The Death Of Trade Shows (And How You Can Benefit)

During the past few years, I have attended a number of healthcare-related trade shows and conferences.  Exhibiting is an interesting experience that appears to be shaped by tabletop displays, where your table is on the floor, how the exhibition is supported by the conference organizers and, of course, the relevance of your product or service.  You can be inundated with interest and you can be reduced to wondering why you spent the money to attend.

In the new digital age, national trade shows are declining in attendance, some precipitously, while some local and more regional offerings are steady and some with a digital bent are actually improving their attendance.  These trends suggest the following:  customers are increasingly value-focused and they need to see the value to be engaged.  Traditional trade shows are a perfect metaphor for this – if someone shops with you they have thought about the value possibilities in advance and are looking to see how you can deliver on any promise.  Just setting up your booth doesn’t work anymore.

To excel in this new context you might consider the following:

  • Be very clear about who your customers are and who they aren’t.  Just hanging out in a booth doesn’t help differentiate your marketplace.
  • Make sure your approach is personal and speaks to individual needs and value.  If you come across as attempting mass appeal more people will walk by your booth.
  • Deepen 1:1 relationships and don’t base your success on the number of business cards you collect.  Besides, the age of business cards is coming to an end, as well.
  • Maximize the available 1:1 time.  If you need to leave your booth to fully engage someone then do it.  You will stand out and those who want to talk with you will stop bny and make contact later anyway.
  • Utilize your technology effectively and maintain personal contact that may seem old-fashioned.  I have sent numerous personal notes to potential customers (not form emails) and the response is always positive.

The opportunities to successfully build a business are everywhere, but the context is changing.  The mass trade show approach still has some value, but customers are looking for something new and you are best served by crafting an approach that is aligned with this evolving perspective.