Now that the winter trade show season is underway, it’s a great time to consider how we evaluate the various industry trade shows we participate in. Too often, we fall back on the traditional methods of simply counting the number of leads generated, or simply we subjectively assess how we “felt” about the show in terms of lead quality or show traffic while we were there.
While these are certainly important, we’d like to offer a five other areas for consideration when evaluating the return on participating in a particular show:
1. Overall Industry Health
While at any trade show, you will have many first-hand opportunities to assess and get a feel for the overall health of your particular industry. This type of general sense of well-being can’t be obtained through reading industry published facts and figures. Speaking informally to industry executives – both other exhibitors and attendees - is a great way to understand who is doing well, what sectors of your industry are non-performing, and the general direction that our industry is headed.
2. Industry Connections
Trade shows also offer a unique and unmatched opportunity to meet other industry executives – from competitor companies and potential customers - that you will never meet as you go through your normal everyday routine of conducting your business. Think about how many of your current relationships began as a simply meeting in the aisle at a trade show – or at a hotel watering hole - years ago. We're firm believers in the idea that when like-minded people get together, great things can happen. Attending and exhibiting at a trade show is a great place to meet like-minded people.
3. Unique Strategic Partnerships
If you are an exhibitor, there can be no better way to showcase how your company might be the perfect partner for another exhibitor. At the just completed IHMRS Show, I know of at least two exhibitors that began discussions with another exhibitor that will likely conclude in new and exciting distribution opportunities with another exhibitor company.
In addition, several other exhibiting companies who were sponsoring speaker sessions are now in discussions with those speakers (who they did not know before the show) on how they might work together going forward to each other’s benefit. These opportunities only came about because they attended and exhibited ….and, then, became involved in what was happening at the show.
At the same show, we personally met several industry consulting experts who are responsible for specifying tabletop products within the hospitality industry. Upon learning that they had clients who had needs in certain tabletop categories, we were able to bring them together in a “top to top” situation with exhibitors who could clearly meet those needs. This saved the consultants substantial amounts of time and gave the exhibitors introductions that might have taken years to happen. These types of introduction opportunities can only happen at a trade show. Because they were exhibiting, the supplier companies were able to truly show how their products could be of benefit to the consultants’ client needs.
5. Content Development
We know of a number of exhibitors who utilize their exhibiting at trade shows to develop specific brand content. Using both photo and video content, these companies create rich content that will be used on the company website, through their various social media platforms, and through their collateral materials….all giving value that will last long after the trade show has ended.
So…as former exhibitors to many industry trade shows, we clearly understand that the number of and the quality of leads that get generated is one of the important criteria that we should consider. However, there are also many other benefits – both tangible and intangible - that can be gained by exhibiting and attending trade shows.
But, like most things in life, opportunity presents itself most often to those who are looking for it….with their eyes and their minds wide open.
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