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Take It From Someone Who Has Been on Both Sides of The Booth

November 09, 2016

After 21 years in the healthcare industry, serving in both sales and marketing roles, I made a professional career move to trade show marketing. While in healthcare, I was consistently asked to work various trade shows either to represent the company or help launch a new product in the medical community.

As the sales representative, I essentially played no role in the selecting the trade show or logistics. I offered no input into pre-show marketing and play no part in providing labor in the display setup. The only expectation from us as representatives was to show up, look good, and talk to other professionals. If all went as planned, some representative, in some location I did not know, would get a follow up call saying that the customer wanted more information, maybe even to buy the product.

Too many times when the request came for individuals to represent the company at a trade show, it was either met with the roll of the eyes and disgruntlement (due to taking reps away from the comfort of their own bed) or pure elation at the prospect of visiting a city they have never visited before. Usually there were no expectations outside of the usual meet and greet and dissemination of the latest brochure. As it turns out, for large companies, such as the ones I worked for, this can probably slide by with little damage, financially speaking. For other start ups or small businesses, this mindset by representatives can tank a year of marketing budget with little return to show for their "lack of" effort. Clearly there is a wide spread void in recognizing of the potential benefits can play in a company's sales and marketing efforts. Early in my trade show career, I didn't fully understand the goal of my participation.

Fast forward 15 years. When you visit Skyline's website, you will find a tremendous amount of trade show related blogs and articles. Here are some compelling points from one research piece that I recently found:
6 Proven Reasons Why Trade Shows Should Be Part of Your Marketing Budget

  • B2B exhibitions were 39.2% of B2B marketing budgets The largest line item spend of any other marketing channel. That number has held fairly steady over the past several years, demonstrating the resilience of trade shows.  Source: CEIR: The Spend Decision: Analyzing How Exhibits Fit Into The Overall Marketing Budget
  • 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority. Which means more than 4 out of 5 people walking the aisles are potential customers for exhibitors.  Source: CEIR: The Spend Decision: Analyzing How Exhibits Fit Into The Overall Marketing Budget
  • 78% of trade show attendees travel more than 400 miles to attend an exhibition, which means you are getting a national audience at many trade shows.  Source: CEIR report ACRR 1153.12
  • 99% of marketers said they found unique value from trade shows they did not get from other marketing mediums.  Their 3 most valued aspects of trade shows were: 60% of exhibitors said they value the ability to see lots of prospects and customers at the same time; 51% of exhibitors said they value face-to-face meetings with prospects and customers, and 47% said they value the ability to meet with a variety of players face to face, such as customers, suppliers, resellers, etc.  Source: CEIR: The Changing Environment of Exhibitions
  • The top 3 goals for exhibitors at trade shows are brand awareness, lead generation, and relationship building.  Source: Skyline Exhibits market research
  • The average attendee spends 8.3 hours viewing trade show exhibits at a show or exhibition. That gives you plenty of opportunity to connect with your target audience.  Source: Exhibit Surveys, Inc
When contemplating trade show marketing, keep in mind that this event may be your one shot to engage many key decision makers in one place at one time.
Lance Dauby
Skyline Exhibit & Design
Marketing Consultant, South Carolina

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