In part one of this series I talked about how Gen Y (and everyone else since then) are the first people in history to not need formal organized gatherings to maintain relationships. Those gatherings include religious groups (churches, temples, mosques, synagogs), political parties and, trade shows.
Does that mean those gatherings are going to disappear? Not necessarily. There are enough baby boomers with enough buying power to keep those things going for another 10-20 years, but those efforts are going to die out altogether unless they make some significant changes. Right now, as the economy seems to be leveling off, the attendance decline in trade shows has flattened, but should there be another dip, look for popular events like CES to start nosediving again. Where you will see growth is where companies approach these gatherings with a new perspective.
Most companies gear up for their primary trade shows, many target only one now, and they pour the lions share of the marketing budget into that effort hoping for a few hundred leads that they can work on for the year. In this approach, the trade show is the center and beginning of their marketing efforts... and it is pretty much useless with the current crop of customers who are used to social media as a form of communication. A great example of the "new" type of trade show is SXSWi in Austin, Texas. Originally a music festival, the social media crowd latched onto it, added the lower case "i" (for interactive) and use it as a rallying point in the course of their ongoing marketing efforts. It may seem that companies are "launching at that show, but the only one that really has made that successful was Twitter and that company is almost one and the same as the event now, the driver of the conversation of SXSWi at the conference and beyond.
What a lot of people miss in the excitement of the conference is the conversation that leads up to it for months. Companies are actually launching is smaller, less formal events that in themselves are driven by the conversation in various social networks. And companies not even associated with social media are playing in these new events and finding customers and partners faster than any other companies using traditional marketing efforts.
Social means a conversational/relational market that never stops.
I'll be attending the Design Automation Conference this year under sponsorship of Vpype and one, as yet unnamed sponsor and this will be one of the questions I'll be posing is about how these companies approach marketing in a post-tradeshow economy. The design automation industry is still dragging it's collective feet in the adoption of a social strategy. Social is still a tactical effort for the industry, but some companies are getting it. We'll be looking for some that do.