Part 1 of this blog post talked about the current state of trade shows and raised a critical question: what will it take for marketers and organizers to evolve this traditional marketing platform? Although the troubled economy has impacted attendance, trade shows are still an essential element in the marketing mix, providing a platform for face-to-face interaction with potential B2B and individual buyers. Organizers and exhibitors need to find ways to expand the reach of trade shows and ensure increased success in the face of a reviving economy and evolving marketing trends.
The answer lies in innovation.
Two pressing factors require marketers to innovate and re-think the traditional trade show process:
- Economy: With the recession eroding travel budgets in the past year, the traditional trade show was impacted. The expense of attending events caused cost-conscious managers to eliminate attendees from their companies. As the economy revives, businesses will increase budget allocation for trade shows – as much as 34% according to GlobalSpec Trends In Industrial Marketing 2010 – organizers and exhibitors need to offer increased value add to capture some of this growing target audience segment.
- Generation-segmented target audience: The differences between the attitudes of the baby boomers, Generation X, and the Millennials will need to be juggled for a successful trade show, according to our interviews with members of the technical trade media and show organizers. Baby boomers, who experienced the first-hand growth of trade shows, are gradually retiring. Generation X views trade shows as an integral part of marketing and they necessitate attendance and participation in trade shows if the desired economic conditions prevail. The Millennial generation has changed the way it interacts, integrating social media networking as an important part of their lives. They view trade shows as yet another platform to network.
How to Innovate?
- Value add: Trade shows need to evolve into a platform that provides more than just networking and product information. Events offering robust, technical, educational content can be a great value add for attendees. In addition, by incorporating conferences and open forums with industry leaders, organizers can offer an improved ROI for attending companies.
- Integrating new media: Social media and Virtual Tradeshows are not a threat, rather they present a powerful opportunity for marketers – virtual networking opportunities should be utilized to supplement the physical networking experience. Organizers and exhibitors can provide additional networking opportunities for attendees by offering event-oriented social networking outlets before and after the event. According to GlobalSpec Trends In Industrial Marketing 2010, 51% of businesses will spend more on online marketing in 2010 than they did in 2009, and 47% will spend a third of their 2010 marketing budget online – by utilizing online marketing initiatives in conjunction with trade shows, the elements of a marketing mix can really complement each other and provide a better ROI for exhibitors.
- A powerful marketing initiative using a well defined before, during and after strategy can help organizers and exhibitors establish focus and obtain metrics on the success of the trade show. This can enable a learning process for future trade shows.
Along with innovating and re-defining the scope of a trade show, organizers also need to find ways to cut costs without compromising on quality or content, according to Chris Bombarger, National Instruments Corporate Events Manager. These savings then need to be passed on to exhibitors and attendees in terms of participation costs. This is going to be vital, as budget allocations remain modest.
Several options are available to complement the traditional trade show including online searchable catalogs, e-newsletters, online events, banner ad programs, directory listings and more. All are highly targeted, smart solutions that help capture leads, expand a marketer’s reach and provide measurable results.
The need to meet and engage with industry peers still exists. Trade shows may be an age-old marketing platform, but they remain an important source for networking and generating leads. Organizers and exhibitors need to innovate and increase the value add that attendees receive from the trade shows.