Early last year, the press was filled with reports about how virtual events were poised to take a bite out of the traditional events industry. Those reports may have been overblown. The trade show industry has had a strong performance and events are on track to grow this year.
Late last year, the B2B Marketing Benchmark report found that 21% of B2B operators consider trade shows to be the most effective channel for marketing. And a recently conducted BtoB webinar poll indicated that 62% of operators will maintain or increase their budgets for event activity in 2012.
This statistic is borne out by other research shops. An overall increase in trade show attendance last year along with an increase in show square footage was reported by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. A new American Express release, 2012 Meetings Forecast, indicates that 60% of suppliers in the meetings industry are expecting more business in 2012.
Researchers have found that many marketers, over 70%, are not allocating funding for virtual events this year. Instead, marketers are looking for mileage from the investment they’ve made in live events. For the most part, this means upping the marketing automation budget and tracking leads that have come from live events.
John DiStefano, research director at BtoB, calls the marketing automation industry “a sleeping giant”. These tools are being used to cultivate prospects who drop by trade show booths and those who have attended a trade show but haven’t made a personal connection with the marketer. This type of outreach will give the marketer maximum reach for the initial investment in the trade show.[Source: Hosford, Christopher. Events central to direct marketers as marketing automation surges. Btobonline.com. 19 Dec. 2011. Web. 2 Jan. 2011]