There has been a lot of debate recently about whether it’s worth going to trade shows any more and if they actually still deliver value.  Agency founder and Group CEO, Pietro Ranieri, gives us his view.

“I have been attending trade shows since before I started Ranieri Agency over twenty years ago. When I first started in the industry nearly thirty years ago, trade shows were very different to what they are today. There was lots more excitement around innovation, mainly because there was more new innovation, if you think of a time where Steve Jobs launched the iPod, or Steve Jobs launched the iPhone, or Steve Jobs launched the iPad (Steve Jobs was a bit of a hero of mine, you might be able to tell ;-)).

My point is that there used to be an urgency to get to a trade show to make sure you were in the loop on what was going on! These days the online world has taken away some of the excitement of being at a trade show, you can now keep up with what’s going on by simply following a few cool tech sites or in more recent times some influencers.

But have trade shows lost their point?

I certainly think there is less urgency to launch products at a trade show from a brands point of view as there are so many other platforms to do a launch these days, and if you are a smaller brand, your announcement could get lost in a trade show with everything else going on.

In the old days, as well as keeping up with company product announcements, retail buyers would also come round shows and make buying decisions, I think this still happens to a certain extent, but probably not to the level that it used to. Again the digital world has levelled this out a bit, people don’t necessarily need to be face to face these days to make a product ranging decision, also the retail channel has changed significantly.

So you don’t need to go to a trade show to find innovation as you can get that from a tech website, you don’t need to go to a trade show to find retail buyers? What can you do at a trade show these days?

Networking: by far my number one is networking. If you are a new business, or a sales guy, or retail buyer, you need to know people to get leads. Leads can come from digital marketing, but leads are far more ‘sticky’ if they are from referrals. Referrals are qualified leads, they generally bypass the qualification stage saving you a bunch of time having to filter out where you should invest time in proposals. I personally have a bunch of contacts who refer us business on an ongoing basis and have done for many years. I value those contacts for many reasons, but especially because they send me ‘hot’ leads. These relationships would not exist today without trade shows and they are still alive and kicking because of trade shows. In fact Ranieri Agency grew through the pandemic as although we were not at trade shows, we still received leads as our extended network of contacts was still firing, all in existence due to the time spent at trade shows for the past twenty years.

 Keeping your ear to the ground: as a result of having a great network of industry contacts, don’t underestimate the value of knowing what’s going on in the industry. At trade shows you often find out of there is a company merger about to happen, or a new product about to be launched, or canned… As a side note I remember someone telling me the story of how GoPro got going, and that was because a company bought another company, canned a product line, and a US retailer had around 500 stores to fill with action cameras because their supplier removed themselves! Again, that first meeting for GoPro happened at a trade show…

Understanding the industry: Ranieri Agency has been built from the Consumer Electronics industry mainly. It’s my opinion that if you are going to focus in a sector, you need to ‘know’ that sector, you need to know the brands, the people, the innovations, the characters, what’s behind the brands, how the retail channel works, what the brands cultures are and much more. You cannot do this remotely and if you want any credibility in the industry you work in, you need to have this knowledge.

The value of face-to-face: networking is about getting leads and general awareness, but once you have that contact or lead, you need to get to know the people face to face. Chemistry and familiarity are really important when it comes to making a buying decision and its what can set you apart from your competitor.

So do I think trade shows are important? Yes I do. But for the people who are committed to building great relationships and who are in the industry to stay.”

Drinks anyone? See you at the IFA beer tent! Pietro 😉