The quick knee-jerk response that I see these days is to cut back, cut back, cut back and we can't do this or we can't spend on this. This is a BIG mistake!!!
Take the recent decision by Apple to stop exhibiting at Macworld. Their reason that they said was that since they get enough customers coming in to their stores, they now do not see the need to exhibit at Macworld anymore. With Apple being as large as they are, I would have expected that SOMEONE in there might have said "Ummm, but why are they coming to the stores in the first place?" Because all the new products that they introduce at the show get so much news coverage and web coverage that it starts a huge buzz that generates interest that gets them coming to the stores!!!!
Trade shows are your BEST marketing investments whether as a buyer or as an exhibitor. There is no better way to see and talk to potential customers or to introduce your new product or service where you get the most bang for your buck!
The biggest problem that a lot of companies have, especially start-ups, is that they do not have a clear, drawn out plan on what their end result is for attending a trade show. Why are they there? It costs a lot to exhibit at a trade show, HOWEVER, if you train your booth staff, have clear goals to attain at the show, pre-show buzz, smart trade show exhibit design, you will see a nice payoff.
Being in the trade show industry for over 20 years, you can quickly assess those companies that are on the ball and those that won't be around for very long.
I hope to use this space to offer some [hopefully] helpful info, advise, suggestions that make sense in this fragile yet opportunistic times.
(Craig Mlasko is the owner of The Works Displays & Exhibits (http://www.TheWorksDisplays.com/) that offers all types of exhibits and marketing services.)