We love attending trade shows. They are a fantastic opportunity to keep up-to-date with industry trends, meet suppliers and forge links with customers old and new. Sometimes attending a dynamic trade show or exhibition can give your business the X factor – that stimulus to growth that turns your year around and opens up exciting new opportunities.
But the opposite can also be true. We’ve probably all had the experience of attending a trade show with high hopes only to come away disappointed. Or, worse still, to attend an exhibition with doubtful returns, just because you feel it’s the right thing for you to do. This is where the X-factor becomes the fear factor: fear of missing out on new business, fear that your customers will think you’re no longer trading, fear of your competitors gaining ground on you!
Thinking Of The Returns
Is this fear well placed, or is it okay not to exhibit? Attending a trade show is a big investment in time and money for any business. This is true even as an attendee. For exhibitors, the costs are much higher, so there should always be something to show for your investment at the end. Simply attending in order to allay your fears of what might happen is, in our opinion, a pretty expensive risk aversion strategy.
How Well Attended Are Trade Exhibitions?
Bear with us on this. Let’s have a quick look at attendance stats for the main industry exhibitions and see if there is an alternative:
Advanced Engineering, Birmingham, 31/10-01/11/2017: we couldn’t find solid attendance figures, but according to event organiser EasyFairs, the 2017 show, for engineering businesses in the aerospace and automotive sectors, attracted 15% more advanced bookings than 2016. Early bookings for 2018 are already up 35% on this year.
MACH Exhibition, Birmingham, April 2016: Around 25,000 attendees visited in 2016. The 2016 and 2014 shows sold more commercial space than any other event in the show’s history.
SPE Offshore Europe, Aberdeen, 03/09 – 06/09/2017: This year’s Offshore Europe exhibition, which we attended, announced disappointing attendance figures of 36,000, down from 55,000 in 2015 and over 60,000 in 2013.
However, attendance figures do not necessarily reflect “buyer” figures. Many attendees are there to generate business themselves and are not necessarily attending the show looking for suppliers but their own opportunities. For example; the recent explosion in recruitment agencies account for a great number of attendees alongside those who choose to no longer exhibit and so “walk the floor” as it’s often described. Breakdowns of companies and job function are rarely audited or published and so this again raises the question of how many actual opportunities are available from the thousands of attendees listed.
What Does This Mean?
Businesses are clearly still going to trade shows, with figures that increase year-on-year in some cases. A survey of MACH attendees in 2017 showed that 90% of exhibitors generated new leads and 76% reported improved relationships with their clients as a result. However, this must be balanced alongside the issue that most companies do not want to admit that a show did not work well for them and good news stories following a show can often guarantee editorial within supporting trade publicity channels.
What you get out of a trade show may also depend on your industry. The comparatively low attendance of the oil and gas tradeshow Offshore Europe reflects a difficult time being had by many businesses in the industry due to low oil prices, whereas the aerospace and automotive sectors are thriving.
Alternative Ways To Generate Leads
No matter how successful an exhibition, attendance figures are always fairly low when compared to the market as a whole.
Should engineering and manufacturing firms be concentrating more on digital marketing to expand their customer base and develop client relationships? We believe that yes, they should. We still plan on attending important trade shows, but have chosen to no longer exhibit within them unless we are attending as part of a group of companies exhibiting and selling a complete manufacture & supply service or as an associate member of our trade organisations.
We refuse to let the fear factor dictate our investment decisions and are confident that our customers and suppliers will know we are still active in our market place through our constant communications and updates and continued excellent service provision.
We believe our time and investment is better spent developing and expanding upon our existing relationships and utilising other marketing opportunities which has begun to bear fruit in new leads and clients at a faster and greater rate than any other exhibitions or channels we have used previously.
For businesses who are demoralised by their experience at trade shows or simply want to diversify their lead generation strategy, the internet offers very real opportunities for expansion. This is a topic we are always very happy to discuss, whether by telephone, here at Hone-All, over coffee at a trade show or by message through our Linkedin accounts.