And They’re Off! The 2018 Trade Show Season is in Full Swing
The 2018 conference and trade show circuit is off to a whirlwind of a start. Within a two-week period, the parking industry hosted the PIE Show, the Women in Parking Annual Conference, Intertraffic, and the TPTA Annual Conference & Tradeshow. I feel for the person who had to hit all four shows.
With so many shows in our industry, it can be a real strain on marketing budgets to participate in all of them. Trade shows are expensive, plain and simple. They can quickly devour the lion’s share of a marketing budget. They are also time consuming and labor intensive. Couple this with the increasing digitization of our world, which has given us dozens of new ways to interact with people from Twitter chats to LinkedIn Groups to an endless variety of conference call platforms, it’s not entirely surprising that there has been talk lately about the relevancy of trade shows.
However, no other type of marketing provides such an all-inclusive bang for your buck. Properly done, attending or exhibiting at a trade show can yield significant benefits and produce substantial results. You’ll find a high concentration of potential customers who, if not looking to buy, are at least looking to get educated. You’ll also connect with vendors, referral sources, and potential partners. According to The Center for Exhibition Industry Research, it costs 22 percent less to contact a potential buyer at a show than through traditional field sales calls.
But you can also waste a lot of time and money attending or exhibiting at trade shows and conferences if you’re not careful. So, what is the secret of trade show and conference success?
1- Choose the right show.
There are many, many shows you can attend or choose to exhibit at or sponsor. So many, you’ll never be able to attend them all. So, don’t try. The parking industry itself hosts well over a dozen shows every year, but then there are also the shows for municipalities, property managers, airports, hospitals, universities, the list goes on and on.
“You have to know why you are attending or exhibiting at a show. You have to know what you want to get out of it or you will end up wasting your money and your time,” says Dawn Marti, President of Newman Concepts, an association management and conference planning company serving the parking and transportation industries.
Dawn explains the national shows are more about volume whereas the regional and smaller shows are great for one-on-one introductions and personal conversations.
2- Keep up-to-date on the trends.
Whether you are just an attendee or you are going all out with a premium booth, you need to be current on how to make the most of a show. As an attendee, you should, at the very least download the trade show mobile app if there is one and complete your profile. Usually the app will have a Twitter feed, so get tweeting and interact with your conference peers. It’s a great way to meet new people.
From an exhibitor perspective, stay up-to-date with your booth exhibiting options. Dawn explains that parking industry companies have been upping the bar recently with more innovative displays, forgoing lugging bulky equipment that is expensive to ship to and from a show. Instead, vendors are opting to use screens to demonstrate their solutions virtually in real-time. This has leveled the trade show playing field a bit for many of the smaller players, allowing them to demonstrate their solutions. Parking trade show floors today are dominated more by screens than by ticket spitters.
3- Give them a reason to say hello.
Investing in an engaging display will boost your chances of snagging the right type of attendees. From the design of your booth, to the information and gifts you give away, there needs to be a reason for people to stop by.
“Most people are trying to stay to the center of the aisle as they walk around the trade show floor. It’s our job to engage them. As marketers, we have to figure out how to get them to come to our booth and then get them to interact with us,” explains Ernie Bonnevier, Sales Manager at Southland Printing Company.
At this year’s PIE show, Southland, who unveiled their new logo at the exhibition, experimented with hiring a caricature artist, which was a big hit in attracting prospective customers to their booth. Ernie said the experiment was definitely a success and Southland walked away with promising leads and a positive experience.
The success or failure of your trade show experience depends largely on choosing the right show and making the necessary preparations to maximize your return on investment at the show. Without the proper prep, trade shows can turn out to be a colossal waste of time and money, so don’t be that person. Stay up to date on trends, prepare and make the most of these great marketing opportunities.