A major national show may cost start-up companies $20,000 or more for a small booth in the back of the hall, employee travel and other related costs. Large multi-national companies can easily drop $1 million or more for huge booths, onsite staff and wining and dining top customers.
Trade show sponsors, exhibit builders and convention center operators will tell you that any recent falloff in attendance is due largely to a tight economy. They say a show’s face-to-face interaction is irreplaceable. Yet as major exhibitors pull out of shows, the stigma smaller companies face for also not attending has decreased.
So if companies don’t choose the trade show route, what are the alternatives?
Many trade publications offer virtual shows that let shoppers chat online with company reps and receive information about new products and solutions via email. The cost is great, but customers acceptance still leaves these not ready to replace the traditional trade show.
Some companies, either alone or with related service/product providers, are sponsoring their own traveling road shows. A five- to 10-city effort can reach existing and potential customers where they live at a cost equal to one traditional tradeshow. I’ve seen these work well.
I’ve also seen successful variations with companies skipping the trade show exhibit hall and securing hospitality suites to provide an intimate place to showcase products and services to key or would-be customers. Granted, if too many potential exhibitors try this option, the shows will close. Other relatively new and often successful ideas are webinars, podcasts and blogs, often hosted on company or trade media websites. They have the ability to reach hundreds to thousands of targeted groups for a very modest investment.
Obviously, the economy has squeezed trade shows. But when the economy rebounds, will they still be a prime marketing choice or will the newer alternatives take over? What are your thoughts?