There’s an old adage that suggests, “people buy from people. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to get people together as often as possible!”
“Trade show and event marketing is a great way to get people together with common interests to achieve a goal. B2B and B2C marketers use trade shows and events to generate leads, nurture prospects, build brand awareness, expand distribution, conduct training, or enhance relationships with existing customers.”
While other forms of new media and marketing receive their fair share of accolades, proven event marketing techniques, like exhibiting at trade shows, continue to be a great investment. In fact, research indicates that “81% of trade show attendees have buying authority. Which means more than 4 out of 5 people walking the aisles are potential customers for exhibitors.”
This could mean access to potential buyers that you could have a hard time attracting otherwise.
Trade show marketing has its perks
If you are on the fence about trade shows (wondering if they are worthwhile), consider the following paths to achieving a return on investment for your participation:
1. Tap into industry innovation
In order to attract attendees and garner press recognition, industry trade shows will often showcase innovations that are relevant to those with highly similar business activities. You will often find that trade show sponsors and/or presenters offer a service that can potentially increase your profit margins or reduce your supply side costs. Even if you decide not to focus on this benefit, it is always good to keep an eye on the competition and industry happenings.
2. Benefit from industry goodwill
Much of business is just showing up. If you want the decision makers and purchase influencers in your industry to know, like and trust you, you need to get engage with them. No matter how good your product or service may be, people do business with people they like! Trade shows can increase your exposure and visibility within an industry (especially as a newcomer) and enable you to leverage the media and advocate on a larger scale.
3. Check in on the competition
Whether you decide to show up at an industry trade show, you can bet that your top competitors will be there making connections and sales. Even if you do not see any value in the industry presentations, or renting an exhibitors booth, you should attend relevant trade shows to see what your competition is planning. Believe it or not, competitors even partner up when the result is mutually beneficial. But you will miss out on these opportunities if you do not attend.
4. Find ‘whales’
Whales are big customers that provide financial leverage to growing companies. These are the customers for whom money is not an issue. They are looking for the best product or service that comes from the most personable and capable provider. You can kiss these customers goodbye if you choose to skip out on industry trade shows.
You may even have to also kiss your market share goodbye, as the whales are sometimes big enough to shift the entire dynamic of a business narrative. When a whale buys from you, smaller customers usually piggyback and follow suit. If you do not compete for the whales at the industry trade shows, you are probably losing smaller customers as well.
5. Seek out new partners
By attending or exhibiting at trade shows you’ll inevitably meet with movers and shakers in your industry, people who can potentially open new doors to clients, suppliers, investors and more.
Not only will your competition and ideal customers be at the trade show, but potential partners will be as well. These partners could come in the form of a) suppliers with lower prices or b) companies with complementary products that are willing to sponsor you in some way. Partners are just like whales in that they usually prefer to do business only with people they know.
Once you make the decision to attend your next trade show, make a good first impression. Consider the show and space selection, decide on how you’ll staff your booth, logistics, marketing, and more.
Meanwhile, start planning your trade show marketing campaign early. Invest in good signage and displays. For example, a top-notch display is one of the best investments you can make when it comes to branding and presentation. Ultimately, your first impression counts so make it a good one!
This article has been edited and condensed.
Carlos A. Espitia is a marketing and business consultant with Infinity Exhibits and the self-proclaimed Chief Human at CAE Marketing & Consulting. He is a 15-year marketing expert, high performance driving instructor, founder of Omega Delta Sigma, former U.S. Marine, and University of Florida alumni.