As the drilling season winds down for the winter months, a different season always follows in its footsteps: trade show season. Conventional wisdom around the water systems industry for the past few years has been that trade shows are on the decline, and some of our best and brightest minds have been struggling with what to do about that. I’ve had conversations with lots of smart people at state and national associations, on trade show advisory boards, from industry publications, and on show management committees. We’ve talked about beefing up educational offerings. We’ve discussed marketing campaigns. We’ve considered social media opportunities. The central question is this:
How do we attract more people?
To me, the answer is as simple as its execution is complicated: we have to give them a reason to go to the show.
Clearly, the reasons people used to come to trade shows aren’t as important anymore. Product information is available at anyone’s fingertips through email and the internet. Sales reps are more accessible than ever via email and smart phone. CEUs can be garnered from a variety of sources. Our easy-access world has diminished the importance of the trade show as a primary vehicle for information. All the reasons that once drew people to the show floor have lost some of their luster. Simply offering more (of the same) or changing a campaign or communicating in different ways won’t do the trick. We have to give them a reason to go to the show.
Here’s that reason: the people.
The water systems industry isn’t particularly sexy. We’re not making smart phones with unbelievable functionality or talking about the future in black mock-tees or making cars that plug into electrical outlets or wowing people with our newest storefront. As much as people need what we have to offer, they don’t pay a lot of attention to us. That means that it’s not always easy to find someone with whom we can share ideas or hammer out problems. Even for those who participate, there aren’t many online opportunities for learning best practices or identifying challenge areas. We can’t always boot up the computer and find the answers we need.
And that, my friends, is why we should consider trade shows in our industry as a huge opportunity. Nowhere else do we have so many people with shared interests in the same place at the same time. We should attend for the chance to learn from others, test our own ideas, and get a feel for what’s happening in our industry beyond our own sphere of influence. These events give us a chance to have conversations with people facing the same challenges and opportunities; what an incredible resource pool! That’s the message we should be sharing.
With many state and regional shows–as well as the National Ground Water Expo–looming on the calendar, I encourage you to consider them in this light. What can you learn from your peers? What can they learn from you? How well do you understand the pulse of the water systems industry beyond your own service area? Are you good at marketing? If so, share your successful practices. Do you need help connecting with customers? Bring your questions. Can’t figure out where a particular product should be applied? See where others are using it. Make a point to talk to five new people and keep track of what you learn; I challenge you to find a better place to get your hands on so much relevant information at once.
Come for the people. It’s that simple.
Note: Tammy Davis, Director of Corporate Communications at Franklin Electric, provided this week’s post as a guest blogger.