This post written by Chris Valentine
The recent research report from CEIR titled, Marketers Find Exhibitions an Essential Marketing and Sales Tactic, provided some compelling statistics relating to the perspective of marketers as it pertains to the exhibition industry.
As we are well aware, exhibiting is a primary method of marketing for companies (in the survey it was second behind the omnipresent company website). This positioning is further strengthened by an earlier CEIR report done in 2011, The Spend Decision: Analyzing How Exhibits Fit into the Overall Marketing Budget which states nearly 40percent of B2B marketers’ budgets were spent on business-to-business exhibitions. None of this should come as news to any of us. The surprising part of the more recent survey was that within the methods used, 35 percent did not exist 20 years ago and 15 percent were created over the last decade!
A second trend that grabbed me was what methods marketers plan to emphasize in the future. Survey respondents using business-to-business exhibitions as a primary tactic revealed that 83 percent would increase or maintain their exhibit spend, while 15 percent would be decreasing it. In addition, a wide majority of the respondents currently engaging in technology-based initiatives planned to increase their spending in these areas (social media, mobile, online meetings, websites and online ads).
As vendors and event owners in this space, we must address this trend and identify the components of the alternative channels that potentially diminish the exhibit budget.
The Drivers – Technology Adoption, TONS of Data and a Willingness to Experiment
What is driving this growth is the rapid maturity of these new technologies. In fact this report addresses the duration of the use of the various marketing channels in which the respondents classified the longevity of use and virtually all classified these areas as “new”.
Another driver is the relative low risk/cost and large amount of data feedback as it pertains to views, engagement, duration and the like. These metrics have driven change all along the marketing and advertising spectrum.
A third component is the ever evolving desire of companies to incorporate more data to their marketing buying decisions. In 2012 Columbia Business School/NY Chapter of the American Marketing Association did a transition study “Marketing ROI in the Era of Big Data,” surveying more than 250 marketers from large corporations (90 percent with annual revenue of $50 million and 45 percent with annual revenue greater than $1 billion). Their responses were very interesting, really reflecting the increasing need to bring more and better analytical data into marketing decisions. Some of the highlights were:
- 91 percent stated that successful brands use customer data to drive marketing decisions
- 65 percent of marketers said that comparing the effectiveness of marketing across different digital media is a “major challenge” for their business
- 29 percent of marketers state that their departments have “too little or no customer/consumer data
The Challenge is an Opportunity – Adapt Now and Fast
These trends represent both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is that digital marketing trends threaten to stagnate or reduce exhibiting within the total marketing budget.
The opportunity is that events have the ability to represent who is engaging, as opposed to social media which tells us how many and not necessarily who it is.
That being said, the exhibition industry needs to create and build methodologies that will allow it to gather data that parallels digital networks i.e. engagement and duration. This will enable marketers to view a more complete data picture and compare the various data points of digital versus events.
We should also engage the digital methods to enhance the data model within our events. A prime example of this is the use of Twitter by American Express as social currency (AMEX Sync). In 2012 American Express partnered with Whole Foods to allow its customer to add their Twitter handle to their profile and opt in a promotion which provided a $25 coupon for engagement.
While the purchasing process is much different than B2B sales, the use of a channel to augment the existing data model and develop likes/dislikes would prove very powerful for any trade exhibition and subsequent exhibit marketer.
What Does It All Mean?
I feel very strongly that exhibiting can grow within the context of the marketing budget, but we must adapt to the changing demands within the buying decisions.
The one component that the exhibition industry has that almost every other channel cannot provide is we know who is attending the event. This is and will continue to be a powerful motivator for marketers when making an exhibit buying decision. But we cannot become overly reliant on this metric as the analytical appetite of the marketers grows in the ever present need for them to prove the value of their marketing budget.
Chris Valentine, owner and managing member of T3 Expo, has continuously listened to stakeholders and challenged the status quo since his start in the exhibitions and events industry with Champion Exposition Services in 1994. At T3, Chris, along with his partners, built a general contracting company that is positioned to address the economic, technical and branding demands of today’s business-to-business exhibition market. His unique perspective on customer service is based upon his experience developing solutions while serving in C-level positions, and he realized that building strong relationships always outperforms trying to micro manage the bottom line.