Editor's comment: Why trade shows are alive & well

By Chris Sleight14 March 2011

Chris Sleight, Editor, International Construction

Chris Sleight, Editor, International Construction

I remember clearly about seven years ago when a CEO of a very large construction equipment manufacturer, but a newcomer to the industry, told me bluntly that, "Trade shows are dead." He went on to argue that like-for-like comparisons of competing machines could be done much more easily over the internet, rather than 'in the iron' at an exhibition, and advances in communications technology meant there was no reason that a machine couldn't be configured and bought on-line.

He had some valid points. A web search or equipment directory like iC's annual Yellow Book are easy ways to compare basic specifications at the comfort of your desk, rather than slogging around a show floor collecting brochures and spec sheets.

Equally, the internet is playing a part in our industry, with on-line auction houses like IronPlanet working to a pure e-business model that allows potential buyers to see an in-depth report on a machine before bidding for it. At the same time manufacturers and dealers are using the web more and more in their after sales activities, with on-line parts ordering and sophisticated telematics systems that monitor a machine's health, location and workload.

But at the same time, trade shows seem to be growing in popularity. Just last month the inaugural bC India show in Mumbai scored a resounding success with 22000 visitors attending. That followed on the successes of massive international events in 2010 like Bauma in Munich and Bauma China in Shanghai, as well as numerous regional, national and local events in the construction equipment sector. And this month the industry will get together again for ConExpo-Con/Agg in Las Vegas, the big event this year with perhaps as many as 150000 visitors expected.

The criticism of trade shows is that they are expensive. Big stands at ConExpo will cost millions and millions of Dollars to stage when the full costs of buying space, shipping equipment, staff travel, accommodation, catering and entertainment are all added up.

But trade shows offer something you can't get over the internet - face to face communications. They are an opportunity to cement existing business relationships and strike up new ones. For manufacturers this means meeting both new and existing customers, and for visitors the opportunity to see the latest equipment and services in the sector and talk to the experts about how these can be turned to a competitive advantage.

In an era where the best companies in the sector differentiate themselves not just by having the best machines, but also the best service, support and relationships with their customers, trade shows play a crucial part - you get something from them that just can't be achieved with a webpage or even over the phone.

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