Trade Shows Offer End Users a One-Stop ROI

To manufacturers, trade shows are considered a curse and a blessing. They consume a tremendous amount of precious resources, taking people away from their everyday responsibilities to prepare, set up, staff, and tear down the show booth.

The upside includes the opportunity to show off their latest products, meet with real customers, and get an unfiltered view of where the market is going and what the competition looks like.

Trade shows are a mixed bag to dealers and integrators. Few can afford the time out of the office or away from customers, and it’s harder to get business done when their suppliers are consumed with the tasks listed above.

Furthermore, there are many products shown at trade shows that are not yet on the market. Installers are usually interested in filling an immediate need, not seeing promises that may not be kept.

On the other hand, everyone they need to talk to is at one place at one time, making it easier to confront issues and get things done.

To end users, there is absolutely no downside to trade shows outside of the minor expenses involved in travel and lodging. If you’re at all involved in making technology decisions for your company or need to understand the options that are available to you, there is no substitute for going to the right trade show. It’s an important enough point to repeat — try your hardest to get to one trade show a year!
So Many Choices, So Little Time

Assuming you’re only going to one show a year, the top two choices are easy: ISC West in Las Vegas (March or April) or the ASIS Int’l Seminar and Exhibits, which are being held in Orlando this Sept. 12-15. These are far and away the two shows with the most options for training and attract the widest variety of manufacturers.

At one time, ASIS was considered more of an end-user show, while ISC was a dealer show. I’m not sure there’s much of a difference now. The same manufacturers go to both shows — bringing the same equipment and personnel — and dealers and end users are equally welcome.

If you can’t attend one of these shows, there are a variety of regional, niche-market or specialty shows that are a usually a lot closer to home. Next month’s ISC East in New York is a good example (see page 13 for a preview of this year’s ISC East).

ISC East has many of the same exhibitors, as well as classes and networking events, as ISC West. However, many exhibitors — large and small — opt out of this show for budgetary reasons. Those that do make it have a much smaller presence.
Shows Offer First Crack at Products A trade show is the best opportunity you will ever have to see a variety of products demonstrated for comparative purposes.

While there is no substitute for trying a product in your own facility, the sheer number of competing products on the market makes it essential that you thin the herd somewhat. It’s not always practical for you to examine all the contenders in a product category at your facility.

A trade show allows you to narrow your “top 10” list down to two or three that merit closer examination. I have also found that product demos at trade shows are closer to “real world” conditions than many admit.

On one hand, products are often hand-carried to the show, programmed by experts and are pampered by a team of top factory technicians hovering over them. On the other hand, they have terribly unstable power sources, are running pre-release software, and have random, unskilled people beating on them. All in all, a good balance.

If it bombs out or performs poorly on the trade show floor, consider yourself warned — chances are it will bomb out in your rack.
A Meeting and Greeting Opportunity Trade shows are a tremendous opportunity to meet people and learn how companies treat their existing and prospective customers.

If the people in the booth are genuinely knowledgeable, listen and respond to you and follow up with you after the show, that’s an excellent sign. On the other hand, if you are given inaccurate or untrue information or get that “used car shopping” experience, you’ll know to move on without making a costly mistake.

Understanding the competitive landscape will ultimately save your company money as you learn how much products should really cost. Training programs will help you make more informed decisions, which will clearly impact the bottom line.

In fact, showing the ROI (return on investment) for attending a trade show is usually far easier than the justification required for a system purchase or upgrade. Give it the same amount of careful attention and you are sure to reap the rewards.

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