Is it the end of the road for trade shows? | Richmond & Towers
16th March | Olivia Michaud back

Is it the end of the road for trade shows?

It seems that for some people working in the built environment sector, trade shows are increasingly seen as a dying marketing tactic. When we spoke to exhibitors and visitors at Ecobuild earlier this month, many were quick to notice that the show was getting smaller, with footfall following suit. This inevitably raises questions around the value of industry events like these – in particular: do they belong in the pre-digital era?

The Good

Undeniably, trade shows are a great opportunity to raise brand awareness by networking, showcasing new products, and getting up-to-speed on the latest trends. For many brands that don’t have showrooms up and down the country, they are also a good way to get physical product in front of potential customers. With recent technological developments, data collection has become a key component of many trade shows, too. Using scanners purchased as part of exhibitor packages, brands can easily and quickly gather information about the people they talk to at their stands – potential leads that they can pursue after the show ends.

From a media relations point of view, trade shows are invaluable. How often do all our media contacts gather under one roof? It’s a chance for us to meet up with everyone over coffee, maintain our relationships, and plan the year ahead.

The Bad

There’s no denying that trade shows are a huge drain on marketing budgets. Exhibiting (or sponsoring) is incredibly expensive and usually yields the highest cost per lead of any marketing tactic. These costs don’t stop at space rates and sky-high sponsorship fees. Building an eye-catching, attractive stand to get you noticed can set companies back tens of thousands of pounds – at least. And that’s even before factoring in the cost of sending your marketing and/or sales team to do the legwork.

And The Ugly

Online substitutes for trade shows are forcing organisers to scale down the size of their shows, or to merge with other industry partners. The most tech-savvy among us might ask, why would I wait for the next show to come around when I can launch my new product now via digital channels? Can’t I network from the comfort of my office chair using LinkedIn?

In terms of revenue, one can of course argue that a good, face-to-face conversation is much more valuable than any number of leads generated through online channels – especially in the building industry, where many still swear by relatively old-school sales techniques. The point is, there’s something in it for everyone. However, as the industry evolves, trade shows are going to have to change with it and find a new position in the digital marketing mix.

The future of trade shows

Whilst there are obvious benefits and pitfalls, ultimately, the struggle many brands find with trade shows is that the ROI is just too difficult to measure. To weather the changing landscape, organisers are going to have to respond to digital disruption and rapidly fast-forward to the 21st century. In my opinion, it’s all about creating an experience that can’t be replicated online: product demonstrations using virtual reality glasses, interactive networking walls… The possibilities are endless!

Will you continue to exhibit at trade shows? To get in touch and find out how our expert team of B2B specialists can support you, give us a call on 0207 388 7421 or email

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