Exhibition/​Event Marketing Moves to Digital

The trade show, exhibition and event industry is struggling to remain vibrant in a changing world. Budget cuts during the Great Recession trimmed many corporate travel budgets. At the same time, new technology has increased the appeal and popularity of virtual meetings. But industry operators hope to remain relevant by incorporating technology into events and at the same time they are employing more digital media to market themselves.

Currently, exhibition managers say they are using the following digital marketing tactics:

  • Banner ads 76%
  • Websites or microsites 73%
  • Social media 85%
  • Email marketing 96%
  • Online video 43%
  • Blogs 49%
  • Search marketing 47%
  • Audio podcasts 32%
  • Virtual trade shows 49%
  • RSS 26%
  • SMS Mobility 39%
  • Online games 3%

Before an event takes place, the top online promotional activities include email marketing (39%), online advertising (45%) and Google ad words (36%). During the event, the strategy shifts and marketers use online games (43%) and SMS mobility. Looking to extend impact, marketers then turn to audio downloads or podcasts (40%) following the event.

This group of marketers indicates that social media is best employed as a strategy to extend the reach of marketing efforts (49%) and engage the target audience (25%). Far fewer, 9%, use the format to generate leads.

Businesses that sponsor events as a marketing strategy say that the largest portion of the budget for this effort goes to email, activities such as roundtable discussions, and event signage. However, traditional media is not far behind and the top two formats are print advertising and direct mail.  Both B2B and B2C operators claim that email marketing for event sponsorship offers the best ROI.

The use of digital tactics for event sponsorship is expected to grow. However, marketers are looking for way to measure the ROI on all efforts so they can be certain to employ the most effective format.

[Source: Digital & Exhibition Marketing Insights. Center for Exhibition Industry Research. Jegi​.com. 2010. Web. 20 Dec. 2010] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.