During the recession, marketers tended to cut back on trade shows and other exhibits and events that required costly airfares and hotel stays. At the same time, the buzz grew about virtual events as a possible substitute for the expensive face-to-face activities. A new study from BtoB/Freeman shows that both forms of marketing are surviving and each may find their niche in the wide range of  formats that businesses use to promote their products and services.

Nearly all marketers (85%) participate in trade events.  And over 1/3rd of companies are present at 6 or more of these events every year. But marketers have concerns about the return on their investment dollars in this channel as the following numbers show:

  • Results are about average 38%
  • Results are below average 31%
  • Results are above average 29%

Marketers’ plans for the future indicate that event participation is a channel under review. About half of exhibitors say they do not plan to significantly increase their funding for this channel during the next 5 years. Ken Demith, director-customer innovation with Freeman, an industry service provider, believes this is a positive trend and notes “[w]hen you think about all the traditional media that have declined for the most part, that’s an extremely strong message.”

Marketers support funding this channel because they expect the results will help them meet these goals:

  • Lead generation 88%
  • Improved brand awareness 79%
  • Engaging with customers 77%
  • Collaboration/networking 63%

The study also revealed marketer attitudes about virtual events. Many see this channel as a good way to reach new leads and new geographic regions. But one industry professional may have echoed the feelings of many when he said, “nothing substitutes for a handshake and a smile.”

Going forward, marketers are likely to maintain their current investment in trade show events. They’ll also explore how virtual events fit into the marketing mix.  The multitude of available formats now requires marketers to consider the best mix for a specific goal. At the same time, they’ll also be promoting their event and exhibit presence with a range for formats like email and direct mail.

[Source: Hosford, Christopher. Event marketing still strong, but marketers cautious. BtoBOnline.com. 11 Oct. 2010. Web. 13 Oct. 2010]