Although advertising and word-of-mouth testimonials can play a big part in reaching the right customers, nothing compares to being able to connect with people face-to-face. This is where trade shows come into play.

If you have a new product, technique or service to market, the right trade show can link you to the right audience to get your name out there and the leads you want. However, there are a lot more benefits packaged into trade shows than just lead generation.

According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 99 percent of marketers said they found unique value from trade shows that they did not get from other marketing mediums. Below are nine reasons to attend trade shows.

Build brand awareness. The top reason business owners exhibit at trade shows is to raise the awareness of their company and brand, according to “The Value of Trade Shows,” a white paper published by Skyline and EXPO Magazine. Raising brand awareness is vital for new companies and those entering new geographical or vertical markets.

Demo your products, techniques to prospects. Whether you are performing booth demonstrations or taking part in a decorative concrete competition like the Concrete Decor Show’s Brawl in the Fall this is your opportunity to show off your products or skills to an engaged audience that’s filled with real prospects. As a matter of fact, CEIR reports that 81 percent of trade show attendees have buying authority, which means that more than four out of five people walking the aisles are potential customers for exhibitors.

Foster relationships. A trade show is an ideal venue for making a good first impression, but it is also a convenient way to touch base with existing clients or business partners who are in attendance. A booth visit, lunch or dinner can help build upon existing business relationships to ensure repeat customers.

Direct sales. If you are exhibiting at the right show, your customers and end users are already on site and ready to buy. Here’s your chance to sell more merchandise or close a few deals.

One-stop shopping. You may also want to meet face-to-face with your own vendors and suppliers. You can learn about their latest and greatest offerings as well as do one-stop comparison shopping right there on the exhibit floor.

Education and training. Trade shows enable you to meet and learn from industry experts through seminars, workshops, educational luncheons and hands-on demonstrations. Plus, attendees can typically acquire formal training through certification courses offered by industry associations.

Networking. Having so many industry members in one place means you have plenty of opportunities to meet with peers, make contacts, learn from each other, share ideas and even check out the competition. Many trade associations also take advantage of larger shows like World of Concrete to host annual meetings or social events. Not only is networking an excellent way to brainstorm with others to identify solutions for various challenges and problems, but it also helps keep your finger on the pulse of the industry.

Learn what’s trending. From new products and techniques to price lists and even contests or giveaways, trade shows are great opportunities to learn which direction your industry is headed—and where it is not. Plus, if you find time to walk around the show floor, you can find out which booths are attracting the most attention and why. By learning what those companies are doing right, you may discover a new sales or marketing strategy that you can incorporate into your own business.

A recovering economy. If you have taken a break from spending money on trade show exhibits due to a sluggish economy, you are not alone. The nation’s economic downturn of 2008 had impacted many marketing and travel budgets, which reflected in trade show attendance for several years. The good news is attendance is back on the rise and has been growing since 2011, reports CEIR. Earlier this year, World of Concrete reported the largest show, in terms of both attendance and exhibitor space, in six years. And, since the number one reason for going to trade shows is to see new products, attendees are eager to see what you have to offer!

Remember, people cannot purchase what you are selling if they do not know about your products or services.