Are Trade Shows Worth the Trip?

tradeshowMuch like print marketing, trade shows took a hit during the recession. What’s the status now?

We may be hypersensitive to the whole “________ is dead” attitude, so it’s no surprise that John Boyens’ article “Are Trade Shows Dead?” caught our eye.

According to Statistica figures, “in-person events” remain an important channel for B2Bs in the United States, with 81% of those surveyed saying they were used as a marketing tactic.

Sure, they took a hit (along with most every other marketing channel) during the Recession, but industry trends indicate they are on the upswing, with at last nine quarters of growth in attendance between 2013-2015, according to Metro Exhibits.

The article notes that “the 2008 economic downturn hit trade shows especially hard as travel and marketing expenses were dramatically reduced. This trend continued until 2010/2011, when all metrics started to see increases. Interestingly enough, it was attendance that recovered first and has outpaced the growth of net square feet and the number of exhibits.”

So, in much the same way print is experiencing a B2B resurgence, trade shows are on the rise again too. Are they worth it?

It depends on your approach, says Boyens.

“Research tells us that a business can expect to attract 1 to 2% of their targeted audience into their tradeshow booth,” he writes. “That percentage can jump to 20% or more by better targeting which leads to more qualified prospects. To achieve better ‘booth traffic,’ one needs to create and then execute a comprehensive marketing and trade show strategy.”

“According to some B2B research I read spending on trade shows continues to be strong especially in combination with social media, advertising and promotion spend. In a world filled with websites, emails, and voice mails trade shows offer one of the true opportunities to build relationships with face-to-face contact,” Boyens continues. “Something every business can use a little more of!”

Some of the mistakes companies make, Boyens explains, are unclear or inconsistent marketing messaging; and not enough pre-game work to draw your audience.

He recommends a few strategies that might work, including trying to get on the speaker’s roster, and having your sales team set specific appointments with prospects off-site during the event.

Like any channel, it’s all in how you approach it. Understand your audience, know who your decision-makers are, and do all you can to reach them directly in the way they want to be reached.