In December last year, an infographic summarising the views of 13,000 trade show visitors caught my attention.
Firstly because 13,000 is a lot of responses.
Secondly, because those visitors were based in 135 different countries.
And thirdly, because visitor views are really important when it comes to finding clues to successful trade show marketing.
Survey organised by UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry
Organised by UFI, the research findings are not extensive but they are useful all the same.
I am going to highlight some of the stats quoted because I think they can be useful to you when preparing to exhibit.
They might also help you justify the decision to exhibit in the first place.
Increasingly, the question of physical vs. digital marketing is raised but there really there are valid reasons for both forms of promotion.
Here I’m focusing on the physical, face to face, live marketing opportunities that exhibitions and events offer your business.
So here are some things to be thinking about based on what the UFI research tells us.
1. Visitor experience is stable
The UFI survey asked respondents for their overall satisfaction ratings for trade shows. 71% rated their experience as very or fairly satisfied.
That statistic compared with 70% and 67% for the years 2017 and 2016 respectively.
So, satisfaction rates for visitor experience have improved each year and that’s good and not just for trade show organisers.
If you couple this stat with the one that asks;
How frequently do visitors expect to attend trade shows in future?
16% of respondents stated they would be using trade shows more frequently and 68% said they would continue to attend as frequently as they do now.
2. Visitor numbers at trade shows should not be diminishing anytime soon
For proof of that statement…Another UFI report (published this month), focused on the global exhibitions industry, highlights that in 2018, more than 300 million* people attended an exhibition.
That’s a lot of people!
Europe ranked first in terms of total visitors with 112.0 million visitors who attended to meet 1.3 million exhibitors.
There is heaps of visitor interest and need for you to capitalise on, as I will explain shortly.
Before we get to that, the other thing you should note is that there has never been a greater number of trade shows and conferences for you to select from.
In 2018, approximately 32,000* exhibitions took place worldwide.
If you want to grow your business in just about any part of the world, there is very likely an exhibition that can help you to do that.
For a list of worldwide events see this list.
Why do visitors attend trade shows?
- 44% said they went to source a product
- 43% wanted to find new ideas
- 39% said it was to network
- 34% attended to keep-up with what was happening in their industry
The reason that trade shows remain so popular with visitors is that they are so time-effective.
The stats above highlight this key strength.
In one place and in one visit, attendees can access a wide range of suppliers and they can network to their heart’s content.
By being outside of their normal environment they are also exposed to new ideas and trends.
They see things differently and they make new connections.
Lovely stuff, but how does this help you?
Those stats help you get inside the head of your target audience. It’s a bit like finding the keywords for trade show marketing.
These are the subjects to build into your stand design and into your pre-show marketing.
They should also be the guide to the words that your stand team use to open sales conversations.
You could also use these “reasons to attend the show” in your invitations to top prospects.
If you are ever asked to explain why trade shows have a place in the age of digital marketing, those four statistics above provide a great explanation.
Plus… those same time-saving factors that show visitors love so much work equally well for exhibitors too.
Being in a central place where lots of people are in a buying and trying frame of mind; lead generation possibilities abounding and the chance to accelerate the growth of your sales database…
I could write much more on this subject but as I am constrained by space, hopefully, you get the picture.
The reasons why buyers in any market love trade shows and why they will continue to do so all work in favour of exhibiting businesses.
Now let’s see what the survey tells about trade show use versus other marketing channels.
Do visitors expect to see a bigger increase in their consumption of other channels vs trade shows?
This question was asked in relation to where trade shows compared with other marketing channels and whether consumption would increase a little more frequently/ much more frequently.
- 43% of respondents expected to increase consumption of social media
- 41% expected an increase in the consumption of online training
- 35% said that they expected time allocated to trade magazines would increase
- 32% thought that consumption of online markets would increase
- 32% believed that conference attendance would be more frequent
- 26% answered that attendance to trade shows would increase
This is all positive stuff.
Not only are trade show and conference consumption set to increase but the statistics provide clues about how to increase engagement with the people who use trade shows to solve problems in their businesses.
For instance; how might you increase your use of social media to engage with visitors in your pre and post-show marketing?
Could your company offer online training? Webinars provide an easy way to start and to test out demand for individual subjects.
Increasing content distribution by way of articles and reports to trade magazines would also appear to be something to be doing in the months ahead.
These are opportunities for year-round marketing that can be developed from a first meeting at a trade show or conference.
Plus of course the ability to develop a current and live sales prospect list as I have mentioned already.
It’s from this list that your ongoing marketing will start.
88% of CEO’s aged 34 and under think both business objectives and entertainment are important
Younger CEO’s felt that the combination of achieving business objectives while having fun at the same time was important.
They are also much more likely to spend more time at shows that are entertaining…
That’s because these CEO’s have grown-up in the age of the festival where entertainment around the main feature of the event is a big part of the offering.
Their opinions differ from their older counterparts who felt that entertainment was much less important when considering whether to attend an exhibition or not. Are the oldies fun suckers? Not really just a different outlook on events and business.
But I’d recommend building fun elements into your stands. You might also want to seek out events that build entertainment elements into their programmes.
Are they better attended than the shows that don’t provide fun?
You’ll have to tell me on that score but I would be interested to know.
The importance of sustainability
Another statistic that caught my eye: 42% of visitors under 24 would not attend an event if it did not have a responsible attitude to sustainability.
Sustainability is a concern across all age groups but it’s felt more keenly by the young as they believe they are the ones who will be living with the problems caused by climate change.
Responsible show organisers, venues, and contractors are now focused on sustainability.
Increasingly sustainability will be a marketing issue for businesses as well as a social responsibility.
Before you book into a show or appoint a new supplier, you might want to check their policy on this important issue.
Keep in mind that responsible companies may be incurring costs that others are not and that could have a bearing on the quotes you receive.
And of course, look to your own marketing materials and ensure that your policies for sustainability are explained.
*Those figures include trade and consumer shows but exclude conferences and seminars
For more on UFI visit www.ufi.org