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There we were, two marketing warhorses swapping stories over scotch one evening. The conversation swung to trade shows. My colleague had just returned from a series of shows across North America and, knowing I’m generally a trade show skeptic, rubbed my nose in how successful they’d been.
Harrumphing, I asked him to enlighten me with the secret to his success.
“Simple”, he said. “Just recognize that nowadays trade shows aren’t really about generating leads, they are about closing them.”
It used to be that trade shows were one of the best ways to get in front of a relevant audience and raise market awareness. Then they got too expensive and were overtaken by digital marketing techniques. Now more and more marketers are exhibiting at trade shows assuming that attendees have already heard about their company.
The objective isn’t so much to create interest as to deepen an existing impression or relationship already established on-line or through PR. The trade show booth is a showroom for prospects to kick tires and interact with subject matter experts thereby advancing the buying process.
When a trade show is meant as a lead qualifier rather than a lead generator, you need to think a little differently:
This isn’t an exhaustive guide to great trade shows. But it does show the mindset needed to plan an event that will move prospective customers through the buying process. Yes, trade shows are back in vogue, but with a twist – qualifying and closing leads. Even a trade show skeptic like me has to admit there’s merit in that.