Exhibition Organizer Perspective: What is the Next Marketing Tactic?

By Vicki Hennin

CEIR’s recently published Cost to Attract Attendee Report inspired me to look at our own events and see how our cost/attendee and use of various marketing channels compared.

Like many of the respondents, we rely quite heavily on email marketing. Over the past several years, we’ve worked hard to target our direct mail efforts to those most likely to respond. As a result, our direct mail costs have declined significantly. Great for the cost/attendee metric – but we are beginning to realize that we’ve shifted too much of our focus into marketing through email and not enough to other marketing tactics. When I added up the total number of emails sent through our various providers, the results were staggering. You would think we are more of a mass marketer than a B2B event organizer.

The trend in open rates and conversions is not a positive one. We are worried about the increased use of mobile devices, the corporate efforts to tighten up spam filters and to blacklist, and the overall saturation of the email channel.

We’ve started to talk seriously about improving our inbound efforts – developing more formal strategies where we leverage SEO, SEM, and Social Media to drive traffic that can tap into quality contact that can help us both acquire qualified leads and convert prospects to attendees.

Like other survey respondents, very little of our budget and not too much more of our time has been invested in developing these inbound tactics. Traditionally, our exhibitor referral program has been our top driver of registration. This tactic is inexpensive and brings new buyers to our events and in the past, when we think of “indirect” sources of registrants, this is always top of mind. It is definitely time for us to not just talk and experiment with new tactics, but to really start putting time (and some dollars) into efforts that can begin to shift our reliance on email marketing.

Vicki Hennin is the Vice President of Strategic Marketing & Business Intelligence at Diversified Communications. www.divcom.com

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