It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when trade shows made their initial entrance into marketing. As early as 1901, we can find evidence of this type of marketing and sales. The Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, NY is remembered for the modern marvels that came with the time. Included in this expo was the electric kitchen, the lawn mower and an X-ray machine. I can only imagine that during the time of the traveling salesman this was one of the best ways to sell your product to large masses at one time.
The year 1959 was an interesting year for automobiles. It was in this year that Toyota first took part in the Chicago Auto Show. In this inaugural appearance the Toyota Motor Corporation showed three different vehicles. This first go around did not fare well for the company, as Cadillac was at the top of the sales list that year. However, by 2008 Toyota had finally made it to the #1 selling car in the United States.
By late in the 20th century we had started to see a major shift in how we sold products to the masses. The internet was becoming ever more popular and it seemed as if trade shows and the need for human interaction were dwindling.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, corporations are able to sell more products via the internet and they have been able to substantially open up the demographics to a much broader market. This is both beneficial to the consumer and the business owner. However, without human interaction it is unlikely that their sales see the highs they currently do.
Social media is great for marketing. It is easy to put ads all over the place and tweet about your new products. This will satisfy the needs of many of your customers. Believe it or not, there are still millions of people who don’t spend all of their waking moments online. This generation may be dying out slowly, but they aren’t dead yet. This means we still have a need for customer service and real life human engagement.
In today’s age, we are seeing innovation in custom trade show displays in every commercial niche, from automobiles to electronics all the way to hair products. It is hard to say what will happen to the future of sales and marketing as we become the “older generation” but I can assume that there will still be those who want to physically view a product before buying it. I find it unfathomable that those who are let’s say “car buffs” ever want to see this trend come to an end. With trade shows, you are creating a place for those with a like mind to come and see the newest models before they ever hit the shelves.
As for social media and the digital marketing age in which we live, I say keep on using it. It works for many people. But if you want to reach your full potential don’t give up on face to face conversations and engagements just yet. Instead, use social media as a way to advertise for your upcoming trade show. Leave things to the imagination and you will be shocked at how many people actually still go to these types of events. This should be proof enough that there is still a benefit. We haven’t gone completely digital just yet.