Is The Trade Show Model Dead?

Emily Elizabeth, Vice President of Marketing at Onspring

March 7, 2023


In our post-pandemic world, trade shows are back. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Welcome to the Marketing Accelerator podcast, featuring three insights in about three minutes. I'm Drew Dinkelacker. And today I'm speaking with Emily Elizabeth. She's the VP of Marketing at Onspring - that's a people-powered GRC automation software company. And, for those who don't know, GRC stands for governance, risk and compliance. Emily, what do you see as the challenge when exhibiting or attending trade shows?

Emily Elizabeth: Number one, misaligned objectives. Your attendees are coming to learn, and your vendors are all showing up to sell.

Drew: Well, that does seem to be the eternal conundrum of trade shows. Now you run your own industry event. How have you addressed this?

Emily: So, we decided to bring those two objectives together so that everybody gets something mutually beneficial. So, that means we told our partners, our vendors, that you have to stop selling at trade shows, you cannot set up a booth, you cannot pass out tchotchkes. And, we told our customers, when you come to our event, you're going to get free 30 minutes of consultative advice with all of our partners. So, what we set up was pre-booked meetings that customers selected on their own to meet with our partner vendors. So, it was a win-win in that customers are volunteering to meet with our partners, and our partners get 30 minutes to explain and demonstrate the value that they can provide to our customer's business.

Drew: Now, that sounds like an interesting approach. How did your vendors and attendees respond to it?

Emily: Well, customers loved it. All of our event attendees loved it, because who doesn't like free consultative advice from consultants who are expensive, right? Our partner vendors on the other hands, were a little reticent to adapt to this change, because it's change that they're not used to. So, we explained the value up front, and we went through one show where we forced it on everybody, and they realized in the moment, it's a lot better to have natural conversations with someone across the table instead of trying to market them on a showroom floor. So, when partners realized they could get signed scope of works out of these pre-booked meetings, they told us we're never going back to a normal trade show, this is the only way we're doing it!

Drew: You put the customer in charge, and the vendors responded. Well done, Emily! The Marketing Accelerator Podcast is a production of, where we accelerate marketing leaders to higher performance and increase satisfaction. I'm Drew Dinkelacker.