The exhibition and trade show industry is changing, are you?
Posted by Tom Oakes
As Darwin said “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”. This may be true in the natural world but also very much relates to the fast paced world of the trade show and exhibition industry.
There is one fundamental reason to exhibit and that is to get noticed, be seen and appear a stronger brand or organisation amongst your competitors. In order to do so you need to be aware of the ever changing trade show trends, and have the flexibility to be able to respond to and utilise them to keep pace with and stay ahead of your competitors.
In this blog I am going to look at some external and internal factors affecting the trade show and exhibition industry and discuss some of the ways in which you can turn them to your advantage.
External factors affecting the exhibition and trade show industry are varied and wide ranging. External factors are notoriously difficult to predict and impossible to affect but by being aware of them and able to use them to your advantage is essential to mounting a successful marketing strategy focusing on exhibiting.
Globalisation – Over the last 10 years increased globalisation and the decreased importance of the traditional definition of boarders especially in Europe has helped the industry to grow and allowed easier international travel for people to organise and visit trade shows in places outside of their countries of origin. This means an exhibition or trade show often offers a unique opportunity to explore and connect directly with delegates from foreign markets. Most shows these days are excellent at capturing visitor data and you should be able to get a good idea of where people have previously travelled from to attend the show helping you form a successful strategy if you are interested in entering a new market
Technology – Yes, we all know that technological advances over the last 6 or 7 years have been nothing short of mind blowing. Technology has revolutionised the trade show industry from data capture to interactive attractions to the way that companies and organisers communicate with potential clients via social media. Is it a good thing though? With ever increasing technological advancements come ever increasing distractions for your visitors. There have been calls over the years to ban the use of smart phones during a show which, if not completely unrealistic highlights the narrow minded thinking towards the way smart phone technology can be used. The impact technology is having is far too big of a subject for this blog. Click here to read an excellent article on turning distraction to interaction.
Economy – The dreaded economy. There is no avoiding it, the exhibition industry is no different than any other and when the economy is depressed or in recession then the exhibition industry suffers. During a recession event organisers and exhibitors can no longer rely on the appeal of a show on its own fruition to attract visitors. Being aware of the economy and the additional cost of marketing in order to attract the right people to see your stand is essential. The only way to ride out a downturn in the economy is by speculating to accumulate. Be Savvy with your marketing and continue to invest. Confidence is key.
There are many internal factors within the exhibition industry that influence trends. Internal factors tend to be easier to predict and you certainly need to be aware of them to make sure you are matching and competing with your competitors.
Buyer Engagement – In the past a trade show or exhibition was often the only real means by which a company could truly engage with its customer base. The inherent value of a show therefore was clear; it provided a central point for your customers to discover the latest industry news and products. For better or worse this is no longer the case. You need to be engaging with you client base 24/7 365 days of the year and driving them towards engagement at your chosen show or event. With the internet and social media clients and customers expect information at their fingertips and a strong online presence is needed if indeed you want to stay competitive within your market. No longer can a company rely on “in-show” announcements, engagement with your client base needs to be timed correctly in the lead up to a show encouraging clients to visit your stand offering.
What this means is all exhibitors are now dealing with educated buyers. Many visitors to your stand will be fully aware of your range of products, offerings and brands. This means you must build brand awareness prior to a show and investing properly in your exhibition stand or trade show booth is essential to stand out to a potential buyer who may have already decided on which stands to visit.
Who pays who to attend? – You use to have to pay to attend a show. As discussed the show had inherent value and could therefore charge visitors a premium to attend. Then shows became free. As the value of the show diminished so did the cost to attend. Most shows are now free to attend however, over the last couple of years a new business model has emerged called the hosted buyer programme. Essentially, a hosted buyer programme allows engagement between a host (planner or buyer) with a seller (supplier) via an electronic platform by which engagement between the two exists outside of the traditional trade show medium. Once a meeting has been pre-arranged and agreed, the cost of travel, hotels etc can be met by the supplier ensuring targeted business and true qualified leads. For more information on hosted buyer programmes read here.
Networking – Easy, you provide a confined networking area on the show floor whereby willing visitors can flock to be forced in to face to face B2B interaction whether they like it or not right? I am being harsh, many shows provide a laid back networking area where emails can be checked and phones charged but, is this really the way to stand out from the crowd when it comes to networking? From the minute you announce your attendance at a show the networking should begin. Are you contributing to the conversation generated around the shows social media networks? Are you creating shareable content targeted at the shows attendees? Are you engaging online socially before during and after the show. Networking is no longer so well defined. It is a constant process to be taken seriously and can no longer be considered a quick handshake over a coffee at lunch.
Data, Data, Data – Data is now big business. No longer is it ok to have a hazy idea of how you performed at your last show through your gut feeling. With the increase in real time data capture software and apps it is now possible to understand exactly how you are performing at a show as it is happening, from which products are selling well to which sales agents are doing the best. To get a true idea of your ROI then it is essential that you embrace the data revolution, measure, analyse and react. If you aren’t, your competitors are and it is certainly the future of the industry.
Although very broad this blog has covered some of the more recent factors affecting the exhibition and trade show industry. It always pays to be ahead of the game and it is vital that you keep abreast of factors that may affect how successful your next show could be. There is a wealth of information online but remember, the key to success is hard work and research.