Exhibitions & Conferences have been a staple of corporate marketing for a long time. Nearly every industry will have a national exhibition, and even a worldwide exhibition. Brand new industries are soon followed by a brand new exhibition.
Exhibitions bring thousands of targeted and qualified people to one place, where you’re able to showcase your business for a price. They’ve been running for forever, and so many businesses keep exhibiting at them. What exactly could the problem be?
And that’s the problem — so many businesses keep exhibiting at them. You’re not alone at them. Your business is just one of many, and they’ll be more than a few who offer exactly what you offer.
So you spend thousands of dollars to get a space at the exhibition, thousands more dollars to have stands built & marketing materials produced. And you spend even more advertising your presence at this exhibition.
What do you get out of it? Sure, thousands upon thousands of your perfect target audience will be in attendance. But how many will actually visit your stand and show any interest? After all, there are so many other businesses to visit, and even if you have the biggest and most elaborate stand it doesn’t guarantee decent footfall.
Over my marketing career I’ve seen and worked with so many businesses who invest tens of thousands of dollars into showcasing themselves at a single exhibition — only to leave with a handful of leads. Just terrible!
So what alternatives are there to exhibitions? What could your business invest in instead to get a far superior return?
Well, sticking to events for now you could run your own. There are many forms your own events could take, from networking, to educational or even client events. Each of these has so many models. Educational events could be a few hours, or an entire day. They can be free, or have a charge, but both lead to an up sell.
The key here is that they are your events. You’re investing in a venue, team, marketing etc to showcase your business and ONLY your business. That is a massive difference. 100% of attendees will be interested and listening to you! You’re lucky to have 0.1% of exhibition attendees visit your stand (seriously!)
So what else?
Well, with the beauty of modern marketing there are many cost effective ways to target the right kind of people for your business. So compared to exhibitions, you’re able to get targeted & qualified traffic but for a tiny fraction of the cost!
PPC ads are great for this — Facebook, Google etc. Running ads to targeted audiences, offering a free guide or ebook (lead magnet) to capture details, then add them to an email campaign giving away valuable content. Eventually, inviting them into your own event or webinar, leading to a sale.
There is no longer a need for exhibitions. They’ve had the time, and they need to make way for more effective marketing. Businesses need to strongly consider any investment they make into them.
That all being said, I still expect exhibitions to be around for many years to come. But businesses will keep going to them purely because exhibitions are a staple of the industry, and not to showcase your business there is a sign you’re no longer a player in the industry.
Sure, I can understand that. But is it really worth the cost to simply remind people you’re in business? Not when it can be better spent on running your own events, and running well targeted and optimized marketing campaigns.