Originally posted by Allan Rubin on immixGroup
Several weeks ago I participated as a panelist at two events for government marketing professionals. At both theMid-Atlantic Marketing Summit, and the GovMark Council's panel on Life After Tradeshows Part II, much of the conversation focused on how marketers were dealing with decreased attendance from government attendees at live events.
Those in attendance shared common questions and angst. How long will the events drought last? What impact will Sequestration have? How do I get government speakers to commit and government employees to attend? How can I use money that was earmarked for cancelled trade shows to support my sales pipeline? Will virtual conferences replace in-person events? What should I tell my sales team?
In May, many of us saw continued validation of our concerns at Market Connections' presentation of its 2013 Federal Media and Marketing Study. The study confirmed that trade show and conference attendance is down. Specifically, "more than half (52%) of federal decision-makers did not attend any trade shows or events last year, while those who attended 1-3 events (41%) and more than 4 events (8%) are down from 49% and 11% respectively." (FedConnects has a summary of the overall study, which covers a broad spectrum of federal media options.)
Our advice for technology manufacturers and their channel partners has been consistent in the face of this upheaval. As I mentioned at the panel discussions, events should still have a place in your marketing mix and can be successful as long as you:
- Ensure your content -- and your marketing messages -- are both relevant and targeted to what your audience cares about;
- Think small: emphasize quality over quantity and make sure the RIGHT people are invited (HINT: this requires homework on your part);
- Make it easy for your government customers and prospects to attend by keeping your events local, accessible, low-cost, and light on flash;
- Incorporate a virtual component for those who can't leave the office;
- Bring your event to your customers through an on-site presence in their own facility (look to Federal Business Council for a list of upcoming on-site tabletop events);
- Team with complementary vendors to draw a larger crowd and improve your chances of attracting a credible government panel;
- Consider pulling in a media company to host your event for you: we've had success working with companies such as FedInsider, 1105 Media, FedScoop, MeriTalk, and Government Executive;
- Use this uncertain time (and budget from cancelled trade shows, if possible) to your advantage to test new approaches;
- Re-set expectations internally about what you can (and cannot) accomplish relative to registration numbers, quantity of attendees, and show-up rates; and
- If you're an immixGroup client, call us. We have a number of plug-and-play event programs that can help you grow your sales.