Hungry for How-To’s at R|D|J 2016

Wandering the show floor at this year’s combined Remodeling Show, DeckExpo, JLC LIVE in Baltimore, one thing was obvious: this is not your father’s (or mother’s) Remodeling Show.

More has changed in recent years than just combining three shows into one. Compared to years past, the 2016 event attracted a different crowd with a different agenda than veteran show-goers might expect. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

A focus on continuing education

Offering 12 educational tracks within the categories of business skills and professional training, the conference attracted a younger audience, including a strong showing of front line crew personnel, rather than the owners and senior leadership typically in attendance.

It was obvious they were there to learn. While booth attendance in general was lackluster, seminars and demonstrations were well-attended by young professionals, eager for the opportunity to get hands-on product training, pick up digital marketing tips or squeeze inefficiency out of their processes.

More crews, fewer suits

Many booths we visited noted the lack of owners and upper management in attendance. Some attributed the absence to booming business back home (also not a bad thing!) but the shift is consistent with what’s been happening at other shows in recent years. The fact is, trade shows are changing. Both exhibitors and attendees are looking for ROI and they’re finding it in educational opportunities—especially for crews and other front-line employees.

It makes sense. The labor shortage doesn’t appear to be letting up any time soon, and what better way to promote your products than to provide new and novice users with hands-on guidance on how to use or install them properly.

Networking trumps new products

While there were some new products to be seen (particularly around decking products and hardware), manufacturers continue the recent trend of saving big-splash new product introductions for IBS or category-focused shows. Many remodelers are taking note, and tailoring their attendance accordingly. If you’re looking for the latest in kitchen innovations, plan on hitting IBS and KBIS. Today’s RDJ show is really that more relaxed networking and educational opportunity.

Embrace the opportunity

The shift from product promotion to practical skills is part of a larger paradigm change in how successful companies are going to market today. Customers are hungry for knowledge and skills that will set them apart.

Providing that content—at tradeshows or other touchpoints—is a great way to start building a loyal, lifelong relationship with your customers.

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