Point of Beginning

Trade shows - Are they in or out?

August 9, 2011

A ZweigWhite survey reveals that while many architecture, engineering, planning and environmental firms still see value in participating and attending trade shows, other faster and lower-cost alternatives may be pushing them toward slow obsolescence.

The ZweigWhite 2011 Marketing Survey reveals that more than two-thirds of firms, 65 percent have rented a booth at a trade show. In 2010, firms rented a booth at a trade show a median of three times, and spent a median of $1,500 per booth.

Firms report they typically receive a median of six leads per trade show – 25 percent report they draw 10 or more.

Russ Simons, managing partner at Venue Solutions Group, LLC, a programming, planning, preparation and performance consulting firm for public assembly facilities based in Nashville, Tenn., has attended trade shows as both a buyer and exhibitor.

He notes an interesting shift in the overall trade show concept, which he feels is due to the level of connectivity we enjoy today.

“Trade shows used to be the one time you could see all products and services. Today you don’t need to go to a place to do that, you can do it virtually. There’s no waiting. By the time we get to a trade show today, you don’t rely on it to give you that full exposure. Now if I go, I’m looking for something that I know about and haven’t already seen online.”

Survey results show that 78 percent of respondents find participation in trade shows worthwhile. Firms most often report benefits such as increased visibility and relationship building (97 percent of respondents reported each). The most common reason firms believe their participation isn’t worthwhile is because there wasn’t enough traffic, as was reported in 88 percent of survey respondents.

Simons still sees value in trade shows. When buying a product or service over the internet, the only information provided is what is on the screen.

“There’s a lot of times when I might not know what kind of questions to ask about a product or service,” he says, going on to explain that when purchasing something from an actual vendor, as is the case at a trade show, there’s a chance to interact, explore a product and then ask someone questions in real-time. He feels this kind of interaction can be vital for informed decision making or using something to its fullest potential.

This attitude may be fading away as the next generation of leaders enters the A/E industry.

Perhaps virtual trade show events will be the future. This much more Internet savvy group feels much more comfortable making decisions based on information they access online, and Simons notes that they don’t feel as much of a need to be face-to-face in order to receive accurate

information. “The decision makers of the future are much more comfortable on a virtual platform,” he says.

For more information on the ZweigWhite 2011 Marketing Survey visit www.zweigwhite.com/surveys.