Can Trade Shows Endure the eMarketing Revolution?

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With the advent of social media marketing, video conferencing, webinars and other forms of technologically-enhanced communication, there are some who believe that trade shows will soon become a thing of the past, or that they will carry less importance within a company’s marketing mix.

In fact, over the last few decades, exhibiting has gone from a “must” to a “possibly” on many small business’s marketing plans. The saving grace for exhibiting and attending tradeshows is that they remain a viable method for making contacts, introducing products and services to new clients and building rapport.

Despite the change of attitude about exhibiting, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) notes that attendance at trade shows has been on an upward trend since the end of the recession in 2009, and in 2014, attendance peaked at 68.7 million. CEIR largely attributes the gains in attendees during the last few years to a strengthening job market.

This is because, as we mentioned above, trade shows have traditionally been a very popular way to market your business, products or services. However, with advances in technology, many companies question how the return on investment (ROI) from exhibiting compared to that of eMarketing. Though technology is changing marketing at a rapid pace, there are several benefits from having a presence at industry trade shows.

First and foremost, trade shows bring to exhibitors and prospects one major benefit: human interaction. While social media can add to the experience of face-to-face marketing, it can never replace it. The various social channels are invaluable when it comes to promoting your company, sharing knowledge and letting followers know the latest and greatest; however, your audience is missing out on the interpersonal component. You can’t exchange a handshake via Twitter. LinkedIn will not translate your tone of voice. Facebook will never be able to mimic body language. Talking to a potential client via a post can’t compare to a face-to-face discussion; the human element of the trade show environment can’t be replicated.

A second benefit is seen in a company’s ROI. Let’s face it: the decision to exhibit or attend industry trade shows is not one to take lightly. They are expensive and require staff resources and planning. However, if done right, they can create a sizable ROI for your company as you network and build rapport with industry experts and potential clients. After all, most tradeshows have a sizable attendance, so if you can get your company name and products in front of all those people—and discuss your company’s benefits with them—you have a better chance of making money than blindly posting to followers on social media. Not only that, but the benefits of networking also cannot be understated. Even if a person you speak with is not interested in your product, they may know someone who is.

Final Thoughts

Over the next few weeks, we will take a deeper dive into the various elements of exhibiting and tradeshows, from planning your marketing strategy and working the floor effectively to following up with your new leads and connections.

Whether you need booth displays, marketing collateral or supplemental staffing for an upcoming tradeshow, the Schooner team is ready and able to assist your company. For more information, please email Jessica Larkin, Schooner’s Director of Communications, at