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I recently returned from a major trade show.  I felt both angry with the disappointing effort from the majority of exhibitors, but also excited that there was hope that there would be a future for trade shows if exhibitors employed inbound marketing tactics.

This is why.

The State Of Construction Trade Shows

As a construction marketing veteran, I’ve seen the decline of exhibitions since the heyday of Interbuild which used to attract over 100,000 visitors and 1500 exhibitors over a four day period in Birmingham and was the main construction marketing event every two years if you were a building product manufacturer.

Our marketing budget used to almost double every year that Interbuild was on. That’s £100,000 extra spend, 20 years ago!

Now everyone says that trade shows don't work, nobody goes, you never get any leads.  These are all outputs from poor inputs - i.e. lazy marketing, where the same approach and tactics are used today as they were 20 years ago.  

It's time to adapt to the way that society has changed to make trade shows relevant to a modern audience and really turn them into valuable elements of the marketing mix.

Are Exhibitions and Trade Shows Relevant in 2018?

Obviously, the world has changed, and digital media has given specifiers, and installers access to information on-demand and online.  So where do trade shows fit into the marketing mix in 2018 and beyond, or are they just a relic of a bygone age?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m an advocate for digital marketing.  It’s an amazing time to be engaging with your market.  There are so many channels and innovative methods available to you for reaching your audience. 

We cannot live solely behind a computer monitor, doing SEO, email marketing and web design.  Trade shows need to survive as they deliver an important part of the marketing mix – face to face engagement, a real one-to-one experience where you press the flesh and connect.

At a time where the trend is for people to seek experiences rather than things, a trade show gives you that platform to deliver something memorable and useful that will build you brand and authority within your field, raising your profile to make you a trusted advisor in the eyes of your audience.

This is how trade shows, exhibitions and expos can be relevant now.

Why Are Trade Shows Useful?

I attended the Marketing Technology Expo (MTE) at London ExCel for three reasons;

  1. I was hoping to discover something brilliant to help my construction marketing clients.
  2. I wanted to see how pure marketing companies used trade shows as part of their marketing mix, and
  3. I was keen to extend my network and maybe pick up a few tips on how to develop Insynth

I don’t think that this is unusual. 

Why do people attend the events?  Usually, to be inspired, learn something new or network and find new business opportunities.

Forget product research.  No one attends an exhibition to find out more about a specific product.  They do this online.

In my opinion, a traditional stand with graphics, products and bored sales people doesn’t work anymore – this is not an experience.

How Do You Generate Sales Leads?

Looking around the MTE, it was clear what was attracting and engaging visitors.  It was the stands that offered to learn.  Every exhibitor that was running Masterclass seminars was busy.  People were engaged, they were interested, and they were talking to the exhibitors after the presentations – they had become sales leads.

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Speaking to Stuart Alldis of CDA, who was running a digital marketing masterclass at the show, he said: “Standard booths don’t work anymore, but running a presentation and giving your audience some valuable content can generate 50 leads per hour.”  Powerful stuff.

Stuart was running the same 45-minute session every hour, with a 15-minute break where he had plenty of interest and conversations.  He was crushing it and must have left the 2-day show with over 500 new leads.  Imagine the ROI on that.

Over 500 people got to hear his message, hear his advice and understand how he could help them in the future.  500 face to face engagements would take your average sales person over six months to achieve.  This is a highly efficient way of getting your message across in person.

What you do with all these leads and how you manage them before they go cold is another conversation.  It’s one that I will be covering very soon.

Make Trade Shows Part Of You Content Marketing Strategy

In conclusion, I guess the message is if you treat your next exhibition as a part of your content marketing strategy, rather than following the traditional product, graphic, sweets in a bowl format, you can increase your reach and engagement at a trade show.

Now that I have seen the opportunities of delivering content on your stand I will be filing trade shows under Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing.

If you want to talk about how you can deliver your content to your target market at the next trade show you’ve booked, we’d be happy to talk.  Get in touch and let’s see how Insynth can make your next trade show a lead generation sensation.

Or why not leave a comment with your opinions of trade shows in 2018.

 

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Leigh Simpson

Written by Leigh Simpson

Aligning my experience in marketing, technology, building products and business growth to bring you insights on how to leverage the internet and the latest technology to help you generate more leads, acquire more customers, improve client enagement and create long term competiteve advantage.