What is the purpose of trade fairs in 2021

What are trade shows?

Trade fairs are so 2010s…

This is what most technology companies will have you believe. You are better off investing in automated marketing or social media content creators than to attend a trade fair or so they say.

I mean… how can trade fairs not be outdated?

Trade fairs, even the most modern ones, follow in the tradition established in late medieval Europe. So conventional wisdom stipulates that there is really no way for them to be useful now, in the age of quantum computing and cryptocurrency.

But is this really the case?

To analyse this provocative sentiment, let’s first look at the general idea and purpose behind trade fairs. A quick round of googling gives us a nice definition of what a trade fair is (sometimes called a trade show, trade exhibition, trade exposition or simply… expo).

Trade fair is an exhibition organized for companies in a specific industry to showcase and demonstrate the latest products and services. To meet with industry partners and customers. At times, assess the competition and examine market trends and opportunities.

Do trade shows serve a purpose?

Now… going by the definition laid out above, the idea behind trade fairs is as valuable as it ever has been. A multi-day event where the industry buyers & sellers gather to showcase and demonstrate their products. A time in the year where key stakeholders keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities.

So, trade fairs seem to be a place where marketing efforts are concentrated and a lot can be achieved with relatively modest spend. For example, companies have estimated that they will spend between 5%-12% of their total revenue on marketing in 2021. As the old age wisdom goes… the smaller the company, the higher the share of marketing spend.

So, the technology companies staying that trade fairs are dead, might just be wrong… or they might be trying to sell you something.

Afterall, a lot of them focus on digital marketing and helping companies reach customers online. Yet at a trade fair, reaching customers is cheaper as the focus is more concentrated than in your run of the mill average day.

Companies think the same. Research finds that B2B companies plan to spend around 49% of their total communication budgets on trade fairs in 2021.

So trade shows serve a clear purpose… they bring key stakeholders from the specific industry together. This is all what marketing tries to achieve… bring customers to businesses. This is in a nutshell what trade fairs do too. Except they do it better, because everyone in a trade fair is what the marketers call a qualified lead.

Are trade fairs at their core better at marketing companies than marketers?

Simply put, yes!

This is because of trade fairs unique value in:

  1. Creating memorable impressions all in one place
  2. Providing face-to-face meetings in an impersonal world
  3. Bringing together target audiences resulting in direct sale opportunities
  4. Providing a level marketing field for all companies, small or large, involved

This is exactly what marketers, the same ones that tell you that trade fairs are dead, aim to do on a daily basis with any customer they have. Bring more business in!


Trade fairs are as relevant as ever at their core. This is because their purpose is to bring the industry together, from buyers to sellers. To demonstrate the newest products and progress made.

Now the reality of HOW the trade fair is set up today, might be questioned. But certainly, the purpose behind trade fairs is even more important in today’s noisy world where everything competes for your attention.

Where else can your business, offer or brand get nearly undivided attention, as visitors are uniquely focused on the exhibits at hand? Google first page? LinkedIn? Facebook? Twitter? Newspaper? Not really… so trade fairs remain KING at their core.

But perhaps there is a time for the KING to learn a few tricks to make sure that their land is always well equipped.

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