A recent survey by Tradeshow Week magazine confirmed that, even in a recession, trade shows provide great opportunities for increasing your sales. The survey, conducted in June, found that while overall tradeshow attendance is down, 96% of owners, CEOs, presidents and other c-level executives said they are still attending their industry’s most important shows this year.

So while mid- and lower-level employees have had their travel budgets cut, top executives (the people with buying authority) have continued to attend trade shows despite the economy. Why? Reasons included:
    • Keep up-to-date with changing industry trends.
    • See new products, equipment, technology and services.
    • See or participate in product demonstrations.
    • See products first reviewed online.
    • Maintain and build relationships; network.
    • Meet exhibitors’ senior management and staff.
    • Make purchases.
    • Acquire new ideas.
    • Education and training.
    • Save money by seeing many suppliers in one place.
    • Compare competing products and company teams.
    • Access competitive intelligence.
    • Maintain a presence – “see and be seen.”

The most important finding, however, was that these top-level executives have been buying as a result of attending trade shows. In fact, 21% of c-level attendees typically make a major purchase during or immediately after a show, and another 40% typically buy within three months. By six months, fully 78% have finalized an important deal with at least one exhibitor or sponsor.

Ironically, a separate Tradeshow Week survey, also conducted in June, found that large exhibitors have slashed their 2009 exhibiting budgets by an average of 22%, and have reduced the number of shows they’re exhibiting at by 13%.

This means you have a great sales opportunity! There are still lots of buyers flocking to shows, but fewer competitors contending for their attention. And with exhibitor participation down, you can score better deals with trade show managers. (Another finding from the survey.)

Now is not the time to cut back on your sales efforts! There are buyers out there looking to make purchases and if you’re not exhibiting at the shows they’re attending, those sales will go to someone else. Plan your show strategy, train your show sales team and get out there!