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B2B exhibitions are important for marketers to satisfy critical goals in identifying new customers, reaching sales leads, and building product and company awareness. And the importance of exhibitions to those objectives is reflected in the budget share that exhibitors allocate to these events, according to a review of a new Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) study.

The 2018 Marketing Spend Decision Report is based on a survey of 424 exhibitors who had participated in a B2B exhibition within the 2 years prior to the survey.

These exhibitors estimated allocating roughly half of their marketing budgets to exhibitions, with the vast majority of that going to B2B (40.7%) exhibitions, and some to B2C events (6.9%) and corporate events (4.7%).

A past survey of B2B marketers (not limited to those involved in exhibitions) from Forrester Research has likewise found that in-person trade shows, events, and exhibitions make up the largest portion of B2B marketing budgets overall. But this latest research from CEIR shows just how influential exhibitions are to participants, particularly those in the Communications & IT sector.

This is likely a reflection of the value placed on these events: numerous pieces of research indicate that trade shows, conferences and exhibitions are deemed very effective by marketers. For example, a recent study from Demand Gen Report found B2B marketers saying that events are the most effective channel for generating qualified leads. Prior to that, a survey from Televerde revealed that B2B salespeople believe that industry events are the most useful activity undertaken by marketers in their organizations.

Returning to the CEIR research, although it’s true that digital marketing spend share is growing for exhibitors – in line with wider trends – it remains relatively small in comparison. Nonetheless, two-thirds of B2B exhibitors are allocating budget to at least one digital channel, whether it be email, social media, online advertising or another.

Survey Highlights

The following is a brief list of highlights from the study, which is packed with more data and available for purchase here.

  • Sales and marketing success metrics are equally used by exhibitors, though sales metrics are more influential with upper management.
  • The majority of exhibitors feel that a sale should close within 6 months of the event for the exhibition to get credit.
  • The median amount spent per exhibition by respondents last year was $20,000.
  • The average number of exhibitions participated in annually by respondents last year was 16, though the median amount was 6, suggesting that some are very heavy exhibitors.
  • Given the amount of spending per exhibition, it’s not surprising that those with the largest marketing budgets tend to be the most active exhibitors.

About the Data: CEIR notes in its methodology that the online survey was fielded in the Spring of 2017 among 424 exhibitors. The sample was generated from lists provided by Freeman, GES, Fern Expositions, Hargrove and Shepard Exposition Services. Respondents were required to have exhibited in a B2B exhibition within two years prior to the survey, and only those in decisions on whether to exhibit and other advertising/marketing channel decisions were invited to participate.

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