With attendance at many shows down from last year, organizers are doing all they can to attract high-powered clientele — and new blood as well.
Frost Miller Group and Jacobs Jenner & Kent, two Maryland-based marketing companies, recently surveyed 150 major U.S.organizers and found that enticing first-timers was their greatest challenge. That was closely followed by attracting more high-powered decision-makers.
Nancy Petitti, show director, Hall-Erickson, a major trade show organizer whose clients include The Motivation Show, agrees. “We employ an extensive direct mail, advertising, and public relations campaign each year to find new attendees, but it is still hard to reach everyone who should attend.”
To overcome the problem, Hall-Erickson is involved in two major initiatives in the industry, including one run by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. That campaign is targeted at educating the business community about the value of trade shows.
Talk in the industry today is focused on the “trade show experience,” primarily on the key component of customer service. It's what survey respondents said would be the solution to attendance woes.
The new buzz phrase is “face-to-face marketing,” says Petitti. “That's always been the strength of trade shows: the ability of the customer to see, touch, and compare competing products in one location.”
Alan Steel, executive vice president with George Little Management LLC, a trade show management company that handles a number of trade shows, including HSMAI's Affordable Meetings, agrees. Most of the new attendees at Steel's show are businesses in the retail sector that use the trade show to find suppliers.
To attract those new attendees, the show has added novel programs. One such program shuttles 40 to 80 people around New York City to tour retail establishments that are considered on the cutting edge.
“We always provided a educational experience to our attendees, and we've always been focused on new businesses,” he says.
Other Survey Findings:
The most difficult aspect of marketing trade shows: measuring and increasing return on investment in advertising and promotion.
Four most-used marketing tools, in order: print advertising, broadcast e-mail, Web advertising, direct mail.
Four most effective marketing tools, in order: direct mail, print advertising, broadcast e-mail, and Web advertising.
One-third of organizers begin marketing campaigns one year out; another third, six months out. To improve promotion, better marketing strategy and better audience research is needed.
What seems to motivate attendees: “see new products” and networking.
According to the survey, 25 percent of trade show organizers spend $500,000 per show on marketing; 15 percent spend $200,000; 60 percent spend less than $200,000.
Over the past three years, 36 percent have increased their marketing budgets, while 40 percent have maintained their marketing budgets. Twenty-six percent have increased marketing staff; 57 percent have maintained marketing staff.
About 1/3 of organizers are investing more in marketing research; 41 percent remain the same.