Wybron’s continuing online market research program recently covered the hectic world of lighting industry trade shows. The responses from the 110 respondents provide new insight into why trade shows are so important to the industry.

For many companies, trade shows are an essential part of the marketing mix. In only a few days, they provide advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and personal sales. Shows like LDI can be thought of as a shopping mall for lighting equipment, attracting an exclusive set of shoppers. It brings sincere buyers and sellers together under one roof, helping match a company’s products with an end-user’s specific needs.

Wybron’s April survey asked lighting professionals why they attend trade shows. 97% said they go to learn about new technology and products.

Not surprisingly, networking/socializing came in second place at 89%. The value of networking cannot be underestimated. People like doing business face-to-face. It tends to provide the best idea of what the other person/business is about in ways that other media cannot, especially at a distance.

Sales calls have some limitations -- you can’t always bring your products or demonstrate every capability, and it’s not always possible to bring your technical experts. You can do all three at a show. It’s a chance to bring all the tools in your company’s arsenal (including your CEO) to communicate and respond to buyer needs.

While the cost of exhibiting at a trade show can be intimidating, it’s actually a very cost-effective method of doing business. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), it costs 22% less to contact a potential buyer at a show than it does through traditional field sales calls. People who attend shows today want to be there and are often ready to buy. In the Wybron survey more than four in ten respondents said they sometimes/often make a purchase at a trade show. In short, going to trade shows means you are meeting buyers with real needs and real budgets, and you have less competition for their attention.

So once the decision is made to attend or exhibit at a show, the big question is, which show?

In a recent search on TSNN – the Ultimate Trade Show Directory (tsnn.com), a search for lighting industry trade shows worldwide produced 98 results, and that’s probably modest. Since it’s virtually impossible (and unnecessary) to attend every show, the goal is to narrow the selection down to the “shopping mall” that will offer the best selection of the products and people for you.

The Wybron survey showed that LDI is among their three most important shows for three-quarters of the people surveyed, followed by PLASA. (It should be noted that only 56% of respondents live in North America.) The top five most important shows were:

LDI – 75% consider it among the 3 most important shows

PLASA – 55%

USITT – 35%

Prolight & Sound – 33%

ABTT Theatre Show – 23%

LDI and PLASA both attract over 13,000 attendees each year. Because they are considered the top industry shows in the US and Europe, respectively, some companies generate a substantial portion of their revenue at these two shows alone. In addition, both shows are famous launch sites for new products and technologies. As mentioned earlier, 97% of the Wybron respondents said learning about new technology/products was a main reason they attended trade shows.

In 2005, Wybron used these two shows to do something out of the ordinary: market research. If you want the opinions of lighting professionals, where better to find a slew of them? In conjunction with Acromatics Marketing Research, Wybron surveyed 200 influential lighting professionals about their opinions and usage habits. The value of this project prompted Wybron to initiate monthly surveys and helped drive product development. Wybron will unveil the results of this R&D effort during the 2006 trade show season.

Over the next few months, Wybron will be dropping hints about their new product to be released this fall. For now, make travel arrangements and prepare for an exciting season.

Wybron posts a new survey topic each month at www.wybron.com/research/. All survey participants can enter the monthly drawing for a new 30GB Apple iPodTM.