With all the myriad ways to get information today, why should we spend the time and money going to trade events. Its true that attendance plummeted in the period 2007-2010 but it has begun a steady rise and is expected to surpass its 2006 high of 112,000,000 attendees this year and surpass 120,000,000 by 2015. What happened?
My guess is that people want to meet people. You don’t do that on the internet or with thumb drives filled with data about products and services. They want to feel, touch, smell, and taste the products and learn from experts about them.
Trade shows allow manufacturers to strut their stuff. To show off the wares in the best possible light. In Europe and Asia they are the major part of a company’s marketing program.
These events offer an opportunity to get to know the people with whom you are going to be dealing. The discussions in the booth, in the lobby, and in clubs and restaurants around the show allow a trust and understanding to develop that simply cannot happen by any other means.
Whether the shows are mounted by organizations or private entities, they provider a tremendous service to exhibitors and attendee alike. They enable a flow of not only information but also trust that is so important in the business relationship.
I have for years felt that the events were overdone in our industry, but after the NPA Conference and Trade Show in Chicago I have become unsure of that position. The more opportunities that buyer and seller have to meet and exchange ideas, to have a social as well as business relationship, the better. If I can’t make it to Chicago, maybe I can see you in Las Vegas. The international parking set talks incessantly about meeting every other year in Amsterdam.
I know its expensive for the suppliers and I feel for them. But there costs can be repaid many times if they use the three or four days to develop relationships and contacts that in the long term are the basis for their business. Its money well spent.
As an organizer of one of these events, its up to me to promote the show in such a way that not only a large number of people attend, but the right people attend. I must make it convenient and easy. But I’m not the only player in this effort.
Its important that the exhibitors use the time wisely the not only get leads for new sales, but to reinforce relationships. How many bits of technology installed by Company A are being replaced by Company B. Is that because B has a better mousetrap? Doubtful. Its because B has done a better job of telling their story and building trust with the customer than A.
At the NPA event you could feel the electricity and camaraderie in the room. That feeling was what changed my mind about trade shows. I had dinner with a customer and a few of their clients. It was an enriching time for me as I was able to learn more about them and perhaps allow them to learn more about me. Whether you believe it or not, business relationships are personal, and you can’t be personal over the phone or on the ‘net.
Trade show are growing because keen business people and their customers know this.
See you in March at PIE in Chicago.