The future of CES: How to make the most of your marketing investment

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By Hannah Eure

The crowded showroom floors and speaker sessions at CES seem to have rebounded to their pre-pandemic highs. But if you look a bit closer, you’ll notice the show has changed quite a bit over the past few years. Along with the show’s evolution, making the most of your marketing buck may also require shifting strategies from years past. 


To help you determine whether the consumer tech Mecca is worth the investment of future marketing dollars, consider the following three questions:

  1. Is the audience still aligned to your sales goals? While CES has always highlighted forward-thinking technology, this year’s show went all in on robotics and electric vehicles to an unprecedented extent. Attendees were treated to robot baristas, food delivered robotically, and even a cameo from Optimus Prime.


In years prior, CES featured a heavy focus on smartphones and other mobile capabilities. Interestingly, this sector was largely diminished in the 2023 agenda, making significant investments of time, product launches, or sponsorships in the space less effective than before. 


However, the obsession with mobility has skyrocketed, with many presenters and attendees flocking to sessions on electric vehicles, supply chain transportation, and in-vehicle experiences. With CES continuing to evolve and reach new personas, be sure to consider your sales and partnership goals before investing in an audience that may no longer be a fit. 


  1. Are you sending the right employees to the show? The CES show floor is known for live-action demo sessions, and this year was no exception. Attendees witnessed numerous demonstrations of everything from the metaverse to interactive robots. 


If your business plans to invest in a booth, it’s critical that you staff it with employees who can both demo every aspect of your product and detail competitive differentiators. This year, over 60% of CES attendees were senior personas (e.g. VPs, general managers and C-Suite execs), so it’s imperative to send folks who innately understand and can solve for senior business problems. You may even consider renting a full suite at the event to hold investor meetings and showcase your products to non-media attendees. 


Not investing in a booth? Be sure to ask yourself: who else stands to gain from networking sessions, product vision keynotes or potential partnerships forged onsite?


  1. Do you have something new and/or differentiated to discuss in onsite meetings? CES is a news-heavy show, and it’s not always strategic to push product news live onsite just because it’s a big name event. That said, your business still needs to ensure the folks it’s sending to meetings, whether they’re networking- or sales-oriented, have a clear talk track and goal to accomplish. That way, you can ensure followup is actionable and timely. 


Everyone’s time is extremely valuable, and with the average attendee booking around 30 meetings onsite, you need measures in place to stand out from the noise. Events like CES are the perfect time to employ your PR team (wink, wink) to set up reporter conversations and handle all the back and forth that comes with event scheduling and logistics.


If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, that doesn’t necessarily mean CES should be completely off the table for your team. Instead, try some of these creative tactics in your marketing strategy to get involved in the news cycle remotely, rather than springing for a booth: 


  • Leverage new data launched at CES to validate your market presence. Attending vendors often want to ensure they have new and interesting data on hand to hook media conversations and sales meetings. This data often hits remote desks via press release, serving as excellent fodder for your own aligned goals and market growth narrative for proactive pitching. You should also arm your sales teams with this valuable information to further validate ongoing sales efforts. 


  • Monitor for competitive announcements. As we mentioned before, CES is an incredibly noisy and competitive event. You can set your team up for success by looking for direct competitor announcements or emergent trends in your space to arrive informed on competitive differentiation and announcements to come. This will also help you build out your media lists, as identifying a reporter who covered your competitor’s news means you can introduce them to your unique POV. 


  • Release product announcements ahead of the show. If you’re not planning to attend CES, grab attention for product announcements before the media goes heads down at the event, which takes place in early January – and before they sign off for the holidays. You can then use the CES hook to gain further momentum and traction around your announcement.


  • Engage influencer relations and SEO. The CES agenda is finalized months before the event itself takes place. Leveraging key themes to better align your SEO efforts and ensure your company and/or products appear in key searches once the event kicks off will keep you top of mind ahead of the big day. This is also a great time to engage influencers who can help cut through the CES noise in advance, during and post-show to further validate your company’s product and vision. 


Bonus tip: Over the past few years, podcasts have emerged as a major player in CES program coverage. We’ve started encouraging clients to line up not just traditional media interviews, but podcast interviews at the event as well. Additionally, consider using CES to collect ideas and inputs for content and sales enablement. Sending content teams to sessions and lining up video case study shoots or testimonial interviews with clients while you have valuable onsite time with them can go a long way. 


Trade shows are not one-size-fits-all opportunities, especially as the market and world around us quickly evolve. Whenever you invest in a trade show presence, CES or otherwise, it’s crucial to understand your motives, goals and the audience you impact so you can tailor your experience and investment appropriately. 


At Kickstand, we have abundant experience working with big name tech conferences and smaller trade shows alike. Get in touch with us for strategic onsite support or creative remote campaign projects here!

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