Today, few companies use trade shows for the inelegant (but functional) order writing activity, once the singular value component of the trade show. Not only would that require the trade show to be timed perfectly for every company attending and exhibiting (impossible in today’s multi-variable supply chain sequence, *now with Tariffs!); it would immediately be front-ended by the largest companies in order to pre-load the market, a never ending quest in a competitive, many options marketplace. This is already happening in Outdoor, despite the trade show’s move into November. How many brands will show up to ORWM18 in November with orders booked? Many is the answer.
“If I can’t measure my trade show spend effectiveness by ‘weighing the paper’ anymore, how can I assess the value of exhibiting/attending/participating/sponsoring? What is the calculus for NOT showing up?”
In this ‘episode’ we’ll just tackle one of these key questions; how to shift mindset and expectations around what trade shows provide in addition to order-writing?
Because the Internet enables order-writing anytime/anywhere, the need for centralized product line presentations at trade shows has diminished. This has been a trend we’ve seen unfold across markets over 20 years; but even in the last five years or so, order-writing surprisingly still happens at the trade shows; particularly for incentivized accessory pickups (at-once available), small business order-writing, and for order adjustments from retailers. Despite this truth, the value equation for exhibitors now weighs toward the brand’s exposure to the swelling corps of digital and traditional media, potential partners, competitors, and especially investors who attend.
Imagine your 5th grade math teacher breaking down an exhibiting brand value equation – $X booth setup/teardown +$Y staff t&e + $Z advertising = $$AA order revenues + $B earned media
now reads like this – $X booth setup/teardown + $Y staff t&e + $Z advertising = $A order revenues + $BB earned media + $C affiliate and advocate partnership
Yes it’s more complex. But it’s not immeasurable. Yes it’s simplified, but the main point is that the entire value chain is similar; the investment put in and the value gained from that investment is still intact. Maybe you should use a smaller space; bring more people; maybe you should study your strategic plan and see where the BB and C payoffs are. This topic will be covered further in Episode 2… but here’s our experience in a nutshell, based on the empirical evidence at hand; every brand that has left a trade show for ‘greener pastures’ ends up returning. Why, if the value is decreasing? Why, over all markets, is the trade show industry continuing to grow?