Expert commentator | Smart Insights | Fri, 23 Sep 2016 10:00:00 +0000

How Trade Shows can thrive when combined with Digital Marketing

Trade shows were once the cornerstone of one’s calendar. Before the days of Google Hangouts, Skype and in fact e-mail, trade shows were a hub for industry professionals to network and for businesses to launch initiatives which they hoped would keep consumers and competitors talking for months to come. As Lima Curtis discussed in her article, what made trade shows so special is quickly being surpassed and made irrelevant in the digital age. Despite this trend, trade shows for pretty much every industry imaginable continue year on year and hundreds of thousands of people annually clear a space on their calendar to attend.


So when products and services can be launched in an instant online, fellow professionals can be contacted with the click of a button and all of this can be done without leaving the comfort of your own chair, it begs the question as to why trade shows remain popular? When Apple live streams its keynote speeches every year, what is the purpose of hiring an auditorium only to beam it onto 99% of their audience’s screens anyway? The answer is to get people talking and not just the industry professionals and journalists, but the businesses and consumers who they really want to target.trade show

There is only so much you can learn from interacting online

Many digital marketers can probably attest to the struggle involved in trying to get a piece of content to go viral. We scrape and we toil for that one piece of content which will shine our brand in the spotlight even if just for a few moments. Getting to that point requires networking online, interacting with peers, engaging on social media and ultimately having a fantastic idea, but even those can get lost in the mire.

What trade shows can provide is an opportunity to put your services or new product into the spotlight. Assuming you have picked the right trade show to attend, this means putting it right under the noses of the important figures who can help your idea as well as your content to go viral. As Lima Curtis points out, these people are often only a click away online, but being able to speak with them face-to-face has always and will always be more effective than when it’s done in 140 characters.

The goal has shifted from trying to get a positive review in industry magazines to getting a re-tweet, a mention or featured in a Snapchat story of even just one influential figure. It is true that marketing your product is most effective when done online, but getting it the recognition it deserves is what trade shows were designed for. People do business with others whom they trust and like, and while great content online is ideal for building a following of subscribers, it does very little to inform people of the nature of your business and developing those levels of trust is most effective when done in person.

Trade Shows provide an opportunity which Digital Marketing physically cannot

Written content and even video content are both very useful, but there is nothing quite like actually meeting the teams who help other businesses to function and having a frank discussion about what their service or product can do for your business. This all might be starting to come across as a bit of a fantasy world, but it stems from the same reason why physical meetings still exist. Theoretically, it would be relatively straightforward to host these using video messengers. However, there is still a great deal to be learned from a face-to-face interaction, such as body language and tone of voice, which help us to identify whether their services can truly be beneficial for your business.

This is where there is value in using trade shows to enhance your digital marketing. While businesses and consumers may not trust the ad you have placed online, they are significantly more likely to trust the word of an industry professional whom they follow. Small businesses, in particular, can struggle to compete with the financial clout of larger competitors online, but put the service in the hands of a respected journalist or blogger and that can give it the coverage it needs. As much as you need clients to trust you, it is as important to get influential figures on side. A shining endorsement from a respected individual can provide legitimacy which can be the difference as to whether people choose to do business with you.

Furthermore, trade shows provide the space for feedback and to find out first-hand which aspects of your strategy are successful and which are simply unnecessary. Criticism conveyed online can cause lasting damage, especially if it does come from a respected source. Being able to speak privately and openly with such a figure may lead to hearing details you may not want to hear, but it is this kind of feedback which is valuable when looking to grow your brand.

Trade shows are an opportunity to learn and interact

Many who attend trade shows will never have any intention to exhibit themselves, but that does not mean there is no value to be found. If the event is industry specific, then it still provides the chance for you to look around at competitors and industry leaders. Exhibitors ultimately are looking to sell and generate leads, which is why their strategies are plain to see and this provides fantastic insight into how the industry is developing and the trends which it is shifting towards.

It is all too easy to wrap ourselves up in weekly blogs which detail the latest trends in digital marketing, however, trade shows often feature figures who rarely share their insights. In an industry which changes rapidly year-on-year, the impetus is on getting ahead and remaining ahead of the competition. There are various trade shows in the UK and across the US which are aimed directly at digital marketers. Many host speakers from industry leaders in the field and it is these companies which can provide valuable information on how your digital marketing strategy can be tweaked to see more results.
Trade shows and digital marketing may sit on two very different realms and while it is simple to argue that the former is becoming increasingly dependent on the latter, there is still a huge amount of potential within exhibition halls. While online we can gain access to a huge audience, the difficulty has always been to turn that click into a buyer or a subscriber. Trust is what has made trade shows such a key event on the calendar because businesses and consumers can interact face-to-face. Whether it is human nature that we are naturally untrustworthy until we see it with our own eyes is another long debate, but it is this aura of trustworthiness which digital marketing can often struggle to recreate.