Are trade shows and exhibitions still relevant?
Posted by Tom Oakes
THE INTERNET IS COMING!! Trade shows, events and exhibitions go running for the hills pursued by online bloggers and marketers. Exiled as dinosaurs they are destined to wander the post-apocalyptic wilderness of empty exhibition halls, torn, moth eaten business cards blowing in the wind… Or so we have been told. However, the prophecy has yet to pass. Trade shows are going from strength to strength, but why? With Skype, social media, conference calls, 24/7 online connection why should you bother to exhibit at all?
In this blog I am going to look in to why millions of businesses continue to choose to exhibit each year and the reasons why I believe trade shows will remain relevant for years to come.
The current view
Firstly, let’s look where the exhibition and trade show industry currently stands. On average, 40% of a B2B companies marketing budget is spent on exhibiting at trade shows. Considering these events last on average 2 or 3 days once or twice a year this is a huge percentage to spend on one endeavour. So why do businesses still decide to spend it? Well, the industry although stable in in US and Europe with 24% and 48% of all worldwide events taking place there respectively the Asian Market is growing rapidly bringing competition across all continents.
Asia now hosts over 2000 exhibitions and trade shows per year attracting millions of visitors. With its’s ever growing economy China is clearly the jewel in the Asian crown when it comes to exhibitions and its numerous tradeshows are must attend events for any business attempting to entering this lucrative market. In 2015 Shanghai opened a 5 million square foot exhibition hall; they are clearly expecting it to be used.
Facts and figures
So, we can see worldwide there are more and more events and trade shows to attend but what is the value of attending them? Let’s have a look at some facts and figures.
80% of people who attend trade shows have buying power. That’s right; statistically over ¾ of visitors to your exhibition stand will have the power to buy. It’s a simple case of convincing them to use that power with you.
75% of trade show attendees travel over 400 miles to attend a show, highlighting the potential international audience you can reach by attending the right trade show.
Almost 100% of marketers surveyed by the CEIR (Centre of Exhibition Industry Research) said they felt that exhibitions offered unique value not offered from other marketing mediums.
Almost 70% of trade show attendees offer new prospects or leads for exhibitors. Lead generation is the top reason to attend a trade show making exhibiting a rather enticing prospect for marketers.
The number 1 reason people visit an exhibition (Not exhibit) is to see new products. 92% of all attendees to exhibitions say that their primary reason is to find new products and it has been the same for the last 25 years. This demonstrates the value of an exhibition for introducing your products and services to a potential new audience.
B2B face to face
As we can see, the numbers suggest that there is still very much an inherent value in exhibiting. Of course, to exhibit can be costly and there is always a risk in spending such a large part of your marketing budget on one activity but can you really not afford to get face to face with potential customers and clients when your competitors almost certainly will be.
Leaving aside the research and the numbers there is one factor above all else that keeps trade shows relevant. Human interaction. As discussed we are in an ever increasing world of technological advancement and there are more ways than ever to connect with people but one thing that is not going out of fashion anytime soon is the power of making a face to face connection.
Humans by our very nature are social beings, we crave interaction. We react and interact with body language, able to sub consciously detect the slightest change and inflection in someone’s manner and demeanour. Technology will always struggle to replicate this experience.
Trade shows and exhibitions offer the perfect environment to create and nurture business relationships based on the simplest of inter personal skills.
If your sales force are well trained there is no other platform that can bring them in to contact with such a vast array of potential customers and clients all of which enter in to the show looking to be sold to.
Top reasons to exhibit
I think it is clear that trade shows are absolutely still a vital and relevant part of a marketer’s arsenal. So what are the reasons to exhibit? We know that to create brand awareness and generate leads are the top reasons but what else do trade shows offer?
Networking– Networking on such a large scale is an opportunity only afforded on very few occasions. Tradeshows not only provide a platform to sell and demonstrate product, they are a mass forum where your entire industry can meet and talk, share innovations and discuss the future. Networking is not all about sales, it’s about been a part of your industries conversation.
Standing out from the crowd – What other medium can you think of where by your product or service will be pitched in direct completion with your competitors. If handled correctly then by creating a great exhibition stand, brand and product offering you will be compared favourably next to your competitor who happens to be in the same hall.
Education – Trade shows are a great place to learn. You may be exhibiting but you are also visiting surrounded by reams of information for your delectation. Not only from brochures, forums and lectures etc but also what your competitors are subliminally telling you. You should definitely be checking out your competition again, there are very very few opportunities to get in and amongst your competitors at such close questers all in one place and you should be taking full advantage.
Demonstration – Where better to demonstrate your products than in front of a willing audience keen to see what you have to offer. Mix that with a well-trained sales team and you are on to a winner.
Trade shows are not going away. Far from becoming antiquated in the face of technology trade shows are embracing new ways by which to communicate with the widest audience possible whilst still providing a forum for industries to meet and interact. Technology, whilst certainly revolutionising the way in which we communicate will always struggle to match the unique human experience a trade show, event or exhibition offers and until it does they are here to stay.