Are Trade Shows Dying?

The answer is YES! I would advise you to go to the next tradeshow, so you can tell the next generation that you were one of the last to see one.

Recent data indicates that tradeshows have been on the decline for a number of years. Reasons for this vary but two are the economy and the newly emerging alternatives to tradeshows.

Now the downturn in the economy made corporations look at expense items and increase their cost cutting activities. Tradeshows were one of the areas that got hit very hard.   It is a very expensive activity when one considers the cost of the floor space, construction of the booth, staffing ( lodging and travel), entertainment, pre and post advertising, lead generation programs, professional hawkers, video production, specialized collateral, give a ways, etc., etc.  And let’s not forgot the potential attendees. They too work for corporations, and their management is doing the same cost cutting activities…getting approval to go to tradeshows is becoming very difficult.

Second, tradeshows in most cases (there are always the exceptions where certain industries, tradeshows are doing fairly well) have become alumni reunions or a chance to pass your resume on to your competitor.   At one recent tradeshow that I attended, I would conservatively estimate that the ratio of potential buyers to vendors was one to twenty! 

The economy probably put focus on the cost versus returns on investment metric for tradeshows, but I think the real negative impact on tradeshows is coming from the increasing alternatives now available.

Some of the byproducts of the Internet relative to tradeshows are seminars, webinars, podcasts, virtual tradeshows, web sites, blogging, user’s groups and live video demonstrations.

The first step for many corporations was to not withdraw from being at a tradeshow, but to cut back on the size and the amount spent, augmenting the shows with some of the above mentioned activities.

This way, there was presence at the show so no one would think they were going out of business and by physically participating some lead generation could be realized and/or a product/service introduction  could be made if it was appropriate.

As the stigma of not attending a tradeshow has decreased, corporations are shifting more to events like seminars, virtual tradeshows and other alternatives. 

So as I have always stated, there are choices and now, more than ever, there are numerous alternatives to tradeshows.

Here are some suggestions on selecting where you might spend your marketing dollars when it comes to tradeshows.

1-      Look at the tradeshows past attendance record, mix, and profile to see how closely it matches your customer profile.

2-      Which one of your competitors, partners or major clients are attending the shows you are considering?

3-      Are you planning on having a major announcement (product, service, technology or partnership) that would generate increased awareness or people to come to your booth?

4-      Will the blend of items like webinars and targeted email campaign deliver a better return on investment (leads/dollars spent) then one tradeshow?

5-      If a tradeshow does make sense, maybe consider “partial” involvement (fewer days, or smaller booth, etc.) and augment the show with a pre or post email campaign.

6-      Consider outsourcing the tradeshow activity to reduce some of the cost and time involvement.

7-      Consider attending the tradeshow as a speaker, with an “off-floor” presence to meet current and potential customers and partners.

8-      Do a complete ROI and potential sales impact on whatever marketing mix scenario you are considering.

See you at the next virtual trade show!

RHL 9/1/10

2 comments to Are Trade Shows Dying?

  • Going to have to disagree with you there I think trade show are alive and well, maybe not as popular as they once were but I don’t think they will ever go away, as long as humans are social creatures.

  • Chris
    As I stated, in certain industries, trade show are doing fairly well considering the current environment. Overall the numbers are supporting the fact that there is a decline in overall attendance. As for humans being a social creature; I think there are far more things then the decline of trade shows that unfortunately impacting our social interaction. Just look at facebook and how it is impacting social interaction.

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