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3 Reasons to Keep Trade Shows a Priority in Your 2021 Marketing Budget


Trade shows are returning! Hopefully that means your business will be returning to them as well. With buyers itching to get back to meeting in-person, seeing products in action, and building on the relationships that they had formed prior to COVID-19, it’s important for exhibitors to match that excitement and show up. As buyers are prepared to continue making these big purchasing decisions, keeping your business on their radar will be key to keeping up within your industry.

A common misconception is that because your company has “skated by” over the last year without attending any events, it does not mean that they will continue to be as successful without kicking back into drive in this important avenue of marketing.

Here are three huge reasons why your business may suffer from cutting trade shows from the budget.

1. Lost relationships mean lost business.If you’re assuming that stepping back from trade shows to save marketing dollars for other things might be a beneficial strategy, think again! If your business was highly impacted by the negative effects of COVID-19 and a trade show is just not in the cards, certainly put your business’s livelihood first. However, if you’re cutting trade shows out of your budget because you feel like digital marketing might be a better, more inexpensive alternative, you might just be missing out on a huge business builder – and that’s relationships.

One thing that many businesses have learned during 2020 was that many of the business relationships that lasted are the ones with a solid foundation. A business that has close ties with another will be more likely to continue doing business, even when times get hard.

While this may not always be true, we do know that personal relationships can truly make business connections flourish. Trust is a huge part of the equation, which can be created much faster through in-person connections.

In May of 2020, EXHIBITOR Magazine released their findings from over 1,000 responses from corporate exhibitor managers and suppliers who had been dealing with canceled trade shows. It was clear that it had been blatantly more difficult for them to maintain relationships. 48% of exhibit managers shared that they had experienced difficulties when working to build and maintain relationships with clients and prospects. When forced to do their best to replicate trade shows through virtual options, the difference was obvious.

Since trade shows provide the opportunity for these face-to-face interactions between exhibitors and qualified buyers, it makes trade shows extremely valuable. Creating relationships with numerous potential buyers all in one place will keep your business high on their radars. On the other hand, avoiding trade shows altogether will let other businesses grow in their relationships, making it more difficult for yours to create one through an online-only effort.

One of the top reasons for attending trade shows is to build relationships, so be sure that you’re keeping up with the relationships you’ve created in the past and building a foundation for new ones to grow!

2. Skipping trade shows is like handing your potential business off to others in your industry.To not show up to popular and successful industry trade shows with proven track records means that buyers who are prepared to make buying decisions won’t even have the chance to consider your business. Avoiding trade shows altogether lets the competition take this opportunity for themselves.

Don’t let that happen! It will be such a key factor in your business if you’re able to keep your foot in the door with the potential buyers who have come to know your name or have yet to be wowed by you with a great experience at a trade show.

Showing up is half the battle!Ever heard the phrase “distance makes the heart grow fonder?” In the survey mentioned earlier, it is stated that the benefits of trade shows has become more clear to upper management. 25% of respondents shared that cancelations of events have made the value of exhibiting more obvious to members of the C-suite. With these high-up decision-makers becoming fonder of face-to-face marketing, there’s no doubt that trade show marketing efforts will be high on the list for many businesses.

Keep in mind that while simply showing up confirms that you are a contender in the industry to be considered, it won’t get you leads and new clients without some additional effort. It takes a well-thought out exhibit marketing plan as well, which we give tips for here and here!

3. Creating brand awareness is a large puzzle piece for business growth.Before creating relationships at trade shows comes generating awareness. For products and services to be sold to new buyers, it takes them knowing not only that you exist, but also what makes you great. And while we would all like to assume that we are ‘well-known’ in our industry, the fact is that there are plenty of fish in the sea, and trade shows are the way to show that we’re the fish.

While a buyer may have heard of your business’s name, that doesn’t mean they know all that you offer, what makes you stand apart, and that you could be the perfect solution to their needs. Cue… trade shows, where you are able to share all of these aspects of your offerings – and more – with potential buyers who may just need to hear what you have to say, to be sold. For buyers who only tend to make big purchase decisions from exhibitors that they’re able to speak with in-person, this is huge. If you’re not on their radar, it means they won’t be considering you!

Since their trade shows had been canceled or postponed, 55% of exhibitors from the Exhibitor Magazine survey haven’t had success in increasing brand awareness. Clearly just spending time marketing on social media and other non-face-to-face marketing tactics aren’t getting the job done for many businesses!

Creating awareness and generating interest at trade shows, especially from those in your industry, can be done by showing attendees that you fit their exact needs. Since attendees are likely already open to listening, your chances of connecting with them on a personal level in-person are so much higher than online! With a high-quality exhibit that’s engaging and filled with knowledgeable and friendly booth staff, you’ll have the opportunity to create a great experience around your brand that truly makes an impact.

Hopefully this helps you see why trade shows are important for business growth now more than ever!If you understand the importance of keeping trade shows in your 2021 plans but are still trying to figure out how to budget, here are 6 helpful tips for saving money at your next event! If you’re on board with the benefits of keeping your trade show marketing afloat this year, Skyline Exhibits can help you update or build an exhibit that wows your audience and helps you obtain new leads and sales! Happy exhibiting!

About the Author

In her experience at Skyline's corporate office in St. Paul, Minnesota, Briquelle Neyens immersed herself in trade show research and the ins and outs of exhibit sales firsthand. She also engaged with Skyline's wide-array of products and services from an insider's perspective. Her blogs portray her expertise on what it takes to be a successful trade show marketer. She enjoys generating information that will help all trade show marketers in their decisions to become successful on the trade show floor.

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