I’ve recently returned from a tradeshow in Birmingham, UK.
IPEX is the 2nd largest print-industry tradeshow there is, lasts for seven days and is held every four years.
I couldn’t help but notice that, this time around, the show was a lot smaller. Less halls, less exhibitors and smaller booths. A sign of the times? Of course. Many companies committed to exhibiting at the show at a time when most of the world was stumbling through the worst recession for more than fifty years. Of course belts were being tightened.
But what amazed me, when speaking to various exhibitors, was how few of them had bothered to do anything about getting prospective customers to come to their booth prior to the show even starting: Hardly any of the companies I talked to had done any pre-show marketing.
Just as many companies still employ sales and marketing techniques that are out of touch and out of date with today’s internet-empowered customer; too many companies spend a fortune on exhibiting at a tradeshow and leave the “booth footfall” element to chance.
Ten or fifteen years ago we could adopt a “If We Build It, They Will Come” mentality for our booth – and it usually worked. Visitors were happy to stroll around the exhibition halls and wait for something to catch their eye.
But we’re not in 1995 any more.
Today, few people have the time or money to lazily wander around a tradeshow for days. The ones that do are usually time-wasters or have no money to buy whatever you’re selling. Today, for many visitors, going to a tradeshow is akin to a military exercise. It’s about doing their homework before they even set foot on the show floor. It’s about researching the companies that they’re interested in, drawing up a itinerary of who to see – and when. It’s about searching, not browsing.
Perhaps, during the course of their day, they’ll stumble upon your booth. Or then again perhaps they won’t. But after investing thousands to exhibit at a tradeshow, do you really want to just cross your fingers and hope things will work out?
Whether it’s tradeshows, PR, social media or whatever else: today you need to be in the minds of your target market before the doors even open.