Exhibitions, trade shows, conferences: what’s in a name? Is it all just semantics or are the different names intended to actually mark a difference in purpose?
Yes and no. Insiders, marketers and business-savvy SMEs will understand the theoretical difference between each. But, these days, the details get thrown out the window in common parlance. Make no mistake, the devil truly is in the details.
So let’s break each down very quickly:
Generally, trade shows focus on B2B (business-to-business) events. Companies and organizations within a specific industry gather together and, essentially, get to scope out and survey their competition. They demonstrate company brand, presence, and showcase or unveil new products and/or services to each other.
They’re not open to the public but expect to see company reps, industry professionals and, of course, press. Trade associations are responsible for sponsoring and getting trade shows off the ground. On-the-ground networking opportunities here are rife – perhaps a behind-the-scenes fruitful collaboration can begin at these events.
Trade fairs are focused on B2C or business-to-client interactions and this includes end consumers. These kinds of events are one step after a trade show since companies, besides showcasing products and services, also sell and market to clients who attend the fair – which means fairs are open to the public.
Exhibitions, on the other hand, do have elements of sales in them but it’s prime time for generating leads, establishing a relationship with the brand and hammering home the marketing messages that your marketing strategy team has planned for beforehand.This means that planning is half the battle won when it comes to achieving marketing goals at exhibitions.
Expositions, like trade shows, are great for business networking. They’re very large-scale events and could possibly be organized by government bodies and feature many organizations that are government sponsored or affiliated with exhibitors. On the other hand, expositions, like exhibitions, are open to the public. They’re primarily focused on export contracts.
The most important factors
1. Focus on the global
Doing your due diligence begins with locating and zoning in on the global exhibitions that are offered in your company’s industry sector. The point is to find opportunities that will allow you to run a live research session during the exhibition. It’s all about aligning the nature of the exhibitions with your own marketing goals.
Attending the wrong show can not only be a huge waste of time and money, it can also set you back on that specific research and brand building you’re trying to do. The metrics that you gain here will be affecting your future marketing performance and marketing strategy. So you’ll want to scour the industry to see what’s what.
2. Evaluate their importance within the sector
Next, you’ll be basing this evaluation on detailed statistical data and outreach. Ask for information on past trade shows from the organizers and take a look at how long they’ve been operating, attendance numbers, and demographic data.
You’ll also want to zoom in on these numbers and try to gain a sense of two things: firstly, were exhibition attendees serious buyers? Do the attendance numbers break down and differentiate between exhibitors and visitors? Does the exhibition organizer pad their numbers? Take a look at what the age of the average attendee is, the gender and perhaps even income levels.
Firstly, having this data is enormously useful to your future marketing strategy. But, bigger picture, this points to something very important: the organizers of the exhibition have bothered to do their own careful pre-planning and have implemented the means to actually request, harvest, collect and publish this data.
That’s how you know they’re important within the sector
3. If you can’t beat ’em…
Another important aspect to exhibitions are your competitors: so take a quick look or phone around. Will your competitors be going? Getting a sense of other exhibitors’ presence, how many years they have been consistently attending and perhaps, as an extension, the revenue generated on that company’s financials, if publicly available.
Here, if you can’t beat ’em, you join them – your SME should be joining competitors at industry favorite exhibitions.
This speaks to what your marketing goals should be shooting for as well as the organizer’s stability and notoriety within the industry sector. And, while exhibitions primarily cater to the client or end consumer, they can also be fertile grounds for business networking horizontally, across services.
4. Will your customers be there?
This goes back to demographic information. But this is the point in time where your market strategy and your future marketing goals can really come into play. If the exhibition can be understood as an event, then the target audience details are your metrics. Any future marketing messages that you craft – both within your brand as well as for another exhibition you’re a part of – can be perfected based on who you’re speaking to.
If you are a small vendor with a new and exciting product seeking national distributors, then the goal would be to attend a national show with high visibility and attendance by all key players. If on the other hand, you have an existing product that you want to expose to new markets, you would target potential buyers. For example, if a company decides that one of its software packages-originally designed for and used by the publishing industry-also would be useful to teachers and educators, the sensible strategy would be to attend trade shows aimed at teachers instead of computer software industry shows.
5. Money matters
You also want to take a look at the organizer’s financials. How long has the organizer been in business? What other partnerships are they a part of and what other kinds of initiatives do they sponsor? There are many items you can look at, either head-on or more obliquely, that will give you a sense of just how important the exhibition is and whether it will align with where you are right now.
Take a look at the key players and what moves they’ve made relating to the industry and sector.
These numbers and details matter because you’ll also want to look at their marketing: is this event well-known? Does the event organizer have a budget for marketing the event to both other exhibitors and customers alike?
Another good way to get a sense of the financials is to take a look at the keynote speaker. Do some research on this individual: if they’re well known, chances are, they’re a booked out speaker. And if this is the case, you’ll know that the exhibition organizer shelled out a pretty penny to bring them in.
Here are a few last tips that can help in the decision that’s ahead of you.
Remember, this is a process that should be followed with every exhibition that you hit – which means that you should intend on hitting more than one through the year.
Location, location, location: where in the world the exhibition is taking place matters. This goes beyond the simple consideration of whether the city is a global one or whether your industry thrives in that city. It should be about whether your target demographic – from competitors to vendors to the audience – is present in that location. You should also do some research on whether the city offers good opportunities for meeting with potential customers in a more relaxed, entertainment-type setting. And, lastly, take a good look at hotels.
Accessibility and support: what are the transportation methods available? Can you rent a car? Will there be a shuttle from the airport to the venue? Is it easily accessible? And, finally, support services should include things like technology support built in for product demonstrations, social media marketing, experience booths and even translation.