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Are Industrial Trade Shows Dead?

Theresa Carlson
December 3, 2019

As a marketing agency that serves many manufacturing and industrial clients, Cain & Company hears this question quite often. A few of these companies have not participated in trade shows since the Great Recession. That being said, we do have several clients and prospects in these industries who have been participating. And since we create their booths, signage, and pre- and post-show marketing strategies, we visit as many of their shows as possible to stay on top of industry trends.

Some of the trade shows we visit include FABTECH, IMTS, CONEXPO, and World of Concrete, among many others. At these shows, we gather information about our customers and their competitors, as well as trends in lighting, flooring, video screens, virtual reality, and even giveaway items. We take note of booths that stand out from the crowd, especially those that gather crowds (and those that don’t). We make observations and ask questions to gain insights into future show attendance and what these companies think about the shows’ return on investment for their business.

large crowd around industrial trade show booth at FABTECH

What we found in the last year is this—INDUSTRIAL TRADE SHOWS ARE NOT DEAD. In fact, these shows are packed! To a large extent, trade show booths are evolving. Some companies choose to forego setting up large machines in exchange for more meeting space, but many still rip chips right on site and swear by it. We also see many changes in booth décor (but that’s for a future blog).

Here’s our consensus

From what we have seen and heard (as recently as the FABTECH show at McCormick Place on November 12-13), these shows aren’t just "not dead." They’re booming!

Large companies like Piranha (located in Rockford, Illinois) have immense booth spaces, complete with machines tagged for sale on the show floor. Industry giants FANUC, TRUMPF, Mazak, and BLM Group also have enormous presences at these shows – often having multiple booths. From what we've heard on the show floors, industrial trade shows will be just as important to these companies’ marketing efforts in 2020 as they’ve been in 2019.

FABTECH entryway with people walking

Apparently, there is still a place for eyeball-to-eyeball contact in the manufacturing industry, at least according to Eric Lundin, editor at FMA Communications Inc., the association that runs FABTECH. Eric says, “Manufacturers buy from vendors they trust, and trust isn't built by reading trade journals or visiting websites, but by making agreements in person, which starts with face-to-face meetings at venues such as trade shows.”

Photos courtesy of Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International.

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