You don't need to look too far to see the effect that online marketing, social media and other tactics have taken on the tradeshow industry. Some have disappeared altogether, like Supercomm; many have gotten smaller, like Interop; and others have changed their name to reflect an expanded scope, like VoiceCon to Enterprise Connect.
But despite this changing landscape, some tradeshows, like RSA Conference, have continued to not only live on but thrive. However, after each and every tradeshow, marketers question whether it was worth the considerable investment or is it a must attend event? In fact, it was 2 years ago that I asked if tradeshows were worth it?
Recently, I was at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain (photo above), which, for those of you who are not familiar, is THE event for the mobile industry with over 1,400 exhibitors and 60,000+ attendees. It attracts CEOs and senior executives, which is rare for any tradeshow, from all the major mobile operators.
My company had a demo station in the booth of a major technology vendor. We had committed to the event because we were launching a new offering and wanted to build awareness with mobile operators not to mention the fact that our partner is also a key channel for us so we wanted to get awareness with their sales team too. Despite this obvious fit, I was still skeptical whether the investment, while minimal, would pay off.
As it turns out, the event was very successful for us. We were able to show the demo to hundreds of prospects, we met with key account executives in the sales team, briefed a few media and analysts and got the word out in many other ways. It definitely surpassed all of our expectations.
But when I got back, I started to think about why this tradeshow had been so successful for us whereas a couple of years ago, I was swearing them off in terms of a marketing tactic. Here are my top 5 reasons how this show was, and others can be, effective from a marketing perspective:
- Choose the show for your industry: With fewer shows there is one must attend event for your industry. That's the one to do, but...
- Make sure your prospective customers are there: If this is not the case, then don't do the event. You need to meet with prospective customers for the show to be effective.
- Set up meetings in advance: This is crucial as you then guarantee meetings with some key prospects and do not need to rely on walk up traffic.
- Work with a partner: It's a great way to minimize costs but if you are a startup working with a larger, more established company will help you stand out.
- Have a great demo of your product: Prospects want to see your product in action and the more compelling your demo the more likely they will remember it.
Tradeshows have fundamentally changed. They really had no choice. The good ones have created an event that the industry must attend. If you can follow some of the tips above and make it cost-effective then the right tradeshow could be a great venue to launch or promote your new product. Now, I'm not saying that you have to do a tradeshow as part of a launch but with the right investment they can be effective.
However, it's not about spending the most money and having the biggest spectacle to stand out. They are still very expensive but to be effective you need to be focused on meeting with prospects. Think of it more around meeting with a lot of different prospects in one place at one time. If the event will do that for you, then it's worth attending as you may even save money on travel in the long run.