The decorative concrete industry is a niche market with a lot of players competing for work. An internet search for “decorative concrete contractor” will bring up nearly 3 million entries, and “concrete artisan” generates nearly 1 million. In local phone books, however, there are typically no such entries. Instead, potential customers must look up “concrete contractors” or “concrete products” and hope to find an ad or two detailing services among the dozens of company names. Even in industry-specific buyers’ guides, you may find yourself just another face in the crowd.
Advertising plays a big part in reaching the right customers, as well as the vitally important word-of-mouth testimonials given by satisfied clients. However, nothing compares to being able to connect with people face to face. This is where trade shows come into play.
If you have a new product, technique or service to market, the right trade show can link you to the right audience to get your name out there and the leads you want. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 99 percent of marketers said they found unique value from trade shows that they did not get from other marketing mediums. CEIR has been providing research on the North American exhibition and event industry globally since 1978.
Almost three-quarters of the 2013 Concrete Decor Show exhibitors took part in the 2014 show. Seventy-one percent of the exhibitors in 2015 were returning exhibitors from all previous years, and 47 percent of the 2015 exhibitors exhibited in the prior year, indicating that those exhibitors found enough return on investment for a repeat visit.
There are many more benefits packaged into trade shows than just lead generation. Below are nine more reasons, in no particular order, to partake in trade shows as exhibitors and attendees.
Build brand awareness. The top reason business owners and concrete contractors exhibit at trade shows is to raise the awareness of their company and brand, according to “The Value of Trade Shows,” a white paper published by Skyline and EXPO Magazine. Raising brand awareness is crucial for new companies and those entering new geographical or vertical markets like decorative concrete.
Demo your products and techniques to prospects. Whether you are demonstrating your services or taking part in a decorative concrete competition like the Concrete Decor Show’s Brawl in the Fall, you have an opportunity to show off your products or skills to an engaged audience that’s filled with real prospects. As a matter of fact, CEIR reports that 81 percent of trade show attendees have buying authority, which means that more than four out of five people walking the aisles are potential customers for exhibitors.
Foster relationships. A trade show, such as a local home and garden show, is an ideal venue for making a good first impression, but it’s also a convenient way to touch base with existing clients or business partners attending the show. Carve out time to visit their booths or grab lunch with a fellow exhibitor to build upon business relationships or to foster new ones.
Direct sales. If you are exhibiting at the right show, your customers and end-users are already on site and ready to buy. Here’s your chance to sell your services or merchandise or win more jobs.
One-stop shopping. You may also want to meet face to face with your own vendors and suppliers. During breaks, you can learn about their latest and greatest offerings as well as do one-stop comparison shopping right there on the exhibit floor.
Education and training. If you’re an attendee rather than an exhibitor, trade shows enable you to meet and learn from industry experts through seminars, workshops, educational luncheons and hands-on demonstrations. Plus, attendees can typically acquire formal training through certification courses offered by industry associations.
Networking. Having so many industry members in one place means you have plenty of opportunities to meet with peers, make contacts, learn from each other, share ideas and even check out the competition. Many trade associations also take advantage of larger shows to host annual meetings or social events. Not only is networking an excellent way to brainstorm with others to identify solutions for various challenges and problems, it also helps keep your finger on the pulse of the industry.
Learn what’s trending. From new products and techniques to price lists and even contests or giveaways, trade shows are great opportunities to learn which direction your industry is headed — and where it is not. Exhibiting contractors should find time to walk the show floor to discover which booths are attracting the most attention and why. By learning what those companies are doing right, you may discover a new sales or marketing strategy that you can incorporate into your own business.
A recovering economy. If you have taken a break from spending money on trade show exhibits due to a sluggish economy, you are not alone. The nation’s economic downturn of 2008 impacted many marketing and travel budgets, which reflected in trade show attendance for several years. The good news, CEIR reports, is attendance is on the rise and has been growing since 2011. Additionally, the No. 1 reason for attending (not exhibiting at) trade shows is to see new products. So attendees are back and eager to see what you have to offer!
Remember, end-users cannot purchase what you are selling if they do not know about your products or services.
Victoria K. Sicaras is an architecture/engineering/construction editorial specialist at Constructive Communication Inc. (www.constructivecommunication.com), a company that specializes in marketing strategy, public relations, online social media, and communications tactics for the AEC and other technical industries. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.