When will trade fairs finally become paperless?6 min read

Who has ever come back from a trade show or conference without a mountain of promotional brochures? Even today, it’s impossible to pass by the stand of a company without leaving with a paper handout, even though we know perfectly well these mountains of paper will finish on the corner of a desk or thrown in the bin.

Prospectuses, flyers, brochures, business cards, product catalogues…paper supports should totally disappear from stands at trade shows and conferences in a few years. Why? For the simple reason that technology today offers us a multitude of alternatives to our traditional paper. Alternatives that are more efficient, durable and even more cost effective.


Are we really sure of the effectiveness of paper as sales collateral?

Printing a large amount of sales brochures is an integral step in preparing a sales event. It therefore makes sense to investigate how effective this is. What is the ROI of paper? How many prospects are turned into leads thanks to all those glossy printouts?

A few years ago the company Core-Apps – a regular attendee of fairs and events – attempted to answer this question and created a method to obtain a measured and rational response. When they exhibited at a large digital trade fair that attracts more than 100,000 visitors, they added an individual, traceable link to contact the sales team on each of their brochures and on their catalogue of suppliers attending. The objective was to measure precisely the number of prospects who, after consulting the paper handout, used the link to find out more about the company. Result: 0! Out of 100,000 visitors, not one used the brochures or the catalogue to contact the company. For a few thousand euro of marketing spend, the ROI for the company was 0.

Not convinced? Here are some good reasons to give paper the heave ho and opt for a digital solution:

  1. Easy to access: an email or web link can be accessed from anywhere, at any time and on all devices available to us. All you need to do is send a link to your client or prospect to give them easy access to your content.
  2. Dynamic: content can be updated in the blink of an eye giving it more shelf life. It’s also less risky: imagine a spelling mistake on a website compared to one  printed onto 200,000 copies! You can also provide richer content, such as videos, downloadable links, redirection links and sign up forms. The logistics before an event are also hugely simplified.
  3. Following ROI: How many prospects have read your content, for how long, how many of them have then gone onto your website and requested a quote…Today, modern CRM tools can aggregate the information linked to prospects who are not anonymous (for example, met at an event), rank the prospects from most interested/interesting to least interesting, and organise them by country, region and industry. Suddenly, you don’t need to spend hours sorting through business cards! It’s also slightly easier to estimate when the ROI of an event will be recouped: to one week, one month, two months depending on your average sales cycle.
  4. The price: a web page is free and it only requires that you keep it regularly updated to use it in all your events; 500 brochures represents a few hundred euros at each event.
  5. No brochures, the perfect excuse to ask somebody for their contact details!
  6. Safely stored: Once digitally saved, there’s no risk of the info being misplaced like some business cards for example.
  7. Save the planet of course! (Get known for being a green company)


Digital can replace paper, sure, but realistically how is it done?

We’ve all heard the mantra that digital is the key to solving all a company’s problems.. It seems so obvious that digital supports offer many more advantages than paper to transmit information, but in reality, when a prospect visits my stand and I have no brochures to give them, how do I deliver the required content?

We can all think of extremely simple examples accessible to everybody, but each has some notable downsides. Firstly, there’s the USB key. Nowadays, some exhibitors offer their prospects a key containing all the relevant sales information. But this solution only solves half the problems: it’s at least comparable in cost to paper, we can’t update the content, and it’s easy to misplace. What about the QR code? Decorate your stand with them and visitors can download and access your digital brochure in a few seconds. This is still far from an optimal solution when we consider how few devices possess a QR code reader and how few people really use them. Even though we can see them all over, this technology in this specific form will not last very long (at least how it’s used to redirect to content)

Of course, nowadays we can do better, much better.

Our best advice is firstly to talk to your digital suppliers on the subject, they should clearly have numerous solutions to reduce the printing of flyers and suggest alternatives. If they try to flog you a USB key, make a run for it!

In the meantime and to give you inspiration, here is our selection of the best digital solutions which in our opinion represent the future of trade fairs.

  • Opticon: a company well established in laser scanners for barcodes. The company now offers all exhibitors a scanner upon their arrival at the event, allowing them to scan the badges of their visitors and then to access all the relevant information online.
  • Kayo: Kayo is an application for tablets or touch screens that allows you to present all your sales material and even to pass along a simple downloadable link to your prospects
  • Poken: Poken are small connected objects that use NFC technology. Distributing them between visitors and exhibitors, they just need to come into contact to exchange documents instantaneously.
  • My Check Experience: My Check Experience offers all types of digital services linked to contactless technology for the events industry. Thanks to RFID technology, this supplier encourages interactivity between visitors and exhibitors using primarily connected objects to transmit information using the same method as the solutions previously mentioned
  • Airdoc: Airdoc is a French start-up that allows you to get a head start in distributing your content at trade fairs. Offering a personalised platform that centralises all your sales information, the start-up team then equip all visitors with a connected strap and your stand with an NFC beacon. When a prospect stops in front of your stand, they use this device to access your documentation.

Now you see, it’s time to digitise our old sales brochures that nobody’s interested in. From now on think about getting a head start on the competition. Technology is advancing at a crazy speed and digital solutions are becoming more and more numerous, more pertinent and cheaper. So get ahead and dare to innovate!

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