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With spring around the corner, the number of international events, exhibitions, and trade shows is rapidly increasing. For those who, like us, work in both the traditional publishing and digital marketing & communication sectors, this is also a time to stop and reflect.
Two years after the pandemic, everything seems to be back to normal except the trade fairs calendar, which is increasingly crowded, with too many overlaps that force every professional to choose which events to attend (as exhibitor or visitor) sacrificing other equally important ones. Yet, if we look closely at the most current marketing dynamics, we realise that much has changed.
Some events have become triennial; some have become hyper-specialised, turning into meeting points for a few visitors but with a high lead-to-customer conversion rate; and others have become hyper-generalist, lumping together under the same umbrella different industries in the supply chain (sometimes too distant from each other to be attractive to professionals on the hunt for concrete solutions). Exhibition halls have shrunk due to reduced investment budgets (read: stands are smaller) or to changing priorities – trade fair participation is sacrificed to divert investment to digital strategies.
Yes, the new marketplace is digital.
LinkedIn, the most popular business-oriented social network, with an average of 1 in 3 registered professionals worldwide, is much appreciated by the new generation of marketing managers who have decreed an end to large trade fairs and conferences, but often also to company visits, in favour of an increasingly broad, articulate, and constant presence on LinkedIn and the web in general.
For example, it has recently become known that a few large multinational chemical companies will not attend the upcoming European Coatings Show 2023 (Nuremberg, 28-30 March), the world’s largest and most important trade fair for paints, coatings, inks, adhesives, and sealants, while others will be exhibiting in a heavily reduced form.
Content marketing on social media seems to be the preferred solution for acquiring new customers today, to the detriment not only of exhibitions but also of traditional contact and advertising channels. Hostage to the algorithm and at the mercy of ever-changing rules that can halve their content reach and engagement at any time, corporate pages are becoming increasingly crowded with posts, articles, videos, and carousels, some of which actually offer valuable content to a potentially infinite audience.
But do they really convert? How effective are they for actual sales?
While there is no doubt that a presence on social networks is strategic for implementing branding policies, from positioning to brand awareness, for developing a network of useful contacts, and for gaining authoritativeness in one’s sector, thinking of using them as the sole channels for selling and acquiring potential customers is misleading. Companies will always have to develop a strategy to support the acquisition of new customers, avoiding underestimating the importance of personal contact, technical insight, empathy, knowing how to be on the same wavelength as their potential customers in order to acquire and retain them.
On social media, one is hostage to their algorithms and navigates in an aseptic world where image is everything. It takes very little to make an impression and appear to have the same standing as bigger, more solid, more innovative companies. Sometimes, having a good communication agency and a good strategy is already enough. Let us not give up delving deeper and establishing real relationships with our target group. Magazines, newspapers, and trade fairs still do make a difference.
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