I am sat writing this bored at a trade show. It feels like we are playing to an empty audience. We smile inanely at complete strangers passing by hoping they have the budget and interest in what we are selling. We have come to this particular trade show at huge expense which includes the space, the setup of the stand, logistics, travel, the hotels, and of course the pre-show marketing activation to entice the people to come and say hello. The quality of people and conversations are generally not so good – after a 2-day fair I have about 10 leads, 2 of which may come to something. Is it just us? No, as I look around I see other exhibitors showing the same symptoms. It is not as well attended as previous years. As I stand here with my sore feet from the standing, I know there is a better way.
The golden days of exhibitions seem in the past. They used to be a place where buyers and influencers would regularly come to understand new innovations, meet new vendors and obtain a feel of the general direction of a specific market. It is also a place to network. But it feels more and more that you are just hoping that your Chief Prince Officer or your Snow White with her dedicated workforce, or some equally magic buyer may just come to your stand, get super excited and make the whole tedious affair worthwhile with one magical enchanting prospect. And make you forget that your feet are screaming at you to wear slippers. Talking of slippers, or rather glass ones, Cinderalla scrubbing up for the ugly sisters has to be more rewarding than this.
An exhibition is a lead development tool purely and simply. It is a place for companies to show case their technology, either existing, new or futures. There is an argument that if you don’t show your face, then customers think you are no longer in the game. I don’t believe this at all.
An exhibition must have a return on investment (ROI) – normally measured by how many leads are turned to sales as a direct result of the exhibition. There are of course intangible benefits such as brand recognition, but this is hard to measure. But for a good ROI, the exhibition organisers often don’t do themselves any favours. What really gets my goat is the blatant rip-off of added extras – wired LAN (typically from 3000 -5000 euro) or the price for extra power points, or the price to hang a banner over your stand, again in the 1000’s of euro’s – blatant extortion as you have no choice of who you can use.
I work mainly in the broadcast space and personally I like to do a couple of shows a year and even then, I must justify the cost every year when making the decision to exhibit. As some examples, IBC in Amsterdam is so well attended, it is a great convention for meeting people and catching up with old contacts. It is big but broadcast specific and ideal for my industry. It is so good that I lose my voice by the end of the show. My only dislike is the rip off charges that I mention above for the extras. I also like the Media Production Show in London – the prices are very reasonable, and it is moderately well attended by my potential UK customers. NAB in Las Vegas feels like it is becoming less relevant to the European market every year.
Some companies swear by exhibitions – but is there an alternative?
Given that people used to attend exhibitions to find and understand the next big thing, or to find a specific answer to a problem, I think it is pretty obvious where your potential customers primarily first go to in this day and age. Mainly Google. Of course, people ask fellow industry veterans, and may read trade magazines, but they still go to Google first.
So how does Google find you and your company?
You may think you have it all covered with your digital marketing strategy – pay per click, Google AdWords, social media, regular email newsletters, website, SEO and the occasional blog. So how is that going for you? Do you genuinely believe an exhibition is bearing more fruit?
From experience, digital marketing to begin with was not the holy grail we thought. Until we realised it was about the content. Our success was driven by having effective content that was continually being generated. And let me repeat effective content – it must be interesting and relevant. Relevant being something Google likes and well written in a manner that is biased towards your key search terms for your business.
A decision to cut back on exhibitions in favour of online marketing has already proved a better ROI for lead generation.
Rain Dance is a digital marketing company with a broadcast and technology background that has been helping broadcast companies with their online content – blogs, case studies, PR, landing pages, data sheets as well as other less intensive content that may be required such as social media posts or simply writing 100-word company profiles. And it is much lower cost investment than you think. For the price of a wired LAN at your next exhibition, you can afford instead 10 blog pieces and a pair of slippers for each of your staff that are suffering foot fatigue on the stand. Trust me the ROI on happy employees will be worth it, as well as achieving some new customers to boot!