Why Participating in Trade Shows is About More Than the Sale

By • May 30, 2019

Yeah, you read that right. Exhibiting or attending an association event isn’t always about making a sale, or a purchase. Many companies aim to drive sales at events. Trade shows still remain one of the most profitable B2B media strategies, as they generated more than $12.8 billion in revenue in 2016.* But it’s also about networking, supporting your association and the membership.

Trade shows and other association events are fun, educational and awesome for meeting other industry professionals and association members. They’re also a great opportunity for vendors or suppliers to market their business to specific target audiences, most of whom are involved in the purchasing process.

Sounds great, right? What’s the downside?

Attending or exhibiting at events can be costly. There’s typically a fee to exhibit or attend which varies depending on the association, plus the type and size of the event. And then there’s the cost of travel, hotel and food. In addition, you’re taking time away from the office and it’s typical for exhibitors to have multiple people attend to ensure everyone who stops by their booth gets an opportunity to learn about the business and products or services. Even if your job is to build sales relationships, time spent at events is time you could have spent nurturing other clients or deals. It can be difficult to measure your ROI for events too, unless you have a sophisticated lead tracking process in place. So the decision to participate can be difficult.

I recently heard someone say “I don’t see enough sales come from these shows to warrant spending the money to go.” I kind of see their point, but, exhibiting at these events is about a lot more than just sales for exhibitors. It’s also about more than buying for an attendee. Here are some reasons why participating in trade shows is about more than the sale:

For Exhibitors: Build relationships with buying power

For exhibitors, events are the ultimate way to reach your target audience. Where else can you market your company to hundreds (sometimes thousands) of potential customers in such a short amount of time?  A recent study by Statista concluded that 82 percent of trade show attendees are involved in the purchasing process.* So, even if they don’t buy on the spot or within the next few months, you’re still networking and building relationships with the people who have buying power. We’re much more likely to spend money with people and companies we know and trust. Events are exceptional opportunities to meet vendors who support the association, learn about new products and services and in many cases, an opportunity to touch, see and feel the products. It’s also likely that you’ll learn about companies you may not have known about previously. (This is mentioned in the next paragraph. Seems unnecessary.) Use this as an opportunity to outshine your competitors and prove to potential customers why your business is the best one to choose.

For Attendees: Build relationships with companies that can help with your business needs

Events are exceptional opportunities to meet vendors who support your association. Trade show turnout gives attendees access to new products and services, and in many cases, an opportunity to touch, see and feel the products. It’s also likely that you’ll learn about companies you may not have known about previously, but who offer solutions to challenges your company faces. For attendees, time spent at a trade show is just as valuable as time spent researching needed products and services online, or through phone calls, but much more interactive (and fun).

There’s also the educational aspect of events. The majority of events will host educational seminars offering an opportunity to learn more about industry trends or new processes. You can see product demos, attend workshops, and participate in focus groups. Some events even go as far as hosting biking city tours, facility tours and concerts which adds some fun elements to your networking.

Whether you’re exhibiting or attending, by participating in association events you’re also supporting your association and fellow members. Trade show fees are a significant source of non-dues revenue for most associations. What does that mean to you? This additional revenue helps keep membership dues to a minimum, while funding advocacy, educational opportunities and other member benefits.  Trade shows are a good way to learn new things about your profession or industry, meet new people who may be able to help your business, and nurture future sales.

Key take-a-way? Attend. You should view going to a trade show as an investment. You have the chance to meet people in similar fields, check out products that could give your business a boost, and learn a new skill.

Exhibit. Trade shows give you more exposure opposed to the most common, modern marketing techniques, and they will bring in a greater variety of people within your target audience.

About The Author

Nancy Taylor is a marketing account specialist with Naylor Association Solutions.