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Trade shows: are they for industry?

28 March 2017

Garry Lewis, Marketing & Communications Manager, Mitsubishi Electric continues his series by discussing the relevance of trade shows in our increasing digital industry.

Garry Lewis, Marketing & Communications Manager, Mitsubishi Electric

One of the more difficult questions to answer so far in this series, due to the many factors that can influence the decision to exhibit at a trade show.  

Trade shows can be seen as something of an ‘antique,’ from a nostalgic period of time - often perceived as an expensive method of communication - a bit of a jolly away from the office or a costly exercise for your sales team to be off the road. 

After all, in today’s world, the Internet is the first port of call for sourcing information 24/7 and online bloggers/influencers are gaining increasing influence over people’s decision making process. With more methods of communication available to us than ever before, why do we still need trade shows at all? 

So let’s take a look at what trade shows really look to achieve for exhibiting companies, rather than get carried away with the finite details of what is involved in either exhibiting or visiting a trade show and then see if they still have a place in the modern world.  

The first two questions to ask, whether you are business owner or marketing manager: 

1. Is the trade show in question relevant to my business? 
2. Will it attract my target customer base? 

If you answered yes to these questions, you then need to ask, what would your business want to achieve by exhibiting? And for each company, the answer will be different. For example, it could be to:
1. To increase sales
2. Gain brand awareness
3. To get contacts and names
4. Research the competition
5. Make new contacts 

At a guess I would say many of you picked; to increase sales, gain brand awareness and generate leads as your top reasons, which are all very good but let’s consider what else a trade show can do for you.

Learn – Trade shows are a great place to learn for both the exhibitor and visitor. For the visitor they have excellent opportunities to learn from the companies exhibiting and seek new techniques and processes by talking to the experts, as well as from the many forums and lectures that take place. A trade show provides the exhibitor with the opportunity to see what else is going on in the industry. After all, where else would you find all your suppliers, distributors and ultimately, competition, in one place?

Networking – A trade show really isn’t about big halls full of shiny stands and over eager sales people wanting to scan name badges. It is there to provide the perfect opportunity to network with likeminded people. Trade shows also provide the unique mass forum where the entire industry can meet and talk, share innovations and discuss the future. Networking is not just about how many business cards you can collect, it’s about being a part of your industry’s conversation.

Practical demonstration – Nothing grabs attention more than a practical demonstration and where better to showcase your products than in front of your target audience, keen to see what you have to offer?

Standing out from the crowd – Where else can you display your finest product ranges, new and existing, to show why your company really matters to the industry? An exhibition is where you can bring the strength of your brand, your website, videos, literature and all your marketing tools together to back up your latest innovations alongside a great stand, to really prove why a visitor should not only stop and take a look but also choose your company. As undoubtedly, your competitor, who could be less than a metre away, will be doing exactly the same thing!

These are just some of the additional features trade shows provide but what is the one thing that all these features have in common? Human interaction. 

The desire for human interaction is what really makes trade shows still relevant. Humans by our very nature are social beings. In recent years social media has illustrated just how much we love to connect with one another and share information, whether on a personal or business basis. Even long before Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter put human connections on the Internet, people still had personal and business networks. 

Technology will always struggle to truly replicate this experience, as nothing can replace the genuine experience of person to person communication. This is what makes trade shows the perfect environment to generate and grow business relationships, to advance strategic objectives and build on traditional inter-personal experiences.

If you are looking to exhibit for the right reasons, trade shows are still a vital and relevant tool of any business strategy. 

Far from becoming something from a bygone era and in the face of technology and communication advances, trade shows are actually utilising this technology to find new ways to communicate with the widest audience possible, whilst still providing an intimate environment for industries to meet and interact. 

The unique human experience of a trade show means that until modern technology progresses further (which could one day see us attending exhibitions in a virtual reality forum), trade shows are here to stay.

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