Trade shows have had a long history of ups and downs.
About 25 years ago, trade shows were all the rage. Companies would send multiple people, aisleways were packed and there were so many trade shows to choose from, you could be gone every day of the year, and maybe you’ll hit them all. Exhibitors would walk out with stacks of business cards. It would take sales and marketing a long time to follow up, just to find those precious few that would turn into sales.
Then a disrupter hit, and companies significantly cut back on sending people to trade shows, and many events went out of business. Exhibiting companies were concerned about the quantity of leads. However, they realized it was just fewer people in attendance. Sales and marketing still had the job of calling to qualify the leads in order to have something in the sales cycle. Again, it was calling to find the few.
As of a couple months ago, companies kept that practice of only sending one or two representatives to a trade show, but it needed to be justified to get the approval to go. It still wasn’t so bad for exhibitors as they came out with sales leads. However, there was another slow-moving trend. I remember exhibitors at their booth saying, “After spending 2 days here, there’s maybe only a couple worth following up.” Or “The show is okay, but so-n-so is here, so we have to be too.” The answers generally were, “Eh, it’s okay,” with their facial expressions saying, ‘I don’t know why I’m here’.
Take this new disrupter as an opportunity to evaluate your sales and marketing budget for trade shows. This may be your chance to revisit which trade shows really do pay for itself.
The hard part with trade shows being canceled or postponed are finding new sales lead generation channels.
Some are trying to increase their social media presence such as LinkedIn. Some are turning to mobile advertising, video development, sponsoring virtual trade shows and testing the benefits of e-commerce. The degree of success varies; however, it still requires cold(ish) calling efforts to understand if a sales opportunity exists. Everyone is asking, “Is there anything better?”
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