 65% are projecting profits to be up in 2021. If anything, manufacturing and distribution leaders are more confident that lessons learned over the past year will help create new growth strategies in the post-pandemic environment.

Are trade shows a thing of the past?

Recent Alexander Group and Chief Executive Group research indicates that 42% of CEOs plan to limit or eliminate trade show participation in the coming year. Once a vital part of the sales cycle, trade shows showcased new products and offerings, provided face-to-face contact with old and new clients, and publicized a company’s industry presence. Because of pandemic restrictions, trade shows and industry events dried up, leaving manufacturers and distributors with substantial T&E savings and a chance to evaluate the role of trade shows in the future. Forward thinking CEOs are rebalancing these budgets to new and more effective sales-generating activities.

Alternative investments to replace trade shows

Our research indicates that leaders are expanding critical areas of customer-facing investment in new ways. First, account-based marketing is growing through marketing automation, increasingly advanced CRM systems and reporting tools. Connected teams, including field marketing, traditional account managers, inside reps and customer service now coordinate focus on key accounts to generate new opportunities in a virtual environment.

Social media strategies are generating high-quality sales opportunities as companies develop their specialized selling roles. Marketing automation is part of the mix, with companies expanding their digital footprint to keep in contact with existing customers while creating lead generation opportunities.

Post-sale service plays a vital role in customer relationships. By using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) tools, companies lower the cost of service while providing a high-touch, interactive and safe experience.

Successful companies are transitioning to high-quality customer interactions with frequent visibility, replacing the once-a-year trade show model. Leading firms will continue to expand their technology investments and invest in the roles to support them.

User groups for innovation

Trade shows have historically been the place to test and learn new product innovation. In the absence of these annual events companies are leveraging their current user groups to create a robust learning environment, helping product and service teams consistently interact with customers. Based on these frequent interactions, lessons learned are accelerating the pace of product introductions that better serve the customer base.

High visibility industry presence is still needed

Industry leaders earned their reputation at live trade show events, showcasing their products and expertise to a captive audience. Without a face-to-face environment and high visibility of the exhibit hall booth, companies must find new ways to solidify their reputation.

All levels of the organization have the opportunity to increase presence through, board seats, association memberships and article authorship. Just like traditional trade shows, growing your market position is a team sport.

Key leaders also play a role, participating in virtual events and sharing valuable content with the industry audience. Staying in the public eye is critical, as is the ability to share information across industry sectors.

Focus your investments – balancing the bar tab with the big data spend

In the absence of traditional trade shows and the relationships they fostered, leaders are looking for new channels (including virtual events) to promote their reputation, products and services consistently.

Companies are realigning their sales and support teams to focus on key accounts’ needs while digitally serving their base and reaching new audiences. Learning and innovation continue at a rapid pace, necessitating feedback loops from customers and user groups. Companies and their leaders consistently promote themselves year-round through social media and virtual events.

Industry visibility is now a daily activity, not an annual event. Leading companies directly embed visibility and value into all sales activities while investing in the technology and roles in carrying out those functions.

Succeeding in 2021 and beyond

The whitepaper, Succeeding in 2021 and Beyond, provides the full survey results from 250 executives and is published exclusively with Chief Executive Group. It shares how leaders are focused on expanding revenue and growth while striving to eliminate the noise caused by business disruptions. For insights on how these leaders are evolving their sales model, download the whitepaper today. For more insights on best practices for 2021 investments for growth, please contact an Alexander Group manufacturing or distribution practice leader.

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