Trade shows seem kind of antiquated, but if you haven’t considered them as a legitimate resource for growing your business, then you’ll be surprised how helpful they can be to give you ideas and make useful contacts, to start with.
That’s what we’re going to go over in this post; we hope to change your mind. For your consideration, check out the following reasons that you should include trade shows in your growth strategy.
Does Anybody Still Go to Trade Shows?
We don’t hear about them nearly as much these days, but trade shows and expos are still very much alive and well. No matter what industry you’re working in, you can find a trade show for just about anything under the sun. It’s quite amazing how prevalent they are, but these shows are still widely produced even today.
In the 2018 CEIR Index Report published recently by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), it shows definitively that, “The growth of the business-to-business (B2B) exhibition industry accelerated along with the macro economy in 2017,” going on to state that, “overall exhibition industry performance increased by a moderate 2.0%, one percentage point higher than in 2016.”
The remainder of the report shows that not only is trade show attendance increasing, but it has been doing so steadily for many years. Company exhibitions, or trade shows, are not heavily advertised, but companies are increasingly finding that these shows are extremely valuable to their concurrent marketing strategies. So, in summation, does anybody still go to trade shows? Yes, more than ever.
Networking in Person is Not a Lost Art
Didn’t in-person networking kind of go out with the 90s, you may ask? As we’ve suggested, it’s fairly evident that it did not. Many business owners like to interface with other owners and companies, vendors, and manufacturers physically, to forge a more solid connection with them, and this is not unusual at all.
We participate in business networking in a variety of ways. We network through trade shows (exhibitions), exploratory or “discovery” meetings either in groups or one-on-one, open houses, promotional dinners, product expositions, as well as other ways.
Physical meetings can be far more productive than just communicating through email or through online messaging platforms. Business owners frequently say that they feel they get a lot more out of a trade show than other remote communication channels, which makes a lot of sense because, psychologically, we retain more from in-person meetings and generally get more value out of them.
Andrea E. Sullivan, M.A., in her white paper, “Mindful Event Design”, for The Psychology of Physical Meeting Environments, explains, “Since a primary purpose of conventions is engaging with customers and networking with colleagues, this one small point is a very big key to success for all involved … There is a sense of belonging and strengthening of community spirit. We are happy to approach and available to be engaged [in such an environment].”
There are many ways you can make contact with companies, manufacturers, etc., but you should definitely try to meet in-person with colleagues whenever possible.
See Real Demonstrations at Exhibitions
The best you can do with new products, ideas, and innovations, online, is by looking at written descriptions and videos. The resources you can find online to discover products to explore and companies to partner with are endless; however, it can be tough, using the medium of the Internet, to get the full picture and connect with people in a meaningful way.
When you go to a trade show in the real world, you can much more easily get a full experience, up-close, of product demonstrations and decide whether it’s a company you would like to be in business with.
You can quickly see how something works and its value to your organization as someone walks you through it. Furthermore, experiencing new products in person gives you an idea of how your customers will respond to it. You can do this by gauging your own response to it, personally. That would be much more difficult to do when you’re experiencing it remotely, without actually being there, right in front of the product and its creator.
If you’re thinking, “There’s no need for me to be there in person,” then consider this: Many developers and companies only reveal their newest products at an exhibition, first, to give them a test run and measure the response of the public visitors, before they release them officially.
Those companies know that there’s a far lower risk of losing money on new innovations with a smaller audience, which they use for testing before investing a lot more in its full release.
Find Something You Weren’t Even Looking For
When searching online, you have to know what you’re searching for. A search engine will generate results that give you ideas, to be sure, but that search engine is still a machine and is unable to reliably give you what you need to inspire new avenues you can take with your business. You still have to know what you’re looking for.
When you go to a trade show, you’re confronted immediately with a lot, all at once. All kinds of companies and developers will be in attendance specifically so that they can promote what they have to offer, and you don’t even know what will be presented until you get there.
The great benefit of this venue and environment is that you don’t have to figure out what you should be searching for because it’s being delivered right to you by people who enthusiastically want to be in business with a company like yours.
What you discover at a trade show will be related to your business in some way, but it may be something that you have never even thought of. And it could be a product or idea that changes your business.
Going to Trade Shows Keeps You in Touch with Your Industry
Yes, you can of course look up all kinds of information about your industry online, but how much attention do you really give to it? How much time do you actually devote to research? Most likely, you look at a couple of articles briefly in the morning before your day starts, barely focusing on what you’re reading.
Going to an exhibition in-person requires no work on your part, other than walking around the convention center, to source information about what is the latest technology and innovations in your industry. All you have to do is show up there, and the companies who are more than happy to promote what they have will deliver it to you, directly.
One of the greatest things about these exhibitions is that you can find out about the latest products that coming out all at once and decide what you which ones you want to pursue. It’s a time-effective way to plan your business growth strategy for the immediate future, and beyond.
It’s an Inspiring Experience
After you’ve been running a business for a while, it can start to become laborious and more than a little draining. Make no mistake, you have to do something to remedy that, or you will be well on your well to a complete burnout, which is not easy to recover from. Going to a gathering of professionals in your industry with mutual interests can be a powerful and invigorating experience to engage you again with your business.
If you find yourself in a position of extreme stress and exasperation with your work, especially if you have a home business and are working remotely, then do yourself a favor and start with going to meet with other entrepreneurs working in your industry because it will strengthen you to begin growing your business again.
Over time as a business owner, it’s easy to feel like an island. Trade shows are the perfect way to remind yourself that you’re not the only one working out there by yourself. When you see the passion of others and their new ideas, it will instill a renewed fervor in you and give you inspiration to put more effort into your business.
You may be already regularly attending exhibitions and wondering why this topic even merits a blog post, but there are many small businesses who don’t believe there’s any value in it, or that it’s a thing of the past.
Business deals are sealed and progress is made through meeting with other companies in person every day. You can definitely make a lot of progress through online networking, but going to trade shows is a massively productive way to grow any kind of business.
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.