Do Exhibitions Give the Gift of Time? Reply

By Dr. Jeff Tanner, Professor of Marketing
Baylor University

Maybe, in general, we all want what the boss wants – nice corner office, a sporty German convertible, a weekend cottage in the Caymans…more time.

Everyone is time-starved but executives? Maybe more so. One of the great values of exhibitions is that this form of face-to-face marketing enables shopping in a time-efficient fashion. Over a decade ago, one corporate buyer told me “Two years ago, I managed a staff of eight to do what I do. Last year, it was down to four. This year, it’s just me and an admin, and I’m not sure who will be gone next year.” The reality of having to accomplish more with fewer people continues, and attending exhibitions is one way that today’s executives cope. But when it comes to exhibitions, what executives want isn’t necessarily the same as everyone else because how they shop for solutions is a bit different.

Further, how they vet exhibitions isn’t exactly the same. Top executives are much more interested in personal recommendations and invitations. Ago Cluytens, who manages the EMEA business for the training organization The Rain Group, agrees.  He says that top executives are biased almost to the extreme by whether or not you (or your event) come introduced by someone else. Attract and engage one executive and you’re likely to draw several more.

In a study funded by CEIR, Nancy Drapeau and I surveyed over 400 exhibition attendees, and in the report Attendee Preferences by Job Title, we document many of the differences between how executives, upper management, middle management, and lower management select and use exhibitions.

And while there is always a natural tendency to look closely at top-level executives as important to any purchase decision, many markets are comprised of lower or mid-level managers. In our study, we identify several important opportunities for attracting and retaining these lower and mid-level managers’ attendance, as well as engaging them once they are at the event. What they want, and need, is different but they are also more likely to report that their needs aren’t being met as frequently as do top executives. Too much attention paid to top executives could lead to loss of engagement with other key influencers in a market.

While marketing may have changed dramatically in many ways over the past decade or so, some basic principles have remained the same. Find out what the market wants and give it to them. People engage with your marketing communications because that engagement fills a need. Yes, exhibitions solve everyone’s need for time-efficient shopping. But how the boss goes about it is, well, a bit different.

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