Center for Exhibition Industry Research Report: Spending, Marketing Mix for Attendee Promotion

May 7, 2014

For every, single show, organizers have to evaluate not only how they are going to spend their dollars to draw people there, but also what methods they will use.

In the latest in its series of reports, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research examined spending and the marketing-mix allocation for attendee promotions and marketing tactics found to be most effective in driving attendance at exhibitions - Cost to Attract Attendees.

Exhibition organizers use a broad range of traditional and digital tactics to attract qualified attendees to their events.

E-mail still reigns supreme, with 96 percent of the survey respondents indicating it was part of their marketing plan. Contrary to popular beliefs, direct mail marketing isn’t dead either, with 94 percent of the respondents saying they still used it.

Other methods of attendee marketing included Print Ads (79 percent); Social (68 percent); Online Advertising (64 percent); Exhibitor Complimentary Tickets (48 percent); and Telemarketing (42 percent).

On the bottom of the list of choices were TV, newspaper and radio advertisements.

Though the mix of tactics varies, email (26 percent) and direct mail (30 percent) take up more than half of available attendee promotion dollars.

All other tactics are allocated 10 percent or less of available funds.

In terms of overall attendee promotion spend, which includes marketing expenditures only and excludes labor and overhead expenses, the median amount spent for a given exhibition is $75,000 or a median cost of $20.10 per verified attendee.

Even though the survey indicates that total attendee promotion spend increases as attendance increases, there appears to be a reduction in the cost per verified attendee, with the larger the number of attendees that come to an event.

However, with events attracting more than 10,000 attendees, this reverses again and the cost per verified attendee goes up, according to the survey results.

The marketing mix also varies depending on the size of the show.

Events with the fewest attendees rely more heavily on e-mail, while larger events rely more on direct mail.

Events with greater than 4,500 attendees allocate more of the budget to social media and trades for lists or free advertising.

Events with 4,501 to 10,000 attendees allocate more of the budget to mobile, text messaging. Other than these differences, the percentage allocation to other tactics is consistent across attendee volume categories, according to the report.

It’s not surprising that the report found that shows spend a much higher amount if they are attracting international attendees as well.

The median attendee promotion spend for local/regional/state events is $43,462 or $18.00 per verified attendee; national events spend $55,000 or $17.20 per verified attendee; and international events spend $142,500 or $22.80 per verified attendee.

Another finding of the report was exhibitions marketing to an international audience allocate more of the promotions budget to print advertisements, while nationally-focused events allocate more to email.

Other findings include that while associations and for-profits have similar average budgets for attendee marketing, for-profits spend per attendee is higher, because association shows typically larger in size and attendance.

Lastly, the report also looked at the effectiveness of attendee marketing campaigns.

Traditional attendee promotional tactics are considered to be the most effective methods for driving attendance to exhibitions.

Direct marketing is No. 1, direct mail (87 percent) and e-mail (86 percent). Other top-ranked tactics include: exhibitor complimentary tickets; exhibiting at other exhibitions; telemarketing; trades for lists or free advertising; and other referral, gift or discounts.

Click here to access the full report. IAEE members can access the CEIR library and reports at no cost – a benefit of IAEE membership.

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