The benefits of any large tradeshow can be difficult to assess. By their very nature, these shows are expensive, chaotic and, for exhibitors like us, the actual new business we walk away with can be tough to quantify. Especially during economic downturns, many attendees and exhibitors question their value.
But I remain a firm believer in tradeshow ROI. In fact, we’re in the midst of a somewhat Herculean effort to participate in the ASIS International show in Chicago (#ASIS13) later this month, and I anticipate a healthy ROI from the show, which is one of the largest physical security events in North America.
There are a few reasons I’ll share here for why I continue to see value in tradeshows – both for us as exhibitors and for the thousands of professionals who carve out time from their busy schedules to attend. I encourage you to share your thoughts too. I’d like to hear your opinion.
My top five for why tradeshows still matter:
1. It’s brief, it’s busy, it’s business
It’s just two to three days of often frantic activity, but it really is a great way to connect with multiple partners and customers in a short span of time. Especially with good planning that has to start months ahead of the show, you can have very successful face-to-face meetings that generate new leads and ideas that can pay off in many ways. It’s also a great way to bring your senior leadership into these meetings with a minimal amount of time required from your executives, customers and partners. For attendees, it’s a similarly efficient way to meet with many existing provider and partners to discuss roadmaps, current issues and future plans.
2. Seeing is believing
As anyone in marketing will confirm, there are a lot of flashy ways to tell customers how spectacular a product is. But talking falls short of showing. The tradeshow environment is the ideal way to demonstrate the features, functions and benefits of your wares. Our GURU smartphone app is a good example. At a recent tradeshow, we encouraged visitors to our booth to download the free app and use it to scan the QR codes on our 8000 Series recorders – all within a few minutes. Seeing what the app was all about and the time it can save really drove home the value of it for partners working in the field.
3. Narrowing the field
Especially with cuts to travel budgets, the tradeshow offers an economical way to get lots of decision-makers into one location at the same time. The beauty of this is that you can have face-time with organizations who are considering a surveillance upgrade. You can listen to them as they discuss their unique challenges. And you have a chance to explain – and show – how your solutions can help.
With all the advancements in communications, there’s still no substitute for a frank discussion and the opportunity to demo a feature, have easy access to sales engineers and product managers, and really dig into a potential customer’s requirements. For those at the beginning of an evaluation process, a tradeshow is a veritable goldmine of products to explore, evaluate and short-list for further consideration.
4. Maximizing productivity
We don’t just meet with customers, partners and attendees when we travel to tradeshows. We’re a global company, so a big tradeshow is a chance to connect with colleagues from around the world. Our North American salespeople and sales engineers are based in the regions they serve and are frequently on the road. Others are international. For example, colleagues from Europe, Latin America and Asia will join us at ASIS 2013 for customer meetings, as well as internal business meetings before and following the event.
5. See and be seen
While tradeshows are a good way to promote your brand and wow your prospects with cool new products, the flip side is that you can also see what competitors are doing. And you may identify some potential technology partners too. Tradeshows are a microcosm of the global industry, all densely packed into a few thousand square feet.
Set Clear Goals
In the end, the success of a tradeshow for you or your company comes down to being clear about your objectives. There are thousands of different events and tradeshows held each year, appealing to different industries, vertical markets and technologies. They all have their place – the challenge is understanding clearly which shows will connect you with the right people and offer the level of dialogue you need to achieve your goals.
Attending a tradeshow simply to be seen is just not worth it. If the only thing motivating you to participate – especially as an exhibitor – is a fear of being conspicuous by your absence, then you clearly don’t have much to say and won’t have much to show for your time and effort.
That’s my take on tradeshows. If you have any comments or personal experiences with tradeshows, please share in our comment box.