After 1 postponement, 3 lockdowns and countless litres of hand sanitiser used, last week finally saw the return of UK Construction Week after almost 2 years.
Taking place at the NEC, the entire construction industry headed to the Midlands to share their latest innovations, educate their peers and understand the industry as it moves out of one of the most turbulent times in living memory.
But with exhibitions spending so much time on the sideline during the pandemic, was it worth the two-year wait or is this once ‘standard’ marketing technique teetering on the edge of irrelevance?
Well, we took the time to speak to several exhibitors and attendees on the final day of the show to discover which marketing direction the industry is looking towards.
UKCW certainly wasn’t the first post-COVID exhibition to take place. For everything you might hear on the grapevine that ‘exhibitions are dead’ and ‘no one will attend,’ we thought it was important to put this to the test and visit ourselves.
Far from a ghost town, there was plenty of activity, even on the final day of a three-day event, but despite this, the results show that 61.3% of exhibitors actually thought it was worse attended than expected.
However, it’s important to note that some of those exhibitors that believed it was ‘better attended’ actually told me that that was because they had such low expectations going in.
With this in mind, it’s easy to infer that the attendance was certainly lower than expectations, with no official number of visitors reported as of yet.
The Importance of Exhibitions Post-COVID
One burning question we’ve been asking throughout the pandemic and especially now, is whether exhibitions can stand the test of time. After almost 2 years without in-person events, the construction industry has managed to survive, so is there a future for them?
The overall findings from the exhibitors that we spoke to were obvious in two key areas. Firstly, the importance of in-person exhibitions hasn’t changed, with almost 70% of exhibitors stating that their perceptions hadn’t changed following the pandemic.
“You can’t beat being face to face with your customers,” one exhibitor told me, despite admitting the attendance wasn’t as good as they would have expected.
Secondly, when it came to their importance, the exhibitors were somewhat split. A share of 47.5% (yes) and 52.5% (no) were the results of the question ‘Are Exhibitions An Essential Part of Your Marketing Activities?’.
I don’t think it’s too much to suggest that the results would have been drastically different pre-COVID, with a larger percentage of the exhibitors seeing more value in these in-person events without truly understanding the benefits of an entirely digital approach.
Despite these findings, exhibitions are still in the plans of most exhibitors we spoke to, with over 70% hoping to get out of the office once again and in front of their customers some time in the next 12-months.
With that in mind, it’s important to place another asterisk alongside the previous point.
While exhibitions are still part of the grand plan, many exhibitors suggested that it would be a case of quality over quantity and that the remaining months of the year would be spent researching the best exhibitions for them, rather than having a scattergun approach of attending everything.
The Future of Construction Marketing
The above is a fascinating insight into exhibitions and how the construction industry views them in a post-COVID world.
But what about the future, if there are some changes in approach, what are they and how does the construction industry approach these?
Where there are still those that deem traditional marketing such as exhibitions the most important form of marketing, almost 75% of exhibitors see digital as the most important form.
Bridging that gap between the overall intention to attend exhibitions but the knowledge of digital marketing and its importance seems to be what most construction product businesses will be doing over the next 12-months.
This report can be seen as something over a top-level summary of our findings from the first post-COVID UK Construction Week, with our full findings available to download and use for all purposes.
The most striking thing is perhaps the attendance and how exhibitors were mostly underwhelmed by it, despite most still suggesting they had made some fantastic leads.
Construction is an industry that is perhaps perceived as being ‘behind the curve when it comes to marketing and the like, but it appears this is changing, albeit slowly.
The knowledge of digital marketing and its importance is certainly one thing, but the general trend is this thinking, paired with a traditional approach of attending exhibitions.
At Insynth we deliver a predictable flow of leads, customers, and specifications for building product brands through our inbound marketing approach, proven to reach a technically demanding audience.
We use the latest marketing techniques such as construction inbound marketing, to equip building product companies to grow sustainability in this era of digital transformation.
As the only HubSpot certified agency to major in construction marketing. We have a proven formula of bringing a variety of functionalities together including CRM Implementation, Web Design, Sales Automation, SEO, and Email Marketing to achieve your ultimate aim: Growing your business and gaining new specifiers and customers.