Exhibitions may seem like an expensive part of the marketing mix, but when the effectiveness of all channels are compared, it comes out on top flaunting the most leads.

This isn’t by chance. It’s because people, a.k.a humans, seek out other humans to validate information. Any purchasing decision we make has an initial research stage (google, ads etc) but ultimately we rely on feedback from others (friends, relatives and salespeople) to make up our minds.

The successful exhibitors are making the most of this. They have recognised that attendees aren’t just “leads” they’re people. Real people. The kind who have taken time out of their busy day to research, buy stuff and see what’s new.

It’s important to also note that each visitor might be at a different part of the sales cycle. While not everyone is seeing your offering for the first time, some might be and others might be ready to place orders. In the real world you would treat each of these people very differently so why not in the exhibition environment?

A frustrating part of our job is often speaking to people who think of exhibits as an element of their marketing toolkit that is falling down the rabbit hole of doom. They believe that they have to attend to “wave the flag” or think it’s a waste of time/money. Yes some shows are duds, but then you might just not be selecting the right ones.

Warning: I’m going to be cheeky now…
A lot of businesses are following old school practices and each year they stick to their guns they are getting more and more left behind. Failing to see the big picture and viewing the event as an addition to their marketing mix that can be added or subtracted at a whim without thinking laterally and seeing the elusive marketing mix as one singular mighty force working together as a campaign.

Jo-Anne Kelleway, fellow thought leader and CEO of Info Salons Group, has a very frank view of the industry and accurately observes how the industry is embracing digital channels, rather than being destroyed by them. She is absolutely right about people craving the offline experience. The world is changing around us and marketers are forever looking for the next “gizmo” to help them rise above the clutter and give them the edge over their competitors. There are numerous cool gimmicks or tech platforms to help achieve your goals, but the secret to any of it still comes down to the living, breathing people. Strangely enough, the more things change, the more they remain the same.


A typical sales person might spend hours on the phone trying to get appointments and chasing people who are away from their desks (or avoiding their calls). It’s a hard slog and people don’t like being sold to. They might well be interested in your product but they want to do it on their terms.

Promoting your business at a show is something quite different. You are amongst a concentrated pool of potential customers, which increases your chances of success a gazillion times. The tables have turned and you effectively have leads looking for you! Sounds perfect, right?

The catch? You still need to work for it. (Sorry, spoiler alert). People are complex creatures with brains, logic, hearts and feelings. The psychology of selling has been studied for years and will continue to evolve as the world around us does. Just as an organisation is built around it’s people, in the eyes of true marketers every campaign is composed around the people it wants to communicate with. These are the ones who will continue to see impressive results from trade shows.

Some fun stats:

  • 83% of visitors will purchase something they see at a show within 6 months.
  • If each team member at your booth spoke to a visitor for 6 minutes, you would average 10 discussions an hour (that you didn’t even have to dial a number for).