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Are Trade Shows Dead?


The Lumbermen's Equipment Digest team has exhibited at many different industry shows in all parts of the country.  We know, we have all witnessed the decline in attendance at forest industry trade shows and heard business managers declare that, “trade shows are dead”. This reduction in attendance is in large part due to the huge amount information now available via print publications and the internet. Do the declining numbers REALLY mean trade shows should no longer be a significant part of your overall sales and PR budget? The answer is a resounding YES they should be. Here are my Top Ten thoughts on why your company SHOULD ATTEND trade shows with attendee demographics that match your market.

  1. Sell to well qualified attendees. Those who have made the investment of their time to attend a trade show have to a large degree prequalified themselves as interested in learning what is new in the industry, may be completing the pre-purchase analysis and research or may be just beginning it. Whatever the case, the fact that they have traveled to the event indicates an elevated level of interest and commitment.
  2. Interact with other exhibitors. The personal face to face contact with other exhibitors can provide your company a venue to form stronger relationships and strategic partnerships. In addition, many new dealers, sales representatives, distributors and potential new employees are identified at trade shows.
  3. Produce sales leads for sales staff. When you boil it down, selling is, or should be, the number one reason you attend trade shows. The personal contact with potential buyers should, if leads are tracked and follow up managed correctly, produce leads for your sales staff to follow up with for weeks, months or years after the event.
  4. Networking with others in your area of expertise. Networking comes in many forms and is all too often one of the least recognized and leveraged benefits of exhibiting at trade shows. If educational seminars are offered make sure to take advantage of all that apply to your specialty or equipment. Offer the show management your services as a speaker. This will set you and your product ahead of the competition by giving you the opportunity to address many potential buyers directly, capture their contact information for future follow up and assume the mantle of “expert”.
  5. Find new industry trends and opportunities. By listening to those qualified attendees, you’ll learn what equipment and services the market is seeking now and in the future. It will be much easier to attain this knowledge in a one-on-one, no sales pressure conversation at the neutral trade show location than on a sales call or via phone or email.
  6. Check out the competition. Your competitors will have their latest products on display, product information available to the public and even expose their marketing strategies. Don’t underestimate the value of this information or the fact that they are watching you too!
  7. Improve your future trade show effectiveness. Simply attending trade shows and following the worn and tired methods of the past is perhaps the single biggest drain of advertising budgets. PR and sales managers all too often continue doing the same old thing show after show, year after year and conclude that ‘trade shows don’t work’. Those companies who invest their time wisely and spend some of it walking the aisles to review display trends, eye catching graphics, the latest video displays and learn how to more efficiently draw in potential buyers from among the attendees walking the halls will be positioned to fully capitalize on future trade shows.
  8. Meet with existing customers. Trade shows allow your company the opportunity to visit with existing customers much more efficiently than you could on the road or over the phone. In addition, make sure that you invite as many of your customers in the region as possible to further maximize your trade shows effectiveness.
  9. Introduce new products and services to the market. Proven and time honored place to unveil new items is at trade shows. Proper preplanning and promotion can help you ‘steal the show’ by creating a buzz loud enough to drown out your competitor’s messaging and move your new product to the forefront of all the potential buyers in attendance.
  10. Expose your staff to the market. The sad fact is many employees don’t have a clear idea of the industry your company may serve or your place in it. If they come from a non-forest industry background attending a trade show could be just the thing to open up those staff members whose job doesn’t allow them to see firsthand the real impact your product or service plays in the industry. It won’t take very many customers walking past and saying, “love your product” to build their confidence in your company and products. In addition, it shows them your commitment to them and they may also come away with new ideas and improved outlook that will serve your company for many years to come.

So are trade shows dead? No, but you should let your competitors believe they are.