Marketers have a tendency to claim that rival fields are dying, and this has certainly been the case when writing about event marketing in recent years. With the rapid growth of digital marketing over the last decade, there has been a continuing trend of businesses shifting their budgets towards online ventures. Therefore, as the focus shifts away from exhibitions and trade shows, putting two and two together would suggest that they are dying. However, while it is true that resources have been focused elsewhere, this has led event marketers, businesses and trade shows themselves, to optimize how they market.
For small businesses and entrepreneurs, the initial entrance fee can be off-putting. This is particularly relevant as social media is constantly framed as ‘completely free and incredibly effective’ which is often not the case. Furthermore, what makes exhibitions and trade shows so relevant even now, is the access they provide. While a social media post can garner thousands of impressions from people halfway across the globe, a trade show can and will provide face-to-face access with leading names in the relevant industry.
Preparation Pays Off
One of the fundamental errors often made by first-time attendees is neglecting the attention to detail required when even beginning to search for an event. There are tens of thousands of trade shows out there, all for a different niche, so it is important to be 100% sure it is the event for you before parting with your cash. What does that entail then? First, consider which audience the event is targeted towards. This will give you an idea of who the other exhibitors will be and a grasp on who else is likely to attend.
When major trade show exhibitors began cutting their budgets with the advent of online marketing, it was often by reducing the number of trade shows they were attending. You will often find many similar trade shows out there, but some are obviously going to attract a larger portion of your target audience than others. If there are trade shows out there which are attended regularly by people you are aiming towards, then the return on investment is proven to be higher than scatter-gun online campaigns.
Being Unique Gets You Noticed
Now, when we start out, we all like to believe that we are completely unique and special. Even if your product is revolutionary, it is easy to get lost in the myriad of businesses and website domains which are registered every day. Gaining exposure online is certainly possible, however, in most cases, it takes time and patience. While trade shows may not be a relevant long-term strategy, they can provide that initial kick-start required to get the ball rolling.
In fact, one of the ways in which event marketing has adapted is to integrate digital techniques. Social media for instance is a valuable tool for boosting a trade show attendance which as a result can return the favor by enhancing a social media following. There is great value to be found when marketing face-to-face, mainly as conversations break down those initial barriers which tweets and online messages cannot.
Keeping a Lid on Hidden Costs
As always with anything concerning business, what really matters is the bottom line. Often, what puts off many SMEs when considering trade shows is a high entry level to success. When done incorrectly, a business can invest four figure sums, only to leave with a load of contact details and very little else. What many of these tend to neglect is that trade shows do not require a heavy investment in fancy display equipment. The factor which really matters is you and the service you provide.
People do business with people, not elaborate marketing schemes designed to trap you in a sales pitch. A simple exhibition stand will do the job, if only to highlight your brand and provide a few pictures. This solution cuts down on logistical costs and can manned by a few team members. Then it is down to you and a couple of trusted side-kicks to show what makes you unique and explain why potential customers or even investors should take a chance on you.
With digital marketing campaigns, a connection like this in most cases will cost more than a trade show entry fee. While online you can market to a broad audience, at trade shows you gain direct access to the people who you are looking to work with. This is why trade shows are still such a useful tactic for SMEs, especially when used in tandem with digital marketing.