Thursday, April 17, 2008

Measuring the Importance of the Trade Show

In this industry, there are so many trade shows, that it's often times difficult to keep up. Some take place in local, Canadian city venues, while others are all over the U.S., most often in Las Vegas (which is beginning to look like our second home!) How pertinent is it to attend such shows?

From our perspective as journalists, it's obviously of high importance to attend. We need to report on the products, see them, try them out, learn about them, and ask the necessary questions that allow us to properly educate and inform our readers. But what about retailers? Manufacturers? Installers? Distributors? Is it better to attend local shows, or the major ones, like CES, CEDIA, PMA, E3, and CTIA, to name just a few?

It really depends on the particular show, and what any given person's exact role is. Many industry members have told me that small, local events make more sense, cost less, and allow for better business deals when dealing with existing partners. But if you're looking for a fancy new line to distribute, or a cool new product to offer through your retail store, often times the neatest start-up companies can't afford to see you, and need you to come to shows like CES or CEDIA to see them. Sure, you'll have to weed through aisle after aisle and booth after booth of products you're not interested in, knock elbows with the crowds walking by, and invest in a new pair of comfortable shoes to cover all the necessary ground, but that's the price of doing business.

But don't completely rule out the "big" shows as useful events for maintaining your existing relationships. The other day, one industry member commented to me (upon discussing a particular trade show that we were at) that you're often not noticed when you're there, but it's definitely noticed if you're not. In that respect, sometimes it's necessary to attend shows just keep up appearances, so to speak. If you see your local rep every week, that's great, but so what? If his boss, and his boss's boss from the U.S., or even an international location, sees you down in Vegas for CES or Denver for CEDIA, that looks better on him, and, in turn, on you and your organization.

When it comes to smaller-scale, local events, they're equally as important for both fostering existing relationships, and nurturing new ones. One industry member told me that he might meet with 1,000 people at a major trade show, while only a handful are actually qualified. Meanwhile, he could speak to just 50 individuals at a small, local event, yet most, if not all of them, are good, qualified leads.

So what's the answer? Trade shows certainly are important, both big and local. They do get expensive and time consuming, so it's important to pick the ones most pertinant to you and your customer base. Most important, however, are the intimate meetings, one-on-ones, and of course, the occasional glass of beer (or wine!) to wash down all that business talk!

Which shows are most important to you?

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Futuristics said...

NICE Blog :)

Lee_D said...

If you weren't already aware of it, my friend Jason Van Steenwyck at the Marketing Matters agency had a good rebuttal to my comments about trade shows back before CES:

His point about using shows to build or maintain your brand image is a good one.