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It’s time for the trade show to listen to its customers

It’s time for the trade show to listen to its customers Julian Brunnock on the challenges facing the supplier at exhibitions

There was a time when every supplier would take a stand at all the major trade exhibitions without question.

The conversation always started with: “What should we do at next year’s show?” Those days are long gone.

Now the conversation starts: “Should we go to next year’s show?” The argument falls into two camps.

The first camp says that having a stand at a trade show is a vital way of showing your wares, meeting customers, seeing what the opposition is doing and networking with the industry – so that despite the capital outlay, it is money well spent.

The other camp says that they are excessively expensive to put on and that companies only go because they do not want to be seen as the only company that didn’t turn up.

They argue that when you add up the cost of stand space, stand construction, accommodation and other costs, you rack up a significant part of any marketing budget that could be used much more productively in other ways; and that any networking could be done by visiting the show, not exhibiting at it.

Of course, if everyone thought that way, trade shows would soon become extinct, or be downgraded to the trade equivalent of a car boot sale.

Would anyone care? Possibly not immediately, but I suspect that it would not be long before we manufacturers began to wish we had somewhere to launch our products and display our range to contractors and, yes, to network.

However, that is not to say the exhibition sceptics are entirely wrong. Shows surely are too expensive in the current climate.

There are more efficient ways of spending that money and they do keep key salespeople off the road for days – days during which they could have made just as many contacts with customers.

So what do we do about this dilemma? The one thing that is clear is the fact that as I have responsibility for marketing spend, as far as shows are concerned, I am their customer.

And in the same way that I would not expect our end-users to suggest a new design for a heat pump, it is not our job as exhibitors to come up with a new blueprint for an exhibition – but that is obviously what we need.

My challenge to exhibition organisers is – work more closely with your customers. Come up with an exhibition format for the 21st century.

Create an exhibition that doesn’t take key personnel away from their jobs for days, that doesn’t cost the equivalent of four compact cars, yet still keeps the character of a trade show.

A tall order I know, but it is a challenge that exhibition organisers need to take seriously – the voices of the sceptics are getting louder.

Julian Brunnock is sales and marketing director of FG Eurofred, the face of Fujitsu in the UK.

Email Julian at julian.brunnock@fgeurofred.co.uk

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