Written by Briquelle Neyens, Skyline Exhibits.

With nearly all corporate exhibit managers having been affected by the cancellation and postponement of trade shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on the face-to-face marketing industry has been both obvious and overwhelming.

EXHIBITOR Magazine completed a two-part research initiative that surveyed both corporate exhibit managers and suppliers to the trade show and events industry. With over 1,000 respondents giving feedback to the survey, the report was lengthy and quite informative. There are a few notable findings that are worth mentioning as we continue into the uncertain – yet promising – future of trade shows. When speaking to corporate exhibit managers about how trade show cancellations and postponements have impacted their companies, the numbers speak volumes for the value of in-person marketing.


Being unable to market face-to-face has impacted businesses’ sales

According to the report, 70% of businesses have since experienced a lack of business leads and sales opportunities due to the loss of their in-person marketing efforts. With such a drastic decrease in exposure and no longer having the ability to interact with highly qualified buyers in one place, it’s no wonder these lost opportunities are having a significant impact on sales. With many businesses depending on trade shows to bring them a large percentage of their business opportunities, returning to trade shows is an evident must.

This information provides hope that when trade shows are able to return, exhibitors will be more than ready to come back strong for the opportunity at attaining those sales back.


It’s been notably more difficult for companies to maintain relationships

It’s also becoming clear how useful trade shows are for creating and building relationships. Exhibitor Magazine’s survey showed that 48% of exhibit managers noted that they’ve experienced difficulties in building and maintaining relationships with clients and prospects.

Companies are having a hard time replicating the effectiveness of real trade show interactions through virtual events. But in addition to Exhibitor Magazine’s findings, it’s also important to note that leaders of companies are still finding ways to prioritize in-person relationship building until trade shows return. Read here about how one CEO spent a week flying across the country to meet with key decision-makers when he was unable to see them at his company’s cancelled trade show.

It’s likely that these exhibitors from the survey are experiencing difficulties in building and maintaining relationships because meeting in-person is a much more effective way to develop trust and help prospects create a personal connection with their brand, among other factors that in-person trade shows have to offer.


Businesses have notably struggled with increasing brand awareness

It’s no secret that many businesses take to social media for building a following and generating brand awareness. Digital marketing offers endless opportunities for showing up in front of new potential buyers. Yet, 55% of exhibitors from the survey shared that they haven’t had success in increasing brand awareness since their trade shows have been cancelled or postponed.

This data speaks volumes about the effectiveness of face-to-face marketing at trade shows. Even with the digital world at their fingertips (since online marketing dollars don’t break any social distancing rules), businesses have still struggled to increase brand awareness.

If this information says anything about the plans for the future of these businesses, it’s that they’ll be more than ready to step back onto the trade show floor with a marketing method that they feel comfortable and confident in to generate awareness.


Senior Executives are noticing the difference

It may have been difficult to convince upper management that trade shows were worth the investment prior to COVID-19; it may not take as much convincing now. Exhibitor Magazine’s report says, “The silver lining if there is one, is that the absence of trade shows has made the hearts of upper management fonder of face-to-face marketing. One-fourth of respondents say the cancellation and postponement of events have helped make the value of exhibiting at trade shows more obvious to members of the C-suite.”

As the value of connecting in person with high-quality leads (81% of which have buying power) becomes more evident to businesses, it will be an easier decision for them to continue with their trade show marketing efforts once they are able to safely do so.

Halting trade shows has opened the eyes of many who have also noticed a halt in sales, relationships, and awareness. Connecting the dots is all it takes to see the importance of face-to-face marketing. As trade shows are able to resume, it’s evident that a vast amount of exhibitors will be more than ready to take whatever precautions they need to get back on the show floor.


Want more trade show tips? Find them here. 

If you’re one of those exhibitors who is ready to dive back in to trade shows, reach out to Skyline for any of your exhibiting needs!

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