I have a confession to make: Prior to the pandemic, I always dreaded trade shows.
When you’ve been in the affiliate marketing and partnerships space for as long as I have, you’ve most likely attended more trade shows than you can remember. You may recall the slow procession of conservative business professionals dressed in two-button blazers, tucked shirts, armed with tote bags full of tchotchkes and collateral from every single booth on the exhibition floor. A person would be seated at the table with either a big cheesy smile, or an incredibly bored look on their face. They didn’t quite understand the nature of their company’s business and couldn’t answer any questions. Instead, they gave you the business card of an absent VP or Director who might be able to assist you if you sent an email to the address listed in small print.
On the positive side, I was always thrilled to spend time with my longtime peers and colleagues across the industry. I also enjoyed meeting new people and making positive connections. There were some moments requiring me to have unpleasant conversations with partners who didn’t exactly play fair, but those were relatively small in number and usually settled with an apology, handshake, and a check to make things right.
Fast forward to Affiliate Summit Las Vegas, when shows cautiously resumed in November 2021. I didn’t care if the venues or crowds were smaller, nor did I mind all of the extra safety mask requirements and social distancing protocols. I was just so incredibly grateful to see familiar names and faces of everyone who survived the horrible ordeal we’d all gone through.
I’ve enjoyed every show I’ve attended since that time. I’m still riding the wave of excitement following TUNE’s attendance at Affiliate Summit East 2023, which was also followed by the announcement of the brand new TUNE Network, which you can read about on our website. I also dig the fresh energy and style of the “new” business professionals, complete with tattoos, colored hair, and rad piercing jewelry.
Now more than ever, I see the increasing value and continuous need for trade shows. If you still need convincing, though, here are my top reasons why you should attend affiliate and partnerships trade shows.
1). Catch Up on New Trends and Technology
Trade shows provide SaaS developers and marketing experts with an open forum to unveil new products and solutions, helping big chain retailers and scrappy startups alike expand their knowledge and partner relations through a combination of innovative technology and affiliate marketing strategies. These new developments may include the use of ChatGPT and other tools powered by artificial intelligence.
Some publications are expecting the market value of the affiliate marketing platform industry to reach $36.9 billion dollars by the year 2030. If those projections are true, now is the is the time best time to take advantage of networking events and collaborative spaces requiring time and hands-on learning activities beyond a time-restricted video conference call.
2). In-Person Meetings Improve Communication
In this modern age of mobile phones and remote workplaces, opportunities to physically meet prospective clients and partners aren’t always available. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet have transformed coffeehouses and apartments into virtual offices. With a strong Wi-Fi connection, built-in device camera, digital background, and a reliable pair of noise-cancelling headphones, any place can be transformed into “the office.”
While these tools are convenient for managing routine daily tasks, the necessary follow-up can be a bit of a challenge due to environmental distractions, unplanned emergencies, or home equipment malfunctions. Nothing is worse than losing internet connection or having a frozen screen during a platform pitch or product demonstration with a big prospect. Instead of apologies and proposals to reschedule the call, meeting in person can get us to the finish line a little bit faster.
It’s also worth mentioning the frequency of the common occurrence of regular contacts leaving companies or changing job roles. You may you see an announcement on LinkedIn, but most of the time, seeing them at an industry event with new company and team solves the mystery of why your last six emails went unanswered.
3). The Old-School Practices Still Work
Technology and innovation underscore the affiliate marketing industry without question, but people still pull the levers and push the button. Scheduling apps, QR code scanners, and text messages may save time with calendar organization and meeting requests, but none of those work without the name and contact information for the person(s) involved in the decision-making process. That’s why physical business cards, notepads, and ink pens remain the quintessential tools of the trade. They are an absolute must-have at every Meet Market table and exhibit booth, and it is considered a rookie move by industry veterans for anyone to show up at a networking event without them.
Why, you ask?
- People lose, forget, or replace their phones.
- Batteries die at the most inopportune moments.
- No immediate access to a charger or wall outlet.
- Business cards, paper, and pens ensure the accuracy of notes and those involved in the conversation.
- Post-show action items, including CRM pipeline and sales cycles, can be tracked and closed with more efficiency.
4). Party Like an Affiliate Rockstar
Affiliate social events are legendary. Industry veterans and bright-eyed newbies love to attend award shows, exclusive parties, and the Affiliate Ball, which always features celebrity music artists and entertainers. Executive leaders, agency partners, affiliate managers, and publishers patiently wait in long lines outside of clubs filled to maximum occupancy. Many understand the crucial timing of arriving early enough to beat the crowd, but also staying late enough to be invited to the afterparties for a last chance to hang out with key stakeholders and decision-makers. Go big or go home, right?
Just remember, people do business with those they like. Attending first-class, invitation-only events like TUNE’s rooftop lounge happy hour, which was co-hosted with entertainment media publishing giant Penske Media Corporation (Rolling Stone Magazine, Billboard, and Variety) and our trusted agency partner Klay Media, can certainly make an impression.
5). Stay Top-of-Mind with Decision-Makers
By the end of the second day, the shows begin to resemble a ghost town. If you spent your time wisely and took advantage of every opportunity to remain top-of-mind with peers, colleagues, and decision-makers, congratulations! The hard part is over, and the journey home begins.
In my opinion, it is always good practice to allow at least 72 hours after the show closes before sending follow-up emails. Some people may still be traveling or need extra time to organize their notes before continuing the conversation regarding next steps. It may be a good idea to use the time to update your own CRM data and pipeline with expected closing opportunities. With proper organization and detailed planning, you can get those deals over the finish line, although there may be some unavoidable delays.
I hope you’ll consider these benefits and tips. If so, perhaps I’ll see you at the next affiliate trade show!
Tie Davidson is a seasoned veteran in the Affiliate Marketing space. As the Partnerships Manager at TUNE, he is committed to sharing his industry knowledge and expertise with brands, agencies, and media partners, while providing education and support for their program recruitment efforts. Tie currently resides in NYC, and spends his spare time as a local food influencer and life coach.