Tradeshows Will Never Die

The following is an excerpt from 42 Rules of Marketing by Laura Lowell.

A lot of marketers think tradeshows are dead.  Yet, seventy-two percent of US manufacturers plan to invest in Tradeshows/Events, according to MarketingSherpa’s Business Technology Benchmark Guide 2006.9 Now that almost everything can be done online or virtually, it is easy to assume that the tried and true industry tradeshows are less important.

Not true, according to Tradeshow Week’s annual report of consumer show statistics, which measured an increase of almost 16 percent in
2006. That means that 16 percent more consumers attended shows like the well-known Consumer Electronics Show as well as niche shows like Design Automation Conference, Wizard World, and SuperZoo (I didn’t make that one up, I swear). These shows are still very product focused. Potential customers can see, touch, hear and even taste the products they are interested in.

You can’t get that kind of experience online or in a virtual tradeshow. Yep—virtual tradeshows are a concept being tested by several online companies. For example, eComXpo is a virtual tradeshow for interactive, online marketers. The show is completely virtual; which makes sense since their entire industry is focused on virtual experiences. For more traditional industries, the idea might not fly.

Like other marketing tactics, Tradeshows need to be part of your overall plan. You need to know what you’re trying to accomplish by participating in the show—what is the objective? If you’re trying to increase awareness and generate leads then Tradeshows are a great vehicle. If you’re trying to convert leads to sales then Tradeshows are not the best choice.

A popular trend these days is to structure “events within an event.”  These events are more about building relationships with customers, suppliers and partners (sound familiar?). Many companies are using the tradeshow venue to meet with customers and to do in-person product demonstrations, simulations or other experiential activities that you just can’t do online.

Smaller vertical trade events and niche conferences are becoming more popular because they tend to produce more qualified leads—25 percent more according to a MarketingSherpa study. In general or broad-based events, the qualified lead ratio was 27.6 percent whereas the vertical events had a qualified lead ratio of 40.7 percent.10 Pretty good uplift, I’d say.

Another benefit to participating in vertical events is the relative ease with which you can engage in multiple aspects of the show. In fact, you can almost “own” these shows if you want to. Marketing Transformation Services (MTS) is a boutique consulting firm specializing in marketing resource management (MRM) strategy and implementation. The principal, Beth Weesner, is very well-known in MRM circles because of how she leveraged a semi-annual vertical event—the Henry Stewart Marketing Operations Management Symposium. Ms. Weesner gave the keynote address and hosted a panel discussion.
Several of her clients were featured speakers. She hosted an invitation- only cocktail reception for existing and potential clients. Pre and post-event marketing was negotiated with the event managers to build on success of the event. The leads generated from these events fill the MTS pipeline and keep the name visible between events.

Tradeshows and events are still a credible and viable element in any marketing mix. Whether they are small vertical trade events, in-house user groups or general business conferences, they are here to stay.