Do you use trade shows for the right marketing goals?

Published November 5, 2021 | Written by Christophe Cabarry

Trade shows are re-starting like NYSCC in Cosmetics, Fakuma in Plastics… and probably next year 2022 will be back to normal with InCosmetics, the American Coatings Show, and the K-Show. We see a good number of companies starting to get ready for next year's trade shows.

It’s really going to be refreshing to see partners and customers face-to-face, "at scale". However, we also see companies preparing for trade shows like they did 10 years ago, and not necessarily with the right goal in mind.


What are trade shows good for? Meeting customers and promotion

1 - Meet existing customers and nurture relationships

Trade shows are great occasions to organize large customer meetings, connect with the big chiefs, discuss prices or projects and share ideas. Shows are also a great channel to entertain your existing relationships. Often, the ROI of a show is obtained just through the savings on travel costs. Instead of making 10 customer trips, you travel 1 time to the show and meet the 10 customers there. At least that was the case when it was normal to meet customers face-to-face. Is this still the case in a post-pandemic world when we are all used to meeting via Zoom or Teams?


2 - Make product announcements

Capture the attention of media and potential targets on the spot. A trade show as an "echo chamber" allows you to be in the spotlight at the right place and the right moment. But you need to fight to get attention among the many announcements made at the same show.


3 - Promote your products

Another opportunity during shows is product promotion or market education through live presentations. There is ROI in doing that, but you immediately have a problem of reach. You will only present to the people who discover you at the show, which are usually the ones geographically close who can attend.


What are trade shows not good at? New business generation

In today’s world, trade shows are not effective to generate new business. Why? Because customers most likely do not have needs during the show! Plain and simple, they are there to network.

Needs for new products or new suppliers occur all the time — throughout the year and all around the world. The reality is that they do not need to wait until the next show to ask questions. They just go online with their phone or their laptop, then explore and screen products to discover what they need.

Bottom line, trade shows deal correctly with only one of the two missions of marketing: “PROMOTION”. The other mission, "BUYER ENGAGEMENT" is missing. Simply stated, Buyer Engagement is connecting with the customers that are in search mode right now.


trade show good for comparison


How to engage new buyers if trade shows aren't optimal

In the chemicals industry, we are used to promoting too much. This approach is a carry-over from a legacy of the time when chemical giants were initiating and owning the relationship with customers. Those times are long-gone. You do not necessarily need to promote your brand, your technology, your products, or your company to make new business. Well… you probably should if you want to increase your chance of being contacted, but promotion is not a 100% requirement in today's world.

On the contrary, if you want to generate new business, you must engage buyers where they are searching. You must position yourself on the digital journey of the potential customers who are searching your products categories. You must be positioned on ALL the channels that aggregate searches of your future clients, like SpecialChem, UL Prospector, Google…

Simply because this is the best route to new business – AND the most rapid AND the one with the highest conversion rate.

Having this in mind, it would be a pity to allocate your new business generation budget on channels like trade shows that are not designed for that, especially in a post-pandemic digitalized 2022.



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