by Michael J. Shapiro | March 06, 2017
Marketers appear to be delivering larger exhibition crowds despite flat or lower budgets than they were working with four years ago, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. That general conclusion and many more findings appear in the newly released "Cost to Attract Attendees Report," the organization's first update to the study since 2013.
The benchmark report includes metrics on spending and marketing allocation for exhibition-attendee promoters, and breaks down the marketing tactics that appear to be the most effective in attracting these attendees. Metrics are reported by six business-to-business exhibition categories, including gross revenues, verified attendance, net square footage of paid space, geographic scope of attendance, whether an exhibition rotates locations, and whether the organizer is an association or an independent. 
Breaking down the show statistics this way maximizes the usefulness of the report as a planning tool, noted CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE. "This enables organizers to compare their practices with similar events," she said. "For example, a smaller exhibition organizer by attendance volume can compare its approach to events of similar size."
The biggest takeaway, note the authors, is that overall attendee-marketing budgets haven't grown since 2013, remaining consistent at $75,000, but the per-verified-attendee cost has declined. When inflation is factored in, budgets are actually 4.5 percent lower than they were four years ago. The per-verified-attendee cost, however, has dropped from $20.10 to $14.30.
Research indicates a shift away from marketing tactics that entail higher out-of-pocket costs, with the focus gradually turning toward digital alternatives. That said, direct mail and direct email still dominate the budget, accounting for more than half of attendee marketing budgets across all exhibition types.
Email remains the most effective marketing tactic, according to the report, although marketers are turning to an integrated marketing approach, rating a growing number of tactics as effective -- particularly digital approaches, which organizers rate as more effective than they did four years ago.
The full report, which is free to IAEE members, is available here. Nonmembers can download the report for $99.