In a Digital Era, Trade Show Interactions Still Matter

In today’s digital-first ecosystem, it’s easy for businesses and their clients to build high-value connections without ever meeting face-to-face, yet many industries continue to present at trade shows. What motivates these efforts?

In a Digital Era, Trade Shows Still Matter

In today’s digital-first ecosystem, it’s easy for businesses and their clients to build high-value connections without ever meeting face-to-face, yet many industries continue to present at trade shows. What motivates these efforts?

Unlike online marketing and networking, trade shows offer opportunities for businesses to perform recon on their competitors, track industry trends, and build supplier and distributor relationships. From a competitive perspective, then, trade shows are a must-attend event — but that doesn’t mean technology hasn’t changed how these shows operate.

Pre-Show Assessments

Trade shows last a few days, but anyone who’s spent time on the circuit knows that the majority of the work takes place before you arrive.

Businesses need to build pre-show media connections to boost publicity, perform research to determine the best shows to attend, and plan their presentation, from giveaways to booth display. Luckily, technology is helping businesses reduce the costs associated with participating in trade shows, particularly through the use of AI to select shows.

One option is using the program SummitSync. Companies can map past conference and trade show participation against internal CRM data to determine whether attending a given event will be beneficial to them. This allows the company to estimate their ROI on a given conference and only attend those that are the best use of their time and resources.

The B2B Advantage for Trade Shows

Unlike many digital marketing efforts, attendance at trade shows isn’t typically focused on building connections with individual customers. Instead, trade shows lean heavily on the B2B angle, connecting companies with each other and, in the case of manufacturers, providing opportunities for one-on-one interactions with distributors.

Since it’s much harder to target distributors via online marketing campaigns, trade shows are a powerful setting for promotion, negotiation, and product demonstration. Shows also offer companies a chance to solidify previously digital relationships and consolidate brand loyalty.

Certain industries place a special emphasis on trade shows and consider them an essential element in their marketing practices. The specialty foods market, for example, which is projected to control 20% of market share in the next few years, has always relied heavily on trade shows as part of their distribution and sales model.

Using aggressive educational campaigns and an appeal to health, fresh food, and interest in local eating, specialty food brands have long used trade shows to get their products on shelves around the country. Other niche brands can learn a lot from food companies’ practices.

Industries in Transition

Ultimately, trade shows provide valuable insight into changing market trends, and this is the greatest motivation for companies to attend.

At this year’s L.A. Textile Show, brands demonstrated how they’re embracing sustainable fashion, integrating technology and textiles, and centering activism in their work. Though the show isn’t one of the largest yet, the producers are focused on becoming a must-attend show for the industry. That means promoting the show online, demonstrating the quality of past events, and encouraging attendees to act as boosters, advertising their planned attendance at the 2019 event.

Business relationships today take place largely online, but it’s time to rethink this kind of digitization. Though online networking can form the foundation for professional connections, email will never replace a handshake and one-on-one demo. That’s where the trade show comes in: to roll data and direct connection into one powerful event.

Author: Larry Alton

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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