The addition of technologies that allow customers to interact with a product virtually does not necessarily translate into smaller booths, marketers said. But it does throw a return to the larger booth sizes of 2009—a year in which overall events industry performance took a big hit—into question.
Production mail solutions provider Kern Inc., for example, grew its footprint at Graph Expo, a major trade show in its market, though not to the size that it had staked out in 2009, said Dave Squires, senior VP-strategy at Kern. The growth came even as the company invested in video advertisements and introduced large-screen kiosks that provide virtual demonstrations and presentations to support new-product launches. The company still transported its equipment to the show floor despite the substantial cost associated with its presence. “We wanted a real pop of awareness,” Squires said, adding that one sale can be enough to legitimize the expense of an entire show.
Newcomers are also providing a bright spot for organizers looking to sell more booth space. Marketers that are growing new product lines continue to vie for prime real estate, said Melissa Moore, housewares marketing manager at Smith's, which launched its Edgeware-branded kitchen tools three years ago and is investing in building out a footprint and developing a year-round marketing strategy to drive traffic to its booths. “It's critical to be at the main trade shows, especially when you're trying to build a brand,” Moore said. “The recession was a good time for us growing and introducing Edgeware.”
The company's booths have expanded incrementally each year and now house three demonstration areas, each providing live, in-person demonstrations. Smith's blends technology and traditional marketing mediums, building its social media presence, providing QR codes on its packaging and also printing catalogs and collateral, as well as developing novel giveaways. The company sent buyers a knob, for example, and mailed them the rest of the mystery product—an adjustable knife sharpener—once they met face to face. “To get them to come to the booth, that's a relationship we've been building all year long,” Moore said.