The CMO Council and Exhibit & Event Marketers Association (E2MA) have released a new report [download page] examining events and trade shows and their contributions to customer engagement. Among the key findings, 31% of respondents believe that trade shows, conferences, conventions, and channel events are essential to doing business in their target customer markets, while another 42% believe them to still be very valuable.
Trade shows and events are most often used as sources of new prospects and business opportunities (64%), as lead gathering, cultivation and prospecting opportunities (63%), and for face-to-face customer meetings (60%).
That suggests that events are used for customer acquisition and retention, although only 14% regard them as a place to make and close deals. While events may not be the right place to close deals, the face-to-face contact they afford can be very valuable: recent research indicates that B2B content marketers rate in-person events as their most effective tactic, while earlier research from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) has found that B2B exhibitors and attendees are seeing greater value from face-to-face interactions.
Indeed, one of the key ways in which trade show investment furthers an organization’s business goals or competitive advantage is by enabling more intimate one-on-one interaction and relationship building, according to 51% of the CMO Council study respondents. Other top benefits include positioning the brand among industry leaders (54%) and being a highly efficient and effective way to reach and engage with multiple customers and prospects (47%).
Despite those benefits, the challenge most frequently encountered by the trade show management team is making a strong business case for attendance (45%), followed by escalating trade show costs and budget/resource management (39%). Currently, the percentage of marketing budgets allocated to trade show and event marketing appears to be all over the map: 39% allocate 10% or less, but 32% allocate 20% or more.
- Increased investment in specific trade shows or events would be influenced primarily by the quality and size of the attendee base and relevance to target markets (81%).
- Email (72%) is the most common marketing tool used to maximize trade show presence, customer contact, booth traffic, and meeting scheduling, followed by social media networks (60%) and electronic media (59%).
- Just 6% of marketers believe their company converts trade show leads, contacts and conversations into customer business extremely well, although 27% feel they do so moderately well, and another 41% feel they’re getting better.
- Asked which new technologies or solutions would improve the exhibitor and attendee experience or add more marketing value, respondents cited analytics (booth visits, length of stay, etc.) first, at 44%.
- The top 5 metrics marketers feel are best for quantifying event value are: new referrals and introductions; quality and quantity of leads; deal closure; value of sales; and upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Yet, only 34% use those 5 metrics to assess trade show and event ROI.
About the Data: The data is based on a survey of more than 260 brand marketers fielded during Q4 2012 and Q1 2013.