(Published in Trade Show Executive_May 2021)

Marketing used to be simple: Focus on mass appeal, a prominent in-aisle presence, and you were well on your way to a successful campaign.

Success today requires navigating a myriad of different channels to find customers where they are, whether it be traveling to a meeting or sitting at home. And those customers are increasingly demanding that brands offer them a personalized experience.

Throughout my career as a strategist, one thing has become clear: It is the need to bring a brand to life for customers in a meaningful way.

The most successful companies create a brand that can shine across all these channels by ensuring that each time they interact with the customer, it’s right for the customer. This creates a bond that’s unrivaled by marketing methods of the past, both in terms of engagement and building long-term customer loyalty.

What company is one of the best at this? Disney. The entertainment juggernaut excels at both personalized marketing and ingraining themselves in customers’ lives.

Fans of all ages watch movies and networks, wear branded apparel, participate in social media groups, play games, and receive targeted perks on their phones. Unsurprisingly, Disney consistently ranks among the world’s most admired companies.

For trade show executives, the key is to take engagement out of its typical trade show boundaries. The voice of an industry shouldn’t be limited to communicating with their industry for just a few days. After all, trade shows aren’t meant to be stand-alone experiences, with no follow-ups or relationships built in the months that follow.

But if that communication isn’t valuable, it will be ignored. It’s critical that it mirrors why a member or sponsor joined an association or attended a trade event to begin with, such as interwoven networking, thought leadership, and commercial engagement. Many organizations are currently offering siloed 365 marketplaces or communities. If on-site tradeshow activities aren’t siloed, why should one’s daily member experience be siloed?

It seems like an uphill battle, but we’re already on the right path. I’d argue that trade groups were the first to extend their brands, creating an omnichannel presence between tradeshows, emails and websites. The problem is, they’ve stopped there. That means there’s a huge, largely unmet opportunity for trade brands to engage in digital, specifically mobile experiences. To do that, you must know your members in a way that many currently do not.

There are many digital tools that can help trade brands enhance their customer relationships across channels. Mainstream social media platforms, for example, can allow companies to interact with members as thought leaders, initiate conversations and provide learning opportunities.

But what happens when trade organizations aren’t actively paying attention to LinkedIn or Facebook?  A social media presence can provide a lot of opportunities but in the end, unless you are consistently listening to your members and sponsors and reacting in an individualistic manner, the experience will never live up to what your members and sponsors crave.

CampfireSocial is an example of a social commerce platform that bridges that gap, providing a white-labeled, industry or brand-specific social network (available via mobile or desktop), allowing your brand to live in your members’ pocket every minute of the day.  CampfireSocial provides  your organization with the trends your industry cares about and enhances your existing customer profiles to allow for more personalization.

The more a trade brand expands into the digital landscape, the more they can learn about their members and sponsors.

So, the next time you ask how you can engage with your audience in a meaningful way, know the answer is simple. Give them a CampfireSocial experience…or a trip to Disney World.

Written by Erica Bishaf, Founder & CEO of CampfireSocial


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Meet the Author

Erica Bishaf

Founder & CEO

Erica Bishaf is an award-winning global brand strategist (24 years), market research professional, and a 2X tech startup founder. Her startup experience includes CampfireSocial, the private community & marketplace platform, and Pet Gotcha Day!, the immersive video platform for animal shelters. In addition to her passion for startups, she has worked for consumer-packaged goods companies such as Kraft, Nestle, Kimberly-Clark, the Illinois Lottery, and MillerCoors in a variety of roles encompassing global product innovation, package redesign, brand equity, shopper & retail insights, and strategic planning. In 2015, Erica started her own consultancy where she led projects for startups, growth stage companies, Fortune 500, trade & professional associations, top 10 trade shows, and private equity firms that focused on building brand & communication strategies, strategic planning & workshop design, innovation, segmentation identification, UX/UI design, consumer journeys, A&U work, uncovering shopping & retail touchpoints, and more. Erica has also built teams from the ground up for three organizations. She enjoys bringing an entrepreneurial lens to her work to identify new opportunities for growth and using quantitative and qualitative methodologies plus financial data to accomplish her clients' goals. Her clients have said that 'Erica is a keen observer of human behavior who can translate observations into action and one who spurs others to better thinking and better results.' Erica can be reached at erica.bishaf@campfiresocial.io.

Erica Bishaf
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