Lately it seems like everyone is piling on trade shows. You’ve heard all the complaints: they’re too expensive, they take away valuable work time, they interrupt regular business, they’re exhausting, they don’t generate real leads, and so on. It’s become fashionable to jump on the bandwagon, claiming trade shows have outlived their usefulness, in light of today’s more sophisticated communications and information resources, including the Internet.
These contemporary “experts” certainly have plenty of ammunition; trade shows are expensive, and do have annoying negatives attached. But amidst the wailing about poor ROI and questionable results, one big benefit of trade shows stands as strongly as it ever has. It’s just too subtle and intangible for many blog-sperts to understand.
A B2B environment is a different kind of place. And quite frankly, not in the same way that Tahiti is a different kind of place. On some level, most professionals who work in the manufacturing or trade channels of a business-to-business sector would admit, deep down, that they know what I’m talking about.
You can feel it a bit when it’s career night at the junior high, and you have to follow the fireman, the airline pilot, and the TV anchorwoman. “Hi, I’m Pete’s dad, and I sell heavy extrusion equipment to the aluminum industry.”
It happens at the cocktail party when the follow-up question after “what do you do?” is often “Nice weather, huh?”
We’re very proud of our businesses, our companies, and the work we do. But people on the street just don’t understand. Know where they do understand? Trade shows.
For all their faults, trade shows provide the reinforcement of fellow professionals whose lives revolve around the same things yours does. They’ve probably heard of your company and products. And they probably don’t even mind hearing a little more!
I could easily defend the business benefits of trade shows; industry news, staying in touch with prospects, keeping an eye on the competition, and yes, some leads-especially if you put a little creativity into your efforts. (Without that, all your marketing stinks-not just trade shows.) But here I’m suggesting a more subtle, personal kind of ROI.
A trade show may conjure up images of shiny-suited, skinny-tied lifers with elevator speeches on their lips. But the reality is far different. You are suddenly surrounded with people who are smart, interesting, attractive…even fun to meet or to renew acquaintances with! And you don’t have to explain to them why what you do is important. They know.
Inside their walls, companies can get pretty insular and bottom-line focused, especially in a tight market. At trade shows, you can reconnect with the profession, the industry and its people.
Of course, we’re all in it to sell more. But don’t underestimate the value of pride and attitude on the part of you and your people in making that happen. Big picture, those long hours on your feet at a trade show can actually put a spring in your step.