Why look for the overlap between B2B marketing and trade show trends? Because trade shows represent the single largest marketing expenditure for B2B marketers. For some companies, trade shows are central to their B2B marketing.
So here are six B2B marketing trends, and some ideas on how trade show marketers can take advantage of them:
1. Economic recovery: With US GDP growth of 5.7% in the 4th quarter of 2009 (the fastest rate in six years), B2B marketers are getting off their heels and onto their toes, as prolonged uncertainty gradually shifts towards resurging ambition. Marketers don’t just want to conserve cash; they want to make an impact.
“The extreme cost-cutting of the past has led to a big rebound in corporate profits, so businesses will start to compete for market share, said Frank Chow, chief economist for Trade Show Executive magazine. To look like a leader at trade shows, B2B marketers are getting new graphics to promote their more ambitious marketing messages, or finally replacing the worn-out trade show display they had been holding onto. But they are cautiously spending even in their ambition, choosing lighter weight portable and modular exhibits, and renting exhibits more often than before the downturn.
2. Change in the sales cycle. Until about 10 years ago, when a B2B buyer needed product information, they had to ask potential vendors’ sales people. That put the sales people in control of the sales cycle. But now, buyers know they are in control, because they have so much product info instantly available just by searching Google. The recent downturn gave any actual buyers even more clout. Buyers can wait later and later until they contact the sales rep.
This places even greater value on trade shows. When a prospect meets you at the show they’ve already learned about your products on the internet, and want to check out your people.
3. Growth Internationally: United States companies that want to grow are looking more at exports to achieve that growth. Recently President Obama even set a goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years. No wonder — according to the World Bank, GDP in developing countries is expected to grow 5.2 percent in 2010 and 5.8 percent in 2011, while GDP in the USA is only expected to grow about half that.
More and more international companies are exhibiting at Australian shows this is sure to change the face of how Australian companies exhibit at local events.
4. Greater Sales and Marketing Integration. The economic downturn put even greater emphasis on the need for marketing to better drive sales. There just isn’t any more leeway for lost revenue and profits from friction and miscommunication between sales and marketing. Marketing must provide the sales force with tools for every step of the sales cycle, and deliver leads that sales values and will follow-up on. They become one team with a common goal. Companies that embrace this partnership are more likely to succeed.
There is no greater example of this than at trade shows, where sales and marketing literally work side-by-side. In the booth, marketing people have to act more like sales people, and sales people have to be willing to help generate leads for outside their territory. That teamwork at trade shows builds stronger relationships between sales and marketing.
5. Social Media: Social media growth has been one of the most high-profile trends affecting business marketers. More and more B2B marketers have learned to take advantage of social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook to extend their brand reach, communicate with customers, build communities, and generate sales leads.
These social media tools are becoming more useful to trade show marketers. Whether it’s posting a video interview with a client in their exhibit on YouTube, or sending a tweet during show hours to announce a drawing in their booth, business marketers will more fully integrate their pre-show, at-show, and post-show promotions with their company’s social media programs.
6. Increased Use of Mobile: As more and more people carry their computer in their pocket, growth in mobile marketing is expected to grow 43% in 2010 according to Forrester Research, much faster than established B2B marketing mediums. While some marketers are starting by ensuring their websites and blogs view well on mobile devices, others are taking advantage of the location-aware nature of mobile devices to create greater relevance and interactivity in their marketing.
For trade show marketers, mobile devices mean that trade show attendees don’t have to lug a laptop around the show to receive and act on their Twitter and email at-show promotions. Some trade shows are using apps that replace, even surpass the printed show book, with a scheduler, venue city info, and more. Also, new lead management systems are now available that can be run on mobile devices rather than show-specific systems. And audience polling apps can be used on mobile devices for greater interactivity, be it in their booth or at conference seminar sessions.
Marketers who exhibit at trade shows control a huge portion of B2B marketing budgets. While other marketing areas appear to be undergoing more rapid change, trade show marketers are also affected and need to remain aware of how to adjust and adapt to these trends.
Do you have other ideas on how trade show marketers can adapt to these six B2B marketing trends? Or have you noticed other B2B marketing trends you feel are more important to them? Share your comments.