Are webinars killing off tradeshows?

Are webinars killing off tradeshows?

Tradeshows aren’t dead. Long live tradeshows

In most B2B environments, conferences and tradeshows have long been an important part of the sales process. Whether it’s to launch a new product, promote a service, gather customers who are spread across the world to meet in one location, or just to network, find new contacts and check out the competition, it’s difficult to imagine B2B selling without them.

Trade shows have a great atmosphere – they’re big, buzzing, and full of new people to engage with. However, by the time you have counted up the costs – designing and creating a booth that has impact, travel for you and your team, sales collateral, hotels, continental breakfasts and of course, wining and dining customers and the new contacts you make, things can get expensive very quickly.

Online sales tools have advanced a lot in recent years, and in my own experience, webinars seem to have found particular favour with B2B marketers. Hardly a week goes by when I don’t receive an invitation to a webinar for a piece of software, investment product or training course.

It’s not hard to see why. Webinars are a great way to engage warm leads around a specific topic or issue relevant to their business. The costs of running a webinar are minimal – your own time and effort preparing a presentation and perhaps some software subscriptions to allow you to share your screen and have listeners dial in. But while attendance at some trade shows and conferences might have fallen in recent years, attending a well-chosen trade show which is highly relevant to your market still offers value and benefits that a webinar just can’t provide. Here’s why:

Webinars work if you have a list of warm leads – it sounds obvious, but if you don’t have anybody to invite, then nobody will dial in to hear what you have to say! What’s the quickest way of gathering a couple of hundred leads relevant to your business? Tradeshows!

Webinars work best when you have a concise, specific topic to cover and share information on. You also have to already know what that specific topic of interest to your target market is. The best way to find out is to talk to lots of prospects first.

Webinars are one-to-many– you have to broadcast the same message to everyone who has dialled in, even though their needs and use cases may be very different. The danger is that you might bore them or even put them off altogether by talking about situations which aren’t relevant.

Trade shows are personal. A tradeshow environment allows you to listen first to the specific needs and concerns of your customers and tailor your approach on the basis of their input. For products and services where consultative selling and co-creation is required, a webinar alone can’t take the place of a face-to-face conversation to discuss the client’s needs.

You can’t beat face-to-face contact.Call me old fashioned, but there really is no replacement for meeting someone and seeing the whites of their eyes before doing business with them. Particularly for big-ticket purchases, a webinar alone is unlikely to be enough to seal the deal. Tradeshows offer the chance to meet new contacts, then continue the conversation in more depth later on and seal the deal.

Ultimately, both webinars and tradeshows have their role to play in an effective B2B sales process, and using them in combination can be a very powerful to close a sale.