Death of trade shows, not yet...

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How many times have we all heard that trade shows are dead? Or certainly that electronic and digital marketing will completely replace or eliminate the need to participate in a trade show? Compound that with the high costs associated with preparing and executing a trade show activity, many marketers, myself included, have dramatically reduced our trade show participation. However, I am here to tell you that trade shows are not dead yet.

I just returned from my Association's trade show, IMTS, the International Manufacturing Technology Show. This show fills every building at McCormick Place in Chicago, with over 1900 exhibitors and almost 1.25 million square feet of exhibit space. Nuts you say, crazy! So would I, except when you begin to examine what this single event does from a brand and lead-generation perspective, it is still effective. There is no single tactic that consumes more of my marketing spend every two years than this one event. So, naturally, it gets a great deal of scrutiny. But this show affords us the opportunity to really differentiate ourselves from the competition through the effective demonstration of our technology and our process know-how by our talented staff of engineers.

We work very hard on pre-show marketing to target very specific prospects to engage with us at the show about very specific technologies. Given the sheer size of this event, establishing pre-show appointments are critical to our success. We use a mix of direct and electronic communication to arrange those meetings. There is no substitute for face-to-face technical selling by our applications engineering staff, our front line at the show. Our ability to refine our database with these show contacts is extremely valuable to our future lead nurturing and cultivation. The ability to strengthen existing relationships and start new ones from our competitor's base is tremendous.

Attendance this year was up substantially from 2010, as many companies were looking for new machines and methods to increase their capability and global competitiveness. Manufacturing in North America is recovering, and the ability of a trade show attendee to see numerous new machines and technologies in one place at one time can be very powerful. Effective participation in such an event still has a place in your toolkit of tactics to influence and attract both prospects and customers. I just have to grit my teeth when it comes to the price and be patient when calculating the ROI.

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