Trade Show
Trade Show: Photo Courtesy: Sungsil Hwang

The trade show (or exhibition depending on where you are based) has been a staple in the calendar for most B2B businesses for decades. In a time before we were all connected via the internet, trade shows were key dates scattered throughout the year where suppliers and buyers would come together to meet, discuss and do business. However, now that we can buy, sell and even just chat online, it begs the question of what value do trade shows still provide for business professionals?

As entrance fees have bloated over the past 20 years, this has made achieving a return on that original investment considerably harder. Yet, despite all the barriers to entering the trade show industry, there is still incredible value to be found despite the increasingly digital world we now live in. Where they can excel is in areas where online marketing and e-commerce is weak – in human interaction and building long-lasting relationships.

What Are the Benefits of Trade Shows and Exhibitions?

For small businesses and start-ups, in particular, the first question when it comes to trade shows is; ‘are they worth the time and effort?’. It’s true that larger exhibitions have become infamous for charging tens of thousands for a nine-square meter plot of floor space. However, just because the entry fee is high enough and there is the prospect of hundreds of thousands of potential buyers on your doorstep – this does not necessarily mean this is the right event for you.

As many experienced trade show attendees have discovered, the real value in trade shows can now be found at smaller and more targeted events. In recent years, a lot of experienced vendors have moved away from the major shows, which has led to a diverse range of trade shows which are focused on different sectors. While this may mean fewer attendees at each event, it guarantees that there is a larger percentage who will hold an interest in your industry and your products.

Another question that only you will be able to answer is, ‘are trade shows still relevant for my industry?’ As shopping trends have shifted drastically in recent years, it’s important to do your research beforehand to establish whether relevant buyers are still attending the trade shows you are aiming for. As an example, fashion trade shows have revolutionized considerably in recent years as some are now accommodating virtual trade shows to meet a changing audience.

How Can Trade Shows Benefit Me?

Whether you are heading to a trade show as a vendor or an attendee, there is more value available than just what you buy and/or sell. The major benefit as has always been the case with trade shows is to assess how the industry is doing and gain an insight into the strategy of your competitors. This kind of information can be invaluable for the year ahead and allow you to plan for the future.

For vendors, the true value at trade shows regularly comes from launching new products and innovations. As these kinds of events attract fellow professionals and journalists alike, they provide a natural platform to make announcements and unveilings. Without a trade show, this can potentially cost thousands on its own. Therefore, when attending an exhibition, there is the opportunity to integrate various parts of your marketing strategy into one event.

But the overarching benefit which is impossible to quantify is the benefit of building relationships face-to-face. While online we can buy and sell, quickly and conveniently, there is only a slim prospect of building long term partnerships. For B2B brands, this is vital when larger orders are on the line and you are looking to carve out the best deal possible. Even for B2C brands, it can be very valuable as many online stores are now finding out when trying to create a level of trust online. People are naturally skeptical, even more so when they’re committing to spending a lot of money, so meeting face-to-face can be vital when securing deals.

How Can I Guarantee Value When Attending Trade Shows and Exhibitions?

Making the most of a trade show and gaining real value from each should begin months in advance. This is especially the case if you choose to exhibit your brand. As you are probably aware, the cost of exhibiting can soar without careful planning. This means researching the event you are looking to attend – for example, pick a few for the year which are highly specialized and have a specific interest in your industry. This logic also applies to attendees to guarantee your time is not wasted in attending a trade show focused on a different sector than your own.

Smaller trade shows are just as valuable as larger exhibitions, especially if the audience is relevant to what you are trying to sell. With this set in stone, you can consider the next largest expense – the exhibition stand. From here you can choose between large modular exhibition stands or more conventional pop-up stands. Both will do the job of promoting your brand, but be wary of custom-built displays which can be extremely expensive and are tough to reuse in the future.

Preparing for trade shows is the key way of ensuring your precious time and money is well spent. Once you have a relevant event arranged (and accompanying stand if appropriate), it is then that the trade show comes into its own. You are able to have face-to-face interactions with new or existing clients and build partnerships from the start or from where they left off. Even if you only have a few minutes to talk, this provides the ideal opportunity to build trust and hopefully with that, you can secure the deals which ensure a return on your investment.

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