Are Trade Shows Still Worth It for Manufacturers?

We've seen some terrible marketing mistakes made at trade shows

Manufacturers go to trade shows to market their products. Some companies only go to trade shows, and others have stopped going because they think it is not worth it. We interviewed some manufacturers and found that, yes, trade shows can still be valuable. But you need to put in the time and effort, and do it right, to get results.

Be where your clients are

Some manufacturers attend events where there are a lot of other companies. This can be a waste of time and money. If you have the budget for it and think it is important, then go ahead and attend these events. But if you want to get results, you need to be more strategic and attend events where your clients are.

Mars International's vice president of sales and marketing, Art Garcia, says that focusing on the industries that Mars International serves has been a successful strategy for them. This is because it shows that they have experience and expertise in those industries. By attending the right events and catering to your niche, you're likely to find much more success than you would in a room full of other manufacturers.

Know your goals and do your homework

If you want to increase sales or recruit new employees, it is important to establish your goals before attending any trade show. Tegan James, the marketing and social media manager at Parkway Plastics, advises that you should do your research ahead of time and know who you are going to meet. Reach out to your customers and prospects via email and social media to let them know that you will be attending the trade show. Spread the word!

Turn wasted minutes into meeting minutes

There is a lot of marketing that goes on at trade shows that you might not be taking advantage of. Many companies schedule meetings with potential and current clients before the trade show. These meetings happen in conference rooms at the trade show. So the exhibit itself is only one third of what is happening at the trade show. The other two thirds are all the meetings that are happening behind the scenes.

When used wisely, trade shows can actually save manufacturers a lot of money. Since these events bring everyone to one place, companies will meet with nearly all of their clients or business partners in one trip. This saves on the cost of airfare for each individual company.

Scott Bass, the senior director, global marketing at Edmund Optics, says, “Where else can you meet with so many key people like that over the course of 3 days?.... To spend that money on flying our salespeople all over the world to have these meetings would cost more than the actual trade show, that’s the primary reason we do it.”

Send the right people

We've seen some bad marketing at trade shows. People who should be talking to prospects are glued to their phones. Others just stand around. Some people even fall asleep at their booths!

Scott Dailey, vice president of sales and marketing at Carl Stahl Sava Industries, Inc., argues that marketers shouldn't be leading the booths because they usually aren't engaged in business development at the booth level. And from his experience, it's because they're not being held accountable to come home with anything interesting. Don't pick people based on availability or rank. Pick the ones who are most interested in the topic and have a real incentive to do a great job.

Speak up

Most trade shows have speaking events. If you can, try to sign up as a guest speaker. This is a great way to position yourself as an expert. 

Scott Bass says that this is very important. The most important thing you need to do at trade shows is to get your experts to speak at the conferences instead of just having a booth in the exhibition hall. Opportunities like this are easy to come by, so take advantage of them.

It’s all about strategy

To be successful at trade shows, careful planning and preparation is needed. Simply showing up or booking a last-minute flight is no longer enough. However, if you are willing to put in the work, it is easy to see that trade shows can still be highly valuable for manufacturers.

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