For centuries trade shows have been successfully used in commerce thanks to their simple formula of many sellers showcasing their wares to many interested buyers at a single place at a single time. Today’s trade shows are highly specialized communications and marketing events where new technologies enable buyers to optimize the use of their time and allow sellers to target their most likely buyers.
In today’s high-tech information environment a potential customer does not need to attend a trade show to find a company, product or service.
So why do trade shows annually attract millions of visitors worldwide?
Because at trade shows buyers experience something they just can’t do online, like getting an overview of the current status of an entire industry and learning first-hand about companies and products. They can interact face-to-face with other industry professionals, engage in relation building information exchange, participate in live demos, share their needs with exhibitors and get instant answers to detailed questions.
Major international trade shows have massive followings and attract a highly targeted market. Only a few days long, trade shows are extremely cost effective for exhibitors, who can put their products in front of multiple buyers at a single place, reducing the cost per sale compared to approaching buyers one by one.
For buyers trade shows provide opportunities to spot trends through a broad overview of new brands, new products, and new solutions, and save time by enabling on the spot comparisons and quick purchasing decisions between many products.
Trade show exposure effectively advertises and communicates exhibitors’ messages to target audiences, creates lasting impressions with buyers and opens opportunities for added media coverage, including social media. Trade shows gather groups within a specific industry, and exhibitors have guaranteed access to target audiences as everyone coming to their booth has a potential interest in their products or services.
Properly prepared trade show participation builds and strengthens brand awareness and opens channels for new sales leads, growing the exhibitors’ customer base, and creates and builds relationships through face-to-face interaction with motivated buyers that often result in direct sales opportunities. And since exhibitors can market and sell in the same place, the span between first contact and purchase is short, which means less time spent on cultivating leads.
Trade shows level the playing field as, from small businesses to multinational corporations, everyone has access to the same attendees. Exhibitors can differentiate themselves through a well-designed booth, but proper preparation leading up to the show is the most important factor for trade show success, regardless of exhibitor or booth size, and successful exhibitors use pre-show communications through advertising, press releases, direct mail and social media to attract targeted customers to their booth.
Trade shows are not only efficient communications and sales channels. They also influence exhibitors’ and attendees’ brand strategy, advertising, sales promotion, public relations, sponsorships, use of social media, distribution, sales organization, as well as product pricing, quality, design and range strategies and policies.
Björn Bieneck is President & CEO of B-FOR International and B-FOR Creative and has over 40 years of international trade show experience. Since 1981, B-FOR International has organized and managed events and exhibits on all continents (except Antarctica) in a variety of industries, from travel and food, biotechnology and pet products to aerospace and consumer electronics.