Dallas, TX – Trade show attendees are largely present to look after their company’s purchasing needs regardless of how compelling the education program might be, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) said in a new report.
The report, which is available on the CEIR website, is titled Organization Size: What Really Matters. It found that the reasons companies of all sizes dispatch their people to trade shows are generally the same, and tend to focus on “shopping needs,” such as looking over new products, consulting with technical experts, and comparing notes with colleagues who are actually using the products in question.
“We can’t assume that all attendees go to a trade show with the same needs, wants and desires,” said Jeff Tanner, a Baylor University marketing professor who co-authored the report. “Once again, we see how contextual factors, such as organizational size, can influence how attendees select and derive value from their exhibition experience.”
Tanner and the CEIR team surveyed 421 respondents from companies in 14 different industries seeking specific goals they want to address when deciding whether or not to attend a particular trade show. Although the response rate was not released, the results suggest “that exhibitions need to clear the hurdles of credibility and relevance to the prospective attendee.”
The results also showed that 82% of “small” companies, which employ fewer than 100 people, included interacting with new products among the top reasons for attending. Another 87% said comparing different brands was a priority, and 72% listed finding solutions to existing problems and gathering information to use in a future purchasing decision.
At the same time, 41% of large companies with more than 500 employees placed a priority on interacting with new products, but 79% wanted to get a look at “new technology.”
Key findings included:
- Attendees from large and mid-sized companies were more likely to have a list of specific “shopping” tasks to accomplish at a trade show than small businesses.
- These same attendees assigned a higher level of importance to achieving these tasks when deciding whether or not to attend a particular show.
- Companies of all sizes seemed more inclined to rely on word-of-mouth or emails from colleagues when considering attending a show. Personal invitations from exhibitors, however, carried weight with small companies.
The subtle differences among companies of various sizes poses a challenge for show marketers who in recent years have grasped the desirability of tailored approaches to different customers. CEIR helps exorcise some of the devils lurking in the details.