Trade Shows: The "Unstoppable Force."

Trade show's still here. We complain, criticize, and whine (yep...that's me!) about the financial and human expense, while feeling an odd, inner burst of excitement and anticipation as the date of the big event approaches. Yet to quote the ever put upon George Costanza,  this "unstoppable force"* seemingly has a life of its own.

Some companies have reduced or in some cases completely eliminated shows from their MarComm plans,  whereas many others find it difficult to right size their participation with a requirement to meet defined, measurable objectives. Decisions to participate at a given show are sometimes madewithout the collaboration of marketing, industry and communications teams that should be key stakeholders and driving the decision process,  with deliverables that include a launch program, benchmarking, and pre/post-event monitoring.

Although trade shows are perceived as a dinosaur by some and a necessary evil by others, (e.g. "our competitors will be there, so....", fill in the blank), this veteran of the media mix is often deemed guilty without conclusive data that reflects a well thought plan. It's astonishing that given trade shows are one of the largest budgeted area of the MarComm pie, it is commonly overlooked when it comes to measuring ROI. Poor old're not evil, just misunderstood.

SEO and SEM, coupled with a company's digital arsenal of websites, blogs, and eblasts are often anointed as the better, low cost options. However, this delightful digital dynasty is all too often detached from the initial event planning and treated exclusively as an embellished bolt-on during theshow. Measuring is easier than traditional media, no doubt. However, measuring these tactics in a separate silo is about as effective as buying peanut butter because it was on sale, but forgetting to spread it on your sandwich with the jam when you're craving that combination of the sweet and chunky ( again!).

Digital versus Trade Show, which is better? Neither is perfect and one does not replace the other. Each should be evaluated and selectively deployed as strategic initiatives within an integrated program launch. Carefully executed, you will elevate your company's brand, establish Thought Leadershipand grow customer mindshare.

There's so much more to be said about the good, bad, and absurd of trade show practices and comparisons to digital, but it's time for that PB&J.

*Seinfeld,  Season 2, episode 6, Broadcast date: 23 May 1991.