As a manufacturer of power transmission couplings, we love a good trade show. They provide us the opportunity to get out of the office, meet existing and future customers face-to-face, and see what the rest of the industry has been up to. Unfortunately, recent years have seen a drastic decrease in trade show attendees and exhibitors, which has prompted many to wonder if the trade show is on the brink of extinction. While we sincerely hope not, we took a look into the matter to prepare ourselves in either case.
The History of Trade Shows
Trade shows and industry conferences were at one time a key source for industry information. Anyone who was anyone was there. If you wanted to know about the up-and-coming technology in your field or what your competitors were doing, you’d find this out at a trade show. It also presented an invaluable opportunity to network with others and make a name for yourself in the field. However, digital marketing has made it easier than ever to remotely keep track of competitors, industry leaders, and connect with consumers.
Has digital technology killed the trade show? Not yet.
In today’s modern marketing landscape, trade shows represent merely one aspect of a multi-faceted approach to marketing, but it’s still an important one. Trade shows remain one of the best mediums for exhibitors targeting a specific industry, showcasing a new product, or promoting an existing product that requires the attention of key decision makers. While some industries may consider trade shows redundant, the manufacturing industry is one of the select few that continues to benefit from the trade show experience. Why? Our products aren’t made to be sold through digital mediums such as a Facebook ad, we need to communicate in-person. For example, if you’re looking for a customized braking system for a wind turbine, you’ll likely want to discuss it in-person with an expert. The complexity of the systems we operate within work in our favour here.
The dynamics of trade shows, however, have and will continue to change. It’s simply too expensive for start-ups, small or even mid-sized businesses to rent space at the mega-trade shows. It’s also become more difficult than ever for those who do attend to stand out in an arena crowded with industry giants. Up-and-comers have found it more valuable to attend smaller, regionalized tradeshows and events where they can be involved as speakers, panelists, or sponsors. This increased level of involvement provides a much greater ROI than mega-trade shows. So, while tradeshows remain relevant for preestablished organizations that can afford the space, smaller-scale innovation may become more and more localized.
While digital technology has transformed marketing, collaborative technology has not progressed far enough to make trade shows irrelevant. Video mediums such as Skype don’t function well enough to substitute in-person human interactions. Technology also has yet to provide us with an effective medium to gather global decision makers into one location. Of course, there are web seminars but as we watch these sat at our desk the urge to multi-task, zone out, or log out completely is too high. This is why, webinars as they stand today cannot replace trade shows in terms of engagement. Forging real relationships and providing valuable service requires a human connection and we need tradeshows for that.
For now, trade shows are here to stay – and we hope to see you at the next one.